Here at TimeScapeUSA we have a special love for Glycine. The scrappy little brand out of Biel/Bienne has been disappointing the naysayers by producing timepieces of consistent quality since 1914. When you have a moment, drop by their recently redesigned website.
In the same vein, the new Airman 7 is a tidy marriage of where Glycine is going and where it's been. A model that debuted back in the late nineties, the 7 aspired to the kind of visual complexity then overtaking the rest of the industry. Three separate time zones, each driven by a separate mechanical movement, all packed into one enormous 46mm watch case.
But like some libidinous sailor struggling to maintain a family in every port, how are you going to keep three movements happy in one can? I'm here to say that the new Airman 7 somehow manages to stay happily married and still keep all the friends with benefits.
Let's start from the outside. True to the Glycine way, the 7 lodges in a stainless steel case with clean, functional lines. Not a lot of frippery or wasted time here – this is a simple design that naturally focuses attention on the large, sculpted dial. Gently metallic without being showy, the major pattern is interrupted only by the subdials in reverse direction. It's clear that Glycine went to some expense here, and the print quality is high. As one often sees with the large cases, the complication and date indications tend to cluster a little closely around the center of the dial. While the 7 brings it off with fine lateral symmetry, I would have preferred less open acreage on the left.
The crown and pusher are stylish without being ostentatious, and as a technician I'm always happy to see a matching sapphire show back even with the corresponding loss in resistance to magnetism and water intrusion. The movement, a heavily supplemented ETA 2824, is dominated by an oversize signed Glycine rotor.
Here's something we don't often see: the case back information is neatly inscribed internally, on the movement ring. No amount of abuse to the case itself will ever erode or obscure it.
On the wrist, the 7 can't help being a large watch. The off-axis controls help a great deal, and the no-nonsense strap and clasp mean it has an easier time finding the perfect position.
Enviably, the Airman 7 manages to accomplish a lot with just a little. The four o'clock pusher is exclusively devoted to advancing the second time zone indication. The crown at two can be used as a pusher to advance the first time zone, winds the watch in first (neutral) position, sets the big date complication in second position, and sets the major time indication in third position – as well as hacking the escapement.
In operation, the controls are intuitively located and highly functional. The 20 atmosphere depth rating is an accomplishment considering the diameter of the two o'clock pusher.
By building its caliber on the 2824, Glycine traffics in a known quantity. With stable timing at full wind and an automatic system that is highly functional on the wrist, the 7 leaves the gate in fine form. The reduction in complication from three movements to one can't help but simplify maintenance and increase the longevity of the product, in addition to simplifying exterior controls.
Similarly, the modular time zone complication does not divide the going train into three energy sucking branches. The two secondary hour indications are impulsed once-per-hour by a central wheel, and then maintained independent of the train by jumpers. Not only is this more energy efficient, but it results in a net decrease in moving parts.
The calendar indication is also free of the power train except when impulsed at midnight. Considerations like this contribute to a more consistent power output curve and a corresponding stability in rate – especially in the first half of the watch's autonomy.
If there's any one place the 2824 falls short, it's in power reserve. In a marketplace crowded with timepieces featuring redundant barrels and three or four day autonomy, the Airman 7 doesn't break the 48 hour mark.
The Airman 7 has a lot to offer: a quality, water-resistant case with coated sapphire crystals; a stylish dial; efficient controls; and a well-designed and practical complication. For the money, it packs a lot of value into a package that – while large on the wrist – won't crowd the overhead bin on your next flight.