Where do I even begin to discuss the M33? When I first saw the Lüm-Tec M33, lurking in a watch forum somewhere, I immediately knew that I had discovered something special. When browsing watch sites and forums one tends to see similar trends played out in only a handful of ways, but the M33 really stood out as a unique take on the phantom watch. At the time, I had not heard of Lüm-Tec, and upon surface digging about the brand, I was amazed at what I saw. A small and relatively young Ohio based brand dedicated to affordable and unique limited edition watches built with the highest standards. A brand that posts designs on forums, takes feedback directly from consumers, and tweaks their designs accordingly. A watch brand that, in ways, embodies what we here at W&W believe watches are about: style, quality and value. So, I knew this was a watch I needed to add to my collection.
Case: 316L Stainless Steel with Titanium Carbide dark charcoal PVD hard coating
Movement: Miyota OS20 Quartz Chronograph w/ date and 24hr dial
Dial: Matte charcoal gray w/ black index and MDV Lume
Lens: Double sided AR sapphire
Case Back: screwdown 316L Stainless steel
Strap: Black Genunine leather, Black rubber and PVD 316L Steel
Water Res.: 10atm (100m/330ft)
Crown: Screwdown with double diamond sealing system
Lug Width: 24mm
Warranty: 1 year limited warranty, lifetime battery replacement
Even before you see the watch, the M33 leaves a lasting impression. First, there is the presentation of the boxes. The M33 arrives in a nice, clean branded white cardboard box that is simply the gift-wrapping for the black leather presentation box inside. Upon opening the presentation box you are presented with your watch as well as various documents: a hand filled-in international warranty card, the CEO’s business card, the owner’s manual and a sort of birth certificate. On either side of your watch are two compartments, which store the two alternate bands that are part of the package. To be honest… this was the first time I had received a watch from a brand that went to such extents, and it really gives the watch extra personalized charm. As a small apartment dweller, I try not to hold on to packaging, but the presentation case for the M33 is not only useful for storing all of its extras, it feels like it is part of the watch.
But enough about presentation and on to the watch! The first thing I noticed about the M33, and everyone else who has picked it up has noticed too, was its weight; it is deceptively heavily, but in a good way. The screw-down crown is 8mm in diameter, has a very nice ridged texture, and very smooth threading action, adding to the sturdiness of the body. The chrono pushers are stiff and take a proper amount of force to engage, which they do so with a satisfying click. The all-stainless body, the shape of which closely resembles the style of a certain luxury Italian brands save a few details, is coated with the darkest matte PVD I have seen and is genuinely a solid piece of metal. Basically, the watch feels like it is absolutely solid; drop proof, perhaps bullet proof (do not test that theory, thanks).
And then there is the face. Underneath an anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal is genuinely the most interesting phantom watch face I have seen. Unlike most brands that attempt a phantom by just making everything black, Lum-Tec went for a more intelligent combination of matte charcoal gray, matte black and their oh-so-vibrant MDV lume. What you get is a face that is dark and stealthy but very easily readable in any light condition. The numerals, which are in a font is reminiscent of the Blade Runner poster, and index markings are super crisp black that stand off of the gray face in normal to mid light. The date wheel, which white text on a black surface, is displayed through a small hole between the 4 and 5 positions. I happen to really like this simple style of showing the date; it is effective without disrupting the face. The sub-dials are stamped circles with a texture of fine concentric circles, which breaks up the otherwise flat gray nicely.
The hour and minute hands are lumed outlines of “roman swords”; they are extremely cool looking. During the day the slightly yellow color of the lume makes them pop off of the face, and at night they seem almost ethereal, like holograms projecting from the center axis of the watch. The hands of the three sub-dials are small, stout, coated in lume and glow nicely as well. The detail, however, that really draws my attention whenever I look at the face, is the seemingly simple lume markers at the twelve hour positions. Head on they might seem like flat dots, nothing special, but that is wrong. These markers are actually half-spheres that stand off of the surface. The dimensionality of these dots makes them project light more effectively as they are viewable from many angles. They are also just really neat looking and a detail I have not seen before that reminds me of a heli-pad at night.
