This watch is a long time coming.
Dilly dallying... thinking... contemplating...
In the end, I succumbed... as usual...
It is the 2014 announced and released Zenith Stratos Flyback "Rainbow"
I am a fan of the multicoloured Rainbow for ages... having owned the old 40mm black dialed Rainbow Flyback.
I have missed the chance of purchasing the old 40mm multicoloured Rainbow a couple of times and got me thinking maybe it's just not meant to be.
I was kinda excited when the Stratos Multicolour Rainbow was released 2 years ago in an all black Alchron case and was a Boutique only piece.
I did try to track down a piece during my last trip to HK to view the piece in person at the Zenith Boutique at Russell Street HK but due to some miscommunication, the piece was already sold when I got there.
Bummer... can't try it on for size... oh well... maybe it's really just not meant to be?
But then it got me thinking, maybe... just maybe... Zenith will release a regular piece in stainless steel available for purchase at ADs... and guess what?
It happened! Good things do come to those who wait I guess?
The announcement and release of this watch was done quietly though... not at Baselworld 2014 but a couple of weeks after...
Well, long story short... with the recent refurbishment of my local AD and adding in Zenith to the plethora of brands that they carry... all the "Stars" are aligned... When one was available for viewing... I immediately went in for a test "wrist" drive.
Not kidding here but initial impressions were not good.
The watch comes in a bracelet only configuration.
I find it bulky, heavy and really hefty... wondering if I can really carry all that behemoth of a 45.5mm case.
But in the end, I took a leap of faith as I really loved the solidly built watch and also the revival of the "Rainbow" dial... so... I dived right in...
Once home... the first order of the day is to make the watch a teeny bit more wearable for regular sized wrists...
As I mentioned earlier, the watch came in a bracelet only configuration.
Got to remove the bracelet and fit in a strap...
Surprise surprise... Once the bracelet has been removed... the endlinks still remain intact...
Unlike most watches in the market, where the endlinks are normally attached to the bracelet... the Stratos Rainbow actually came with separate endlink pieces independent of the bracelet...
Some of you may know me as a fan of endlinks to go with straps as they mask the gap left after mounting a watch on strap.
But due to the size of this watch, I reckon those endlinks will have to go.
So, the endlinks are actually fastened by 2 small screws to the side of the case under the lugs.
Once unscrewed, the endlinks come right off...
The endlink piece and screws...
I must say this is a novel way of construction, with such configuration... the possibilities of the owner wearing on bracelet or on strap and with or without endlinks are expanded...
It's all up to the owner's personal preference.
Take a look at how short the lugs is...
Regular and small wrists can still wear this watch.
After mounting on the strap, there is hardly any gaps visible, so no endlinks necessary...
Lug size is 23mm... not easy to buy ready made straps of this size so custom ordered strap is on the way.
The strap I currently have on is 22mm... so there is a slight 1mm gap that is visible sometimes.
And with all that out of the way... the watch looks like so.
Pretty cool eh?
Now it looks like it's ready to be strapped on by a French Fighter Pilot... just like the way the original Rainbow was designed for...
The original Flyback Rainbow was designed according to specifications put forth by the French Air Force.
I don't know if this piece still adheres to those specifications but one thing for sure, this one looks less of a tool watch (let's be real, is there any luxury watch considered a tool nowadays?) but more like a modernized luxury watch "inspired" by the old Flyback Rainbow.
It does however share all the same case and a slightly different movement as the Stratos that Felix Baumgartner wore while breaking the sound barrier jumping from the edge of the stratosphere.
So I can safely say that this watch is no slouch.
I must say that the dial design hits all the sweet spot.
Staying true to the original Rainbow colourway but updated for today's taste...
Legibility is not an issue. Even with the busy dial, time can be read out at a glance.
Bezel is 120 clicks uni-directional.
I find the clicks a little rough... maybe I am just nitpicking.
Bezel insert is anodized aluminium... I would have preferred a ceramic bezel though.
