The watch being reviewed here looks to be about perfect on paper: durable, lightweight, tritium illumination, relatively inexpensive, with standard chronograph functionality. If you are looking for a watch with this set of features, then the Traser Classic Chronograph is the least expensive watch available. I’ve been wearing this for 6 weeks, and I think I can offer some comments on whether the value of this product is as high as it looks on paper.
This is the Classic Chronograph Big Date Titan watch by Traser, #T4006.657.35.01. The reviewed watch has a titanium case and band with green/orange illumination on the dial, but buyers can choose steel construction instead of titanium, and/or can choose to have all blue tritium vials instead of the green/orange seen here.
When I ordered this watch I wasn’t sure what to think, as I had never heard of the manufacturer. It turns out that Traser is a division of mb-microtech AG, a Swiss company that has been supplying watchmakers with luminous components since 1918, and is one of the primary (only?) manufacturers of tritium vials. Internet research suggests these watches may be made in the same factory where Luminox watches are produced, but I’m not sure that matters when the watch comes with a two year warranty (ten on the tritium vials).
On paper, this was exactly the watch I was looking for:
- Analog dial
- Chronograph, with accuracy (or at least markings) to 1/10s
- Lightweight titanium construction
- Tritium Illumination
- Scratch-proof face. This watch has a sapphire crystal, with a hardness of 10. This isn’t to say that it can’t be scratched, but if you’re rough on watches like I am then this is as indestructible as you can get.
- Quartz movement. Most of my watches are automatics and have been for years, but sometimes I want a watch that won’t die after not being worn for two days.
The initial impression upon opening the box was “wow, that’s grey.” My only other titanium watch was an Oris that looks much closer to stainless steel in appearance, so I didn’t expect what I received. The watch is not ugly by any means, but you should know up-front that what you receive will be a matte grey watch with a black face and white lettering.
Case and Band
The case and band are both made of titanium, so “lightweight” should be the first thing that comes to mind. And lightweight it is: I remove most watches when sitting down at my computer because the weight is an unconscious distraction. This watch doesn’t trigger the same behavior — it’s comfortable for all-day wear.
The watch has two buttons that behave about as you would expect a traditional chronograph to behave. The top button starts and stops the timer, while the bottom button acts as a lap button (while the stopwatch is running) and as a reset button when the timer is stopped. Button feel is solid — good tactile feedback is offered, and enough pressure is required that the buttons are not likely to be pressed accidentally. The crown is not of the screw-down variety, which probably explains why the watch is described as “water resistant” to 100m, rather than “waterproof.” The manual includes the usual warnings about use in hot tubs and showers (the short version is “don’t.”)
The clasp is solid. In six weeks of daily wear I have not had the clasp come undone on its own. There are two parts: the piece labeled “traser” which is pulled up, and the locking clasp which disengages by pressing the buttons on each side of the clasp simultaneously. The pins in the clasp are set so that there is plenty of adjustment available as the seasons change and the watch begins to feel tighter or looser.
Overall the watch has worn very well. I’m rough on watches, and this band has been much more resistant to everyday scrapes and smudges than any stainless watch I’ve owned in the past. The titanium watch seems to be worth the additional money based on weight and durability, assuming you don’t mind owning a watch that is colored like a Kodak Grey Card.
Please also note that the bezel is non-rotating.
The movement is a Swiss-made Ronda 5040.B, which isn’t anything special as far as I can tell. Its big feature is the dual date display (see below), but as far as accuracy and battery life it doesn’t seem like anything special. This isn’t a criticism — quartz watch movements are a well-understood technology and seem to have become something of a commodity. Over the last 6 weeks my sample has remained accurate to the second with time as provided from NIST, and I expect the battery to last years. But you’re not buying this watch for its movement, as you might do with some of the automatic watches on the market, or the more interesting automatic/battery hybrids from certain Japanese manufacturers.
As you can see in the photo above each date window shows one numeral, hence the “big date” terminology. You can also notice the 10 hour limit to chronograph timing on the bottom dial. The bottom dial represents tenths of a second in cases where the total time tracked is less than 30 minutes.
After reading reviews on Amazon it is worth noting that the dials on this watch mimic what you would see on a mechanical chronograph. Seconds are tracked on the upper-right sub-dial, and the red seconds hand is only active when the chronograph function is active. Don’t be disappointed when the red hand stays pointing at 12 unless you activate the watch — this is the way it’s supposed to work.
One of the big selling points of this watch is that it uses tritium for illumination. For those unfamiliar with tritium, look at the photo above and you can see small glass vials built into the hour and minute hands of the watch, with a matching (but shorter) vial towards the end of the red second hand. These sealed vials are coated with a luminous material, and the vial is filled with tritium gas before being sealed. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen which emits low level radiation. This radiation is enough to knock photons off the luminous coating in the vial (causing it to glow), but is not strong enough to penetrate the glass vial. Should the glass vial break, the radiation emitted is not enough to penetrate the skin.
The big advantage of tritium illumination is that is works consistently, day-in and day-out, providing reliable illumination. The half-life of tritium is a bit over 12 years, so in 12 years the illumination on this watch will be half as bright as it is today, though still readable. Illumination at night is not dependent on being charged by exposure to bright light sources, and does not fade off with time. It just works, and that’s something lots of us appreciate.
The standard illumination pattern is shown here: green on the watch hands and on the 1-11 markers, with orange on the 12 o’clock marker. This makes it easy to glance at the watch on the bedside table and see what time it is. An alternative is in the blue version of this watch, where all markers are blue except the 12 o’clock marker which is still orange.
Higher end watches generally offer a sapphire crystal option for durability. On the hardness scale sapphire is a 10 (the hardest level), so a synthetic sapphire crystal offers the best scratch resistance available. That isn’t to say that all sapphire crystals are the same, though.
The other thing to look at is whether the crystal is multicoated, and if so whether it’s coated on the inside, or on both surfaces. Multicoating increases light transmission (and reduces reflections), so a better coated crystal looks more transparent, for lack of a better phrase. Comparing this with other watches with multicoated crystals leads me to believe that this is a non-coated crystal, and photographing this in harsh outdoor sun really brought this home to me.
Now, this isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, necessarily. Multicoating on the outside of the crystal is something that can be scratched with hard use, so leaving off the multicoating on the outside of the crystal is arguably a good thing. However, multicoating on the inside of the crystal is a good thing, and it is apparently something this watch lacks. Of course, this watch is available for $650 online with all kinds of high-end features so corners needed to be cut somewhere, and I don’t think this was a bad choice.
Conclusion: a solid value
This watch has proven to be accurate, durable, and fully featured. I have not found another watch on the market with this level of features for anywhere near the price. The appearance is different, but unique. I believe the grey color makes this watch fairly casual in appearance, but then I think a Rolex is pretty casual as well and is out of place in a suit, so your opinion may differ here.
Overall this is a solid watch at a great price. I would recommend you buy one before the Traser brand becomes more well-known and the prices increase.