September 14, 2020
by Ariel Adams
How I missed reviewing one of Swiss Traser’s core tactical watches for this long escapes me. I’m glad I did because, while the P66 Automatic Pro watch (reference 100267 / 100373, depending on the strap) isn’t for all wrists, it is a standout military-grade tool watch that deserves far more attention than it currently receives from timepiece aficionados. Traser is the in-house brand of the company in Switzerland that makes all the self-illuminating tritium gas tubes that are used in other products, including wristwatches. aBlogtoWatch had the good fortune of visiting MB-Microtec to see how tritium gas tubes are made (article here).
MB-Microtec sells the gas tubes and dial illumination to other watchmakers, including Marathon, Ball, Luminox, and more. The tubes (known as “trigalight” on Traser watches) are great because they naturally glow for about two decades, meaning that a mechanical watch can be viewed in the dark without luminant that needs to first be charged by light. The immediate appeal for military and tactical situations is obvious — especially in stealth situations when using lighting to view the time could give away your position. Tritium is also used on some gun sights, which is one way that much of the firearm and the tactical-enthusiast community became familiar with Traser products. Those consumers, as well as soldiers and law enforcement, have been the base of Traser’s market for much of recent history. The situation is very similar to Canada’s Marathon watches. Other companies that produce timepieces with tritium gas tubes are otherwise still mostly focused on “civilian consumers” when it comes to their sales volume.
Most Traser P66 watches are quartz-based, while the P66 Automatic Pro is among the less common mechanical variants. This is probably because the more practical nature of quartz movements make Swiss Made battery-powered Ronda movements more accurate for common missions. I also believe quartz watches handle the recoil shock of repeatedly shooting a firearm more so (in regard to maintaining accuracy) than a mechanical watch — but that’s somewhat speculative. Mechanical watches will be able to avoid needing a battery in exchange for less overall accuracy. Watch enthusiasts, as well, prefer mechanical movements as they are considered more high-end and interesting from a collectability standpoint. Inside the P66 Automatic Pro is a “Swiss Made automatic” movement. (Traser doesn’t further specify on its website.) My guess is that it contains an ETA 2824-2 automatic, which operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve.
The P66 Automatic Pro case itself is designed to be super durable given its “military spec” construction. Extra emphasis seems to be on shock resistance. In true G-Shock lesson-style, the watch has an inner steel container with an outer case made of glass-fiber reinforced polymer (a fancy plastic) that should keep the watch case safe from drops and other abuse. Over the dial is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal, and the entire case is water-resistant to 300 meters with a screw-down crown.
The 45mm-wide case size of the P66 Automatic Pro is going to be a concern to some collectors, for sure. I wouldn’t call it too large, but the watch does feel as though it could have been 42mm-wide and done all of the same things. That said, the watch isn’t 45mm-wide for no reason. Alas, I believe the double-case structure design with the inner steel housing and the outer reinforced polymer shell is why the large size is necessary. The case is also about 13mm-thick and has a roughly 54mm lug-to-lug distance. How is wearability? Pretty good, actually. The watch is still mostly steel, so it doesn’t feel too light on the wrist, though thanks to the black polymer shell, the watch doesn’t feel like a 45mm-wide timepiece. What helps is that the bespoke NATO-style or rubber strap available for the P66 Automatic Pro allow it to wear snugly and comfortably.
The black polymer shell is neat in how its side sections are skeletonized to show off the bead-blasted steel case on the inside. Around the dial is a uni-directional rotating timing bezel with a tritium gas tube lume pip at the 60-minute marker. The bezel has a decent action to it, overall. Speaking of lume, even though Traser is owned by the company that makes the gas tubes, this particular watch isn’t as teeming with gas tubes and illumination as some other tritium gas tube-equipped watches these days are. Traser isn’t going for maximum brightness but rather maximum utility and practicality. Legibility in the dark is just fine, but the watch isn’t trying to impress anyone with its gas tubes, as you might see in a Ball watch, for example.
I’ve come to like the Traser P66 Automatic Pro for all the right reasons, I hope. I found myself eager to wear it above other watches for a few interesting reasons. Comfort was one of them. I also like “beater watches,” as I’m very active at this time in my life, and I appreciate timepieces that can keep up with me. (It isn’t fun to have to take your watch off and leave it somewhere when you are busy working with your hands.) Finally, I really ended up liking the P66 Automatic Pro because of the dial’s very high level of legibility (for my brain, at least). At first, I found the watch dial to be a bit sparse, if not minimalist. I then realized it was actually a bit more Bauhaus, ultimately not designed for attraction but rather for function. Let me say here that while the P66 Automatic Pro is a handsome watch, it isn’t beautiful by classic Swiss watch standards. The dial has too many fonts, the proportions are a bit weird… but at the end of the day, the timepiece is a winner because of its ability to be a great tool. It helps that I really like the design of the hands.
If I were in the military or needed something tactical, I would be more than satisfied to have a timepiece like this. Sure, other watches might do the trick as well, but Traser has a nice conservatism and versatility which I think helps it stand out. That’s funny because the P66 Automatic Pro isn’t a superlative in any area. It isn’t the most expensive or least expensive watch of its type. It doesn’t boast any distinctive technology or merit. It just happens to be a really good tactical watch that is very fairly priced and positioned between Marathon (higher-end) and Luminox (more mainstream-priced and less purposeful in design) in the larger market for wristwatches.
If you own just one Traser watch, something in the P66 collection should be it — though the brand does have some other compelling choices. It actually isn’t common anymore for Swiss watchmakers to produce legit tool or tactical watches. The German and the Japanese have most of that market, these days. The P66 Automatic Pro is also good at being both a sports watch and a timepiece enthusiast’s watch insofar that it comes excellent performance with a Swiss level of refinement and attention to detail. Minor areas of refinement such as proper use of texture on the dial and the crispness of components are what helps make a Swiss watch merit the asking price
Traser offers the P66 Automatic Pro on two strap choices, which includes this black NATO-style strap and a black rubber strap. As the reference 100267, this P66 Automatic Pro comes on the nylon fabric NATO-style strap. Strap quality is very good and I love that it isn’t too long (something that makes me very happy). I would have probably preferred the strap’s metal hardware to be colored black to match the watch’s outer case. Not a big deal. Given that tool watches are so important in any timepiece enthusiast’s journey to appreciate watches, I like to spend extra attention on classically well-done tool watches that can really make wearers happy. I do think the Traser P66 Automatic Pro is one of them. Price for the Traser P66 Automatic Pro reference 100267 is $895 USD. Learn more or order at the Traser website here.
>Model: P66 Automatic Pro (reference 100267 as tested)
>Price: $895 USD
>Size: 45mm-wide, ~13mm-thick, and ~54mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As sport or activity watch, or on some rare occasion when I was geared-out in tactical garb.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone seeking a daily wear watch or sport watch that is highly inspired by the tactical or military community.
>Best characteristic of watch: Does what it was designed to do very well. Excellent use of original parts to come up with a highly versatile, highly durable tool watch with the Swiss Made character and detailing enthusiasts demand. Excellent dial legibility. Comfortable to wear.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Larger diameter may put off some potential wearers. No-nonsense design approach lacks pizazz for those who need it.