It’s not often that we’ll take a look at a watch twice. Or rather, two watches in one series. They just don’t usually offer enough difference to bother. Well… Lüm-Tec has consistently created cool new variations on their signature Combat line, a line of watches I personally just find really enjoyable. The first time they came across our desk, we took a look at two models, one an automatic in steel, the other a manual wound in titanium. I liked them both, a lot. Following that, they brought one out in bronze with a green dial. This was enough of a departure, in my eyes, from the previous two to warrant a new review… or maybe I just missed wearing one, not sure. That one was fun, with a very different feel from the previous models.
Well, in the last 6 months or so they’ve dropped a few more models, and started experimenting with some new materials that really interested me. Move over steel, titanium and bronze, and welcome the Combat B23 Carbon. The second watch we’ve seen out of “forged carbon”, or more simply a carbon composite, following the Tempest, the Combat seems like it was made for this material. A large watch by design, the light weight material takes the load off, literally, while the cool black and gray surface plays off of the tactical theme of the line. As to be expected, the B23 Carbon features Lüm-Tec’s MDV lume, a Miyota 9015, sapphire crystals front and back, is limited to 199 units and has a price tag of $925.
Lüm-Tec Combat B23 Carbon
Case: Carbon Composite and Titanium
Movement: Miyota 9015
Lens: Flat Sapphire Crystal
Strap: 22mm leather + Rubber
Water Resistance: 200m
Dimensions: 43mm X 52mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: Screw Down Crown
Warranty: 1 Year
The case of the Combat B23 Carbon keeps the same shape, size and design as its metal brothers. However, being made out of carbon composite over a titanium core, the watch has a unique mottled coloration and a remarkably lightweight. It measures 43 x 52 x 12.5mm with a flat sapphire crystal, making it a sizable watch, as all the Combats are, but with decent proportions. I’ve always found these to be easy to wear for their size. The design is trusted and true. Simple, blunt and to the point. The signature coin edged bezel adds just enough ornamentation to give the watch a cool personality. In carbon, the bezel looks particularly cool and a bit more subtle.
By using carbon and titanium, they’ve cut down on the weight dramatically, now coming at 74g… just to put that in to perspective, a Maratac Mid on a leather strap comes in at about 84g, despite being much smaller, and the Combat Bronze came in around 104g, so around 25% heavier. It’s really light, which really makes the size tolerable and frankly makes the watch more practical. It’s a sport watch through and through, and since it boasts a 200m WR should/could be worn as such.
The texture, color and finishing of the carbon add to the look of the watch. It’s matte, and overall a charcoal gray. Looking in closer, you can see how the surface is covered in random spots of grays and blacks to make the final tone. Unlike the Tempest, the Combat doesn’t feature large swirls, but rather has a more uniform dappling of color. It does admittedly have a “plastic” look and a feel, but doesn’t seem cheap… I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder, but to me at least, the material clicks.
The large screw down crown at 3 is PVD titanium. They did a good job of matching the color here with a gun metal type coating rather than black or raw titanium. Since the core is titanium too, and there is threading, i imagine the carbon wouldn’t have the right tolerances. Flipping the watch over, there is a titanium case back as well, with a sapphire display window. Inside you can see the Miyota 9015 movement, which has not been customized in any way. A smoked sapphire crystal could have been cool here. Using titanium on the case back obviously helps keep the weight down while also providing a hypo-allergenic surface, for those who need such a thing.
The dial of the B23 is actually the same as the one on the B19 Bronze, but in black rather than olive. I love the layout of this dial and was happy to see it again. It’s pleasantly vintage feeling, thanks to the sort-of hand painted looking numerals with their big soft curves, but not so much as to feel like a throwback. Rather, it comes across as this cool, almost Americana military dial. Blunt, brash and fun. Also, incredibly legible day and night thanks to Lüm-Tec’s always stellar MDV lume application.
The primary index consist of numerals in said rounded typeface, getting larger at 12, 3,6 and 9. Next to each number is a lumed dot as well, creating extra emphasis. Encircling the dial is then a minute/second index consisting of small numerals and hash marks in white. This adds some precision to the dial, and a slightly more modern edge, while not detracting from the big, bold numerals. There is also the B24 model, which has a much more modern layout, with larger and fully lumed markers per minute and a primary index for minutes/seconds rather than hours.
The matte black surface and pale green numbers work well together, as one would expect, but also look great against the carbon case, creating a palette of faded tones. I was glad to see that they kept the dial simple here. I know in the past they have had carbon fiber dials and the like, but that would have been overkill.
Straps and Wearability
The B23 Carbon comes mounted to a 22mm charcoal gray nubuck strap. It’s straight cut and features black stitching, 2 black rivets per side for a vintage pilot feel, quick release spring bars and a gun metal pre-v buckle. I’ve had mixed feelings about some of Lüm-Tec’s straps before, but this one works for me, and more importantly for the watch. The charcoal nubuck works with the carbon composite really well, playing off of the faded tones once again.
On the wrist, it’s the best wearing Combat B I’ve tried so far. The size is the same, which is big but tolerable, but the weight is so different. This just makes it easier to wear, especially on a hot summer’s day, which was when I did the bulk of my wearing of the B23. You just don’t notice it, which is remarkable for a mechanical watch this size. If anything, you’ll notice the leather strap before you notice the watch itself.
Aesthetically, once again, it works really well. It’s like the classic PVD Combats, but more textured; almost patinated. The result is a yet more rugged version of this already manly watch. Not really one for the office, I’d wear this mostly with heavier materials; denim, leather, canvas, etc. As noted, it’s also a good outdoors, sports watch. Throw it on some nylon with a t-shirt shorts and some sneakers and head out.
Is third time the charm? Yes, especially when times one and two were successes as well. With the Combat B23 Carbon, Lüm-Tec added a great option to their already successful line. For those interested in alternative case materials, those looking for a lightweight watch, this is a smart and simply cool looking option. While it’s admittedly not revolutionary, and if I already owned another Combat it might not be different enough to pick up, for new customers it offers something even more unique.
At $925, I know people will complain about the pricing, but it’s in line with Lüm-Tec’s other watches and frankly seems justified. I know, I know, but it’s a Miyota 9015! Well… there’s more to the price of a watch than simply what the lowest priced watch with the same components once cost. And in regards to the materials at hand, namely the carbon, it’s hard to say what the material was worth. Either way, in fairly low quantity, and with the combination construction of carbon and titanium, I’d image it’s at least as much as their standard case price. Throw in the sapphires, great lume, tuned movement, lifetime timing adjustments (something few if any other brands do) and it doesn’t seem outlandish, though it’s obviously not cheap. Either way, if it’s a watch that interests you, and the price is within your budget, you’ll enjoy the watch.