Usually, a variation on a watch we’ve already reviewed isn’t enough to warrant another article, but in the case of the Lüm-Tec Combat B19, we made an exception. Why? Well, we loved the Combat B16 and Super Combat B2 when we reviewed them a little over 2 years ago. They are big, brawny watches with military styling that are simply very appealing. They also achieve a surprising level of uniqueness between their dials and coin edged cases to stand out amongst other boutique sport watches. The B16 in particular left a bit of a hole in our hearts for a rugged PVD watch with simple, aggressive styling. If you haven’t yet, give that review a read as it gets into details that will be omitted for redundancy below.
When I became aware that Lüm-Tec was making a new solid bronze version of the combat, I was immediately excited by the idea. The recent uptick in bronze watches, from the beastly Ancon Tank to the subtle Archimede Pilot and lots in between, has made me, and lots of you, fans of the material. The warm, copper to yellow brass tones mixed with green/brown patinas has a very different presence from steel, one that is both stylish and rugged and a welcome addition to one’s collection. And since it’s a material that is predominantly used on tool divers (a few pilot watches now too), seeing it on the Combat’s early 20th century military/pilot case was a refreshing change.
Lüm-Tec Combat B19 Bronze
Movement: Miyota 9015
Lume: C3 Super Luminova
Strap: Leather + Nylon
Water Res.: 300m
Dimensions: 43 x 52mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 7 x 3 mm
And…In person, it makes a huge difference to the watch. What was once stealth now looks vintage or antique. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a very different overall personality for the watch. It’s warm and friendly, rather than menacing. It’s decorative and stylish rather than tactical and discreet. Simply put, the solid CuSn8 works well on the Combat case, especially on the coin edge bezel. As the slab sides have started to patina, they too have gained a lot of character.
There are two bronze Combats available, the B18 and B19, the difference being the dial color; one black, one olive. We went with the B19 as green and bronze make for a great combo with perhaps a touch more personality than black/bronze. For the dial layout, Lüm-Tec went back to perhaps the most iconic Combat dial they’ve made, that of the long sold-out and nearly impossible to find B2 (yes, I try…I love it!). Mixing the oversized 3, 6, 9 and 12 numerals of an aviator, with a more field-style design, the B2-dial is as legible as it is attractive.
My favorite thing about the design is actually the soft, rounded typeface chosen for the numerals. A surprising departure from the aggressive, hard-edged typefaces typically found on a watch this style; it adds an early-mid 20th century feel to it. This facet of the design is particularly emphasized by both the olive hue, which feels like it’s right out of WWII memorabilia, and the heavy lume application. Lüm-Tec lives up to its name once again on the B19, with some of the thickest lume I’ve seen on a dial. It actually looks hand painted on the large numerals, overlapping the edges of the numerals ever-so-slightly. Whether they intentionally altered the typeface for a more vintage look or it’s a side effect of the heavy lume, I don’t know, but I really like the effect. It also glows incredibly bright, picking up charge from even the slightest bit of sunlight.
The play between the matte olive surface and bronze case is great. They are both warm, but muted colors that balance well; neither detracting by being too deep or bright. As the bronze has patinated, acquiring mottled brown areas, the complimentary nature of the olive and bronze has increased. The C3 lume that Lüm-Tec liberally applies has a natural pea-green color that ties in with the dial and the case for a nice overall palette.
Lüm-Tec always accessorizes their watches with a bundle of straps to get you started, and the B19 is no exception. It comes with 1x olive green leather strap and 3x heavy duty nylon NATOs with bronze hardware. The leather strap, which is fitted with quick release spring bars, has an interesting style. It has two bronze rivets towards the lugs, bronze colored stitching and a bronze pre-v buckle for… a lot of bronze. While the style of the strap is cool and works with the watch, I would have rather something that complimented or contrasted the green rather than just more green. The B18 comes with a brown strap, that might have been nice, or simply black could have worked.
The three NATOs are an interesting group too, coming in olive green, black and white. The olive green makes sense, especially with the bronze hardware. Unlike the olive leather, which didn’t contrast enough, the nylon’s texture makes it stand apart. The black is classic and looks good too. White, however, I just don’t get at all. Frankly, I don’t get white NATOs period, but even less in this circumstance where it doesn’t match at all. A nice brown or khaki would have been a logical addition, or perhaps a navy blue could have been a more colorful option. Regardless, 4 straps, even if only 3 are wearable, is still a very nice package.
All said and done, I really like the Combat B19. With the right strap choice, I think this is a great, stylized version of the Combat that could easily be a daily-wear watch. The watch looks killer with black or blue jeans and brown shoes/boots with a casual shirt, imparting some nice additional colors, without standing out too much. If vintage military style interests you, the bronze trend has been calling your name and you like a chunky, but wearable watch, this is a great option.
At $1,095, the B19 is pushing the limits for a Miyota 9015 powered automatic, but is priced logically within the scheme of the Combat line. It is certainly a quality watch with great perks, like the solid CuSn8 case, the incredible lume and bundle of straps. Though the best perk is really lifetime timing adjustments care-of Lüm-Tec, which few brands offer. It’s also a limited edition of 250, adding some scarcity into the mix. That said, there are plenty of bronze watches, even ones with swiss movements that cost less, though value isn’t the only factor in choosing a watch.
by Zach Weiss