Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Maranez Bangla Titanium Blue Dial No Date - A combo package that is a winner in my book; A Review

It all started when I was doing research on independent micro-brand watch companies around the world. I have experienced with some of them and all the offerings that I got the opportunity to get did not disappoint me one little bit. From the US, I am familiar with Deep Blue, Lum-Tec and Ocean7; from Singapore its Gruppo Gamma and from Luxembourg, Schroeder 1877. I then stumble on a micro-brand that hails from a country North of mine, Thailand.

This micro-brand is called Maranez Watches. Its website, http://www.maranez.com/ is very vague to its origins. Based on some reviews I found on the internet, it would appear that it is a company operating out of Phuket, Thailand based on the names of their watch collection that are main points of attraction in Phuket (Layan, Bangla & Rancha). However, this is still debatable as the address that was printed on the courier docket was from a Hong Kong office. Anyway, here is the contact detail of the company if anyone is interested: maranezwatches@gmail.com.

In 11 April 2014, there were only the Bangla and Rancha models available for sale. However, what got me interested was the fact that this company works with three different materials, stainless steel, brass and titanium. As it so happens my brother's birthday was coming up, I decided to order a Bangla in brass (for him) and a Bangla in titanium for myself. The price was just USD299 + USD50 via FedEx for the brass and USD349 + USD50 via FedEx for the titanium. More about the price later.

Less than 48 hours later, the package was on my desk. At this stage, the only feedback that I want to give is the courier charges. Since I bought two units, shouldn't the overall courier charge be less than a simple multiple of the number of units? I don't believe it was fair to charge me USD100 just for the courier charges when both units came in one single plastic bag.

For the price that I paid, I didn't expect a nice watch box. So, when I cut open the plastic bag, I found a rectangle Styrofoam box approximately 22 cm long, 11 cm tall and 11 cm deep.

Inside the Styrofoam box was a plastic tube canister that screws shut at one end. I believe this canister is water tight.

The canister stands at approximately 8.5 inches tall and there is a ring hook on top of it. Surprisingly, the canister is devoid of any branding whatsoever.

When unscrewing the cap, you will also find a large rubber o-ring at the inner top of the cover. This tells me that this canister is designed to keep things inside dry. Looking into the tube you will see a black foam cushion stuffed inside.

This foam cushion is actually the storage area for the watch as well as the standard accessories that comes with the package.

For the package that I got, it came with a guarantee card, a spare leather strap, a screwdriver tool and the watch itself. No manuals were given.  

I guess Maranez assumed buyers would know how to use the tool to change straps as well as how to adjust the time (and date if the buyer chose to get a watch that comes with the date window). 

I also found a couple of extra lug bars hidden the folds of the foam cushion. 

The model that I got is the Maranez Bangla Titanium Blue Dial No Date. You can choose the type of material for the casing (brass or titanium), various colour dials (black, blue, green, brown or red), type of dial (California or numbered) and whether you want to have a date window on it or not.

I chose titanium, blue dial, numbered with no date window.

Let us discuss about the specification of this watch first. Made out of blasted titanium, the bezel as well as the crown are also made out of the same material. Only the buckle is made out of blasted stainless steel. A large watch with a case diameter of 47 mm (excluding the crown). Lug to lug measures 58 mm and it stands at a height of 15.5 mm. Lug width is 24 mm and it comes standard with a nice looking 24 mm rubber strap. Despite the sizable dimensions, the use of titanium helps keep the weight on rubber strap to just 146 gm.

Maranez uses a flat sapphire crystal to protect the dial. The crystal has an inner AR coating.

Meanwhile, the large 11 mm screw down crown is protected by a slot built into the casing. The large domed crown is easy to manipulate and is well protected by the large crown guards.

