The NBN is 62% faster in our new house!

This time last year we finally got connected to Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

Doing so dramatically increased our average download speed from 6.9MBps with ADSL2+ (over the old telephone copper wire network) to 46.7MBps with NBN (over a new NBN fibre optic connection to the closest telephone/internet exchange).

A little over a week ago we moved into an independent house in another suburb. This meant we were no longer sharing that fibre optic internet connection with the other residents in an apartment block.

I checked to see if this had increased our connection speed and, sure enough, our download speeds have gone up by 62% to 75.7MBps!

Woohoo! 

Pro tip: If you’re looking to move house and, like me, can’t live without the NBN, check out the nbnm8 Chrome extension. When you use realstate.com.au and Domain to search for properties it’ll automatically do the nbn availability look-up for you :)

My first mechanical chronograph: Seagull 1963 Airforce

One year ago I started my mechanical watch collection. This was thanks to Nadia and a bunch of awesome friends who got me a Techné Goshawk for my birthday. Since then I’ve bought two more mechanical watches, an Orient M-Force ‘Beast’ and a Vostok K-65 Komandirskie.

For my birthday this year Nadia and that super awesome bunch of friends got me my fourth mechanical watch – and first mechanical chronograph – the Tianjin Seagull 1963 Airforce chronograph

I’ve been wanting to get a mechanical chronograph for years but most of these are ‘luxury’ level watches (ie in the $1,500+ price range). Only a handful can be classified as ‘mid-range’ ($500-$1,500) and, of those, the Seagull 1963 Airforce chronograph is probably the coolest.

Given this is a brand new watch, you may have guessed from its name that this is a modern reissue of the original chronograph that was produced for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 1963.

About the 1963 Airforce watch

The particular variant of watch that I have is the more historically authentic 37mm version (there are newer, 42mm versions, as well). It has a polished silver case with a sapphire crystal, a crown, and two chronograph pushers. 

The cream dial has an outer index with black Arabic numerals and black minute-markers that double as second-markers for the chronograph. Those second markers are subdivided into one-fifths of a second (which only becomes relevant when you’re using the chronograph). The inner index has applied gold Arabic numerals and applied dart-shaped, gold hour markers.

You use the large blue hands to tell the time and the red hand counts elapsed seconds for the chronograph (which means most of the time it remains in the 12 o’clock position). The two sub-dials have small blue hands.

The ‘small seconds’ sub-dial at 9 o’clock shows you running seconds (this runs whether you’re using the chronograph or not) and the sub-dial at 3 o’clock is a 30-minute counter for the chronograph (it loops if you run the chronograph for more than 30 minutes).

At the top of the dial there’s an applied red star with a gold outline (there are also yellow star versions of these watches). Printed on the dial is the text “21 ZUAN” (21 jewels) and “中国制造” (Made in China).

The watch is powered by the ST1901 movement, which you can see in all its glory through the open case back. 

The ST1901 is a hand-wound, column-wheel chronograph movement with 21 jewels, shock protection, and a 40-hour power reserve.

To see just how cool this movement is, check out this video from Long Island Watch (the link will start the video from the 08:50 mark).

I really wanted to get this watch, not just because it’s gorgeous and has a fantastic chronograph movement, but also because so much history behind it.

History of the 1963 Airforce chronograph

The 1963 Airforce chronograph is historically important because it was the first chronograph built in China that was issued to air force personnel in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

There are two parts to this story of this watch, one set in Switzerland and one set in China.

In 1960s Switzerland there were three competing chronograph movement manufacturers: Lemania, Valjoux and Venus. Venus made the popular Calibre 175 column (or pillar) wheel chronograph movement that was used in several watches in the 1940s and 50s.

Competition in this space was fierce and Venus needed money to develop newer movements so they first tried to sell their existing Cal.175 machinery and designs to the Soviet Union. The Soviets, however, already had the Strela chronograph movement (a copy of Venus’ Cal.150) which meant they weren’t interested. But the Chinese were.

In the 1960s the Chinese were importing all their chronographs from Switzerland and the Soviet Union. They wanted to remove this dependency so the Ministry of Light Industry kicked-off several projects to develop Chinese-made clocks and watches. 304 was the code given to the project that would develop, test, and source a Chinese-built chronograph wristwatch for air force personnel. (100-series projects were for the navy, 200 for the army, 300 for the air force.)

In 1961 Project 304 assigned the task of developing and producing this air force chronograph to the Tianjin Watch Factory. This was partly because Tianjin had already created a popular watch movement of their own but also because Tianjin (the city) is physically closer to Beijing than, say, Shanghai (and, therefore, the Shanghai Watch Factory).

Tianjin bought the Cal.175 machinery and designs from Venus and then upgraded the original 17-jewel movement to their own 19-jewel ST19 movement. They completed their second round of prototypes in 1963 and, for whatever reason, this is the year that gets added to the watch’s name when collectors outside of China refer to it. Inside of China this watch is named after the project code and is called the ‘304 Airforce chronograph’.

By 1965 these watches had met all the requirements and passed all the Ministry’s tests so an order was placed. In 1966 Tianjin delivered 1,400 of these watches to the air force.

Jump forward to 1990 and the Tianjin Watch Factory was promoted to a national level enterprise. This was followed soon after by the creation of the Tianjin Seagull Corporation in 1992.

(‘Sea-Gull’ was the brand name given to the export version of the ‘DongFeng’, ie ‘East Wind’, watch that Tianjin made in 1965 and started exporting in 1973. This ran on the 100% Chinese designed and manufactured Calibre ST5 movement and was the first watch ever to be exported from China. So it made sense to add the most internationally well-known brand to the name of the new company.)

In 2003 Seagull resurrected Project 304’s movements and, by 2005, had reissued the first batch of commemorative aviation watches. The watch version I have is one of the newest models that runs on the further-upgraded, 21-jewel ST1901 movement and has a sapphire crystal.

Final thoughts

I’ve only had this watch for a couple of days (we celebrated my birthday on the weekend before the actual day) but I’ve worn it pretty much non-stop since then and I can safely say that I love it!

All my other watches have black dials so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a watch with a lighter dial. Fortunately, this watch is gorgeous and I think it looks nice on me. The awesome RIOS 1931 Bright Brown leather strap that came bundled with it from Poljot24.de adds a lot to its overall aesthetic, too.

Sure the watch doesn’t have a day-date complication or any lume anywhere (which makes it more like a dress watch, really). But the fact that I can instantly start the chronograph with a push of a single button more than makes up for anything that’s ‘missing’ from a near-authentic reissue of a 1960s watch.

I’m also loving wearing smaller watches for a change. I still love my 47mm dive watch, and have worn huge Casio G-Shocks and ProTreks for much of my life, but smaller watches work surprisingly well on my 7¾-inch wrist. I think my next watch will be a vintage watch from the 60s or 70s so this small-watch trend is probably going to continue for a while!

