Watch Review: Hoptroff Anniversary

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From Hoptroff’s website:
Hoptroff delivers elegant timepieces that embrace the very latest technology. An electromechanical movement, manufactured in-house using Bluetooth technology to allow wireless time and data updates.
Each timepiece in the collection offers a novel complication. Pioneering manufacturing technologies allow a degree of bespoke customisation last seen in the true luxury maisons of the past. Each timepiece is unique and answers to only one owner.
You can email us at info@hoptroff.com
For technical support, contact support@hoptroff.com
You can call +44 (0)20 7127 0605
You can write to:
Hoptroff London
74/75 County Street
London SE1 4AD
United Kingdom

Watch Model: Anniversary

Model numbers HANRPVD (Right handed)
HANLPVD (Left handed)
Collection Hotblack
Case 44mm diameter, 13mm thick, black PVD coated steel
Movement Hoptroff No.14B (developed in-house)
Strap PVD coated steel
Glass Sapphire
Water resistance 50m
Battery life 2-5 years depending on usage
Warranty
60 days return policy, movement guaranteed 5 years

Price: approximately $1480 usd

We all forget birthdays and anniversaries from time to time. The Hotblack Anniversary timepiece offers a gentle, personalised reminder. On the top subdial, a pointer indicates a ten-day countdown to all annual events that might slip your mind. Enough time to book a restaurant, buy a card, or a bunch of flowers. Perpetual date is shown on the left sub-dial, and Hoptroff’s characteristic rocking seconds in shown on the bottom dial, accurate to an impressive 15 seconds / year.

The Hotblack Anniversary is a classic example of how discreet technology can be used to personalize a timepiece while allowing it to retain its traditional character, creating a treasure you want to live with forever.

Requires an iPhone or Android phone (download the free Hoptroff App from iPhone / Google Play) to set up anniversary dates and to set the time accurately.

In vertical-brushed, black-PVD coated stainless steel with a sapphire crystal, the Hotblack range is waterproof to 5 atmospheres, 15 second/year accuracy and a 5 year battery. The hands and hour digits are coated in superluminova. The calendar is perpetual and automatically adjusts for daylight saving and leap seconds. When you order, be sure to specify if you want the pushers on the right (for right-handed people) or the left (for left-handed people).

 

The Packaging:

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The watch comes in a appropriate ‘black’ box and it’s a traditional two part box set up. The outter box is made of hard, thick cardboard with a removable lid that is labeled with Hotblack London. Removing the lid reviels the inner box , that is a nice high gloss watch box with a hinged lid. The box is a step above just a typical watch box and has a dressy theme like that of the watch that is waiting inside. Opening the hinged lid to see the watch itself that is clasped to a watch pillow and the crystal & caseback have a clear plastic protector attached for added protection.

The Case:

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The Hoptroff Anniversary Watch is very sleek because of the vertical brushed PVD coating that is well done. The black case and matching bracelet is extremely stealthy in appearance. The 44mm case is very beautiful and you can immediately see the amount of care that went into the detailing with the PVD coating on the stainless steel case.

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On the right side of the case are two button pushers  and what intrigued me was the fact there was no crown. The pushers are very easy to operate and are used for various functions which will be explained later in the review along with how to set the time. The caseback is fastened down by 6 screws that are also black which stays consistent with the overall look of the watch. The caseback is engraved with HOTBLACK LONDON.

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The sides of the case have a matte black finish which are outlined by protruding polished edge lines that run along the side of the case to finish off at the tip of the lugs. The lugs are relatively short which allows the watch to sit nicely on the wrist even for small or larger wrists.

The plain black bezel is fixed featuring brushing on the top and polished edges as is comes down into the case itself. The majority of the case is brushed PVD coated black which the brushing itself is very well done and very evenly done as well. I love the look of this case when it is on the wrist. The case is water resistant to 5 atm though it is advised that swimming with the watch on is not a good idea.

The Dial:

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The dial is matte black with white numerals, text and hands. There are 3 subdials on the dial located at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions. The subdial at the 12 o’clock position is a countdown for the days remaining until the date that you personally set as the date you need to remember, either a birthday of a loved one, a holiday, an important meeting, whatever the occasion is this is the string on your finger reminder. It counts down for 10 days to zero and has a color coating as well. From day 10 until day 5 it’s color coated with green. After day 5 until day 2 it is color coated with yellow and after day 2 it’s color coated red until zero. A small white hand points to the day throughout the countdown. The numbers of the countdown are printed in white.

