Saturday, October 23, 2010

Watch Photography: Removing the Haze on Crystals

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on how to reduce unwanted reflections in cyrstals through the use of circular polarizers. With this piece I'm going to take this even further by reducing the haze present in crystals  that usually make dials look dull. This haze is what causes black dials to look oddly grey and those orange dials to look less vivid in photographs than what they really are in person.

This technique works best if the dial is already free from uneven/harsh reflections. We want to start with a dial that is already free from uneven lighting, and there are various ways of doing this: using CPLs, avoiding direct lighting, positioning watches propoerly wrt lighting etc. This again goes back to my principle of making sure you have the best raw image to work with so that you don't have to edit and modify a lot of pixels to get the result you need.

For this technique I will be using the same image I used in the CPL piece.

Here is the image of the watch with a CPL, cropped and post processed to getthe saturation and the color that I wanted.

Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

If you look at the dial, it seems to be a muted dark grey which is far from the rich black that the Steinhart really has. But everything else in the image already looks great and further reducing the exposure of the whole image will just result to unwanted shadows and loss of details to shadows. So it's really just the dial that we want to enhance.

Using Adobe Photoshop, the first step is to select the dial. For this exercise I used the lasso tool and though I could have done a better job at refining my selection, this tool and technique will suffice for the purpose of this tutorial.
Select Dial

After selecting the dial area, the second step is to open Image>Adjustments>Levels. Here you will see the histogram of the image which is nothing more than the distribution of the pixels of the image based on tones. The more pixels there are in the right side of the histogram, the lighter the image is in general. The darker the image is, then the more pixels there will be on the left side.
Open Levels

The next step is to adjust the levels, where we will be trimming the histogram so that what's suppose to be black in the dial will be black and what's suppose to be white will be white. To achieve this, I slid the black slider to the right just before the first peak of histogram from the left and the white slider to the left just before the first peak of the histogram from the right. You will immediately notice the dial to suddenly go darker without affecting the "whiteness" of the indices and the hands.
Adjust Levels

The final image now looks as if there is no crystal on the watch and the dial can now be clearly seen. This results to more contrast between the dial, numbers and hands which makes the dial more legible and closer to what it really is in the metal without affecting the rest of the image which already has the right amount of saturation and contrast.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Watch Photography: Poor Man's Edwin H. Heusinkveld Technique/Set-Up

One of my favorite watch photographers in TimeZone is Edwin H. Heusinkveld. For me, he takes some of the best and cleanest dial shots and he uses an ingenious system of flashes, sheets of paper and trash bins.

Here is an example of one of his shots and below is the set up that he used to take the shot. You can read more about his set-up here. I've borrowed some pictures directly from that

I've been wanting to try this technique but I don't have the macro lens, the external flash (more so the four flashes he used in his set up!), a trash bin like that, and especially I'm quite far from having those really nice watches. I do have my built in flash, my 17-55mm lens and lots of paper though.

So with his set up in mind, and the materials I have, I tried to replicate his style. This is is the result with my Steinhart Nav B-Uhr II and my Seiko BFS.
Seiko SNKF05K1 BFS

Not bad but not really the look I wanted. With my single light set up, I definitely still had shadows in some areas of the watch, noticeable at the top part which is basically the surface that wasn't directly hit by light. and some highlights at the bottom part of the image. I'm happy though that the bond paper did a good job of diffusing the light, as I cant see too many harsh areas considering the built in flashes are known for direct frontal lighting that usually cause burnt highlights, especially on reflective surfaces. Another difference is my depth of field is too much, nothing like the bokeh and background blurring achieved in Edwin's images. This could be attributed to his Macro lens, which at 100mm can definitely create creamier bokeh than my 17-55mm lens. Another thing is that since my watches lay flat on the surface, I did not get the separation that was needed to really blur the  rest of the bracelet/strap as well. A watch stand would have been nice to create some depth between the dial, strap, and the background. I also noticed that this technique is unforgiving to scratches and smudges on watches. Next time, I need to do a better job of cleaning my watch.