Let me end then by saying a HUGE thank-you to Nadia and all the awesome friends who contributed to this watch! Mechanical watches are very much a luxury item for me and it’s only (a) this year and (b) with your help that I can actually afford to own any of them. So thank you for indulging me and for not looking at me too side-eyed every time you hear I’ve bought yet another watch :)

Further reading

If you’re interested in buying this watch or want to find out (much) more about it – particularly its history and the history of its movement – here’s where you should go:

My third mechanical watch: Vostok K-65 Komandirskie

Four months ago I bought my third mechanical watch: a Vostok K-65 Komandirskie 1965 (K-65 2414A 680220).

I hadn’t expected to buy this watch because its silver-and-black version had been out of stock for several months – pretty much since it had gone on sale in August 2015, in fact.

But, as I was writing my roundup of affordable watches post back in March, I discovered – much to my delight – that Meranom had it back in stock! Not wanting to miss out, I ordered it immediately. Which was just as well! That batch was completely sold out three days later and this model hasn’t been available since. 

Shipping woes

Of course buying this watch was one thing; getting it shipped to Australia was something else entirely.

That’s because, for whatever reason, the express mail service EMS decided they didn’t want to deliver it from Russia to Australia. Of course it took them almost two weeks to figure that out. So, fifteen days after being shipped, my watch was returned to Meranom’s offices in Chistopol.

Fortunately, a few quick emails later, it was on its way to me via regular Russian Post and the awesome Rustem from Meranom was quick to refund the difference in shipping fee costs. Rustem also told me that this was the second watch EMS had refused to deliver to Australia. Strange. 

Because delivery via regular post takes time, all told, it took over a month and a half from purchase to final delivery in Melbourne. 

Now that I have this watch, though, it's quickly gone into rotation and I find myself wearing it regularly to work and on weekends. It's classy, unobtrusive, and I can wear it with a wide variety of outfits. Basically, I love it! 

So let's talk about the watch itself.

About the Vostok K-65 Komandirskie

This 2015 reissue of the K-65 Commander’s watch from 1965 celebrates 50 years since the Chistopol Watch Factory became the official supplier of watches to the Ministry of Defence of the USSR. (The Chistopol Watch Factory was founded in 1942 and renamed itself Vostok in the 1960s.)

The K-65 has a no-nonsense, clean and clear design aesthetic.

It has a 39mm round, stainless steel case with a domed acrylic crystal and open case-back.

The dial is black, with:

  • solid, white hour markers;
  • solid, sliver baton hands (filled with a bit of lume); and
  • solid, white Arabic numerals in a neo-grotesque 1960s Russian typeface (which I adore). 

The movement is a hand-wound Vostok 2414A with a date complication, 17 jewels, and a 36-hour power reserve. I wind it every night and it keeps good time.

Basically, this is a solid, dependable, good-looking, versatile military watch with a 1960s neo-grotesque design aesthetic. What’s not to love?!

(For more on this watch check out this review on Krishna’s Russian Watches.)

State of the watch collection

I now own three mechanical watches: a pilot watch (Techné Goshawk), a dive watch (Orient M-Force Beast), and now this military watch.

This means I’m halfway to completing my sub-$500 mechanical watch collection. To do that I need a dress watch (Orient Sun and Moon or Melbourne Watch Company Portsea), a sport watch (Seiko Alpinist), and a chronograph (Seagull 1963 Air Force Chronograph). If all goes well, I’ll have done that by the end of 2017 :)

Stay tuned!

A roundup of affordable watches I like

Watches: they’re expensive.

Fortunately, there are several that I really like and that I actually can afford – with prices ranging from $100 to $1,300. Here are the ones I like the most.

Dress watches

I’m mostly a fan of tool watches but let’s start with a couple of dress watches I really like.

Orient – Sun and Moon

The first is the white dial variant of the latest Orient Sun and Moon series (ET0T002S). 

The thing that makes this watch so cool is the depth and complexity of its multi-layered, multi-textured dial. That dial pattern is machine stamped and not hand-guillochéd, of course, but then this watch does cost $300, not $3,000. The photos above are screengrabs from Long Island Watch’s video overview of the Sun and Moon series; check that out to see how gorgeous these watches are.

Melbourne Watch Company – Portsea

More layered-dial gorgeousness can be found in the Melbourne Watch Company’s Portsea series

I love the colours, the contrast in layer textures, and the overall naval theme of these watches. And isn’t the ‘M’ counterweight on the seconds hand just fabulous? (About as cool as Christopher Ward’s trident seconds hand counterweight.) If I already owned a white dial Orient Sun and Moon, I’d probably get a blue dial Portsea; most likely the Portsea Blue. Costing almost $900 a piece, though, these watches are pricier than the Sun and Moon. But then they have better quality movements, higher quality leather straps, and they come with a two-year warranty – so you get what you pay for.

Military watches

I generally prefer pilot watches to military (or field) style watches but here are three military watches I like.

Vostok – Komandirskie 1965

The first is the 50th anniversary reissue of Vostok’s Komandirskie 1965 or K-65 (2414A 680220). 

Source: Meranom.com

What I love about this watch is its no-nonsense, clean and clear design aesthetic – it’s almost a military-themed dress watch. Which makes sense since it is, after all, a Commander’s watch and not an average soldier’s watch :)

For more on this watch check out this review on Krishna’s Russian Watches.

This is the only watch on my list that has an acrylic crystal instead of a sapphire one, by the way. Given that it costs less than a hundred dollars, though, I don’t mind waiving my sapphire crystal-only rule for it. Not that I have a choice with Vostok, of course, since they don’t make any watches with sapphire crystals, anyway.

Update: I bought this watch! I’ll blog about it once it arrives.

Marathon – General Purpose Mechanical

Given that I like Russian military watches from the 1960s, it’s not a surprise that I also like American military watches from the same era.

Unfortunately, the watch that I like the most – the Benrus 3061 black dial – is no longer being manufactured because the Benrus watch company no longer exists (though the brand does live on). So, until I jump in to buying second hand watches, I’m not going to get my hand on one of these beauties. 

Fortunately, a couple of years ago Marathon released their homage to this watch: the General Purpose Mechanical

Source: Marathon

They’ve toned the design down a bit (particularly the colours) but what they’ve created is a solidly-constructed, no-nonsense military watch that is cool in its own way. Also, it costs just $400, which his nice. Bonus: these watches use tritium tubes instead of lume.

Hamilton – Khaki Field

The third military watch I like is another American classic: the Hamilton Khaki Field series

Source: Hamilton

I really like the dials of these watches, particularly the inner 24-hour ring of numerals (that show military time) and the large day window in the Day Date Auto. The needle-tipped, tapered baton hands on these watches are cool, as are the seconds hands that reach all the way to the minute markers at the outermost edge of the dial. Those hands let you be more accurate with the time so, for example, you can coordinate military action (or, say, a surprise birthday party) down to the last second :) These watches are surprisingly affordable, too, costing around $400 to $600.