The subdial at 9 indicates the days in the month which is done by a small white hand just like the anniversary countdown subdial. The days of the month are printed in white and are very easy to read against the black matte dial. The subdial at the 6 o’clock position is a seconds counter. It’s a half circle which the hand ticks back and forth instead of making a full circular rotation of 60 seconds like most traditional watches, the anniversary watch ticks back and forth in 6 seconds incriminates. It’s actually quite addicting to watch the seconds hand move side to side, so unique.

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The dial is very easy to read because of the nice crisp white printing that is set against the matte dial along with the sapphire cystal. The hands are very simple which helps keep the dial very clean, the hour and minute hands are small, pointy and don’t reach out to the outter ring but they do reach to the hour and minute markers. Even with all the subdial and numerals, this dial is still very clean and easy to read. Accomplishing this is actually quite difficult but Hoptroff managed to get all this on the dial, yet keep it clean and legible.

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Above the seconds subdial at six, features ‘Hotblack’ and the origin of Hoptroff ‘London’. The only hour markers that are represented by actual printed numbers are 12, 3, 6 and 9. Each number is partially missing due to the subdials. The other hour markers are represented by hash lines that are also printed in white. Just inside of the hour markers is a circle of minute markers that are represented by hash lines and actual numerals.

The Bracelet:

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The black PVD coated bracelet matches the case perfectly. It features the traditional folding clasp style with micro adjustment for those inbetween wrist sizes. The clasp is very easy to operate and the clasps locks into place without any play. The clasp is engraved with Hotblack London. The bracelet links are pretty thin which helps with the overall weight and wearing comfort of the watch. The thin bracelet though doesn’t feel cheap at all. The removable links are held in place by screw in style pins. Richard was so kind to have adjusted the bracelet to my wrist measurement prior to sending the watch in for review. Not that I don’t know how to do this, but I have to admit that having it arrive already adjusted to go straight onto my wrist was very nice. I also like how nice the brushing on the bracelet consistently matches the brushing on the watch case.

Wrist shot:

For reference my wrist is 7 1/2″

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The Functions and How It Works:

 

Having a a smartphone or tablet is a must if you want to take advantage of the awesome features of the Hotblack Anniversary  Watch. First download the Hoptroff App onto your device, the app is free to download.

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Once the app is downloaded, enter the app to get started.

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To connect your watch to your device make sure your Bluetooth is turned on your phone or tablet, then select the new connection option in the Hoptroff app. It is the first option on the top when you first open the Hoptrff app. On your Anniversary watch press the top pusher at the 2 o’clock position. A sub menu will appear:

 

Select the watch model you want to connect, and click the box, this would be the box labeled Hotblack Anniversary. Once your watch is connected then it’s time to play! There is a menu that you can select to manually select the important date that you wish to remeber and have the watch countdown to that date. The watch won’t actually show the counting down until it gets to 10 days away for the actual date you selected.

 

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The Hidden Treasures menu is also very cool filled with some cool information such as temperature, GMT time as seen in the picture below.

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There is also a Test and Service- diagnostic menu that you can test the watches motor which checks all the dials by moving every hand on the watch. Not only is it helpful to run the tests, but is also so cool to watch the hands move all around, very sci fi esque.

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Another menu allows you to align the hands on the watch manually in every direction.

 

Conclusion:

The Hoptroff Anniversary Watch is a very unique watch, so unique in fact that I never experienced a watch like it. In this day and age of the “smart watch” the Hotblack Anniversary Watch still retains all that I love about a watch without going overboard on the gimicky tech aspect. What I would suggest to make this an even better experience is have a rechargeable battery feature, which would eliminate the 2-5 year battery life.

I love the simple, clean dial on this watch, you can’t beat matte black with white, it’s a stunning combo.  The watch is extremely easy to operate using the also easy to navigate Hoptroff app. It’s an addicting watch to use because of the app features. It wears very comfortable on the wrist as well. This watch on a vintage leather strap would be a beautiful combination.

This is a great watch for everyday use and for those who like to have a smart or connected watch but still like the look and feel of an actual watch with hands and a physical dial. It’s a tech filled watch but retains that historical feel that make a timepiece just that, a beautiful timepiece. It’s an ideal watch for the office or for a dressed up occasion.

A very special thank you to Richard Hoptroff for making this review possible. A great person to deal with and the ease of communication made this experience even better. He is a horology master.

 

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Watch Review Gruppo Gamma Bronze Vangaurd MKIII

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Company: Gruppo Gamma

website: http://www.gruppogammawatches.com

About Gruppo Gamma from their website:

In the world of watches, the word ‘homage’ has unfortunately been taken to mean a watch that looks like another, more expensive watch from a well-known brand with pedigree and heritage to boot.

