Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Overtime with the Hager Pheon GMT 38 mm

Before we go any further, it is important for me to make clear that I am biased.  I am friends with the owner of Hager Watches.  I am inclined to like what they offer, I think it is solid value for the price.  And therefore I cannot in good conscience say that this is your typical review.   Like I said, I am biased.

So with that said...
When I started Tempus Fugit nearly 10 years ago, I would do 15 day reviews.  Over time that shrunk in half, but from time to time, if the watch brand is okay with it, I will push things out a little longer.  Well, it is not lost on me, as a teacher, that there is a distinct difference between 7 days and 23 days.  So after 23 days, what's the verdict?
Well, we'll get to that.  Let's start at the beginning. This Hager is a departure from previous models in a few ways.  The packaging is not the previous dive bottle, but is a plastic case that you could actually use for something beyond gathering dust in your basement, garage or attic.

The other obvious departure (apart from design) is the fact that this Hager was not assembled in the US as others have been.  This one bears the Swiss Made label.  No, this does not mean that Hager has opened a facility in the Swiss hinterlands along the French or Italian borders, but rather they are partnering with an assembly house - just like some big-time Swiss brands you might have heard of.  
But it goes without saying that the design is a departure from previous Hager offerings that tend to be more diver-centric (40 + mm with rotating bezels).  There are certainly design cues from other watches out there, but just as I anxiously await the "mash-up" offerings of micro brewers (small breweries frequently partner on limited runs of shared recipe versions, typically in the summer months), I find this one to be, rather refreshing.
Right off the bat, I would have to point out the comfort in wearing the Pheon, and this is down to (at least in my opinion) 2 things:

1.  The shape - more cushion than round.
2.  The size - in this instance, less is truly more.

Despite the fact that men only represent approximately half of the potential watch market out there, there seems to be an almost pre-ordained need to divide into two categories:

Stupidly Big

Ridiculously Small

In essence, there is no truly "just right".  You're either "man enough" to wear a 44 - 50 mm watch or you should just get a dress watch and be done with it.  A few brands have proven that this is, in fact, not really a foregone conclusion.  Rolex offers different sizes that are not necessarily predicated on male vs female models.  Curious to relate?  We all come in different shapes and sizes.  And Hager realized that too when they opted for two size options for their new Pheon collection - 
38 mm, and 42 mm.  
The fit and feel of the Pheon is, at least for me, "Goldilocks".  It's just right.  While a lot of this is down to size and shape, another big point is the bracelet.  It's comfy.  And in another departure, the links on this one are "pin and collar", as opposed to screws.  

And that favorite feature of myself and Hager fans around the world - 
The ratcheting clasp.  One thing that I wish Hager would offer, and that is "half-links".  While a ratcheting clasp is a great option for getting the size just right, there is a part of me that wishes I could get the bracelet sized to a more precise fit, and use the ratcheting clasp for hot/humid days when my wrist swells. 

Another big departure is the dial -
It is what Hager refers to as Gradient Fumé blue sunburst dial.  And I can tell you, it's a bit special. In addition, the dial is a "sandwich" style, meaning  you've got some depth between the "top" dial and the underlying lume.  
The crown guards are subtle, and the crown itself is marked with the Pheon legend, and is screw down.  The threading of the crown is smooth and secure, and the setting is precise.
The case back also screws down, and also bears the Pheon legend.

The movement is (I believe) a Soprod with hours, minutes, seconds and GMT.  The time keeping was solid.
So the only thing that might put some people off of the GMT model is the lack of a 24 hour track or bezel insert.  If you've never owned a GMT watch, you will be forgiven for not knowing that the GMT hand moves on a 24 (not 12) hour scale.  So this will force you to do more than just take a quick glance.  You will need to do some quick math.  But, I personally like this touch.  It makes the time telling process a little more interactive.But I also realize that it is not going to be everyone's jam.

Pricing - now this is where some previous customers and / or followers of Hager might do a small double-take.  The Pheon weighs in at $1,165.  But it is important to realize that while the Pheon (as well as the Commando GMT and the Commando MilSub 10th Anniversary) cost more than the Aquamariner and other offerings from Hager, these pieces represent the evolution of Hager as a brand.  For better or worse, Swiss movements cost more than Miyotas.  The thing to try and understand is that by moving upwards for some models in the range, Hager is (in my biased opinion) offering something for a few different price sensitivities, while not abandoning their original customer base.

