November 22, 2009
by Ariel Adams
I am probably not worthy of this watch. This ain’t no fashion timepiece or wrist accessory. The watch doesn’t care too much about looking good with a tie, or being civilized. No, this watch instead a bona fide tool. Made to endure the rigors of tough adventuring, tours of duty, and combat situations. All that, and it is made to be affordable so that you don’t need to be an aristocrat who likes to rough it, to afford one. This is the Red Cell by Rogue Warrior Watches, and it is now available to the public in addition the law enforcement and the military.
The watch started almost as a challenge. A man by the name of Richard Marcinko wanted a watch to meet his special set of specifications. Marcinko has a few other names, one of them being the “Rogue Warrior.” A true military maverick, Marcinko is a former Navy SEAL and has an interesting history. As you can see by his images, he is not a man to be messed with. His fame began to blossom in Vietnam, when he was he led the most popular Navy SEAL team there. At one point his face was on a Viet Cong “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster. His later life includes military novel writing (first one written apparently while he was serving hard time), running a hardcore private security firm by the name of SOS Temps Inc., and working with the well-respected Bethesda software developer on a Rogue Warrior video came which coincidentally just came out. More on Marcinko is available on his Wikipedia page here.
As I said, Marcinko wanted a very specific type of watch, and according to Michael Gee, the man behind Rogue Warrior Watches, no other watch maker was able to do it. Gee used to be part of MTM, designing watches for them. MTM is another maker of military style/purpose watches. In at least one season of the popular show 24, “Jack Bauer” wears an MTM watch. Gee branched off to create what he considered to be a more pure and functional military watch. Until now, Rogue Warrior Watches were mainly sold to military personnel, special forces bad-asses, and law enforcement (I was told that the Chief of Police in LA now owns a Rogue Warrior Watch). Now we too, are lucky enough to get our hands on Rogue Warrior Watches through their website.
So what was is that Marcinko wanted that was hard to achieve by other watch makers? Mainly a highly functional and reliable watch for a price that your average soldier could afford. Marcinko had a few key requirements. I’ll tell you what they are, and explain just how the Rogue Warrior Red Cell watch satisfied them. While doing so, I will explain other details about the watch.
Watch Dial must be easy to view at all times.
This need involved two things. First, making a highly legible dial that could be easily read in a glance. And second, having a high quality lume that would stay readable all night long. The first issue wasn’t so much of a technological issue, as it was a design effort, mixing and matching the right style hands and numerals, with the right sizes. After living with the Red Cell watch, I must admit that like magic, the watch is quite quick to be read. There are thousands of dials designs out there. Some much more easy to read than others. Not only is the Red Cell watches among the cooler looking dials, but it gives you the information you need at a quick glance. Just as simple as that. Each hour has a thick dedicated marker, and there are smaller markers for each minute. The hands are long and thick enough. I am curious as to what the watch would be like having a different style of hour and minute hand on the the dial, but that is just curiosity – the watch dial is good as it is. The seconds hand is in red, plus there is a Rolex Explorer II style GMT hand in red. Each hand is covered in a rich amount of lume. The dial has a curved chapter ring with the GMT hours on it for easy reading. Plus, the minutes are counter out in five minute increments on the steel bezel. The dial also has a nicely framed date window.
Text on the dial is minimal. All you see is the reminder that the case is filled with krypton gas, and the star-like logo (likely meant to remind you of stars frequently used in the military) for Rogue Warrior Watches. At first I didn’t get why the “krypton gas” label was on the dial (I will explain the purpose for the gas later), but I now get it. Having a case filled with the expensive gas means that you need to have a specialist replace the battery so that they can refill the gas after the open the watch. This way, you can, or whoever is going to change the battery can be aware that the case is filled with the gas as a reminder that it needs to be refilled. The battery for the Japanese quartz GMT movement is meant to last 3 years, and Rogue Warrior Watches will pay to change the battery the first time. You just send them the watch for a quick turn around. In the event you are in the field and need to make a quick emergency battery change, you can do so, but you’ll lose the gas. Once you are back, just sent it back to Rogue Warrior Watches to “fill ‘er up” again.
A big part of having a legible watch is darkness visibility. Rogue Warrior watches chose the luminant carefully. One choice was the ever glowing tritium gas tubes. These are an excellent choice for the short term, but after about 10 years, they start to dim. And then go dark after about 20 years. The lightly radioactive material in the tubes only has a half-life of so many years. Rogue Warrior Watches knows that many of their customers buy one watch, and keep it for decades. For this reason they chose Krypotlite (TM) (that glows green) for the luminant. While it does need to be charged to glow at night, it will still do so 20, 30, or 40 years from now. The luminant is not only thickly applied, but works well. It needs about 10 minutes of sunlight (or 30 minutes of artificial light) to stay luminous all night long according to Rogue Warrior Watches. While I didn’t test this fact specifically. I did notice that the lume works very well, and is quite clear. I am picky about my lume, and easily notice good or bad lume much of the time. Rogue Warrior Watches gave the Red Cell a good solution to the night viewing problem, and satisfied Marcinko’s demands.
