Gary Girdvainis



By Gary Girdvainis.

Like so many watch enthusiasts, brothers Jonnie and Jeff LaMotte had a vision to create a watch of their own – and unlike the vast majority of dreamers, the brothers LaMotte have brought their dream to life.

The LaMotte Balboa

Crafted with a less-is-more approach, the Balboa by the California-based LaMotte Watch Company embraces a design that is crisp and clean without excess – anything. 

When you open the (California-sourced) packaging, the LaMotte Balboa is not a shock-watch with a rampant rainbow of colors, nor will you in awe of a massive 50mm case better suited for a desk clock than a watch. What you will see is a right-sized watch with a subtlety that can be underwhelming at first – but grows on you the more closely you look and the more you wear it.

At 39mm the 316L stainless Steel Balboa is easy to wear as the mid-size case rides very nicely on the wrist without reminding you that it’s on your arm every minute of the day. When you do roll your wrist to check the time, the hand-made leather strap leads the eye to the applied numerals standing tall as they rise from the silver circular grained dial.

Like the hands, the numerals are enhanced with X1 Superluminova that glows an electric blue for ease of reading in low light conditions. Both the front and the back have flat sapphire crystals, and each watch is individually pressure tested to 10atm. 

Worth noting is that these watches achieve a 10atm rating without the need for a screw-down crown, thanks in large part to a double gasket system engineered into the stem/crown.

American calibers

Built in partnership with the Arizona-based watchmaking company FTS, the Balboa is also one of the early adopters of the recently released Americhron 7000 series of automatic winding movements. 

Unlike so many other “new” movements, the Americhron 7000 is not a clone of any other movement and is-fact a new design that embraces time-tested engineering in its own unique layout. Beating at 28,800 with a power reserve of just under forty hours, the Americhron has a traditional lever escapement, is anti-magnetic and shock resistant per ISO standards, and comes with a five-year warranty.

Designed to be service-friendly, the Americhron 7000 can be serviced and repaired by any qualified watchmaker that can work on traditional automatic winding movements.

Each LaMotte is individually tested for chronometry and certified as meeting or exceeding factory specifications for accuracy. On top of the five-year warranty on the movement, the LaMotte brothers have also decided to offer an eight-year warranty against manufacturing defect.

Thanks to the monochromatic mien of the Balboa, LaMotte’s first release feels right at home when active, for casual times, or even dressed-up for a night on the town and picks up on whatever couture you put around it – from a Speedo to a tuxedo. 

Limited to only fifty individually numbered watches, the Balboa will retail at $895 and is delivered with two straps and a certification card signed by the watchmaker who built, tested, and certified that particular watch. 

More info at 


By Gary Girdvainis 

Two trends that are not necessarily new have been seriously amplified in recent times. One is the “Lemming” collector, the other is the “Collab” watch.

The first is pretty clear. At the high-end or at more affordable price-points, many watch buyers are almost afraid to miss their chance at acquiring the current hot watch. Whether a luxurious and hard-to-acquire SKU from one of the big names, or a run on a particular micro-brand, the watch collector crowd seems to be in full-on bandwagon mode in recent years.

FOMO drives not only active and engaged watch enthusiasts, but also acts as a magnet to the investment crowd – who may or may not even like the design of the particular monetary device.

Let’s be honest, this is how a lot of buyers view a fine timepiece.

Both types of lemmings drive prices artificially high and promote these hard to buy watches to a Grail/Unicorn status that only exacerbates the rampant pricing. The last buyers in line buy at ridiculously inflated prices and may not have much room left for the price to spike. But they do get bragging rights of owning a watch that they know others covet. Paying too much for it is almost a totem of their status.

This is when the heavy hitters with more ego and money than sense keep the unicorn express running full speed ahead. Sooner or later prices inevitably settle on the majority of these watches, whether through satiating the market (which Rolex and Patek NEVER want to do) with enough product, or when the bottom falls out as the house of cards collapses.

New Patek Philippe Nautilus, Ref. 5811-1G-001.


The other trend, collaboration watches, is just screaming ahead at full speed.

Historically a retailer might partner with a watch brand for a special dial or to simply have their logo stamped on a traditional model. Occasionally other entities (COMEX comes to mind) that purchased a larger batch of watches were granted the space on the dial by Rolex or others for their logo to reside.