I'm not sure if he applied some post crop vignette to  his images. I think he did because the top and the bottom parts of the images seem to have a black gradient going on but I cannot really say for sure because the corners are just all shadows. I definitely post processed mine to pull the black levels so that the background becomes completely black. Here are the unprocessed image of the shot above.
Seiko SNKF05K1 BFS

Here is the set up that I used for this exercise.
IMG_0312 IMG_0314 

Here are some more images using the same technique.
Seiko SNKF05K1 BFS   Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic
Seiko SNKF05K1 BFS Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watch Photography: Polarizers Remove Unwanted Reflections On Watch Crystals

One of the biggest challenge in taking pictures of our precious watches is making sure that there are no distracting reflections on the crystal that would "cover", obstruct or provide an unwanted haze on the dial.

Of course, proper positioning of the watch relative to the light source and availability of AR coating on the crystal always help but there is another tool that can be effective in reducing, if not removing, unwanted reflections on the crystal.

This tool is the circular polarizer. I'm guessing most of you guys already know how this little filter works, especially those that have been into photography for awhile now. But for the uninitiated, a circular polarizer is a type of photographic filter that filters out light polarized perpendicularly to the axis of the filter. This has three applications in photography: it reduces reflections from some surfaces, it can darken the sky and it saturates the image more by eliminating unwanted reflections. If you want to know how it does that, literature is abundant around the net.

The circular polarizer is very simple to use:
  1. Attach it to your lens
  2. Rotate it until you see the reflections are reduced/removed (which means it is 90deg rotated to polarized light).
  3. Take the shot!
Here is an unprocessed image of a landscape scene and my Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II without a polarizer.
No Polarizer Sky No Polarizer Watch

Here are the same scenes taken with a polarizer, not rotated 90deg to polarized light.
Unpolarized Sky Unpolarized Watch

Here are the same scenes taken with a polarizer, rotated 90deg to polarized light.
Polarized Sky Polarized Watch

Even from the unprocessed image, you can definitely notice the difference in the images that used a polarizer vs those that did not. In the watch photos, you can see that the reflection on the dial is reduced. The reflection on the strap is removed, thus making the color and texture of the strap more visible. The saturation of the photo is also improved. You can clearly see this in the wooden surface where the watch is on. The brown just looks richer.

Some will say that the effect of using a polarizer can easily be reproduced by post processing but this means editing and interpolating pixels. I'm not against post processing as I do it all the time too, but I find its always better to have a good base image where you don't need a lot of post processing to get the final result that you want.

Here is the final result after cropping, tweaking white balance, saturation and contrast.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The circular polarizer is a one time investment that's easy to use and in my view, is useful for so many different photography applications. I would strongly recomemmend any photography newbies and enthusiasts to invest in one.

I hope this helps! Enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic - Bang-for-the-Buck Pilot's Watch

A couple of month's back I bought a Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic watch. After about a month of wrist time, I would like to share with you my experiences with and views of this watch, from the moment I ordered it, up to the time of this review's writing.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Forgive the long read as I wanted the article to come as close to my experience with the watch and in dealing with Steinhart. I hope though, that you will still find it informative and enjoyable!

Note: Just after writing the draft for this review, I went out for dinner and a guy in a rush hit his watch against mine. You can read how it happened here. The pictures in this review were taken after this incident thus you see the battle scars.


When I got the news of my temporary work assignment in Doha, I was a bit worried since my fiancee and I were right smack in the middle of our wedding preparations. My transfer also meant that I would be leaving during the month of July, which is my and my fiancee's birth month. On the bright side though, this assignment meant additional cash flow. Thus I decided to celebrate my transfer and my going-to-be-lonely-birthday by getting a watch that I have been looking at for some time already: the Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic.