Pilot watches

Now we come to my favourite watch category: the pilot watch.

Laco – Fliegeruhren B (Pilot Watch Type B)

My favourite watches in this category are the 1940s German navigator watches – specifically the ones with the Type B dial. Several brands make this style of watch but my favourites are usually from Laco

Source: Laco

The most affordable of these is the Laco Aachen ($400). But, if I had a choice, I’d get the Laco Paderborn ($1,000). That’s a significant upgrade over the Aachen and, with a domed sapphire crystal and solid case back, is much closer to the original flieger watch. As a bonus, it also has thermally-blued steel hands. If I was going all-out, though, I’d get the Laco Friedrichshafen ($1,200). That’s basically a larger, and therefore even more authentic, version of the Paderborn (ie it has a 45mm case compared to the Paderborn’s 42mm).

For more on this series of watches check out this video overview from Long Island Watch.  

Hamilton – Khaki Aviation

The only other pilot watches I love as much as the Laco Type B fliegers are the Hamilton Khaki Aviation range. And that’s a big range so there are lots of models to choose from. 

Source: Hamilton

I think my favourites are the more straightforward ones like the Pilot Auto ($1,300) and the Pilot Day Date ($1,200). Both are gorgeous, with their large sword hands, long seconds hand, and day-date windows (particularly on the Pilot Day Date). I also love the more complicated Pilot GMT ($1,800) with its red, second-time-zone hand. And the limited edition Takeoff Air Zermatt ($1,600), built in partnership with the Air Zermatt Swiss mountain rescue service. 

Other pilot watches

There are many other pilot watches from several other watch brands that I like but the Laco and Hamilton ones are my favourites. However, for completeness’s sake, I should say that I love pilot watches from Alpina, Bell & Ross, Citizen, Damasko, Fortis, Garmin, Graf Zeppelin, Hanhart, Junkers, Sinn, and Techné. And, who knows, I might buy one (or several) of these in the future, too :)

Sport watches and chronographs

Seiko – Alpinist

I’ve been a long-time fan of Casio watches – having owned multiple G-Shocks and ProTreks – so I’ve never really paid much attention to non-Casio sport (or field) watches. However, the Seiko Alpinist (SARB017) is difficult to ignore. 

I mean, how cool is that green bezel; the applied gold numerals; those cathedral-shaped hands; and the inner, rotating compass ring (controlled by the second crown at the 4 o’clock position). Not to mention the higher-end Seiko movement with a 50-hour power reserve. Yes, this is a gorgeous, capable watch. Best of all: it costs less than $500.

For more on this watch check out the history of the Alpinist on Springbar and this video review on Urban Gentry.

Seagull – 1963 Chronograph

Not counting day/date, the complication I love most on a watch is a chronograph. Unfortunately, mechanical chronographs are the most expensive type of wristwatch out there. Fortunately, among the handful of affordable chronographs that are available, we have the fantastic Seagull 1963 Airforce Chronograph series. 

These watches are a 50th anniversary reissue of the original chronograph that Seagull made for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 1963. The one I’d want to get is the smaller, more authentic 38mm one with the sapphire crystal (6345G-2901). I adore the overall design of this watch, with its cream dial; blue and red hands; and applied gold numerals and hour markers. What’s even cooler is the open case back that really shows off the ST19 column-wheel chronograph movement (which is based on the Swiss Venus 175 movement that Seagull bought from Venus in the 1960s). This 38mm model is surprisingly affordable, too, costing under $500.

Check out this video overview from Long Island Watch to see just how cool this series of watch is. 

I love this watch so much that, for my birthday this year, I’m thinking of asking my friends and family to pitch in and get one for me. Unless, of course, I find it on sale for a lot cheaper first :)

Other watches

There are several other watches I’d love to own, of course.

Many of these are quartz watches from the Seiko Giugiaro and Astron series; the Casio ProTrek and G-Shock series; the Bulova Accutron and Precisionist series; and the Citizen Promaster Air series.

From the mechanical watch side there are a handful of dive watches I’d like to own, plus several vintage watches I’d love to get my (second) hands on.

For now, though, I’m happy with my shortlist because I can turn this into a shopping list from which I can cross-off items over the next three to five years :)

Weekend project: Fire Safety Door album covers

The tram stopped at an intersection and my eyes focused on the side of a multi-storey office building. The plain, grey door blended in easily with the plain, grey wall. The door had no handle and was flush with the wall. If you weren’t looking carefully, you wouldn’t even notice it was there. 

The only thing mildly interesting about it was the black lettering about a third of the way down. Helvetica Condensed Bold. All-caps. Three lines. 

FIRE SAFETY DOOR
DO NOT OBSTRUCT
DO NOT KEEP OPEN

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “Fire Safety Door. That’d fun name for a band. Their first two albums could even be called ‘Do Not Obstruct’ and ‘Do Not Keep Open’”. 

This was on a Friday evening on my way home from work and I realized it’d been a while since I’d done something randomly creative like designing album covers for a fake band. So I was, like, “Why not?”

Thus I present to you the six-album discography of the alt-rock bank Fire Safety Door (click to see higher resolution versions of the album covers): 

The albums in chronological order are: 

  • Do Not Obstruct: Debut album. 
  • Do Not Keep Open: Difficult second album. 
  • Door Is Alarmed: Critically acclaimed third album. 
  • Woop Woop: Live tour album. 
  • Evacuation Assembly Point: Concept album. 
  • The Spaghetti Incident: Album of cover songs. (Yes, the original GnR album was correctly called “The Spaghetti Incident?” – complete with quotation marks. This album title is just an homage.) 

Ah, random creative outlets. They're so much fun :) 

 

We're finally connected to the NBN!

On 23 June 2014 I tweeted this:

But it wasn't till yesterday, 15 December 2015, that we finally got connected to Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN).

Yes, this took 1 year, 5 months and 22 days

What was particularly irritating was that our neighbours got connected several month ago. It took us this long because we're in an apartment building. Which meant that, first, our Body Corporate had to get their act together and network our building — which they finally did at the end of October.

We then had to wait till iiNet, our prefered ISP (who we've been with for over six years), released their Fibre to the Basement plans for selling NBN services to individual apartment building residents. 

Once all these pieces fell into place, though, things moved quickly. And, six days after the NBN became available to us, we were online:

We're now enjoying download speeds seven times faster than our old ADSL2+ connection (an average of 46.7Mbps with NBN versus 6.9MBps with ADSL2+) and upload speeds thirty-one times faster (27.6Mbps now vs 0.9Mbps previously). We're also connecting faster, with an average ping time of just 2.5ms with NBN vs 27ms with ADSL2+. 

It's awesome.

