No 233, 303 & 323 - Sjöö Sandström UTC ORC

Yeah, let’s get patriotic again and do another one from the Swedish manufacturer Sjöö Sandström! This watch is quite unique and I have had three of them so far. It really has a special place in my heart. To quote Sjöö Sandström directly: "It was developed for the Volvo Ocean Race and was designed to meet the extreme conditions of competitive sailing". That is just awesome!

I bought my first one in August 2014. I had been ogling at it for quite a while but paying thousands of dollars for a digital watch (I think MSRP is somewhere around $2500) felt like a weird thing to do. But this watch is no ordinary digital watch. It is something more than that. As always I’m bias when it comes to Swedish design but when I look beyond that I see a watch that has been designed with thought and effort to serve an actual purpose except for just telling the time and that’s what is turning me on. That’s what I’m prepared to pay money for; a serious and well-designed product.

#233 - The Sjöö Sandström UTC ORC.

To me, one of the most interesting details about the UTC ORC is the heart of this watch; the high-tech digital module. It was developed by the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors and was originally used in their robots and missiles. The UTC ORC shares this digital module with Sjöö Sandström’s most iconic model the Chronolink; the watch that Sjöö Sandström might be most associated with (which besides from the digital module also has a manual movement). It has tones of features (day, date, week, month, year, chronograph, world time, UTC, memory bank, DST function, alarm) and is quite easy to maneuver once you get the hang of it but it requires some studying the manual. The watch can be set to three different modes – Normal, Active and Extreme – which are supposed to be developed and customized based on different sailing conditions. In Normal mode the display stays black until you activate it by pushing one of the buttons. The display is also backlit with a red light which is activated automatically by a sensor if the light conditions are poor. The UTC ORC has gone through at least one major update were the movement was upgraded and the display was changed to negative. The early models didn’t have a negative display which in my opinion didn’t make them as legible. This watch is super cool and I think it looks great but one detail, which it shares with other Sjöö Sandström models, are the polished center links of the bracelet that I'm not too happy about. It totally takes away the tool watch feeling. I would have loved to see Sjöö Sandström to come up with a rubber strap that is fitted tight to the watch case. That would look awesome and make it much lighter and more tooly.

The second one I got had originally been donated by Sjöö Sandström to the Swedish watch forum Klocksnack to be auctioned off for charity. The winner of the auction never used it and had kept it in its box almost the entire time. It was pretty much brand new when I got it. I was happy to have one again because I couldn’t really remember for what reason I sold my first one. 

#303 - My second UTC ORC resting on the top of its box.

With the display active.

The red backlight is said to be gentler for the eyes in darkness and does not cause temporary blindness like white backlight.

Engraving on the back. KS ♥ BCF (KlockSnack loves the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation).

The third one I got a hold of came to me in a trade and turned out to be one of the first one hundred made and those watches were mainly given to the Volvo Ocean Race crew. This one had seen some action and was pretty banged up. You could tell it had been used as a tool watch but still it worked just fine. It came on a really cool and worn original velcro strap.

#323 - The third one. One of the earliest examples. Given to the crew of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Original Sjöö Sandström velcro strap.

Titanium case back. No. 76 of the first 100.

The only negative thing I can really come to think of that bothered me a little bit was that you couldn't tell the time by just glancing at it since you had to push one of the buttons to activate the display. Of course, wearing this watch every day will teach your muscle memory to do this without thinking but when rotating this watch with others that's a thing that might become an issue.

I really want to encourage my international readers to explore Sjöö Sandström and their collection if you haven't already done that. They are genuinly service minded and if you're looking for something unique that everybody else doesn't have, look no further.

Me holding a speech on my 30th birthday. My first UTC ORC sitting on the wrist.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.


No 232 - Rolex Oysterquartz 17013

Why the hell did I go and buy myself another one of those bloody loud tickers? I had promised myself not to buy another OQ but then this beauty turned up to a price I just couldn’t look away from. It had recently been given a proper gasket service and was in a great condition. I mean, who can resist the combination of blue and gold? Its stunning looks simply made me forget about the noise it gave off. This watch really meant some serious business. It was so beautiful. A perfect summer’s watch!

#232 - The Rolex Oysterquartz, ref. 17013.

I received it with no box or papers. I don’t even know which year it was from. But it was easy to sell and was gone like that when I put it up for sale. I only had it for a couple of weeks in August 2014. That was enough to once again make me realize that looks isn’t everything. It’s the inside that matters. I simply couldn’t overcome the loud movement it housed and believe me when I say I tried!