Before placing the order,  I left a message at the Steinhart website if I could have the regular Russian leather strap replaced with a different strap upon  ordering. To my pleasant surprise it was Günter himself, Steinhart's president, who replied back and said I could choose any of the 22mm straps available at the website. I chose the old vintage torf strap with a polished pre-V buckle (to match the polished rivets and the steel retainer of the strap) to replace the regular strap. The order with the strap instructions were placed at the website together with an order for additional straps and buckles. Since I don't like paying customs taxes if it can be avoided, I had the watch shipped to a friend in Dublin whom I know will be going home to the Philippines this past August.

Upon check out, I was pleasantly surprised that ordering from the Philippines, meant exemption from the Euro VAT! And since it was  shipping to Ireland, there were no customs fees and shipment fee was marginal. In total I only payed Euro350 for the watch. Sweet!

After paying through PayPal, I dropped a quick email to Günter about the completed transaction, which he promptly confirmed, and another one to my friend to tell him to expect the watch in a couple of days.


After only a couple of days, my friend informed me that he package had been received in Dublin. I immediately told him to open it up to inspect the contents of the package.

He also sent me some pictures from his iPhone to show me what was received and what he felt was missing. Here are the pictures he sent.

Steinhart Nav-B Uhr Automatik IMG_0253

After going through the packing list, I noted that one strap was missing and that one of the pre-V buckles shipped was the wrong type (w/ logo isntead of w/o logo). I sent an email to Günter and I received a prompt reply from his secretary, Sabine, that they knew of these deficiencies. According to her, the missing strap and the buckle at the time of shipment were not available. They sent me an extra buckle just in case I needed it, and said that the correct buckle and missing strap would be delivered when it becomes available. With a free extra buckle, and no immediate need for the strap and the correct buckle, I said it was OK and that I would just wait for the missing/correct items.

About 2 months after ordering, I took my two week break from work in Doha and attended a wedding in Bohol which my friend from Dublin would also be attending. There he made the drop off.

I would like to share with you how the packaging looked like and how it felt like opening it.

Opening of the box

After more than a month of wearing the watch, here are my views and impressions of the Nav. B-Uhr II.


The Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic comes with an ETA 2824-2 movement with hour, minute and centrally located second hands. Obviously the date function of the movement is not being used as the watch was designed to be as historically close to the original Beobachtungs-Uhrens as possible, which did not have any date function. The movement has 25 jewels and beats at 28,800BPH. My personal tests of the watch show that it has a gain of 5 sec/day.

According to the website, the power reserve of the watch is at 42 hours. Since I don't get to wear this watch on a continuous basis here in Qatar, as I usually only use it during the evening, I dropped an email to Günter to ask him what would be the best practice to keep the watch running. Within a couple of minutes, I received a reply saying that I could give the watch a manual winding, about 20 half-turns in both directions, every other day. This was indeed sufficient enough for the Nav. B-Uhr II to keep accurate and continuous time.

Movement type: ETA 2824-2 made in Switzerland
Jewels: 25 jewels, 28,800 BPH
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Complications: Hour, Minutes, Seconds 


The case of the Nav. B-Uhr II is made up of a solid piece of brushed stainless steel with a screw-in caseback. The bezel and the lugs seamlessly integrate to the rest of the case. The case of the original B-Uhrens is 55mm which the pilots wear over their thighs or arms. The diameter of this watch is  down to a manageable 44mm and a height of 14.2mm, small enough to wear on the wrist but still lending some wrist presence to the wearer of the watch. IMO the 22mm lug width is perfectly proportioned to the rest of the watch and the size allows for a lot of strap options for the Nav, B-Uhr II. The length of the watch is about 52.1mm, but since the lugs curve downwards and the caseback is flat and huge, the watch is able to sit comfortably on my 6.5" wrists with almost no lug overhang.