So that's some feedback from a biased source.

Here are the pertinents, straight from Hager -

Case

38mm: Case Thickness: 12mm; Case Height: 45.5mm
AISI 316L polished steel
Scratch resistant domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating (AR)

Dial

Gradient Fumé blue sunburst dial

Movement

Swiss Made Automatic GMT movement with 42 hour power reserve

Functions

Hours, minutes, seconds, GMT

Bracelet

Band Width for the 38mm: 20mm tapers to 18mm

Water Resistance

20 ATM = 660ft



Monday, February 24, 2020

A Belly Full

It is, I guess, a bit ironic that as Tempus Fugit approaches its tenth anniversary, I am struggling with the idea of keeping it going.  

I think it might be useful to share why I started this whole thing.  I had worked for DOXA for the three years previous to the launch of Tempus Fugit.  I was still an extreme watch fan, and if I am honest, I was pretty put-off with the discussion forums that were so popular at the time.  I was also laboring under a delusion that what you read in the watch media was accurate and honest.  It wasn't then, and it isn't now.  When Tempus Fugit started I had a starry-eyed idea of creating a Sartorialist type website for watches.  I was positive, believing, and honestly?  Easily persuaded.

The simple truth is this - the watch brands would be more honest if they sent you all a check for reading the press releases that come to you filtered through the major outlets.  But they don't.  And while the checks used to come to the major outlets, that has begun to dry up as well.  And now the outlets are struggling for oxygen - and that oxygen is the funding that helps to help keep them alive.  The former enthusiasts have now become business owners.  

And?  

I want to say something very, very clearly - I do not criticize any outlets for making money.  But, I do not equate alleged readership numbers (frequently juked) with actual factual content or quality.  It is a broken system, and in all honesty?  There was no other way that this could have gone once people started imagining not having to work a nine-to-five any more.

Do you ever wonder why every big outlet is frequently putting out exactly the same thing on the same day?  Not me.

Some inside baseball - watch brands (both big and small) flush an insane amount of money down the toilet in the hope of getting one of the big (or even not-so-big) outlets to write about them.  Nomos sent me an invite to Germany this past Summer and confirmed it... before cancelling it at the last minute.  Why?  My hunch is this, my email: henkitime@... has led more than one not-so-diligent watch PR person in the past to not read so closely, and assume that I was with a well-known outlet that starts with an "H".  Ironically enough, Nomos did not see the groundswell of influence that 3 round-trip business class tickets on Lufthansa from the US and accommodation might have been expected to pay for.  And the most ironic thing in the entire sad saga?  Nomos was the very first brand I had written about 9+ years ago, and I was one of (you could count the number on not just one hand, but three fingers) journalists who came out to support their stance against racism and support of immigration tolerance. Yes Nomos, me.  

PS: Nomos - you're welcome.

Would I have really enjoyed visiting Glashutte?  Absolutely.  But it made one thing very, very clear to me - watch media has degenerated into Kabuki theatre of the disingenuous.

So, let's cut to the heart of it.  While I often say that I am my own favorite watch writer, I would point to two people out there who are truly offering something you should, dare I say it, you must be reading if you really, actually care about watches beyond what a brand is paying you to be interested in.   

Adam Sofineti is the man behind Watch Paper - http://watchpaper.com   He is one of the few people that clearly loves watches, history, and sharing that passion without his hand in a brand's pocket.  I wish I were as detailed, driven and, well,  passionate.  In many ways, Adam is the writer I would like to be, and who when I have the time, and the muse speaks to me, I hope to emulate.

Gregory Pons I have been accused of two things that actually flatter me - trying to be the Tony Bourdain of watch writing, and trying to be the English language equivalent of Gregory Pons.  Both accusations flatter me, because I am in both men's shadows.

It says something about a true critic that watch brands still pay for advertising, and people actually PAY to read what you have to say when you are not, let's say, kissing the ring.  

I lead a dual life in the watch industry.  Yes, I write this little bloggy-wog, and am in the second tier of the watch media.  But I also work on the brand side, and as such I get to see behind the curtain where the "wizard" lives.  I cannot tell you how many times when visiting Swiss brands where I have seen Business Montres on the screens of the sales, pr and marketing teams.  That says something.  Business Montres has, in many ways, become the Harvard Business Review of the watch industry.  

So, if you want an actual opinion that hasn't been purchased, or leased?  Please continue reading Tempus Fugit, Watch Paper and Business Montres.