What is so cool about M33’s use of MDV lume, which is a proprietary 8-layer application of superluminova, is that watch seems to have two faces in one: a day face and a night face. The day face is all business in a dark pallet. The information is extremely clear and readable at a glance. At night, the numbers and index markings fade away and the watch becomes this abstract tract of glowing orbs and hands. Though still easy to read, the watch becomes infinitely more mysterious and intriguing when the face drops away and all that is left are the glowing outer markings, the sub-dial hands and the ultra-thin outlines of the minute and hour hands.
The M33 also comes with 3 straps standard for its 24mm lugs. 3! As someone who is rarely satisfied with the straps that come stock with watches, and changes the straps on his watches very regularly to suit different moods, I was very excited about this.
First, there is the leather strap. It is a 4mm thick black leather strap with gray stitching that is 24mm at the lug and about 20mmat the tip. It has a black PVD buckle branded with the Lum-Tec logo. The strap is very nice looking and compliments the look of the watch well, but, despite being genuine leather, it does have a slightly plastic feeling to it. Regardless, it is very wearable and lends a slightly more fashionable presence to the watch.
Second, is the anti-static molded rubber strap. The strap is matte black and has a nice beveled design to it. It also has fairly large Lum-Tec logos running down the center of each side, and the same PVD buckle that is on the leather strap. Though I am not usually a rubber strap person, this has quickly become my favorite strap for this watch. The deep matte black of the rubber really adds to the density of the face and body and seems to tie everything together. It also very light weight and comfortable; definitely the right choice for hot weather and use in an active setting.
Last is the 24mm 316L stainless bracelet. Make no mistakes about it; this thing is a piece of body armor. Made from no-nonsense rectangular links that are nearly 4mm thick, and coated in PVD to match the body, the metal bracelet is as sturdy and heavy as the body itself and adds a distinct “bad-assness” to the watch. The weight this adds to the watch is really quite striking, even after removing 4 links, the strap and body together weighed nearly half a pound. That is a lot of metal to have on your wrist. The bracelet closes with a good quality deployment clasp that also has the Lum-Tec logo on it.
Also, as a bonus, I tried my 24mm Gray Maratac 4 PVD buckle Zulu with the M33 and it looks really cool as well. The shiny gray nylon makes the black of the PVD seem darker, and all of the bulk of the strap gives the whole thing a very masculine feel (not that there is any shortage of masculinity in this watch).
The M33 is powered by the Miyota OS20 movement, which Lum-Tec refers to as “heavy-duty” in their literature. Some people moan about quartz vs mechanical an awful lot, but I am of the camp that thinks that there is a time place for both. This is a perfect place for a quartz movement. This is a rugged watch that beckons to be taken with you on an excursion, and as such, needs to be able to take a smack or two. Mechanical movements, though more “charming” what with their spring driven hearts, add artistry to a watch, but also add preciousness that doesn’t always belong.
Furthermore, the amount of functions of the OS20 adds value to the watch beyond time keeping. The OS20 is a chronograph with date and 24hr functions. That is 3 substantial complications in an inexpensive and reliable package. And if battery changing concerns you, Lüm-Tec has you covered with lifetime battery changes.
Wearing the M33 is deeply gratifying in many ways. At 44mm by 12mm, the body is big but slender, making it comfortable to wear for long periods. The weight of it lets you know it is there and that you have a real watch on, but doesn’t get tiresome. The face is mysterious and fascinating; great to ogle when bored at a train station, or your work desk, and certainly gets marveled at when it is noticed by people around you. The variety of straps that are shipped with it allows you to vary the watch for your needs and tastes, and really adds a lot of value to the watch. Regardless, the watch will look great with all sorts of straps; after all, black does go with everything. Most of all, the M33 is simply great looking, and I found that it pairs well with just about anything I put on.
So, in case it isn’t clear, I think the M33 is a fantastic watch and I certainly recommend it. At $475 it really is an amazing value considering it has 3 straps, a sapphire crystal, lifetime battery changes, is built like a tank and is a limited edition. My experience thus far would suggest that Lüm-Tec watches are worth every penny…in fact, they seem to be worth far more than what you pay. As a side note, I contacted Lüm-Tec with some questions and literally 3 minutes later I got a very friendly email from Chris Wiegand, the CEO, addressing my questions. Customer service like that is rare and tells you that this is a company that really cares about their products and stands behind them.
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