Of course these speeds aren't as fast as the NBN can theoretically reach ("up to 100Mbps") or as fast as my internet connection is at work (average downloads at 64.3Mbps and average uploads at 86.9Mbps) — but it still pretty darned good. And it's more than enough for any video streaming we want want to do.

So, yay! The NBN was a long time coming, but it was sure worth the wait.

My first dive watch: Orient M-Force Beast

It’s been only a few months since I got my first mechanical watch but I’ve already gone ahead and bought myself a second one :)

This is not another pilot watch, but a fantastic dive watch. Specifically, the Orient M-Force ‘Beast’ (ref. EL06001B0):

Why a dive watch?

They’re among the most affordable style of mechanical watch: Of the five major watch styles – field, chronograph, pilot, dress and dive – when it comes to mechanicals, dress watches and dive watches are generally the most affordable. 

I didn’t want to spend too much on another watch: I’ve only just started collecting watches in earnest so for my next watch I was looking to get an affordable vintage watch, some type of dress watch, or a dive watch.

They’re the only style of watch I don’t have: My current collection comprises two field watches (both Casio quartz digitals), one dress watch (a Casio quartz analogue), one chronometer (also a Casio quartz analogue), and one pilot watch (a Techné mechanical). So, to round things out, I was leaning towards getting a dive watch, anyway.

Why the Orient M-Force Beast?

There are lots of gorgeous dive watches out there but my favourites from the two ends of the price spectrum are probably the Orient Black Ray Raven and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a Fifty Fathoms – certainly not first-hand – but I could have easily bought myself a Black Ray Raven. (Note: This watch isn’t poorly named. The ‘black’ refers to its black dial and the ‘raven’ refers to its black case and bracelet. There’s also an Orient Blue Ray, for example.)

However, in exploring watches over the last few months I decided that, during this early watch collecting phase, I would only buy watches that had sapphire crystals. Why? Because I have a limited amount to spend on new watches so I want to make sure that the watches I do buy are worth it – and watches with sapphire crystals generally are.

Which basically meant I wasn’t going to be buying myself a Black Ray Raven, either,

Now, there are generally four levels of dive watches (that roughly correspond to their price category):

  • Basic: These are the most affordable, but almost all of them have mineral crystals and ‘workhorse’ movements – think the Orient Mako series, Seiko’s SKX007 (probably the most icon affordable dive watch), or the Vostok Amphibia collection
  • Mid-range: Many of these have sapphire crystals and better quality movements – the Orient M-Force Beast falls into this category, as do several professional dive watches (like those from Squale)
  • Professional: These tend to have higher depth ratings, helium release valves, and other features professional divers are interested in – pro watches from Edox, Citizen, Doxa, Marathon, Orient, Oris, Seiko, Squale, Tissot and Victorinox fall into this category
  • Luxury: These don’t necessarily have the features that professional dive watches do, but they do have high quality designs and movements; plus they’re made by luxury brands – think Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Rolex Submariner, and Omega Seamaster (the James Bond watch)

Since I don’t need a professional dive watch, I can’t afford a luxury dive watch, and I don’t want a basic dive watch, I was looking to buy myself a mid-range diver. Specifically, something from Orient’s M-Force seriesSquale’s 1521 collection or Glycine's Combat collection.

Of course, the problem with most mid-range divers is that they’re beyond my budget. So earlier this month I had decided that I was going to get a dress watch, instead. In fact, I’d even settled on the gorgeous Mondaine Simply Elegant (a quartz watch, I know, but I adore that Swiss railway clock design!): 

Fortunately, with Christmas fast approaching, several online watch stores had huge sales on Seiko and Orient dive watches so, suddenly, a whole range of mid-range divers became affordable.

So pouncing on the Beast when it was on sale at 40% of its original price was an easy decision to make :)

About the Orient M-Force ‘Beast’

Orient is one of Japan’s biggest watch brands (along with Seiko, Citizen and Casio). Its history dates back to 1901, though it was incorporated as Orient Watch Company in 1950 and became a subsidiary of Seiko Epson Corporation in 2001.

Orient’s M-Force series of dive watches has been around since 1997 and this M-Force EL06 line, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, was first released in 2012. The latest M-Force line, EL07 (nicknamed ‘Delta’), was released in 2014 but I actually prefer the older EL06s.

The watch I’ve bought is the M-Force EL06001B0, which is the black dial variant. This watch is large (47mm wide and 53mm tall) and chunky, but very nicely proportioned and very nicely designed:

It is powered by Orient’s 22-jewel, three-hand 40N5A movement – a movement that also provides date and power reserve complications.

Worn & Wound have a really nice review of this watch so I won’t write too much more about it here. Instead, check out their review video or Orient’s own product video.

Or, if all you want to do is see how gorgeous this watch is, check out this promo from Watch Tanaka:

Final thoughts

It’s been a few days since I got this watch and I’m super happy with it! 

It’s good looking, reliable, and its lume is bright and long-lasting. Also, its leftie-crown took surprisingly little time to adjust to.

Yes, its build is a little chunky and it is a little heavy. But, as someone who has owned multiple G-Shock and ProTrek watches over the years, it’s nice to be wearing their equivalent in the mechanical watch world!

Finally, it looks good on different coloured NATO straps (I’m not a huge fan of metal bracelets) and this versatility makes it even more fun to wear.

And all this means I now have two fantastic mechanical watches to choose from every day :)

Techné Goshawk: Attention to design detail

In my previous post I explained how the Techné Goshawk wristwatch has a ‘neo retro’ design that is based on two 1940s aircraft cockpit clocks made by the American watchmaker Elgin: 

Now I want to highlight four small, but important design decisions that Francis Jacquerye took when creating this watch. These decisions give an indication of how talented a designer he is. 

Before we do that, though, here’s a close-up of the Goshawk’s gorgeous watch face: 

Now, on to the design decisions…

24 hour dial is optically centred

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the 24-hour sub-dial in the 9 o’clock position isn’t in the exact horizontal centre of the main watch dial. Instead, it’s been ever so slightly raised. That’s because it’s been placed at the ‘optical centre’ (blue line) of the watch dial, not the ‘mathematical centre’ (red line):

There are two reasons for this. 

First, the shape of the Arabic numeral ‘9’, which is the most dominant element in that sub-dial, has more optical weight in the upper part of the glyph. Had Jacquerye placed the 9 right in the centre – like he has with the 3 (which is a horizontally symmetrical shape) – the 9 would have looked a little low. So, to make this look more balanced, he raised the whole dial ever so slightly from the mathematical centre to the optical centre. 

Second, there are three elements within the main dial: 

  1. the 24-hour sub-dial, 
  2. the Techné logo, and
  3. the date window. 

The ‘Techné’ line in the logo has its baseline set to the mathematical centre of the dial (the red line). But, because that logo has more weight above the line than below it, the 24-hour sub-dial needed to be moved up slightly to help balance those two elements with each other. 