Pedigree and heritage are assets, but sometimes a company can exploit these to justify prices that don’t make sense, and its preoccupation with going upmarket can cause it to desert its roots.

We believe that everyone is eligible to own a piece of history without having to pay exorbitant prices. We pay homage not to the watches’ shape and form but their style and character – they were instruments built for people living in tough times who had to make tough decisions.

Sometimes, the past successes of an established company can hinder it from leaving its comfort zone to try something different, and it ends up doing more of the same.

We believe that good design can and should evolve over time. We don’t have pedigree or heritage, but so do all new brands. We believe we can make up for the lack of these with our passion, creativity and ability to execute.

Watch Model: Bronze Vangaurd MKIII

Specifications:

Class: Mk III Vanguard, Diver
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, elapsed time
Diameter: 44 mm excluding crown and lugs
Lug-to-lug Distance: 54 mm
Thickness: 16 mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Weight: 170 g with strap
Water resistance: 20 ATM

Case: Phosphor bronze, brushed
Movement: Miyota 90S5, automatic, 28800 bph
Crystal: Sapphire, double domed with underside anti-reflective coating
Dial: 2-layer with luminescent markers in C3 (teal & green dials) or BGW9 (black & blue dials)
Hands: Gold color with C3 or BGW9 luminescent markers (H, M), red (S)
Crown: Phosphor bronze, screw-in
Caseback: Stainless steel, secured by screws

Accessories:

Buttero strap, brown, length 125x80mm with Type V buckle
Militare strap, greyish-green or blue (blue dials only), length 125x75mm with Type V buckle
Screwdriver

 

Price:
Buy Online: US$ 579  shipped
Cash & Carry (S’pore only): S$ 725

The Packaging:

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The packaging with the Vanguard is simple, but oh so cool and unique. I absolutely love the white skull logo on the all black case, the white really pops. It adds a total badassery feel to the impact resistant travel case packaging. The travel case is closed by two zippers and opens up like a book when unzipped. Inside there is soft grey foam padding and mesh netting that helps protect the contents and keeps them secure in place. Immediatlely you get a look at the Bronze beauty, also inside are the straps and the warranty card. All of the contents are wrapped in plastic protection. The packaging is extremely practical and it can be used as a carry travel case for other items not just your watch. I like packaging like this that is simple, yet uniuque and complete utilitarian. Much love the this style packaging.

The Case:

imageimageimageThe Vanguard stands out immediatley due to its large bronze case. That is what first grabbed my eye when opening the package, it is really finished nicely and I absolutely love the color. The cool thing about bronze is that it’s always changing so the look of your watch can constantly change its overall appearence keeping it fresh and unique. The bronze case just seems to glow. This glow can be kept by small upkeep or you can allow patina to form naturally or force it. The angles of the case and lugs allow the watch to wear very comfortably even at 44mm, though the case is heavy after being on your wrist for a bit you don’t even know it is on. The square case is beautifully shaped with nice angled 24mm spaced lugs. The lugs also have holes in them where the screw in style pins fit for the straps. This makes changing the straps very easy, plus the included screwdriver also makes things a bit easier. The case has that 20,000 leagues under the sea feel to it, like a vintage deepsea divers helmet. Very, very cool. I’m obsessed with the sea and everything that encompasses the vast underwater world.

The crown and crown guards are absolutey awesome on the Bronzo. What I like about them is the hex head screws that are perfect accent pieces on each crown guard. The crown guards are nice and large but not intruding in the functionality of the crown it self. The edges of the crown guards are very smooth, no sharp edges. The crown edges are detailed like a gear with cogs and it gives the crown a very mechanical look. This is an awesome detail adds to the overall design of the watch giving it a tool/no nonsense feel. The crown screws in & out very smooth. The crown is also signed with Gamma III.

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This is the first Gruppo Gamma Watch that I have reviewed that has had an actual bezel that wasn’t fixed. The bezel is a unilateral ratcheting bezel that features circle cut outs at all the even hour markers when the lume faux pearl is lined up at the 12 o’clock position. The bezel is flawless, as it rotates smoothly, it fits tight against the case and it has very little play in it. At the  2, 6, and 10 o’clock positions on the side of the bezel are small set screws that add a nice detailing to the overal plain bezel, also at these key locations the bezel has small rectangular protruding outsets that act as grasping points when rotating the bezel. The bezel is definitely an added bonus to this version of the Vangaurd.

