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Lüm-Tec Combat B16 + Super Combat B2

Review | Under $1k | 02.29.2012

The Combat B line of watches by Lüm-Tec appeal to that macho side of our aesthetics; the side that looks at a mud covered truck or a stealth plane in flight and can’t help but think “cool”. They are tough, bold tanks-of-a-watch that beckon you to test their capabilities. Born from a history of military designs, they manage to do more than emulate the aesthetic; they live up to the name “Combat”. Yet, they are not dumb brutes, but rather refined watches that can be worn in or out of active circumstances. The Combat B16 and Super Combat B2 represent the current top-of-the-line for the series. The B16 is the mechanical 3-hand version of the standard Combat style and the Super Combat is a new larger titanium version with a hand wound movement. On the surface, they appear very similar, and they both appeal to the same aesthetic, but differences, both subtle and significant, make them very different watches.

In this side-by-side review we take a look at the watches, comparing and contrasting their various details, from the dial designs to how they wear, in an attempt to both fully explicate each design and pin down the critical differences between their personalities.

Case: Bead blasted St Steel w/ black PVD coating
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic movement
Luminous: LUM-TEC MDV Technology
Lens: Sapphire with double-sided anti-reflective coating
Case Back: Display with threaded sapphire crystal
Strap: 2 heavy gauge NATO nylon and molded rubber strap
Water Res.: 200 M
Dimensions: 43 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: Screw down with double diamond sealing system
Warranty: 1 year limited with free lifetime timing adjustments
Limited edition of 888

Case: Titanium w/ gunmetal PVD coating
Movement: ETA Unitas 6498-1
Luminous: LUM-TEC MDV Technology
Lens: Sapphire with double-sided anti-reflective coating
Case Back: Display with threaded sapphire crystal
Strap: 2 heavy gauge NATO nylon and water resistant riveted leather strap
Water Res.: 100 M
Dimensions: 45 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Crown: Screw down with double diamond sealing system
Warranty: 1 year limited with free lifetime timing adjustments
Limited edition of 999

DIALS

The dials of the Combat B16 and Super Combat B2 are both rooted in military watch design, with an emphasis on legibility and simplicity. The being said, as one of the primary aesthetic components of the watches, they make a large difference in the overall looks of the two models. The B16 has a straightforward and tactical look that contributes to the sporty and rugged demeanor of the watch, while the B2 has a more vintage styling that speaks to contemporary trends and fashion.

The dial of the B16 is pure information. The peripheral hash mark index and large minute index are almost not aestheticized unto themselves; they are simple, crisp and clear. The markings are basic rectangles that are divided into three sizes, the largest and thickest mark quarter hour or 12, 3, 6, 9, the mid-sized indicate 5 minutes or the other hours and the smallest markings communicate individual minutes. The markings are very bold in general and sized to be easy to read. The numerical minute index is broken into 5-minute intervals with an arrow marking 00/60. The font Lüm-Tec used for the minutes is very plain, but with the obvious intention of being as legible as possible. The thin geometric forms of the numbers work well with the slightly thicker and bolder hatch marks. Overall the look is purposeful and reminiscent of a gauge, giving the watch a “tool” aesthetic. This reinforces the concept of the watch as a rugged and aggressive sport watch. All of the markings on the face are lumed as well as the hands.

The B2, in contrast, is quite aestheticized. At a glance, the vintage aviator layout of the numerals jumps out. The oversized 12, 3 and 9 are almost all you see initially, giving away to the smaller numbers for the other hours, all of which have a small dot beside them.  The rounded font used for the numerals is particularly well chosen, as it not only is very clear, it adds to the retro feeling of the dial. Unlike the stark font on the B16, the font on the B2 actually lightens the mood a bit. Like the gunmetal PVD of the case, the font reduces the aggressiveness of the watch compared to the B16, making it an easier watch to match with an outfit.

Around the exterior of the dial is a minute index that consists numerals for 5 – 60 at five-minute increments and small hatch marks for the other minutes. This index is very small, but still manages to be very legible. There is actually a slight elevation change and an impression of concentric circles under this index, which both separates it from the main portion of the dial and acts as a nice detail. At the 6 position is the small-seconds subdial, which has a very simple design. Though it is not especially functional for telling the exact second it is a very pleasing design detail. The primary numerals of the watch, the hands and the small ring of dots all have heavy applications of lume. Overall, the B2 has a greater focus on aesthetic detailing that lends it to being a more stylized watch than the B16, sacrificing the tactical for a retro look.

Now, you can’t talk about a Lüm-Tec watch without talking about the lume, and both of these watches have healthy doses of their “MDV Technology”. This is some of the most potent lume I have ever seen, picking up juice from any ambient light and holding on to it for a longtime. In this department, both watches are equal, maintaining clarity and ease of use in the dark.