Had the sub-dial been left at the mathematical centre, it would have looked out of alignment with the logo. So, instead of moving the logo lower – which would have made both elements appear a little below centre – Jacquerye moved the sub-dial up ever so slightly.  

Date window is balanced with other elements

Something similar has been done to the date window between the 4 and 5 o’clock positions, with the window having been nudged slightly closer to the 5 o’clock hash mark: 

The date window works better here because, in this position, it looks more balanced in relation to the sub-dial and logo. One way to think of this is that the weight of the sub-dial has pulled the date window a little more clockwise from where it may have otherwise been positioned. 

Had the date window been centre aligned between the 4 and 5 o’clock hash marks (as shown on the left, below), it would have looked a little out of place – and also a little boring. It looks much better slightly off centre (as shown on the right, below):

Date window has a white outline

In one of the reviews of this watch, the reviewer complained that he didn’t like the white outline around the date window. I actually think that’s a super important part of the design. 

Without that outline, the date window wouldn’t be prominent on the dial. And its importance as a design and information element would have been diminished. 

You can see this for yourself if you look at that window without the outline (as on the left) versus with the outline (as on the right):

The style of the crown is similar to the original

Finally, one of my favourite design details on this watch is its crown which, as you can see, follows the design of the original Elgin clock’s winding knob: 

There are a bunch of other things I love about this watch’s design, of course – everything from the typography, to the shape of the hash marks, to the 24-hour hand being half orange – but those elements are more obvious to everyone, I think.  

What I wanted to do here was highlight the smaller things – the attention to design detail – that so impressed me when I first saw this watch. So hats off to Jacquerye from making such an excellent and well-designed timepiece. 

 

My first pilot watch: Techné Goshawk

Thanks to Nadia and a bunch of awesome friends who chipped in, for my birthday this year I got my very first mechanical watch: a Techné Goshawk (ref. 411.152). And, yes, it’s a pilot watch :)

Why the Techné Goshawk?

After doing a great deal of research on pilot watches I decided that, given my budget, there were two fantastic watches I could start my mechanical watch collection with: the Laco Aachen B-Uhr style flieger or the Techné Goshawk pilot watch:

 

I would have been super happy to have either of these as my first mechanical watch but, in the end, the Goshawk won out. This was partly because, at the time of purchase, it was slightly cheaper than the Aachen. But, more importantly, because it was the more unique of the two. 

That second point was driven home by a recent Kickstarter campaign from a new watch brand called Air Blue. Air Blue is a spinoff of Deep Blue, a brand that makes affordable dive style watches. The Air Blue Kickstarter is for four lines of watches, and each of these lines borrows from (and, sadly, waters down) the design of a much more expensive pilot watch currently on the market: 

 

Their non-Kickstarter lines (which you can find in their brochure) also borrow design elements from much more expensive watches currently on the market:

But you know which watch design isn’t up there? That of the Techné Goshawk. Or of any of Techné’s aviation watches, for that matter.

Which means that, not only is the Goshawk a gorgeously designed watch in and of itself, because it’s a new-ish design from a boutique watchmaker, there aren’t many other watches out there that look like it.

There are, on the other hand, lots of B-Uhr style fliegers in the market. Because of this, watchmakers tend to go in one of four directions to differentiate their B-Uhr from everyone else’s: 

  • Authentic: They go super-authentic and make a B-Uhr replica that looks almost exactly like the original – like the Laco Aviation Observer Watch Replica
  • Up market: They borrow from the original concept and make a watch that is fabulously designed and beautifully constructed – like the Hamilton Pilot Auto or the IWC Big Pilot.
  • Enthusiast: They keep the watch design relatively similar to the original but add or remove components to cater to different price brackets – like the range of Laco Type B watches available.
  • Cheap: They stick mostly to the original design but they use cheaper components to drastically lower the price point – like the Tisell Type B Pilot.

Actually, there’s probably a fifth direction. In this, watchmakers change the design so much that you can’t seriously call their product a B-Uhr flieger anymore – though you can still tell that’s where the design originally came from (like the Orient Flight). 

So I had a choice between going with a design that lots of brands are covering or a design that’s unique and interesting, but still has plenty of history behind it. And, though I will eventually get a flieger for myself (next birthday, perhaps?), I figured the Goshawk would be a cooler pilot watch to start with. 

Now, onto the watch itself…

About the Techné Goshawk

The Techné brand

Techné Instruments is a boutique aviation watch brand created by Francis Jacquerye in 2007. Jacquerye was a senior designer and analyst at Longines before he went independent and became a horological product management consultant. 

Now he and his wife run VANTGARD, a company that consults with watch brands and start-ups. They also design and manufacture (through outsourcing) custom watches for clients and for themselves. So far Techné is VANTGARD’s only in-house brand. 

The Goshawk was Jacquerye’s second Techné watch and it was launched 2010. It has since been updated slightly from the original (e.g. the current model uses a sapphire crystal display while the original used mineral glass). 

Watch design

The Goshawk has what you would call a ‘neo retro’ design. 

Its design is based primarily on an aircraft mission timer built in the 1940s by two American watchmakers, Elgin and Waltham. These mission timers were installed in Grumman F9F Panther aircraft in the 1940s and F-9 Cougar aircraft in the 1950s and 60s. 

This is what those timers looked like:

 

(Source: Cockpit Clock)

This is what the Goshawk looks like next to the Elgin version of that mission timer:

(Source: Techné)

And when you throw a regular Elgin aircraft clock from the 1930s into the mix, you can see how those retro dial and hand designs were combined and modernized by Jacquerye to create the Goshawk:

(Source: Cockpit Clock)

There are a number of specific things I love about the Goshawk’s design but I’ll go over those in a separate post. (UPDATE: That post is now here: 'Techné Goshawk: Attention to design detail'.)

For now, you can read this review from Worn & Wound or just watch their review video (note: Blake pronounces “goshawk” as “g’SHAWK” when its actual pronunciation is “GOSS-hawk”):

Technical specifications

The Goshawk’s case is made from 316L stainless steel with a matte black PVD coating. It has a diameter of 41.1mm and a thickness of 13.5mm. So, while it’s not that big on my wrist (I have a 7.5 inch wrist), it is reasonably thick. 

The case has an anti-reflective sapphire crystal on the front and an exhibition window on the back. It has a matte black dial, silver minute marks, and its hands and hour marks are coated with C3 luminous material (one of the brightest available). The lume on the 24-hour hand is orange, which is a nice design detail.

 

The watch uses on an automatic Japanese movement: the popular Miyota 8217 from Citizen. This is a non-hacking, self-winding plus hand-winding, 21 jewel movement. It has a 40+ hour power reserve and is accurate to -20/+40 seconds per day. It has three regular hands (hours, minutes, seconds); a quickset date; and a 24-hour hand. 

The Goshawk is also shock resistant; water resistant to 50 metres; and is ISO certified for anti-magnetism (useful for pilots). 

