Hands-On with the Glycine Airman Base 22 Mystery

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Last year, Invicta acquired Glycine and the question on most people’s mind was, “what will become of the brand?” The most apparent fallout of this acquisition appears to be a liquidation of inventory, with many references appearing on multiple discount retailers and group-buy websites during the 2016 Black Friday rush. There were cuts across the board, including on Glycine’s popular Combat series and numerous Airman models. Though I had never considered the brand at full retail, I couldn’t pass up trying one at such a deep discount. I ended up getting myself a Glycine Airman Base 22 Mystery, a “murdered-out” take on the iconic Airman template. The Airman has a rich history. The first design was introduced in 1953 with a set of features geared toward the needs of pilots. It was powered by a Felsa 692 caliber driving a 24-hour hand and featured a 24-hour rotating bezel for tracking an additional timezone. In 1955, the Airman appeared in front of an international audience at Basel in the form that would become iconic (black dial, arrow hand) for the brand. The utility of tracking multiple time-zones caught on with newly minted jet-setters, too (Rolex, by the way, released its GMT Master in ’54). This core design has since informed subsequent iterations and has been a constant for Glycine to this very day.

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$2350

Hands-On with the Glycine Airman Base 22 Mystery

Case
Stainless steel PVD
Movement
ETA 2893-2
Dial
Matte black
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire with A/R
Strap
Nylon mil-srap
Water Resistance
200 meters
Dimensions
42mm x 51mm
Thickness
10.9mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screwdown
Warranty
Yes
Price
$2350

The Base 22 model was introduced in 2010. As the name suggests, it’s the 22nd iteration of the design, and a more modern interpretation at that. The Mystery model, ref. 3887, was introduced two years later in 2012. While I often opt for the more “pure” and faithful reproduction of classic watches, I decided to go with this blacked-out example to broaden my collection a bit. For those who want a more traditional Airman variant, Glycine offers those models, too.

It’s worth noting that there is a difference between the GMT models and what Glycine calls their “Purist” series. The former supports three time zones; the latter two. The GMT works like a 12-hour watch with an added GMT complication whereas the Purist behaves like a 24-hour watch. Both utilize an ETA 2893-2 movement. For the Purist, Glycine omits the GMT hand and puts the hour hand in its place, creating a “purist” 24-hour rotation like the original.

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The second crown at four serves as a lock for the bezel–a low-tech hack from the ’50s.

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For the Purist models, everything makes sense in terms of the dial, indices, and bezel design as the watch only supports two time zones, whereas the GMT models require some acclimation to intuitively grasp tracking all three time zones. With the latter, the second time zone measurement is handled by rotating the bezel, and incrementing the GMT hand independently measures the third time zone. The GMT is comparable to the Rolex GMT II with the third time zone feature. The Purist would be the equivalent of an original Rolex GMT.

For casual wearers, the Glycine Mystery GMT can be disorienting as the bezel and the outer hours index are in 24-hour increments, but the hours hand advances via a 12-hour scale. Stick hash marks are used to tell the normal standard 12-hour time, so you’ll be using those to track the local time. At three o’clock, for example, the hour hand will point toward the six on the bezel and outer hours indices. In this example, the GMT hand will point to the correct 15-Hour indicator at default. If you set the GMT hand independently, you’ll need to do some mental gymnastics to track that third timezone. But to use this as a simple three-handed timekeeper, you simply ignore the Arabic numbers for anything except the red GMT hand to measure the hour. There is no denying that the dial is busy, but the design works for me. The original Airman watches were just as cluttered; it simply takes some time to get familiar with the layout.

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The case dimensions are more suited for modern tastes at 42mm versus the 36mm of the historical models. I like the way the up-sized case wears on my 7.5-inch wrist, which is also a bit flat at the top, so I have no issue with the 51mm lug-to-lug length. The case has an attractive mix of finishing, with brushed areas along the tops of the lugs and bezel, and polished surfaces along the sides. The primary crown at three is a signed screw-down type, and the crown at four is actually a lock for the bezel that, when screwed down, keeps the bezel in place with a serrated plate. The tinted case back glass is in line with the overall phantom aesthetic of the watch.

The watch comes paired with a Glycine mil-strap. Strap changes are a snap with the drilled lugs.

Unlike some of the other Phantom watches out there, Glycine produced a watch with desirable results. There are various tonalities of gray and the single red GMT hand is a nice contrasting accent. Often, I see phantom watches that are simply all shades of black with no contrasting elements. An example of this is the Omega Dark Side of the Moon “Black Black.” Yes, the double “Black” on the Omega is not a misprint as it takes the concept to the extreme. By contrast, some phantom watches have white hands and markers, which negate the purpose. The Glycine Mystery takes a much more balanced approach.

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If I had to nitpick, Glycine should have used a grey color for the printing on the date wheel to better match the rest of the dial, though the white on black still works. Another downside is the luminosity. The phantom effect requires black luminous material, which doesn’t glow as bright or as long as other types of Super-LumiNova.

Glycine calls their rebadged ETA 2893-2 caliber the GL 293. It is a 28,800-bph, 21-jewel movement with a 42-hour power reserve. The caliber features a rhodium-plated oscillating weight decorated with “Côtes de Genève ” and an engraving of an airplane. The 2893-2 is one of the premium workhorse calibers from Swatch Group. This movement was found in the 1990s Omega Seamster GMT and the inclusion of this caliber played heavily into my purchase consideration. Other watches in this price range often run Sellita SW200s or ETA 2824s.

Overall, I really like this watch and it’s definitely a quirky one. As a long time GMT wearer, I had no problems transitioning to this somewhat unusual set-up. However, I can see how uninitiated, casual wearers might have issues with the layout. My only concern for long-term ownership is the wear on the PVD coating. Time will only tell if the PVD coating rubs off. Furthermore, the fate of Glycine under Invicta ownership is still unclear. But for those who want good deals on Glycine watches, the time to get one is now. I cannot say I would have considered these at retail, but at their current going rate, any variation of the Airman Base 22 is a great value. Glycine

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As a collector who splurged during the glorious dotcom 1.0 days, Hung acquired a sizable collection of Swiss watches. Now married with two kids and a mortgage, his watch tastes and pursuits are more down-to-earth. His other interests involve design history, technology, and collecting Star Wars Action figures. He brings a seasoned perspective to the Worn & Wound team. Hung grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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