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The caseback is super cool on the Vanguard, featuring an engraved skull logo that matches the travel case. The engraving is very nice, simple and well done, a detail about this watch that I love. The back is held in place by 6 screws. The caseback also features the words, SAPPHIRE, AUTOMATIC, GRUPPO GAMMA, 200m and 384051. The caseback is made of stainless steel not bronze because when bronze sits against the skin the salt in your sweat can cause natural green patina which will stain your skin incase you wonder why bronze watches have stainless steel casebacks.

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The Dial:

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The dial can be described as simple beauty. I love the simplistic raw beauty of the Vanguard’s dial. The dial is matte black though the bronze Vangaurd comes in a variety of dial color variations.  The sandwiched style 2 layer dial features hours marked by 12, 3, 6, 9 and line markers at the other corresponding hour positions. Under the 12 marker is printed in white GRUPPO GAMMA.

imageThe hands are the same color as the case which is a detail that is very impressive, and even more impressive at the price point of this watch. This small, yet impressive detail is one of my favorite gems of the Vanguard. The Vanguard features an hour and minute hand, and a red seconds hand that is a sharp arrow head tipped hand. The red color of the seconds hand is a nice touch of detail, that really adds a great deal of depth and character to the dial. The hands are nicely shaped and are cut smooth & sharp edges. The minute and hour hands also feature a coating of lume that matches the lume coating of the hour markers. The lume is evenly applied on all aspects of the Vanguard and glows a nice bluish tint when charged by a light source. The glow lasts through the night when given a good charge from a bright light. I used my eagletac mini flashlight at a charge of 5 minutes which lasted throughout my nights sleep and was still glowing when I woke up.

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The dial is easily viewed from all angles thanks in part to the double domed AR treated sapphire crystal. At certain angles the crystal is so transparent it looks like there is no crystal at all. I love domed crystals, it just gives an edge to the overal look and design of a dive watch. It’s little details like this that make the Vangaurd such a unique and stylistic piece.

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The Straps:

 

The Vanguard comes with 2 leather straps, Buttero strap, brown, length 125x80mm with Type V buckle
Militare strap, greyish-green or blue (blue dials only), length 125x75mm with Type V buckle. Both have their own buckles signed with GRUPPO GAMMA. The straps feel quality like a custom made leather strap, and are very soft from the get go.

The cream stitching is a great touch which adds a degree of a vintage feel to the straps. Each stitch on both straps is even and percise. The every day wear and tear adds so much depth to the strap that’s the great think about leather straps. Bracelets age and get scratched up but look used and abused, but leather as it ages just looks better and better. Just like the bronze case as it ages.

The straps are held in place by the one sided screw bars which makes changing the strap a breeze, especially because the Vangaurd comes with its own screwdriver. The other cool thing is that the set pins are bronze which match the case perfectly. I’m a huge strap fan and these straps do not disappoint my love of custom straps. The wrist side of the brown lesther strap is stamped with GRUPPO GAMMA and GENUINE LEATHER. A detail I still would love to see is the skull logo stamped on the strap, maybe even on the top side of the strap near the case.

The Movement:

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The Vanguard has the Miyota 90S5, automatic, 28800 bp, ticking away inside of it. It’s a reliable movement and a great alternative to the ETA movements. The Miyota movement is just as much as a workhorse like those of ETA. It has a power reserve of 42 hours, it’s hacking and is automatically wound by the weighted rotar or can be wound manually. The rotar is relatively quite when it spins as it winds the watch.

Wrist Shot:

7 1/2″ wrists (NATO strap not included)

 

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Overall impressions and conclusion:

The Bronze Vanguard is my personal favorite variation offered from GRUPPO GAMMA. I love every detail of this watch. It’s well made from the classic case design, to the bronze, to the leather straps, every detail has been clearly thought out here. There is nothing that I have found on the Vanguard that I can complain about. At $579 USD you get a lot of watch for you dollar. You get 2 straps, a impact resistant travel case, an automatic movement watch with amazing lume and a great bronze case which is always changing due to natural elements and patina.

I would love to see a strap that is stamped with the skull logo on the dial side of the strap and on the strap near the lugs, this would be an awesome detail. Or the skull logo on the crown. These are just recommendations as there is nothing that I can nit pick about on this watch.

I would highly recommend GRUPPO GAMMA to someone looking for a quality watch on a budget.

A very special thank you to Naoki and to GRUPPO GAMMA for the opportunity to review this awesome watch, it was a great watch to review. The customer service at GG is top notch and is always an absolute pleasure to deal with.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS:

 

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