A sunny Sunday afternoon on the balcony together with my dad.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.


No 230 - Rolex Datejust 16013

OK, so we are back on track! Sorry for my little side step there with the ZRC but it had to be done. But now let’s get back to July 2014 and watch number 230.

I love projects. I always have plenty of different ideas going on in my mind of what would be cool to put together to create something unique. There have of course been several Seiko mods in the past but eventually I started to look beyond the horizon of SKX-divers to see what else could be done and realized that the Datejust was a great model to play around with and mainly because there are so many different dial variations to choose between. 

#230 - The Rolex Datejust, ref. 16013.

Pre-make over.

Not too funny even on an ostrich leather.

When I found this 80's head only 16013 Datejust I visualized something completely else than what it was being sold as. Instead of putting it on a matching two tone jubilee I instead fitted it with a regular all-steel jubilee from a ref. 16030 to give it a cleaner look. But I still wanted it to pop, at least a little bit. The gold linen dial was nice but I wanted something a little more uncommon. I remembered that when I sold my 16233 I also gave away the three extra dials it came with when I bought it. One of those dials was really cool and I saw it as the perfect candidate for my project. The whole story about how I got a hold of the dial is told in the post about the Rolex Datejust 16233.

I think the end result of a toned down 16013 with an extraordinary dial turned out pretty great.

Post-make over. Much better and according to me a way more interesting watch!

Wrapping it up with a wrist shot.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.


No 328 - ZRC Grands Fonds 300

Sometimes you just got to break new ground. Do the unexpected. Go crazy. Take a walk on the wild side. And today I will do just that. This will be the first time that I break the chronological order of presenting the watches I’ve owned. Doing something like this demands a somewhat special reason. It’s got to be worth it. I consider this watch to be just that special, that it allows the order to be broken. And instead of presenting you another Rolex Datejust (the ref. 16013 which is the one I’m supposed to be writing about at this moment) I wanted to give you something more up-to-date; something that is happening right now. No one needs to read another word about an old pre-historic Datejust. That can wait. This watch on the other hand is way more interesting and this is what I wanted to write about today.

There are several candidates out there competing for the number one spot of being the most iconic diving watch of all time. In the past I’ve always considered the classic orange Doxa SUB to be the one claiming that position but with some serious competition from the Omega Ploprof 600. But when I learned about ZRC’s Grands Fonds from the sixties and that they had made a re-issue of it, I had to reconsider my decision. The Grands Fonds is not designed to win any awards for being beautiful. I can’t see any other diving watch being more pure in what it is supposed to be. This is the ultimate tool watch. It is designed by divers for divers, to be an accurate and functional instrument that you can rely on while working down in the depths of the ocean.

Product picture of the Grands Fonds 300 (borrowed from ZRC Watches).

This watch had been sitting on the top of my watches-to-buy-list for little over a year. I had only seen it on pictures and I really wanted to have a closer look at it before I decided to get one. It happens quite often that the product pictures from manufacturers look amazing but the watch in reality looks like crap. I was praying that this wouldn’t be the case this time. At the moment ZRC only have authorized dealers within France so my only option if I wanted to examine it up close was to go there. Another option was to contact someone who’d bought it to see if we could arrange a meeting where I could have a look at it but I still haven’t seen a single watch from ZRC on any Swedish watch forum so far.

My options therefore were quite limited. I could either fly down to France or go for a gamble and order one without seeing it first. Also, being a watch flipper and buying watches new is an equation that always ends up the same; in a big financial loss. But finding a used one had turned out to be almost impossible. I think I’ve found one for sale within the last twelve months and that was in the US. But IF this watch turned out to be as good as it looked, it could be a success. It was either make it or break it. I finally decided to get it and I ordered it from an AD in Toulon. I decided that if I was happy with it this would be a serious attempt of becoming an OWG (at least for a while). But if it was bad I just had to suck it up, try to sell it with a minimal loss and then move on.

Last Thursday on the 3rd of November, less than 24h later after the watch had been sent from France, the package was delivered to my office. For over an hour I just let it lie on my desk while I continued with my work. I was so nervous I didn’t dare to unwrap it. My heart kept beating harder and harder. I didn’t want to be disappointed. Finally I braced myself and took a deep breath before I ripped the box open.

#328 - The ZRC Grands Fonds 300.

To my great relief the watch turned out to be way better than I had expected. It looked stunning. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to size it and put it on my wrist right away but a screwdriver wasn't included. “Damn!” I knew this meant I wasn’t going to be able to have it sized until later the same evening when the family had gone to bed. I put the watch back in the box and tried to remain focused on work for the rest of the day.