Why didn't they just use the same red accented ceramic bezel from the Limited Edition Alchron case Stratos Rainbow?
The subdial that makes me go ga-ga... Yes... simple things like these does matter... Just like Zenith's iconic Tri-colour dial, this Rainbow colourway with the Multicoloured subdials is part of Zenith's iconic look... never replicated... all original design...
Most people have the opinion that Zenith has an iconic watch movement in the El Primero but no iconic watch.
I would have to disagree there.
The tricolour dial A386, the Zenith Flyback Rainbow and in some aspects... the Montre D'Aeronef Type 20 line of pilot watches are all iconic in their looks.
If you're wondering why the subdials are marked at 3 minute increments is because when making overseas calls (especially for soldiers posted at foreign lands calling home), they were charged at 3 minute blocks... having marked them in 3 minute increments allow you to time your calls and make sure of the credit/time you have left.
Now with the advent of modern communication devices... overseas calls charged at 3 minute blocks are all but obsolete...
By leaving the original look intact, it reminds us of the history of these watches and the relevance of dial markings in watch design.
The flange of the dial is marked with a telemeter scale as opposed to the usual tachymetre scale.
What is this for?
It is to measure the distance relative to sight and sound.
Say if I were to fire a mortar at an enemy, I start the chronograph the moment the mortar fires, and stop the chronograph when the mortar hits the ground... I now know the distance of that mortar being fired in kilometers... and I can adjust the mortar cannon to fire further or nearer depending on where the enemy is...
Cool right? Not that I am firing mortars for a living...
Or you can just time how far a lightning strike is... by starting the chronograph when you see the flash and stopping it when you hear the thunderclap, now you know how far the lightning is...
But I very much prefer the mortar example :-)
Take a closer look at the dial and you can see that the numerals are made of solid blocks of Luminova...
It gives off a 3D effect and feel.
Another small change for this model compared to the regular Stratos is making the hour totalizer subdial smaller.
This way, the complaints that plagued the other models is addressed.
No more overlapping subdials and the chronograph functions and reading elapsed time will be accurate whereby previously, it took some guesses at best...
The chronograph seconds hands look red but is actually closer to fluorescent pink or somewhere there.
It matches the colour on the minute totalizer hand.
Go clubbing with this watch under some UV lights and I guess both the hands will stand out...
Applied Zenith Star... love those.
Huge screw down crown.
Water resistance rated to 100m...
The old Rainbow with no screw down crown is rated the same, but does not inspire confidence. This on the other hand is much better.
Rectangular pushers are easy and nicer to operate... much nicer than the old round ones because it takes less effort to press and overall feel is much more sturdy.
The length of the case from lug to lug is 54mm by my own measurements.
The sloping cut off lugs of course makes the watch wears smaller than it actually is.
You can also make it in the background that the bezel is actually sloping inwards to the dial... concave shape... pretty cool.
Movement powering the watch is the El Primero Caliber 405B.
Good move by Zenith to blue the column wheel.
The nice contrast is very much welcomed.
Just love the complex but beautiful El Primero caliber's architecture.
Beats at the same 36,000 vph hi-beat rate... with a flyback complication.
After owning and wearing the watch for a couple of days, I find that the watch is a joy to wear although I am still coming to terms with it's size and heft.
The overall size is worse on the original bracelet... maybe it's just me.
I am just happy that Zenith choose to release a definitive version of the modern Rainbow and make it accessible... both in pricing and availability... by not making it a Boutique Edition.
All in all this watch is just awesome.
Solidly built, housing a proven, reliable and robust caliber and at a quite attractive price point for a flyback chronograph.
Question is... does this watch need to be buffed all the way to 45.5mm? I think the answer is no... but one can understand why they did it.
In this age of supersizing, everyone wants everything bigger...
I think it can do away with a few mm less...
I can confidently announce that the iconic Rainbow's revival is complete... The Rainbow is officially well and truly... BACK!!
If this is done in a 42-43mm case, then it will be "BACK WITH A BANG!!"
But I can settle for "BACK!!" at the moment.