The watch weighs in at 107g, and I can consciously feel the presence of the watch on my wrist. But even so its not uncomfortable and because it sits flat on my wrist it doesn't move or swing about.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

What I particularly like about the case is how the lugs  elegantly protrude and arc from the case. I sometime notice myself thumbing this part of the case, running my thumb from the circular case following the outline as it curves seamlessly to the lugs. I've read other reviews that don't think too much of  the lug shape but I personally like it and I am amazed at the workmanship that was put into making the case!
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The caseback is also made up of stainless steel and is of the screw-in type. Given that the movement of the watch is an ETA 2824, probably without too much customization and decoration, I don't mind that the watch has a solid caseback.  It is actually a nice piece of work, as there is a sharp engraved image of a 1940s pilot with the Steinhart logo and the text "STEINHART Nav. B B-Uhr II" on top. Along the circumference of the caseback the text "SWISS MADE • STAINLESS STEEL • SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL • SWISS AUTOMATIC MOVT." is also engraved.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Apart from the text on the caseback, the only other marking on the watch is the production number, which can be found on the side of the case at the 6 o'clock position. Mine is in the 500 series.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The watch has a push-in grooved onion-shaped crown with a rather long stem. I would have preferred a screw-in type crown, more so a screw-in diamond shaped crown. That said, it turns smoothly and because of the long stem, it is quite easy to pull. The crown is engraved with the Steinhart logo which I personally think is a great touch. I'm not sure if I can replace this crown with the diamond crown used in other Steinharts, or if that crown is even available for individual sale. If it's possible, I'd probably give that a try.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

The Nav. B-Uhr II's "glass" is made up of sapphire crystal with double AR coatings on the inside of the watch. It's good that Steinhart didn't go cheap with the glass, as the slightly domed shape can be a magnet for scratches, but at least with sapphire, it won't get scratched easily. I'm also glad that Steinhart went for a domed glass since there is something about this detail that sets the Nav. B-Uhr II apart from other pilot watches available at the same price point.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

According to their website the Nav. B-Uhr II has limited water resistance, thus no swimming and showering is allowed. This isn't too much of a let down for me since I don't intend on swimming or showering with this watch on a leather strap, though I hope it can take an accidental splash or two. But based on the sweat stain marks the bracelet has already endured, its best to keep this watch dry.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Case: Burshed Stainless Steel
Diameter: 44mm
Weight: 107 g
Length: 52.1mm
Height: 14.2mm
Lug width: 22mm
Crown: Push-In, Grooved Onion, with Steinhart logo
Caseback: Engraved Stainless Steel, Screwed
Crystal: Domed Sapphire, with Double Anti-Reflecting Coatings on the Interior Side
Water Resistance: Limited Water Resistant, No Swimming or Shower


Ahhh my favorite part of this watch, the dial! The dial is as sterile as a pilot watch can be. As you look into the face of the watch, it's dominated by the matte black color of the dial. My eyes are first drawn to the propeller shaped blued hands. I personally think that the hands are perfectly proportioned to the watch, not too thick, not too thin. The length of the minute hand almost allows it to brush against the chapter ring. The hour hand's length is also long enough that it doesn't look like a dwarf beside the minute hand, but short enough that it is very easy to distinguish which hand is for hours and which hand is for minutes.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

As I twist and angle the watch, a beam of light falls on the blued hands and it transforms from a dark blue, almost black, color to a bright striking chrome blue color. I really enjoy looking at these blued hands as they transform from one color to another.

Steinhart 44mm Nav. B-Uhr II Automatic
From a dull dark blue
Steinhart 44mm Nav. B-Uhr II Automatic
To a stunning chrome blue
My only critique of the hands is that some uneven blue edges on some parts of the hands can be seen. through a loupe or macro shot. If this was heated steel (blue steel can be produced by heating steel to 280-300degC), I would not have expected  uneven edges on the hands. This leads me somehow to believe that the blued hands are in fact blue coated hands or maybe blued by some sort of chemical oxidizer. Not sure though as I haven't seen any literature about Steinhart's blued hands - so I might be wrong. Also this is something that wouldn't be noticed without a loupe or macro lens- so its no big deal really to the over-all look of the watch.

