I’ve been keeping my eye on this little watch for awhile now. Made by this little boutique watch company from Singapore called Gruppo Gamma. After I heard prices for the movement would be going up, I decided to just bite the bullet and order one. My initial fears were my wrists would be too small and it would look utterly ridiculous on me. I tend to stay within the 37-43mm range of watches, and the largest one I have is the Seiko “SRP309” –the second generation orange monster– so needless to say I was a bit apprehensive. However, the guys from the company responded on Instagram and helped the decision making process.
As I mentioned before, they are based in Singapore, but do have US distribution centers. I got my watch in 3 days, shipped via DHL. It comes with a travel case, a secondary darker leather leather band, 2 spare screw bars (which is very nice of them), a screw driver to change the screw bars. I am very glad they are not spring bars because this watch is pretty solid and heavy. It weighs 170 grams with the strap, and I did not want to strap a NATO band on it since the leather one it came with was very nice. Screw bars gave me a bit more reassurance.
The Vanguard comes with a signed screw down crown. There are crown guards that are present and the grip is very nice. Compared to my orange monster, it is much easier to screw and unscrew this crown. According to the Gruppo Gamma Site, the Vanguard Mark III N-19A is backed by a Miyota 9015 movement. Which is for the most part identical to the Miyota 90S5 movement. What I find odd, is the Miyota specs, say the 9015 has a date calendar complication, whereas the 905S does not. And the Vanguard Mark III N-19A that I have definitely does not have a Calendar Date, so I’m wondering if the Gamma site is incorrect and it is actually backed by a 90S5 movement. [UPDATE] Confirmed by the company that it is using a caliber 9015. The date function is just not exposed. You can tell when asjusting the time, it needs to be in the second position(vs. just the first, for the 90S5).
The case and crown is is phosphor bronze, with a stainless steel caseback. Screws are visible throughout and it has a very Jules Verne-esque 20k Leagues under the sea feel to it. The bronze, as the name implies has phosphorous in it, which is a deoxidizing agent and helps it resist and corrosion. Hence phos bronze has lot of maritime applications, such as ship propellers.
The Lume is something I honestly expected a bit more out of. One caveat, is I did not do a full thorough analysis. This model uses C3 luminescent markers. C3 is essentially a color code, designating it a yellow daylight color per ISO 3157:1991 specs. There are no specs from the manufacturer as to what kind of lume they use, but I can rule out tritium and guessing maybe super luminova. After shining a bright 400k temp LED light to it (which should give it a good ~360nm wavelength of light to be absorbed by the pigment) It looks amazing! As seen by the pics below. However, the discharge rate seems pretty fast. After about 5min or so, it diminishes greatly. Again, to re-iterate, this is all anecdotal, as I did not saturate the material, give it 20-30minutes of load time. But these are pretty standard with most watches. With a tool diver, maybe I was thinking it would last a little longer? I’m not sure.
My initial impression of the band was, “wow”. It feels like I’m wearing a belt on my wrist! It’s a thick, giant 24mm leather band. I’m used to wearing G10/Nato bands, so this thing felt gigantic. The stitched leather smells nice, and has an amazing bronze buckle as well, which bears the company’s name. It is a bit hard to take off the watch, but I suspect that is because my leather has not been broken in yet.
Below are iphone pics I took if the watch on my wrist. I tried to take close to a 90 degreen angle shot to show the thickness of it and how it wears. The lugs are angled so it does not seem ridiculous at most angles, with the exception of the side profile since 16mm does protrude up quite a bit. I have small wrists, and it does not appear as if I’m wearing a giant pocket watch on my wrists. This was my first concern, but as of now I’m really digging this timepiece.
I can’t wait to see what this watch will look like in a few years. As time passes, the bronze will mix with co2 and water to essentially form a patina that gives it some character. I can force it with sulfides and chemicals but there’s not much fun in that. I’ll let nature take it’s time. It so far far has jumped up in my rotation as one of my favorite watches so far. I love the teal colored dial, and the sci-fi steam punkish case makes it a joy to wear. Similar watches to this that I looked at is the Ancon M26 tank. But that thing was even bigger than this one, and the guys at Gruppo Gamma mentioned that the designers of the Vanguard Diver has small wrists too, so that sealed the deal for me.