LUM-TEC recently sponsored a Combat B series watch giveaway on aBlogtoRead.com and I was impressed with results. It was a record month for giveaway entrants, and tons of people seemed to swoon over what LUM-TEC has to offer. There is something about LUM-TEC watches that drives passion in watch lovers and novices alike. Almost since the brand's inception, the Combat B series has been part of their collection. A more modern interpretation of the classic coined-edge bezel fleiger - this watch has been offered in a ton of limited edition versions. This is the Combat B7 model.
Each LUM-TEC watch is a limited edition. I've reviewed their watches before, and most of you know and like them. LUM-TEC is a homegrown US brand hailing out of Ohio. In my opinion, the key to their success has been to closely listen to what the American watch buyer wants. The last 20 years have seen an overall drop in American's consumption of timepieces. There are a great many reasons for that, so please don't just blame mobile phones. Part of that has to do with Swiss brands losing touch with what Americans want, and Japanese brands being able to come in and win over value-conscious Americans with good, cheap watches. 20 years of Casio G-Shock makes a lot of people more than hesitant to buy a $5,000 Swiss timepiece.
But I digress. LUM-TEC came on the scene with timepieces in the $300 - $400 range and proved that Americans are quite interested in professional looking analog watches that has a "functional promise" personality. Not most LUM-TEC watches are bit more (but so are the quality), but continue the same tradition of activity and professional style watches for everyday use. The design is modern and straight forward. There is an edginess to them, but there is also a handsome utilitarian quality to these timepieces. You know what? LUM-TEC watches are the American pickup trucks of the watch industry. I just realized that - I feel like I had an epiphany.... and Europeans do not make good pickup trucks.
The Combat B7 is a lot like today's Jeep Wrangler. It certainly has a military vibe to it, but is refined looking, and focuses subliminally suggesting to you activities you should perform while wearing it. Put one on and look at the high-tech looking carbon fiber dial in the dark matte gray case and tell me you don't just want to go straight in to a group of trees and get lost? The steel case is 43mm wide and PVD coated to a dark gray, but not quite black. It has a satin finish to it. The crown is large, and voila... I finally have in my possession a LUM-TEC watch with a signed logo on the crown. What prevented this before was LUM-TEC not yet deciding on a good logo in this size.
With highly curved lugs the watch is comfy. This is especially true with the 22mm wide NATO style nylon strap that gives it a snug fit. LUM-TEC throws in two straps. One in black, and one in this olive green. I opted for the green pretty quickly because I love the military feel of it. Of course, you can use your own strap is the bulky style of a NATO strap doesn't suit you for all occasions. What about a rubber strap? or perhaps a distressed black leather (even pigskin) strap with white contrast stitching. That might be interesting. NATO straps get some getting used to, but offer two major advantages. First is that if one pin between lugs breaks you won't lose the watch. Second, is that the style of the buckle places it to the side. Thus all you have is a smooth and flat piece of strap on the bottom of your wrist. This is good for when your wrist hits things underneath it - and would be uncomfortable or damage other watches.
LUM-TEC rates the watch as 100 meters of water resistance. The watch has a sapphire crystal with double AR coating, and nice looking real carbon fiber dial. I don't much like most carbon fiber dials, but this is one of the exceptions. Basically, the problem with most carbon fiber dials is that its almost 3D look hides elements on the face like hands and markers. When you can preserve high contrast, then a carbon fiber dial can look great. In this instance the hour markers and hands contrast quite well - for high performance legibility and look. LUM-TEC uses a no nonsense set of hour markers, minute markers and a full set of Arabic numerals. This makes the watch dead easy to read, and thankfully straight forward. It might have the pretty minimalism of a Panerai, but will beat it in terms of reading accuracy any day. One issue I have with the dial is the size of the hands. They just aren't quite large enough for my taste, and strict rules of watch dial proportions. Further compounding the issues it the style of hands LUM-TEC uses are outlined in black, which makes the hands look even shorter due to the fact that much of the time what you see if the white, not the black part of the hands. This doesn't effect legibility too much, but strictly speaking, the hands should be longer. I do like the splash of color on the dial with the red title of the watch.
One other small complaint about the dial is the date window. I like that LUM-TEC experimented with making it a round hole, versus a square one, but it is literally a little hole drilled into the dial. In fact, I would venture to say that it is round because drilling a hole in carbon fiber was easier than cutting one. The issue is that the border of the window might have been a tad bit more elegant, and opening up the whole a bit might have helped with seeing the date at angles. Though that would have made it possible to see too much of other date numbers in the window. It is possible that LUM-TEC made the best out of a complex situation with the date window.
LUM-TEC is of the few watch brands out there that make their own lume. It is a special formula they call "MDV" (maximum darkness visibility), and is quite good. They uses many layers of it, and the lume not only works well, but is attractively applied in a thick fashion. In the dark, the luminant performs well, without looking grainy - which can happen a lot with cheap lume. MDV lume is good enough that others even buy it from LUM-TEC as an alternative to the more expensive SuperLumiNova.
This watch is an automatic. LUM-TEC uses a workhorse SII (Seiko) NH15J automatic movement, that also has hand-winding (not all Japanese automatics do). The movement works just fine without complaint. Don't forget that the Combat B series of watches comes in many case finishes, movements, and dials. I quite like this version, but you can get ones with out PVD coating, with simple matte black dials, with quartz chronograph movements, while being able to mix each of those.
As a limited edition of just 100 pieces, this is a hot watch that certainly won't last forever. But if LUM-TEC is out of this B7 model, its "cousins" are great timepieces as well. LUM-TEC continues to pursue today's American dream of watch making, and helps watch lovers stay excited, while enticing non-watch wearing people to join our club. Price for the LUM-TEC Combat B7 is $865 and available on their website here for purchase.