CASES

The cases of the Super Combat B2 and Combat B16 are identical in appearance when viewed from the front and side.  Both feature a coined external bezel, common to the vintage pilot watch aesthetic, large screw-down crown with Lum-Tec logo, and lugs that curve to a fine point, providing a comfortable contour and distinctively aggressive appearance.  But that’s where the similarities end and the unique character of each piece begin to shine.

The Super Combat B2’s case is constructed of titanium, and measures 45mm in diameter with 24mm lugs.  By constructing the B2 out of titanium, Lum-Tec has created a very light and wearable watch that shares all of the benefits of a larger timepiece.  This size, in addition to allowing for the requisite space to fit the larger ETA 6498-1 movement, provides the appropriate platform to display the B2’s beautiful dial.  On the rear of the case, you’ll also find an oversized 30mm display window showing the gorgeous decorated hand-wind ETA movement.  Both the rear and front displays feature sapphire crystal, with the front including a double-sided anti-reflective coating.

Amidst all of this beauty, the Super Combat B2’s gunmetal titanium carbide PVD hard coating manages to not only perfectly complement the aestheticized charm of the watch, it also stands out on its own merits.   The PVD coating is even, smooth and very rich in color.  It certainly stands out amidst the crowd of matte PVD treatments that we’ve seen.  Simultaneously, the softer grey coloration balances well with the black dial, soft rounded numerals and splash of red coloration on the dial text and small second hand.

Moving onto the Combat B16, you can really sum its case up in one word, stealth.  Constructed of bead-blasted stainless steel, and measuring 43mm in diameter with 22mm lugs, the B16 appears far smaller in person (especially next to the Super Combat B2).  This is due in great part to the case’s beautiful black titanium carbide PVD hard coating.  It’s black as night, and fits perfectly with the B16’s utilitarian black dial, which sits under the same sapphire crystal with double-sided anti-reflective coating found on the B2.  Turning to the rear of the case, you’ll find a display window that is appropriately smaller than that found on the B2.  The B16’s high-end Miyota automatic movement is certainly attractive, and I’m very happy that it’s visible on the B16, but a more austere window would be inappropriate in this situation.

I think it’s also worth noting the water resistance of the B2 and B16, which measures 100 meters and 200 meters respectively.  Neither are sea-dwellers so to speak, but I think it’s interesting that the more rugged, utilitarian B16 is a bit more capable in the water than the B2, especially given the fact that both watches feature basically the same case.

MOVEMENTS

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Combat B16 and Super Combat B2 lies within, at the very core of the two watches. Obviously, I am talking about the movements powering the watches, but the differences run deeper than just the brands and the technical details. The movements themselves serve as DNA for the differing personalities of the watches. On one hand you have an automatic watch that beckons to be used in active situations and strives for rugged terrain. On the other you have a hand wound weekend warrior, a watch that is tougher than average, but still comes across as refined.

The ever-more-popular Miyota 9015 24 jewel automatic movement, Miyota’s answer to the ETA 2824-2, powers the Combat B16. Boasting similar specs to the ETA, such as 28,800 BPH, 40+ hour power reserve and hacking seconds, the 9015 is meant as a workhorse movement and is right at home in Combat watch. Taking a peek into the display case back of the B16, you can actually see that the movement has some unexpected, but very welcome, decoration in the form of Geneva Stripes. The 9015 seems like a natural fit for the Combat line, the 3-hand movement lacks pretention, the accuracy is said to be good and the hacking seconds refers to a military lineage the watch is clearly born from. Most importantly, the automatic winding lends itself to being active. Sure, automatic movements are not relegated solely to active-lifestyle watches, but there are some important effects of having an automatic that benefit one. For example, a screwdown crown plus an automatic movement helps to ensure water resistance, hence why most divers are autos. I mean, imagine being underwater and your watch stopped. You most certainly can’t wind it. Considering the potency of the Lüm-Tec lume and the B16’s 200m water resistance, I think that this is a watch that welcomes some submersion.

Conversely, an ETA Unitas 6498-1 17 jewel hand wound movement powers the Super Combat B2. This former pocket watch movement features 18,000 BPH, small-seconds at 6, blued screws, polished gears and Geneva Stripes. The B2 has a very large display back that shows off the undeniable beauty of the 6498-1, which is a mix of decoration and the fact that everything is so large and clear. It’s like a living macro of a watch movement. And here the difference in personality is already becoming clear. Though the 9015 is visible, and is more decorated than anticipated, it is the Swiss made Unitas that beckons to be looked at. Basically, it is utility versus aesthetics. The greatest difference, however, is in the hand winding.