Final thoughts

I’ve only had this watch for about four hours but already I love it to bits. I love how clear its layout is and how quick and easy it is to read time from it – even from oblique angles. Its lume in spectacular, too. 

Mostly, though, it looks great and feels great on my wrist and I’m really enjoying wearing it :)

I’ll have more to say about the Goshawk’s design next time. But, for now, a big, heartfelt thanks to all my friends who contributed towards this watch and have helped me take off on my mechanical watch collecting journey. 

Communication clarity: switching to sentence case headings

It happened and I almost didn't notice. 

I switched writing my Level 1 and Level 2 headings from title case to sentence case: 

And, as you can see in the image above, it's not just the titles, it's also the captions! 

Why make the switch? Because title case headings were starting to look a little old fashioned to me. And, having learnt so much about typography over the last year or two, I now understand that title case is a crutch I no longer need to rely on. I can use good typography to help readers distinguish headings from body text. And good typography plus good design do a much more effective job that merely capitalizing the important words in a heading ever did. 

Actually, this passage from Wikipedia's entry for 'Letter case' sums this up nicely: 

Although title case is still widely used in English-language publications, especially in the United States, it is widely understood that it is a design choice rather than a requirement of orthographic correctness. Sometimes users decide not to bother with its arbitrariness (or even feel that it looks old-fashioned). It does impose a cost to enforce the rules and exceptions of any particular house style that, because of its arbitrariness, does not add any inherent value to the text.
— Wikipedia article: 'Letter case'

So there you go. 

Office kitchen theory: people from large families

I have a theory that you can tell which of your work colleagues grew up in large families – or lived in a hostel when they were in college – by the way in which they navigate the office kitchen or lunch room.

They are more aware of who is in the room with them

Several times at work I’ve walked into the kitchen and there’s been only one other person there. But, every time I try to do anything, they are magically in my way. And, if we don’t quickly settle on an unspoken protocol of how we’re going to successfully navigate around each other for the next two minutes, I can tell they come from a small family.

Sure people from large families get in each other’s way when they’re in the kitchen. But how quickly and automatically they adjust to the presence of others is what sets them apart from people like me: a person who grew up in a large family and, in my specific instance, also spent several years in a hostel and shared apartment while at university.

They are more comfortable working around a single sink

The kitchen in my corner of the office has just a single sink. This sink has two taps: one for washing dishes and one for getting boiling hot or refrigerated cold water. Some people are comfortable with this arrangement, some people aren't.

When I’m washing dishes, for example, I’m have no problem moving slightly to the right to give someone the space to squeeze in next to me and fill their water bottle from the other tap. That's because I come from a large family and sharing sinks is something you have to get used to pretty darned quickly. So, if I’ve finished stirring my cup of tea and just need to rinse my spoon, and the person doing their dishes pauses for two seconds so I can run my spoon under the water, I know they come from a large family.

The best are those moments in which one person is washing their dishes, another is filling their tea cup, a third has just rinsed their fork, a fourth is reaching for a plate from the dish rack, a fifth is wiping a spill on the counter next to you, and a sixth is waiting for the slightest opening to stick their hand in and drop their spoon into the sink. That’s when I want to burst into song with a heartfelt “We are family / I got all my sisters with me” :)

They adjust more quickly to new situations

All this doesn’t mean that people from small families don’t learn and adjust. They do, and they adjust quite well. But you can still tell which people have learnt these skills in the office and which of them have had a childhood in which they shared a kitchen with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older and younger siblings, older and younger cousins, friends and, sometimes, pets.

Like when there are suddenly ten people in the kitchen at 3pm trying to make themselves a cup of tea or use the coffee machine. Some people will adjust automatically to this new situation – seemingly without any additional effort. But a couple will always take a few extra seconds to pause, observe and figure out how things are working before they’ll correctly read and then join the traffic flow.

That’s my theory anyway. 

Improving my writing skills by writing every day

I write reasonably well (or so I like to think) but I want to continue to improve my writing skills.

One of the best ways to do this is by writing a little bit every day. And what better place to do that than here? This blog is called 'Random Tangent', after all :)  

So, apologies in advance for the random snippets of writing and the random half-baked, half-complete, half-written thoughts you might see here in the future. 

That said, hopefully some of what I write will be entertaining or interesting :) 

Let me know what you think.

Researching flieger style watches

As I said in my previous post, I'm ready to buy my first mechanical watch. 

Now people in this situation usually look to well-known Japanese brands like Seiko and Orient since these companies produce excellent quality mechanical watches that aren't very expensive. 

And if I was looking for a dive style watch I'd definitely get the Seiko SKX007K1 or Orient Ray EM6500CD. Or, if I was looking for a field style watch I'd get the Seiko SNZG11K1. Or, if I was looking for a dress watch, I'd get the Orient Bambino ER2400CN.

But, no, I'm an aviation enthusiast so I want to get a pilot watch. 

Eventually, I'll want to get myself something like the Breitling Navitimer 01 (which costs $9,800) or the Breitling Navitimer 1461 ($13,400) but that won't happen for another couple of decades at least. Which is fine because the type of pilot's watch that I adore is the flieger style watch from WWII. 

Now the Seiko 5 Military SNK809K2 does have some pilot/flieger characteristics but it's not quite what I'm after. And the Orient Flight ER2A001B is closer, but it's still a loose interpretation of the original and I'd rather get something more visually authentic.

Of course, before I go any further, I should explain what a flieger style watch is. 

Flieger style watches

Pilot watches have been around since 1904 and, if you want to learn more about them, check out this excellent five-part history on Monochrome: 

For flieger style watches we're interested in part five of that series. 

Or, if you want a quicker introduction, check out this blog post: 

But, basically, these 'beobachtungs-uhr' (i.e. 'observer watches') were created for the Luftwaffe in the 1940s by five German watchmakers: 

  • A. Lange & Söhne
  • Laco 
  • Stowa 
  • Wempe 
  • IWC

These watches were required to:

  • Be super readable (so they were 55mm in size and had white Arabic numerals on a black dial plus blue-flamed sword hands filled with luminous material)
  • Have an anti-magnetic case
  • Be chronometer certified
  • Have a hack-capable second hand (i.e. the seconds hand would stop when you pulled the crown out so you could precisely synchronize your watch)
  • Have a large diamond or onion-shaped crown (so you could adjust them while wearing gloves)
  • Have a large strap (so they fit around your flight jacket or on your thigh)
  • Have a triangle marker at the 12 o'clock position (so you could use the dial as a basic solar compass)

They came in two types: Type A for pilots and Type B for navigators. 

And they looked like this: 

Flieger watches on the market 

Because no one company can claim to have designed or built the original flieger style watch lots of companies now make them. 

Most of the luxury flieger style watch are Type A, though, and I much prefer Type B. The one Type B I do like from this bunch (the Bell & Ross Vintage WWI) happens to be the cheapest of the lot - but is still not something I can afford just yet.

