Today’s review is one of the most unusual watches you’ll see. Designed in Ohio, it has a vintage Russian mechanical movement, superlative multilayer lume, and a two-tone case with aviation-style dial. Say hello to the Lum-Tec C1:
- 38mm by 12.5mm, 135g.
- 18mm non-tapering 5-link bracelet, single button clasp release, solid links and solid end links, one micro-adjustment.
- Flat sapphire crystal with inner and outer anti-reflective coatings.
- Vintage Soviet military 21-jewel mechanical movement, twin barrels with 38-41 hours of power reserve. Low-beat (18,000 vph), fully rebuilt and restored by Lum-Tec.
- PVD hard-coated bezel and crown, 316L stainless steel case and bracelet.
Please continue for the review and pictures.
I’ve been reading about Lum-Tec for a while now, however their earlier models were mainly 44mm and up which wasn’t appealing to me. They announced the C series early in 2009 at 38mm, and I was sold: cool movement, clean shape and design, low cost, and versatile to boot. I put in my reservation and got mine as promised in September. I chose the C1 model with the most classic design, in my opinion. Also available are versions with orange lume, a stealth model with greyed crystal, and a stunning all-PVD model.
The movement is perhaps the most interesting bit. It’s Soviet, vintage, and completely rebuilt and timed by Lum-Tec. Originally, they specified 80 hours of power reserve, but reduced the watch price along with the estimate after they spent months working on the movements and replacement mainsprings. I wanted to highlight this seemingly small change as quite significant: they explained the problem, reduced the price, and no one complained. Notice also that they spent a disproportionate amount of time on a very well priced watch: this is much more than I’d expect to see from a watch that cost me under $400!
Twin-barrel movements are usually reserved for five-figure watches, so this is a new design for me. Reflecting different design constraints than I’m used to, the Soviet movemet is automatic, handwinding, non-hacking, low-beat (18,000vph) with a rough handwind and unused date disk. I do wish Lum-Tec had left the date on; it’s visible in their movement pictures and I like the additional functionality. Timekeeping has been very good, losing less than 10 seconds per day in my case. The slow tick is just barely audible with the watch held to your ear, and quite retro to hear.
The other standout features of the watch are the PVD, AR coatings, and incredible layered lume on the dial. As you can see, the PVD finish is perfectly smooth and flawless on the bezel and crown. Very nice. The sapphire crystal sports the heaviest anti-reflective coatings I’ve ever seen, with very blue visible just off-axis, and “vanishing crystal effect” out to extreme viewing angles. Awesome. I don’t have a good night photography setup, so here is a factory picture of the MDV (“Maximum Darkness Visibility”) GX lume:
It really is that bright, too — as good as my Seiko divers and Omega X-33. Absolutely first-rate. Lum-Tec is famous for, yep, their lume, and this watch shows why.
On close inspection, the dial is glorious. Perfect fonts and printing, and exquisitely done multilayer lume. I found no flaws, even under magnification. I like the aviation-style dial and hands; the same font used on my old Piper
Archer instruments. The hour hand is outined in red, and the second hand is also red for a bit of contrast. Readability is excellent under all viewing conditions. The AR crystal shows blue from just off-axis to perhaps 20 degrees, and then the crystal just vanishes completely. Very cool.
The bracelet is functional but not as impressive as the watch itself. Mine arrived with stiff links, sharp edges, and metal dust in the links. I think it’ll break in, and a bit of effort freed the stiff links, but probably received less attention than the more important parts. Note that the clasp, with its single-button release, is the only bit of polished steel on entire watch — a nicely done bit of design. I’d also prefer a couple more micro-adjustments, as the single available one makes it hard to get the fit just right.
The C1 is a nice watch to wear. I wore it to a multi-day business meeting as well as some wilderness hiking, and it was great for both. Not at all flashy or noticed, the two-tone case is interesting without drawing attention to itself.
The pre-order price was $373 delivered, and they’re now the regular price of $565. At $373, I recommend them; at $565, I’m a bit more hesitant. On the other hand, it’s a unique design from an American watch company, adding a 12-month warranty to a very unusual movement, and superbly detailed design. Swap the bracelet for a leather strap and this is a watch of outstanding versatility and execution.
By Paul Hubbard