I’ll be honest, within the first day or two of wearing the B2 it died on my wrist. When I looked to check the time my heart sank, as for an instant I thought the worst. Then I immediately realized I just had not wound it since the other morning. The reason I forgot though is because the aggressive and sporty aesthetic of the Combat series made me think it was an auto. I mean, the act of winding a watch is almost delicate, yet the rugged exterior and military styling just doesn’t mesh with “delicate”. This is further emphasized by the screwdown crown, which acts almost as a barrier to winding. That all being said, once I got used to it, I didn’t care anymore. Winding the watch became a ritual I enjoy as it forces engagement on a level beyond just reading the time.  But I think the conceptual difference this makes between the B16 and B2 is very clear. The B16 is a sport model that self-perpetuates; the B2 is a sport-styled watch with aspirations of refinement that requires some care. It doesn’t make one better than the other, far from it, but it does make the experience of wearing them

STRAPS

Both the Super Combat B2 and Combat B16 come with three straps each, including one green NATO, one black NATO and one signature strap.  The NATO’s that are included with the Super Combat line are of the highest quality.  The nylon used is thick, tightly woven and built to last.  In our time with these straps, we’ve noticed no stretching or fraying of the buckle holes.  The strap hardware is steel and features the same titanium carbide PVD coating found on the watch cases.  You’ll also notice that these straps feature stitch construction, rather than heat-sealed.  This makes for a more precise, durable and quality feel.  These are great NATO straps, and fortunately for all of us, they are available from Lum-Tec separately for $39.50.

The Super Combat B2’s signature strap is a water resistant black leather pilot style strap that features grey stitching, PVD hardware (rivets and buckle) and a tapered design.  The construction of the strap feels very solid and aesthetically it fits perfectly with the B2.  The grey stitching matches the gunmetal PVD coating quite well, and the black leather is even and rich in appearance.  Unfortunately, we found wearing this strap to be rather unpleasant, as the PVD rivets that sit close to the watch case when worn, prevent the piece from wearing flush to your wrist.  They make the portion of the strap closest to the case unbendable, and rather awkward to wear.  For those interested, this strap is available from Lum-Tec for $44.95.

The B16 on the other hand, comes with an anti-static molded rubber strap that is certainly the most comfortable rubber strap I’ve worn.  The majority of the strap is rather flexible as you’d expect, but at the portion of the strap that connects to the watch case the rubber is rather hard and molded to the contours of your wrist.  This makes for an outstandingly comfortable wear.  The strap also features PVD hardware and Lum-Tec’s logo along the exterior.  It is exclusive to the Combat B line, so it will unfortunately do you no good with another watch.  For those of you with a compatible Combat B series watch who are in the market, the molded rubber strap is available from Lum-Tec for $49.95.

WEAR

Both the Super Combat B2 and Combat B16 wear quite nicely.  The B16 is certainly large, so for those of you with smaller wrists, this may be a concern.  However, given its titanium construction, it feels lighter that most other watches of this size.  It’s more fashion oriented aesthetic makes it the perfect watch to wear to work or out at night.  The B16, fits nicely on wrists both large and small when worn with either the molded rubber strap or nylon NATOs.  Given its stealthy, utilitarian appearance, it is best suited for a more casual work environment, and is more than at home on the weekends.  Frankly, both of these watches are so attractive, you’ll probably want to wear them all the time, and we’re fine with that.

CONCLUSION

When Chris Wiegand, Lum-Tec’s President, suggested worn&wound do a side-by-side review of the Super Combat B2 and Combat B16, we were of course excited to have not one but two unique pieces in for review from a company we already had a lot of admiration for.  Zach’s experience of the M33 gave us a glimpse of the company’s quality work.  We also had a lot of questions that we were eager to discover the answers to.  Is the B16 worth its nearly $1,000 price tag?   Would the hand-wind movement of the B2 make any sense in its sporty body?  How different can these watches really be, having come from the same line with such seemingly similar looks?

Having spent significant time with two of Lum-Tec’s top-of-the-line timepieces, all of our questions have been answered.  The B16, with its drop dead gorgeous and super stealthy appearance sucks you in and won’t let go.  The Miyota 9015 movement is a workhorse with a kick of luster, matching well with the B16’s utilitarian aesthetic.  $925 may hit the ceiling of what makes sense for this watch, but once you have a B16 in your hands, you may be able to let it go.

The Super Combat B2 on the other hand brings elements of refinement and style that far exceed your expectations, and the inclusion of a hand-wind movement only further its classic aesthetic.  The ETA Unitas 6498-1 is gorgeous, the dial is well orchestrated, and the titanium case makes the B2 all too easy to wear.  This is a truly unique watch, probably unlike anything else in your collection.  For these reasons the B2’s $1,295 list price fits just fine.

Taking a look at the Super Combat B16 and B2 side by side has helped to highlight the truly distinctive personalities of the two pieces.  Born out of the same line, and both sharing high marks for quality design and construction, the B16 and B2 distinguish themselves.  If you’re in the market for a unique and refined pilot to stand out from the rest, the Super Combat B2 may be for you, but if rugged stealth is more your style, you can’t miss with the Combat B16.

