26 November 2012

Invicta Grand Diver Automatic - An Omega Seamaster look-alike for twenty times less

Searching for some time for an affordable automatic diving watch, I looked over the Internet for cheaper alternatives to the ridiculously expensive Swiss makers and also to the not-exactly-cheap Japanese alternatives (Citizen and Seiko).
Over the past months, while searching on the net for alternatives, there was a company where I've always stepped over: Invicta.
However, many of the negative reviews frightened me to buy one of their products. The fact is Invicta history is a bit nebulous.
Searching the web for information and we can be even more lost: the company is supposed to be an old Swiss watchmaker, founded in La Chaux-de-Founds, in 1837. Over the decades the company lived though several processes of merges and acquisitions and is presently in American hands an now known as Invicta Watch Group, headquartered in Hollywood, Florida.
There is no information on the web that allow us to believe that there is still a manufacturing unit of the company, producing their own timepieces, either in Switzerland or in the United States.
The web, always prolific in information, doesn´t even give us a glimpse of a concrete information about the physical location of this corporation.
Soon I discovered that more than an industry, Invicta is now only a brand. They might idealize the watches, however their manufacture is made somewhere else. The collection is large, with models raging from a few dozen Euros to more than a thousand Dollars. And, within it, we can find all the types of possible configurations: Swiss-made, Swiss movement, japan movement and... probably... Chinese made.
Even within each model there are changes over time. Some batches can come with a non-identifiable machine and others can arrive in the market with a well-known movement. I don't doubt that these changes have the client satisfaction and the technical evolution in mind. However, and due in part to the lack of information coming from the company (their web page is really poor), the consumers don't have time to adjust themselves to the upgrades taking place. Meaning that, sometimes, you might not be buying exactly what you thought in the beginning (more on this later!).
Regardless of those details, the brand is generally assumed as a  collector's starting point to the many watch fans worldwide.
Supported by this assumption, I decided to take a leap of faith on one of their timepieces. The idea was, basically, to buy a simple diving watch. Simple stainless steel design and without any additional complications. Basically, I was looking for a cheap "expensive Swiss look-alike time piece", similar in shape and style to the classic Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster, without the disadvantageous prices of these last ones.
I was looking for a big watch, but in the 150 to 200 Euros interval. Invicta has a few models in the collection, with these mentioned characteristics, particularly their "Reserve" collection that go well above the 500 Euros. However, for that price, we have already a few attractive choices along the traditional Swiss watchmakers. This reality already presupposes a difficult dilemma: to buy, for that amount of money, a true Swiss watch (if you are really into it) or, instead, just one trying to resemble one. I guess for most people (myself included) there's no place for conflict in this decision.
Avoiding this trap, my choices in Invicta were reduced to a few models.
Among them, the Invicta Grand Diver Automatic (model 3045) immediately caught my eye. And, frankly, one month after buying it I honestly can say that it's now my favorite watch.
The Invicta Grand Diver Automatic quickly became my favorite watch in my small collection. Powered by a Seiko movement (the NH35A), it's, however a big watch. And heavy one also. So be prepared for it, when you wear it on your wrist. You will notice it. The construction is in stainless steel (case and band) and the watch band has an excellent, machined and solid fold-over clasp with safety lock, quite uncommon for a watch in this price tag (compare it to the lame clasp of the Rolex Submariner, costing forty times more, and you will understand what I mean).
The case has two engravings: on the opposite side  to the screw-down crown the word "Invicta" and on the crown side, in smaller letters, the words "Grand" and "Diver". The clasp has also engraved the Invicta logo and the word "Invicta".
The band is a two-tone stainless steel one, easily adjusted at home with a simple tool kit that you can buy at E-Bay for a few bucks. I've read some remarks on the web regarding loose pins, dropping from the band. I've never (until now) had this problem. The band remains solid. On either side of the case, both band links have a diving helmet engraved in relief. The symbol is similar to the one found on the blue dial and also in the crown. Although I'd much prefer a "cleaner" look, I don't find these engravings conspicuous enough to be un-elegant.
Contrary to the higher-end Invictas (namely their "Reserve" collection), the Grand Diver doesn't look  to be equipped with a Flame-Fusion crystal. It's probably a conventional mineral crystal (it's a flat crystal, not a dome one) with the practical loupe (or magnifier) above the date window.
The heart of this timepiece is a reliable Seiko NH35A twenty-four jewels automatic movement (however I read in the web that previous batches were coming with the Miyota 8215 movement, from Citizen). A skeleton see-through case back allows us to see the interesting mechanism at work.
Accuracy:
I've set the watch according to Greenwich Mean Time on the past 04 of November, around 2100. At 2400 of 25 of November (507 hours later - or 21.125 days) I checked once again both times. And noticed that the watch was advanced in relation to GMT a small amount of 7 minutes and 51 seconds (7'51''). This gives a time advance for the machine of roughly 22.295 seconds per day in relation to the atomic time. This is well within the margin defined by the movement maker: -25 to +35 seconds per day (23ºC/+or-2ºC). A friend of mine had bigger accuracy problems with an Omega Seamaster, and it was a 4000 Euros watch. He had to send the watch back for calibration and, after the service done, it remained nowhere near as accurate as this cheap Japanese movement. My Invicta Grand Diver is still on factory calibration.
The watch, presented in its box and bought directly from the Amazon.Co.UK. It's, to me, a mystery how can a watch have a retail price of 545 USD and be sold on the web by a mere 125 UK Pounds. It's probably not for us, humble consumers, to understand.
Meanwhile, I'm keeping on enjoying it. It's the most fun piece of time measuring that I've bought so far.