Fortunately, there are a number of Type B watches from enthusiast-level watch brands. The STOWA Flieger Baumuster B and Archimede Pilot 42 B Automatic are the most original-looking (and I love them both) but I think the Hamilton Pilot Auto is my favourite. 

Yes, Hamilton have tweaked the design a bit and have even added a day/date complication - but I really like their interpretation. In fact, I like it so much that, as far as pilot watches go, I'll settle on this on till I'm ready to buy a Breitling. But, for now, these watches are still out of my price range.

The watches that are in my price range also come from enthusiast-level brands - though from the lower end. I love both the STEINHART Nav B-Uhr B-Type and the Laco Aachen Type B Dial Automatic but, on balance, I think I prefer the Laco. 

Aside from the fact that Laco is one of the companies that made the original B-Uhr watches back in the 1940s, I prefer its full lume and open case back. Also, Laco's movement is made in-house - which is a plus for any watchmaker. 

The one last category of watch brands I should mention are the less well-known consumer brands. So not the Seikos and Orients of the world, but the brands that build cheaper watches that generally work well and are still decent enough looking.

For example, TISELL is a Korean brand that uses off-the-shelf Chinese watch movements from Sea-Gull. And Ticino is a German brand that uses both Chinese Sea-Gull and Japanese Miyota movements (Miyota is owned by Citizen). Watches with Sea-Gull movements used to be hit-and-miss but both TISELL and Ticino do their own quality control with these movements so their watches generally run well. 

Each of these brands makes a Type B flieger style watch. The TISELL Type B Pilot uses a Sea-Gull movement while the Ticino Type B Automatic uses a Miyota movement (their Type B watch from last year used a Sea-Gull movement but this year they're moving a little up-market). 

Both of these are decent enough watches. They have stainless steel cases and sapphire crystals, and they generally run well. But brand like these save money with cheaper movements, lower production costs and fewer subtle refinements. Which means these two watches are less water resistant, they're not quite as well-built or finished, they use a dimmer lume, and their straps aren't particularly good. Also, they don't have much of an after-sales support, maintenance and repair network to turn to if they're not working as well as you'd like. 

What will I buy?

Deciding which watch I'm going to get depends on a number of things: 

  • What's my budget? 
  • And, given that I have a limited budget, what am I willing to compromise on?
  • Finally, do I have a brand preference?

Keeping all that in mind, this is what I'd get at each budget level:

  • $4,000: Bell & Ross Vintage WWI - choosing the Type B over Type A and picking one of my favourite watch brands
  • $1,500: Hamilton Pilot Auto - choosing the more modern interpretation
  • $500: Laco Aachen Type B - choosing the more authentic interpretation and my preferred feature set
  • $200: None 

That $200 decision was the hardest. If I had just $200 I'd either have to get the Orient Flight, which is not my favourite flieger interpretation but I know will be built well and is guaranteed to run really well. Or I'd have to get a TISELL or Ticino that, while more faithful to the original design, may not be built as well or run as well. 

As it happens, I'm not willing to compromise on either flieger design faithfulness or watch features and quality so I'd probably go with neither of those options. Instead, I'd wait till I had $500 to spend so I could get the Laco, instead :)

Also, for completeness' sake, if I actually had $4,000 just lying around, I wouldn't go for that particular Bell & Ross watch, either. I'd already own those Laco and Hamilton Type B flieger watches and I wouldn't want another one. Instead I'd go for a different Bell & Ross watch or something else entirely. 

So there you have it: my thought process (or, well, brain dump) on buying my first mechanical watch given all that I've learnt about the world of watches in the last few months. I'm hoping at least a couple of you enjoyed reading it. Or at least you looked at the pictures and though: "Ah, so that's what he's been on about these last few weeks!" :)

Exploring the World of Watches

I love watches and, since the age of seven, have owned eleven of them. (Which turns out, on average, to be one watch every three years.) 

Nine of these were Casio watches - including one calculator watch, two G-shocks, one ProTrek, and one Edifice. This is the Edifice (EQS-A500B-1AV) that I bought just a couple of months ago, by the way (which I then customized with Hadley Roma leather strap and butterfly deployant clasp): 

The other two watches I've owned were a Pulsar LED (the one I got when I was seven) and a mechanical hand winding watch that I don't remember the brand of (I was twelve at the time).

The cool thing is that I have I reached a point in my life at which I'm ready to move beyond watches as primarily practical time telling tools. I now want to get watches that, while still good for telling time, are also pieces of jewellery and objects of design, engineering, craftsmanship and history. So, aside from another couple of quartz watches I'll probably want to get in the future (a Casio ProTrek and some type of chronometer), this means I'm looking to get myself my first proper mechanical watch. 

I've spent the last few months researching watches and world or horology - both online and in local stores in Melbourne - and, over the next few months, I'll summarize what I've learnt on this blog. 

Let's start with the basics, though: 

  • What types of watches can you get?
  • Who makes them?
  • How much do they cost?

Watch Styles

Historically, wristwatches have been tool watches. In the early 1900s people were perfectly happy with pocket watches (though women sometimes wore watches as jewellery on their wrists) but, when it stopped being convenient to pull a watch out of your pocket - like when you were diving, flying, driving or marching across Europe in your army - wristwatches started to become popular. 

Accordingly, these are now the main styles of wristwatches available (list sourced from this convenient 'Watches Style Guide' thread on Reddit): 

  • Diver's watches: for divers and sailors
  • Field watches: for infantrymen, rangers and other ground troops 
  • Pilot's watches: for pilots and navigators
  • Chronographs or sport watches: for drivers, racers, yachtsmen and other people who play sports
  • Dress watches: for people who want elegant watches to wear with fancy clothes

Or, more visually: 

There are just the big bucket watch styles, of course. There are many variations within these styles and a handful of other styles, as well (e.g. single hand, Bauhaus, fashion). And a lot of these styles and variations overlap, too. 

Watch Brands

There are a great many watch brands out there but, again, thanks to Reddit, here's a good way of categorizing them: 

  • Consumer: some quartz, some mechanical; brands from all over the world (e.g. Switzerland, Japan, Russia, China, USA, Denmark)
  • Enthusiast: usually tool watches designed for a specific purpose (e.g. pilot or military watches)
  • Quasi-luxury: expensive or fancy enthusiast watches; lower-prices luxury watches
  • Entry-level Luxury: starter luxury watches; expensive enthusiast watches 
  • Luxury: expensive watches with a lot of history behind them
  • High-end Luxury: most well-known luxury brands
  • Ultra Luxury: very expensive watches (for serious watch collectors and very rich people only)

Or, more visually: 

Note: I haven't included the independent watchmakers of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (ACHI) in that list because, let's face it, I'll never be able to afford any of their watches.

It's useful to know that a number of these brands are owned by large multinational holding companies.  