In today’s watch market hardly a week goes by when I don’t see a press release for some new joint effort in watches. Whether a musician, designer, graffiti artist, skateboarder, surfer, free climber, or even (yuck) an influencer that no one has heard of but has a “huge” following, it seems that every other press release I receive includes some kind of partnership beyond the watch.

 I can’t wait for the hot new green dials of the new Pickle Ball watch sponsorship by brand “X.”

While some of these make sense and are natural combinations, others scream of desperation. Desperation to attract an audience via the collaborator, desperation to take an aging design and breathe new life into it, desperation not to be left behind (see lemmings) in the new era of collabs, and desperation to remain relevant in an ever more crowded field of wristwatch options. 

This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2022 edition of International Wristwatch. 

Szanto has extended its Heritage Aviator retro pilot watch series to include midnight blue and green dials. 

From its inception California-based Szanto has focused on modern interpretations of retro types and these core fundamentals show through in the Heritage Aviator series.

A new model in Szanto’s Heritage Aviator series.

With easy-to-read dials and an emphasis on the minutes, the new watches embrace current color trends while maintaining their technical chops.

Both new Heritage Aviator versions feature brushed stainless-steel cases water resistant to 100 meters, even without a screw-down crown. Rather, Szanto made a great choice by using a push/pull onion style safety crown that will not allow the watch to start running unless the crown is fully pushed in to the case.


A healthy dose of SuperLuminova on the hands and indices make this series easy-to-read day or night and accuracy is ensured with a Japanese Miyota quartz movement under the new dials, which themselves are protected under a hardened mineral crystal. The 41mm case is held in place with a genuine leather strap. Price: $225. 

All U-Boat watches can be can be recognized from a distance. All the creations, conceived and designed by Italo Fontana, stand out thanks to their large crown on the left-hand side of the case. The brand is proud of its “Made in Tuscany” factor. And each watch, powered by a Swiss movement, is created and assembled by the craftsmen at the Lucca headquarters.


The Capsoil Titanio DLC is cased in blackened titanium.

Among U-Boat’s best-known designs is its Capsoil collection, which features a movement immersed in oil to amplify the dial. A compensation bubble, which floats freely under the high-quality domed sapphire crystal, then allows the watch to adapt to external and internal temperature variations.

U-Boat’s latest Capsoil offerings include this 45mm titanium Capsoil Titanio Chronograph, made as two limited editions of 150 pieces each. The second version is cased in blackened DLC titanium.

Under the high-quality sapphire crystal a two-level black dial, with beige hands and indexes treated with SuperLuminova, visible sealing screws and a metal plate screwed at 6 o’clock to distinguish the Titanio model from all other watches of the range. The optical effect of the oil creates a more intense black and offers higher legibility.

Price: $3,100 and $3,200 (DLC version).

Zodiac celebrates 140 years as a maker of Swiss-made dive and adventure watches with several new dive watches in its Super Sea Wolf collection.

As displayed earlier this summer at the Couture show in Las Vegas, these 42mm titanium-and/or steel-cased models channel much of the same utility that went into the original Sea Wolf’s 1953 design, but today also include a slew of technical updates.

The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Pro-Diver Titanium.

One new model, the Super Sea Wolf Pro-Diver Titanium, reveals its appreciation of deep-sea diving through orange and green tones on the bezel and concave ring, and colorful accents on the black sunray dial. Superior luminescence means the dial’s markers and hands glow in the deep.

The classic Zodiac titanium case holds a Swiss-made automatic Sellita movement. Water resistance, as noted on the dial, is a solid 300 meters.

Zodiac supplies the watch with an ISO Diver’s certification, a brushed seven-link titanium butterfly-clasp bracelet and an orange and black matching strap. Zodiac also makes a steel-cased version. Price: $2,495 (titanium model).

The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Compression Automatic Stainless Steel Watch.

The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Compression Automatic Stainless Steel Watch is also perfectly proficient under the sea. While not Zodiac’s professional-diver level model, its impressive 200-meter water resistance rating will handle any moisture at the pool or the beach. And it will look terrific while doing so.

Its light blue accents, white dial and highly luminous markers and hands make the watch easy to read in any light. Price: $1,495.