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Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military: Initial Impressions

Articles | 03.09.2012

When I woke up a couple of months ago with an image of the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military in my mind, I knew I was in trouble. Somehow, perhaps by subliminal messaging, the watch just got lodged in there. Now, I tried to rid myself of this obsession via my “A Submariner-esque Selection” article, in which I looked at a bunch of different Submariner homages, but it was only a bandage. It just kept coming back as a watch I NEEDED to buy…and it wasn’t just because I thought it really captured the right elements of the 5517 Mil-Sub, a $100,000+ dollar super-rare vintage watch. Or that a Mil-Sub on a NATO strap is a perfect combo. It wasn’t even the fact that at about $400 this watch on paper is about the best deal I’ve ever seen. It was because here at w&w, we’ve followed the work of Steinhart obsessively, yet we have never had one in hand. I’ve read countless reviews and stories on forums about these incredible cult watches that left me with an emptiness, a sort of watch-void, that only the OVM could fill. So I placed my order.

Now, I had read the WUS forum on Steinhart’s order processing and to summarize…patience is a virtue, though there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. So, I didn’t fret when I hadn’t heard anything in a little while. Then one day, a few weeks later, I got a FedEx tracking notice saying it was on its way. Great, I was super excited and expected a week or so more wait time. Well, much to my delight, it showed up the next day. And, my goodness, it took my breath away.

The Steinhart comes in a clean white box with silver lettering on the lid. Open that up and there is a dense, matte black leather box with silver lettering on top again, and a neat little flap closure. The inside of the box is very simple, no hidden compartments or extra pockets stuffed with paper work, just the watch nestled in a very well protected compartment.
The lid is lined with grey “egg-carton” foam, which seems very protective and has industrial looks that I find appealing. Ultimately, it’s packaging that serves a simple purpose, get the product to you in good condition and then let the product speak for itself.

And the OVM sure does speak for itself. Before even taking it out of the box, I could tell it was going to live up to my expectations. From the glimmer of the perfectly executed bezel insert to the pale orange of the “old radium” lume, the OVM is just genuinely gorgeous. Taking it in hand for the first time I immediately noticed the reassuring heft of the full steel construction, which was to be expected, and the very nice build quality of the bracelet. Then, with some level of uncertainty, I turned the bezel. There’s something about the feel of the click of a bezel that can really make or break a watch…it’s like a handshake, if it’s weak I immediately distrust it. Thankfully, the OVM delivered supremely in this detail. The bezel clicks with a tremendous snap and has a satisfying, but not frustrating amount of resistance.

Other details were equally as good, and I’ll delve deeper in the full review, but all in all the watch really delivered. Of course, I couldn’t wear it out of the box since I needed to resize the bracelet, but that was a cinch, since the sizing links are held in with screw-bars.  Putting on for the first time, I really liked the way the bracelet felt on my wrist, and it just looks great. The 42mm case is ideal, giving the watch an aggressive but still refined look. Ultimately, I didn’t buy the watch to wear it on a bracelet.. I am more of a NATO person, and the Mil-Sub is really intended for that look, but I am very glad to have a nice bracelet to put it on for the right occasion.

Stay tuned for the full review, where I’ll get deeper into the details of the watch, the Rolex 5517 it is based on, and how this beauty looks paired with some choice NATO straps.

by Zach Weiss

  • http://jamesenloe.com James E.

    Looks sharp. I’ve always been a fan of that model. Wonder what I can sell to pick one up. lol

  • John L

    This article peaked my interest on this watch and after some additional research pulled the trigger on one. Great homage to the Rolex Milsub! Thanks for the review!

  • Back

    Wonderful watch! Is that a ceramic bezel?

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      I think it is an aluminum bezel insert. They actually don’t list the material on the site, but I found this thread talking about steinhart bezels

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  • http://URL Fabrice

    Thanks for your excellent reviews. Your website helped me chose my next watch. I’m now the happy owner of a Steinhart Ocean 1 black with ceramic bezel insert. Very nice!