Thanks to Lum-Tec for providing these two timepieces for review. 

by Zach Weiss & Blake Malin

  • Jeff

    Thank you for the great review. I am considering a B2 to add to my current Lüm Tec collection.

    I do want to point out that the “wear” section of the review has the 2 models reversed. I thought you may want to edit the article.

    Thank you,
    Jeff

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Thanks Jeff…all of those B16′s and B2′s became a blur in editing…so thanks a lot for pointing that out.

      -Zach

  • george

    http://www.steinhartwatches.de/en/AVIATION-stainless-steel-black,122.html

    Steinhart decorated unitas watch is 600$. How is Lumtec at $1300 , 2times the watch? Lumtec is way overpriced!

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Hey George

      While the steinhart is an amazing price, I don’t think the Lum-Tec is “over priced”. There are many factors that go into the cost of a watch that are invisible, and in both cases you are getting watches worth vastly more than what they cost. Frankly, at a certain point you just have to consider whether a watch is right for you. The uniqueness of the B2, accompanied by the lightweight titanium case, gunmetal PVD and great build quality make it an excellent watch…not to mention the lifetime adjustments. Sure, the 1300 price tag is steep, no doubt, but you are not getting ripped off since you are getting a good product. It’s important to consider also that the Steinharts are SOOO cheap that they are an anomaly, and almost unfair to compare against…I have one, and it is great, but I really wonder how they can get away with that price.

      -Zach

      • george

        hey zach, thx for the reply. i think i owe u an apology for not firstly complimenting you on the excellent job u’ve done on these reviews, not just lumtecs, but the rest on this site. Wonderful photos to boot i must add, u must have put a lot of effort into them. :)
        As for lumtec vs steinhart, i agree that steinhart is abnormally cheap and shouldn’t be a benchmark for anything. But lumtec at $1300 is $700 and 200% more expensive. Also i read on another site that all lumtec watch parts r sourced from china. so wat warranst those high prices? im not bashing lumtec, in fact i support any company that is american to keep jobs in the country. But i dont want to pay Luxury prices for walmart stuff.

        George

        http://www.hktdc.com/fair/exdetail/hkwatchfair-en/1X6ABM24/HKTDC-Hong-Kong-Watch-and-Clock-Fair/Matime-Manufacturers-Limited.htm

  • OhioHead

    I don’t own a LumTec or work for them.

    They are an Ohio based company and I would consider them a “boutique” manufacture of watches and pretty positive all of the watches are assembled in Ohio vs. elsewhere even though they may source parts across the Globe (have you ever priced a MKii?).

    Steinhart has more sales volume (purchasing power) then LumTec and that also affects pricing as we all know.

    Great review!

  • Matt

    Amazing photos, thanks! I want this now.

  • http://URL Steve

    I bought a B6 and within 4 months the crown broke :(

  • http://URL jason mirabello

    Has this web site ever reviewed a watch they didn’t like. This is the problem I have with this site. Every review is positive. I want real reviews that give real feedback . For example, this watch is nice but there are much better values out there..

    • http://URL David

      Why review things that aren’t worth buying?
      Generally the comments sort out suggestions for other watches also.
      If you need to be told what to buy, then negative reviews would just scare and confuse you.

  • https://www.facebook.com/emad.69 Emad

    any chance you know the lug to lug measurement on B16?

  • http://URL Alberto12

    Nice watches, but totally overpriced . Miyota $925 c’mon man!!! Even mkii is selling a watch with a ETA 2836-2 under $900.

    http://boutique.mkiiwatches.com/ProductDetail.jsp?LISTID=80000546-1337741365

    • http://URL Paul T.

      What exactly do you prefer about the ETA 2836-2 over the 9015?

    • http://URL Paul T.

      And MKII makes “homage” watches, so it’s not really fair to compare them to a brand that produces original designs. Not that there’s anything wrong with homages, but there’s nothing really cool about them either.

  • http://URL Name

    i see the B16 every single night :D

  • http://URL Name

    question man, howse the b16 seat on ur wrist, since were both havin a same wrist sz and were both like wear it a little lose

  • http://URL John

    I have a number of military watches, including a B16. It seems that the B16 is the least authentic looking and the most expensive. I also feel it is a smidge small. On the plus side the water resistance is good for this type of watch, the black coating is harder than most. The lume is good, but no better than many other military watches. The rubber band is nice, but somehow seems incongruous with the style. On the bad side, the Zulu straps are a bit too short and a bit stiff for my taste. The red writing on the dial seems out of place. For this price it should at least have an interesting rotor on the movement. The minute and second hands really should be longer. I think there’s a lot better value to be had out there, but it’s a good quality watch, and I enjoy having it in my collection.