At first glance, it would appear the watch comes without a bezel. The lack of any markings except for the mandatory luminous pip at the 12 o'clock position created this illusion. The unidirectional bezel is well made and it moves smoothly with audible clicks without any play. To complete a full circle, it moves in a 120-click gradation. The bezel can be easily removed using the tool provided by disengaging 3 standard screws placed on the side of the bezel.

Maranez utilises the Seiko NH35 automatic movement to power the watch. This 24 jewel automatic movement features hand winding, hacking seconds, date and a frequency of 21,600 BPH. This is a well-liked and robust automatic, though it seems not to be used as commonly as similar Miyota automatics movements.

The design and build quality of the watch allows it to operate at a depth of 300 meters or 1,000 feet.

Instead of spring-loaded lug pins, Maranez incorporates a screw-based lug pins. Using the tool provided, one can easily change the straps. It was nice of Maranez to include an additional pair of lug pins as spares.

The thickness of the rubber strap is obvious in this picture. The lugs are capable of taking any 24 mm wide straps which makes accessorizing the watch a favorite pastime of many Maranez owners. The only question I have is whether the rubber strap has threads or fibers imbedded in it.

Price is function of materials used. For Maranez to have a watch priced at this level, it is highly probable that the rubber strap is the most basic i.e. made out of pure rubber without any UV protection or strengthening done to it. For users, it is important to note the possible risk of the strap suddenly disintegrating and your watch crashing down on a hard surface. It happened to me once and the aftermath wasn't pretty (Higher quality rubber straps have fibers or threads imbedded to create another layer of protection if the rubber was to disintegrate).   

I chose a plain blue dial without a date window and with Arabic numerals on the four points of the compass. The other major points are markers. There are also sub markers for every minute at the edge of the dial. All the numbers and major markers are painted with SuperLuminova C3. The hour and minute hands are of the same design with the minute hand longer then the hour hand. Both are lumed as well. For the seconds hand, a lumed ball is provided a third down the hand and is lumed. The effect of the lumination in the dark can be seen below.

The case back is solid and a screw-down. An image of a female diver is etched in the center. Apart from that, key information about the watch are also etched around the case back.

The watch has a tool-man feel to it. The large size can be an issue to a number of people but if it is intended as designed i.e. a dive watch, bigger is better as it would make it easier to see in the water compared to smaller watches.

The choice of titanium provides a lot of advantages to the wearer. The first is weight. Although this watch have impressive dimensions, it is easy to wear because of the lightness. In fact, it is half the weight of an equivalent volume of ordinary steel. The curved lugs also helps the watch wrap around your wrist. The second is strength. Titanium is five times stronger that of ordinary steel. Third, is corrosion resistance (e.g. its resistance to rusting). It is so good that it is almost impossible to rust titanium. It is impervious to all acids but nitric acid.

Due to the straight side wall of the watch casing, this watch tends to snag against shirt cuffs. As such, it is not advisable for formal wear.

The buckle is thick and has the same image of a female diver etched on it.

The straight side of the watch casing is obvious in the following shot (apologies for the blurred photo).

Maranez included a set of leather straps with the standard package. The leather has a raw feel to it.

The single leather strap has the brand name stamped on it.

The buckle is stainless steel and has an image of the small Italian midget submarine.

Maranez uses designs of old Italian divers' watches as reference. It has some semblance to Ennebi watches. Although it is easy to fault them on the lack of originality, Maranez has been able to provide alternatives to a lot of watch enthusiasts that would otherwise may not be able to afford such a design. For example, a similar design watch from Ennebi retails from USD4,100 whereas you can something similar from Maranez for just USD349.

My earlier queries about Maranez courier pricing policy and the rubber straps are valid questions which the Company should try to address. If they could improve on these two areas, Maranez will be able to grow its brand followers. 

As a watch, the Bangla has so many positives. Combining a non-typical material such as titanium, a well tested Japanese automatic movement, an additional leather strap, a strap replacement tool, spare lug pins in case of emergency inside a well protected watch box; and then pricing it at an astounding low price is a winner in my book.

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