For the opposite of night viewing, Rogue Warrior Watches throws in a special black shroud strap with the watch. Developed by the Israeli military, these special black coverings can be placed over the watch and have a Velcro shroud over the watch. During stealth night missions, you can’t have anything that unintentionally glows or is reflective. For this reason, the Red Cell watch can be worn with this covering for total stealth.
Condensation free case
What happens when you take most watches into high humidity environments, or jump out of a plane and switch from a cold to warm temperature quickly? Condensation will build up in the dial of the watch – often obscuring your view of the dial. Marcinko demanded that this never be a threat to watch visibility. The solution is to remove air from the case and fill it with a non condensation forming gas. Other companies such as Sinn use Argon gas for a similar effect. Rogue Warrior Watches found that the more expensive Krypton gas with its larger molecules was a better solution for this problem. Thus, Red Cell watches have no moisture in the cases, and will never form any condensation on the dial. You are again reminded of the gas content in the watch once again, as it is engraved on the caseback.
Shock resistant case with intense protection to the movement
No watch is worth being on your wrist if it stops working. The most delicate part of a watch is the movement – with the biggest enemy to it being high shock. Using a Japanese quartz movement in the watch is important for a few reasons. They aren’t susceptible to magnetic fields, they are typically more hardy than mechanical movements, they are most often more accurate, and fixing them or changing the battery is easy in almost any place on the planet. This is even more so the case with Japanese versus Swiss movements that Rogue Warrior Watches says have more universally acquired batteries.
Right around the movement in the watch is a special material called d30 (TM). It was originally developed for the British Army, and has an incredible amount of shock absorbency. The orange colored silly putty like material has the unique ability to go from hard to soft in a very fast time. Meaning that shock going to it makes the material soft for an instant before it is bounced back and dissipated while the material turns hard again. Applications for such materials are endless, and it is used fantastically as protection for a watch movement.
The Red Cell watch case itself is in steel and 45mm wide (without the crown). The Red Cell Silver version has a nicely made brushed steel case, while the Red Cell Black is coated with the highly scratch resistant DLC (diamond like carbon) coating. While not written, the case is water resistant to 200 meters. The watch has a large easy to operate and grasp crown. I would have liked the crown to have a logo on it, but it does not. That is the watch lover in me talking. I am the reminded that the military likes “sterile” products, that have no branding. There is the star-like logo on the dial, and only on the rear of the watch does it indicate “Rogue Warrior.” The design of the case is modern and technical, not to mention very cool looking. You can tell that it is cut finely, and polished well – especially for the price. Rogue Warrior Watches also did a good job making the watch design fit well with the look and feel of other equipment a special forces soldier might be carrying. The idea is also to evoke a degree of envy in a rank and file soldier who sees a highly trained colleague with the cool watch.
I would have liked the bezel on the watch to rotate. This might have been hard with the design. As it is, the bezel is screwed in. A lot of the character of the watch comes in on the caseback. Without this piece, the watch wouldn’t be what it is. The engravings on the caseback really make the watch what it is, by reminding you of who the watch is named for. It also makes you smile in a smirky, “I have a kick-ass watch” sort of way. On the back you first see a nicely rendered machine gun. This was apparently Marcinko’s gun of choice in Vietnam. There is then a patriotic “United States Of America,” reminding you where the watch comes from, and finally you get an interesting acronym. I’ll tell you what the letters mean, even though you won’t see the explanation on the Rogue Warrior Watches website. W.G.M.A.T.A.T.S. was the unofficial motto of Marcinko’s military unit, and stood for “we get more ass than a toilet seat.”
Protect the watch crystal
The military actually has specs for watches. These are official requirements that watches need to meet to be officially sold to soldiers via the government. One of those requirements is that a watch has a mineral, and not sapphire crystal. Why? Because while sapphire crystals are more scratch resistant than mineral crystals, sapphire crystals are more shatter prone. For this reason the Red Cell watch has a 4mm thick mineral crystal that has a fantastic level of anti-reflective (AR) coating on it. To further protect the crystal, the watch has two solid steel bars over the top and bottom of the case. The curious look ended up becoming quite endearing to me. First it was sort of silly, then it grew of me. I started to think of them as little handles that reminded me of large mechanized armor ladders, and then I realized that the grooved surface provided just enough friction to used it while on my wrist to itch a scratch where ever needed! The bars add a degree of protection to the crystal, and help enhance the tool like appearance of the watch. No, let me rephrase that. It does not help enhance the look, but rather helps remind you that the watch is a tool, rather that just look like one.
Richard Marcinko is proud to put his name on the watch, as it satisfies his highly demanding needs (and personality). In two colors with a series of available straps or a metal bracelet, there is one for any highly demanding adventurer or military personnel. What is the most impressive is how Rogue Warrior Watches was able to keep down the prices. Unlike most watch makers who make hardcore rugged watches, Rogue Warrior Watches understands that people with average budgets need to afford the watches. The Red Cell watches start at $400 (on a rubber, velcro bund, or camo leather strap), or $550 on a matching metal bracelet. Interestingly, the DLC coated watches are the same price. For all that you get, the price is extremely friendly if I may say. The watches come in a nice presentation box, and are for the (real or metaphorical) blood thirsty, bad-ass, plane jumping, soldier of fury in us all (that need a good watch to go along with the job).
To get your Red Cell watch or learn more, check out Rogue Warrior Watches here.