For example, the Swatch Group owns: 

  • Swatch from the consumer group;
  • Hamilton and Tissot from the enthusiast group;
  • Longines and Rado from the quasi-luxury group;
  • Omega from the luxury group; and 
  • Breguet, Blancpain and Glashütte Original from the high-end luxury group.

The Richemont Group owns: 

  • Baume & Mercier and Montblanc from the entry-level luxury group;
  • IWC from the luxury group;
  • Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Officine Panerai from the high-end luxury group; and
  • Piaget and Vacheron Constantin from the ultra luxury group.

And LVMH owns: 

  • TAG Heuer from the quasi-luxury group;
  • Bvlgari from the luxury group; and
  • Hublot and Zenith from the high-end luxury group.

Also, Tudor is Rolex's lower-end brand and Orient is owned by Seiko. 

I'm sure there are other brand partnerships and joint ownerships out there. 

Watch Prices

You can buy a watch for almost price - from a $25 Casio to a $250,000 Hublot - and different people create different price-range buckets for watches. 

For example, A Blog to Watch has three: 

While ever-practical Reddit has buying guides for these six price ranges (and a separate guide for 'Ladies Watches'): 

I, too, am practical so I have three personalized buckets (each with its own Pinterest board, no less): 

The way I see it:  

  • In my 30s and 40s I'll only be able to justify buying watches that cost less than $1,000
  • In my 50s I'd like to be able to justify buying a watch that costs more than $1,000
  • And in my 60s I might just buy myself a watch that costs more than $5,000 

What Next?

So that was just the basics. There's a lot more to summarize but I'll try to do that over the next few months (though it'll probably take years since there's so much to learn).

Instead, let's move on to something more interesting: like actually buying a watch. That's what my next post will be about. 

A Little Calibration Goes a Long Way

My Gigabyte laptop has an excellent LCD display that came almost perfectly calibrated out of the box. It's easy to forget, though, that not all LCD screens are like that. When I got an external monitor at work, for example, it was over-bright, with washed-out colours and poor contrast.

Fortunately, it took only a little bit of calibration to fix the problem. So now I can see lighter greys and richer oranges correctly: 

Yay! 

Picking an AFL Team to Support

I've been in Melbourne for almost eight years now and it's about time I picked an AFL team to support.

How Do You Pick a Team?

There's lots of advice on the web about how to pick a team: 

There's also this infographic from Reddit (from December 2012) which is both useful and funny:

Plus this thread for the 2014 season:

Brand Associations

All that is good advice but I think there's a quicker and easier way for someone like me to choose a team: using the power of brands and brand association.

So here's what I did:

  • I went to each team's website and looked at the list of their partner brands - both sponsor brands who support the team financially and support brands who provides the team with goods and services
  • For every brand that I liked (i.e. for which I'd be a 'promoter' on the NPS scale) I gave that team a +1 score
  • For every brand that I didn't like (i.e. for which I'd be a 'detractor' on the NPS scale) I gave that team a -1 score
  • I ignored the brands I didn't have strong feelings for or wasn't familiar with (i.e. for which I'd be a 'passive' on the NPS scale)
  • I then added each team's +1s and -1s and gave them an overall score - a 'net positive brand association score' of sorts

This is the result (sorted by highest-to-lowest score, then alphabetically by team name):

So, if I was to choose a team by brand association alone, then the team I'd be supporting is the Sydney Swans, with the Brisbane Lions coming in second. 

(I've kept my scoring here really simple, by the way. Had I wanted to do a more sophisticated analysis I could have first given 'principle', 'major', and 'premier' partner brands higher positive and negative scores and 'associate' and 'support' partners lower positive and negative scores. Of course this would have given undue importance to brands that simply had more marketing money to spend. So next I would have looked at each brand's annual revenue and marketing spend as a proportion of annual revenue and tried to undo some of those effects. And I might have introduced a 'sponsorship proportion' multiplier for each brand. That is, if a club had twenty partners instead of ten, each of those twenty brands would have had half as much proportional weight. There are many more things I could have done but I'm not feeling particularly nerdy this weekend. I'd rather watch TV or browse Reddit.) 

The brand I like the most from that list, by the way, is iiNet, which is a Hawthorn partner. But the brand like the least is Swisse, which is also a Hawthorn partner. So those two pretty much cancelled each other out. Oh well. 

So, there you have it. After living in Melbourne for almost eight years I now tentatively support the Sydney Swans. Go figure. 

Next Steps

Now that I've reached a tentative result, I need to research the Swans and watch some of their games. If I'm going to support them seriously I need to know much more about them. I need to learn about their players, their coaches, their history, and so on. 

A quick skim through their website has been positive: 

  • They're all over social media and even have their own mobile app - though I suppose this is pretty standard for sports teams in this day and age
  • There's nothing untoward about them in the news - at least nothing I could find when I searched for 'Sydney Swans controversy' on Google News
  • They have two clubs for their female supporters - one in Sydney called L@SS and one in Victoria called LOL (both names I like)
  • They have a Black Swans Supporter Group
  • They have a blog series called 'Swan Songs' in which they talk to past great players called 
  • They have player blogs, one of which was actually updated in 2014

I'll now keep an eye on them and report back if all is going well and if I'm going to continue to support this team.

Till then, go swannies!

New Gigabyte P34 Gaming Laptop

A few months ago I finally retired my three year old ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC and bought myself a fantastic new Gigabyte P34G laptop. This is from Gigabyte's high-end P Series gaming laptops and is a very impressive piece of tech. 

Fantastic Specs

The P34G weighs about as much as my old laptop did but has an excellent 14" 1920x1080p screen. That's a big step up from the X201's grainy-but-capacitive-touch 12.1" 1280x800px screen:

And while 1920x1080 is sometimes too high a resolution for this size of screen, the LCD panel itself is gorgeous and has excellent colour reproduction:

Importantly, the P34G is powerful. Mine is configured with an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M graphics card. In fact, it's more than twice as powerful as my old laptop:

It's also very thin so it fits really easily in my Crumpler Dry Red No. 5 backpack's slim laptop pocket:

The best part? It costs half of what the X201 did :)

But Some Corners Were Cut

To fit all that technical goodness into a low cost, thin-and-light package you have to make some sacrifices. Thus the P34G doesn't have the best build quality (mine already has a tiny cosmetic crack in the plastic keyboard housing) and a sub-par soundcard. Actually, the soundcard itself might be okay but it's not tweaked and configured to sound as good as it should. For an audiophile like me, this is a problem. However that problem is easily remedied by bypassing the laptop's on-board hardware and using an external USB soundcard. I now use the iBasso D-Zero DAC and headphone amp which is small, cheap, and easily transportable but still sounds really good. 

Still Worth It

On balance, though, this is a fantastic laptop and I am really happy I bought it. 

So, if you're in the market for a thin-and-light family laptop with an excellent screen and discrete graphics card, I would highly recommend the Gigabyte P34G.