My eyes then fall on the indices and the chapter ring which are all white and slighlty embossed. The indices are Arabic numerals from 1-11, with 12 replaced by the familiar triangle with two dots at the top. The chapter ring is made up of a thin white ring from where white straight lines protrude towards the center. Thicker and longer white lines mark the hours and the thinner white lines mark the minutes.

It's ironic though that my favorite part of the watch is also where I see some manufacturing imperfections. I see a very small black speck at the upper right corner of the number 4 and I also see a stray white fleck outside the outline of the number 11 (on the first number 1). This being said, I don't really care as only I can see it, and in fact it's acted as my "totem", imperfections only I know that uniquely identifies my watch.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

As mentioned earlier, Superluminova C1 is applied to the middle diamond part of the hour and minute hands. The second hand is lumed too, from just past the axis of rotation up to its tip. The Arabic numbers are also lumed. and the only white detail on the dial that is not lumed is the thin white ring where the indices protrude from. Even without it, this watch compared to the IWC BP, has got a little bit more detail that glows in the dark.

After turning off the lights, I immediately notice that the hour and minute hands glow brighter than the indices/chapter ring. This doesn't mean that the indices and chapter ring are pushovers though, as my tests show that all the lumes can last throughout the night.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

If I can sum up the dial, I would say it's imperfectly perfect! The no-text-on-the-dial approach, the contrast provided by the embossed white lines and text on black and the splash of color provided by the blued hands make this one of the most readable watch face around. The lume is easy to read and lasts the whole night. Over-all, IMHO, the dial of this watch is such a beauty that even with the imperfections I've mentioned, it doesn't in any way take anything away from the dial. That said, if the flaws can be addressed, then so much more the better.

Dial: Black
Indices: Arabic Numeral except 12 o'clock which is a Triangle with Two Dots
Chapter ring: Seconds
Lume: Superluminova C1, White
Hands: Blued Hour and Minute Hands with Superluminova C1, White. Central Second Hand, also with Superluminova C1.


Originally this watch comes with a brown Russian leather strap with rivets (but not through the strap, but for decoration only). As described above, I went with a brown torf vintage leather strap with contrasting stitches and decorative rivets. The thing I enjoy most about this strap is that it's quite long thus giving me a significant tail. But because it's got 3 loops (1 fixed leather loop, 1 fix steel loop and 1 adjustable leather loop), the tail doesn't flip flop and I personally think it adds a more vintage pilot look to the Nav. B-Uhr II.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic
I've also got the big pilot style strap with deployant buckle which I intend to use if I'm going for a weekend out in Doha. The humidity and heat induced sweat definitely won't go well with the leather strap, so I got this strap specifically for this purpose. Here are some wrist shots of the watch with that strap.

Finally here are some wrist shots.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic


I am giving one thumbs up for the Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic and another thumbs up for my experience with Steinhart. So that's two thumbs up!

The watch is excellently designed and built, with only minor flaws on the dial and hand edges that only a macro lens or a loupe will reveal, but still an area for improvement nonetheless. The case feels solid without being too big, and the domed sapphire crystal is something you could probably expect from a more expensive watch. When worn, the watch definitely attracts attention with it's size, but never at the expense of comfort to the wearer. At Euros 350.00, I think it's one of the best watches out there, a definite keeper IMHO. I know I'm keeping this one.

Apart from the watch itself, the experience of dealing with Günter and his team was excellent. Apart from always getting prompt replies, the fact that Günter personally replies to customer emails is a great way to show commitment to the customers. It was also great dealing with them with regards to special requests and when issues were discovered in the shipment (I have since chose a different strap and buckle and has now been safely delivered to me). My experience with them makes me wish that all watch sellers were like Steinhart.

Please feel free to share your comments or if you have the same watch, your own reviews and pictures! I'd love to see other Steinharts.

Hope you enjoyed reading!


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