Later that evening I ran into the most frustrating bracelet sizing session in my entire life. First of all my screwdriver broke. It just snapped in half.  “What the hell!” It was 10.30 pm when I texted Magnus while rushing down the stairs: “On my way. Bring out all your screwdrivers. Coming over. Sorry for the late hour.” Magnus, being the rock he always is, did all he could to help me out but this time even he was beaten. The screws just wouldn’t loosen up and the screw heads ended up pretty damaged. We finally had to accept defeat and I walked home in the cold night afraid that I might have ruined the bracelet beyond repair.

The next day, on my way home from work, I found a watchmaker who gladly helped me out while I was waiting and once again to my great relief I could calm down and the watch was now sitting perfectly on my wrist. Crisis averted!

On the wrist at last!

I find the two most striking details about this watch to be the hands and the position of the crown. The hands are extra-large and full of luminova. Unlike many other dive watches you can actually tell which hand is which in really poor light conditions and even when the lume has faded quite a bit. Not being able to tell the hands apart is something I’ve had real problems with concerning other dive watches but not anymore thanks to the Grands Fonds. The crown located at 6 o’clock leaves both the wrist and the upper arm unharmed and will cause minimum risk of getting caught in something. It is fantastic to wear and even though many may find it rather ugly I can rest my eyes on it for a long time. I can only see beauty in this beast. OK, I will admit that I’m not a big fan of the design of the bracelet and I will probably order the endlink adapter which gives you the option of wearing it on other straps.

Insane lume!

To summarize it all this watch is fantastic. One of the best watches I've ever had. The size of 40,5mm is perfect. The lume is bright and strong. The matte dial is awesome. The case design is a work of art. The bezel action is the best I’ve ever felt. The legibility is excellent. I would say its only weak point is the bracelet. I know it’s supposed to be true to the original and look like it did in the 60’s and that’s why I accept it. Perhaps I will learn to love it over time.

At the bus stop.

Down in the subway.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.


No 229 - Citizen Ecozilla BJ8051-05E

The Ecozilla sure does look like a beast. It’s brutally big and on the verge of being unwearable. To me it is not aesthetically appealing in any way. It is ugly. Without the strap adapters from Suppaparts it is even uglier on its original integrated rubber. With the suppa adapters it wears bigger but it is more versatile and gives you the option to choose any rubber strap you want. I wore mine on the classic N.D. Limits original Citizen rubber. It got to stay with me for a few weeks in the summer of 2014 before it moved on. Far from being one a favorite.

#229 - The Citizen Ecozilla ref. BJ8051-05E.

An engraving seen on many other dive watches. Not very unique.

Martin and I on a beer break during pike fishing in early August 2014.

BBQ in late July. Later the Ecozilla got to go on a midnight swim.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.


No 228 - Seiko SBBN019

This badboy was already sold out long ago when I first discovered it. I don’t know what the thing is with the white shroud that makes it so attractive. I mean, it’s basically a SBBN013 but with a shroud that happens to be white, that’s it! Is that so special? OK, it had lume in the first twenty markings in the bezel insert but except for that it's the same watch. The nickname, Beluga or White Dolphin (I've also seen it mentioned as the Storm Trooper), might have been an equally large factor as the white shroud to boost the hype. It sure gives it an extra touch of being rare. But actually it is quite rare since only 300 pieces were made and with Seiko measures that’s quite few. Anyhow, it is mysterious and has good potential of becoming a legend.

Product picture of the SBBN019 together with a Beluga. (borrowed from Seiko)

I found mine back in June 2014. That it was being located in Germany was a nice surprise since you usually find these gems in either Japan or in the US and rarely within the European Union. It was far from being a bargain but I happily paid and just prayed that it would arrive fast and safe. It sure didn’t disappoint me when I unboxed it. It was just as good as I expected it to be and just like any other Tuna it was big but still wore amazingly well. I loved to wear this watch. It sure didn’t go anywhere unnoticed.

#228 - The Seiko SBBN019.

No 123/300.

Always nice to have a full set!

Just like so many times before I lost a lot of money when I tried to sell this watch within Sweden. But the in the spring of 2015, when I was selling a Sinn 856 UTC, I was offered to take it back as a trade which I gladly did and when I later sold it for the second time I managed to recover the lost I made the first time.

Take away breakfast from Petite France (my favorite) on an August morning.

Being a big fan of the Tuna-series this one qualifies as one of my favorites. It actually was my favorite until I got my hands on the SSBS018 but that's another story.

© All pictures by a Watch Flipper's Diary unless noted.