And so that there are no misunderstandings?  There are a few brands out there that I will NEVER be able to be completely objective about owing to friendships, relationships, and in some instances brands that I represent.  

You can rest assured - if there is a relationship, it will be disclosed.  I will be honest with you.  At a very base level, that seems only fair.


Be well and enjoy your watches.



I Could Do It Better Myself - The Volunteer Media

Despite what some folks think, the majority of the press covering the watch business these days is of a voluntary nature.  This is largely the result of brands cutting advertising budgets, and people going back to former occupations, getting married, or finding better ways to spend their free (and not so free) time.

So gentle reader, an inside look at a day in the life of Henki -

5:30 - Whether I like it or not, Tallulah (the older cat and Executive Publisher) is awake and waiting to be fed.  Sabrina (the younger cat and Editor in Chief) is waiting as well.  I head downstairs, turn up the heat in the house, and feed the cats.  I gulp down my morning tablets with a glass of water, have the first of several espressos and head back upstairs to the office.

5:45 - emails reviewed, and...
Not a sausage.  
Not only has watch advertising money dried up, watch brands are producing fewer and fewer models, and some have made their PR functions redundant.  News is scant, and unlike some of my colleagues in the Fourth and Fifth Estate, I prefer not to manufacture it.

6:15 - Go down and make a coffee for Wendy who is up and getting ready for work.

6:25 - I receive a follow-up email from the PR manager at Brand Y.  Y for "why won't you write about us?", which I have explained a few times - I don't write advertorials.  I realize my unwillingness to do so is probably holding me back financially, but a man must have a code ; )

6:45 - Email in-box pings, and... 

Good news! I am the winner of the Nigerian National Lottery! Maybe I'll buy Watch Time from Ebner so I can finally have my own magazine!
7:15 - Finally I decide that as no news is forthcoming, I will write an editorial type piece. The Grey Market is always good for a few hundred words, and is showing no sign of slowing down.  

8:00 - Kiss Wendy and wish her a good day as she heads out the door.

8:35 - Hastily showered and dressed, lunch made, it's off to work.

8:55 - Parking lot duty.  Where I work we have very limited parking, and as such the students have been informed that they cannot park in the back lot.  Needless to say, it is a game of cat and mouse as several try to slip in anyway to avoid parking on the street.  This, in turn, prevents other staff members and board members (who have a meeting today) from parking.  While being the Director of Adult Education and Workforce Development has its perks, playing parking lot "sizzler" is not one of them ; )

9:05 - Call with my contact at the Dept. of Education office.  Nothing major, clarifications regarding programming made, and all seems under control.

9:35 - Call from reception, someone is interested in learning English, could I come down and speak with them?

10:30 - Class break time.  I try to speak with each of the four teachers, make sure everything is under control.

10:45 - Back to work on the grant application.  It is due on Friday, signatures are needed from the boss, and I still need to nail down the budget.

12:15 - Text message from brand manager in Switzerland.  Could I recommend a sales manager in Florida.  I file that under "not pressing" and dive back into "grant writing land".

12:30 - Lunch with the teaching team.  Brief ad hoc meeting to review a few items coming up.

13:45 - Call from former student of mine who is interviewing for a job.

2:30 - 30 minute walk around the surrounding area to clear the head.

3:25 - Personal email pops on my iPhone, and I see that the watch from Brand X that three of the big outlets already wrote about 2 days ago is suddenly now a press release for "the rest of us".  I delete the message.

4:15 - draft of the grant application is finally ready to be reviewed by the boss.

4:45 - The phone rings just as I am leaving the office.  Meeting arranged for Wednesday morning to review our proposed adult education program with a new partner one town over.

5:15 - Stop at Trader Joe's for dinner items.

5:35 - Feed the cats dinner, scoop out the litter box, make a coffee and fire-up the laptop.

5:55 - Complete text edit for one of my brands, and respond to a customer query for another.  Yes, the watch in question is available, yes, it does cost that much, no there will be no discount!

6:17 - Phone rings, it's Japan with an urgent request for a special event, could I help organize it?

7:25 - Dinner is nearly ready, and Wendy arrives home after a long day.

9:26  - Story lined up for tomorrow involving a review of a new brand's watch.

10:25 - After 15 minutes of futility, I give up trying to read any more of the book I've been working on since Christmas.  Turn out the lights and off to sleep.  Tomorrow is another exciting day in watch media!