In an age when most online watch publications are depending on advertisements and sponsorships to stay afloat, are hosting shops and create products and partnerships with other players, it is only natural to question the motivations behind their views and very difficult to depend on them for objective reviews and insights. Thankfully, not all online content suffers from this and I have found myself frequenting small enthusiast blogs and forums more and more during the last couple of years. All this commercialisation has really detracted from my previous enjoyment and hence my posts have been becoming more and more sparse...
My intention is to keep creating content disengaged from that world, offering my honest opinions... Which brings me to the theme of today's review; The PRS-14
Let’s look back to 2005 when re-editions were not part of the conversation, when the big manufacturers were still trying to create original products, speculators were not part of the collecting world and words such as fauxtina were unheard off. During that time, Timefactors, an outfit based in the UK, spotted a market gap and started developing quality homages, drawing clear inspiration from legends of the past while introducing improvements, enabling collectors to truly experience their acquisitions rather than putting them away in a safe or a safety deposit box.
2005 was the year that Timefactors introduced the PRS-14 under their Precista Branding. The inspiration is unequivocal and clear; the legendary Omega Seamaster 300 that adorned the wrists of Royal Navy Divers from 1968 to 1972. Civilian versions of the Semaster had been in production since 1963 and although the iconic case remained the same throughout its life, a number of different dials, hands and bezels were introduced. Early watches featured Naiad crowns which would seal tighter as pressure was increasing. Unfortunately, these crowns did not perform well in shallow dives and a number of those watches suffered from water ingress. Initially the dials featured 12-3-6-9 numerals on the dials before omega introduced what is now referred to as big triangle dials with a large luminous triangle replacing the 12 on the dial. The bezels were fully graduated with indices from 0-60, a small, luminous arrow at the 60 position, luminous, numeral indications every 10 minutes and luminous hour indicators. The latest version of the 300 featured the iconic sword hands.
The MOD considered the watch’s specification the archetype of functionality and didn’t hesitate to specify its features as their minimum requirement, resulting to the legendary Rolex 5517 milsub with the fully graduated bezel, the T on the dial, the fixed "springbars" and the sword hands.
This particular generation of the Seamaster had a relatively short life from 1964 to the early 70s and hence vintage examples are relatively rare. Considering that a lot of the naiad watches suffered water damage and were written off, only a small amount of nice examples survives today. Up to 2010 omega would freely supply all the components required to build the 300s apart from the movements and watches using service parts, known as WatchCos entered the market.
Even in 2005, both the vintage specimens as well as the WatchCos were relatively expensive and out of reach for some enthusiasts. This is where Timefactors and the Precista PRS-14 come in. Eddie, timefactors’ owner, decided to have a go at building an homage to the military spec 300 that could take whatever life would throw at it at a more accessible pricepoint. The result? absolutely spot on.
The PRS-14 sports a German made Fricker Case, a reliable ETA 2824 movement and an antimagnetic cage while it retains the elements that made the 165.024 so desirable and attractive. The luminous acrylic bezel is still present, the typography is spot on with open 6s and 9s, the sword hands are there, the big triangle dominates the dial and the no date configuration enhances the tool like image of the watch. The writing is minimal and does not detract from the other elements of the watch with the mate dial transitioning between black and deep grey depending on the lighting conditions. The applied lume sits proud of the dial and introduces some depth and texture which is always welcome.
It can't all be that great, can it? it probably can. But there are a couple of points to be made, the sword hour hand could have been a bit wider and the second's hand could have been painted white. The bezel, although luminous does not portray the depth the original did and although both watches are roughly 14mm thick the Precista's case is deeper to accommodate the non-ferrous material, antimagnetic movement cover. This means that the acrylic crystal does not sit as proud as the original did in the Omega case. This is -to my eyes at least - an advantage since the case not only retains the original charm but it now feels way more robust and solid.
The Omega Seamaster 300 of the 60s is an iconic watch and the PRS-14 managed to capture and reinvigorate its spirit more than 30 years later. The PRS-14 was discontinued back in 2010 and has acquired a cult following on its own right. Since then a number of other attempts have been made to reinterpret this iconic watch from MKII, Helson and Borealis although all of them are nice watches in their own right, they all sport sapphire crystals and bezels and cases made somewhere in the Far East. The Precista is certainly a lot more closer to the original and – due to its scarcity – a lot more desirable.
I was more than lucky to track down a NOS example from the last run in 2010. It has been with me less than a month and it has really captured my attention due to its quality and vintage vibe. I had my reservations before its arrival but now I am certain that it won’t be going anywhere…