Why did you choose the M17?
The first time I stumbled across Lum-tec’s website, I really liked the looks of the M-automatic watches. I’m a big fan of the clean, easy-to-read dials on Panerai watches and felt the M-automatics sort of resembled those. They both are uncluttered, save for date display, with easy to read numbers and hour/minute markers. I liked all of the M-automatics but only one really jumped at me. With it’s smooth black PVD coating and stealthy tinted sapphire, this dark and serious watch is ready for top secret business.
Judging by the pictures of the M17 online, there was something unique about this watch that I had never seen before. As a previous Combat B3 owner, I already knew the M17 would be a quality piece, but aside from the good Lum-tec service and excellent reputation - it just looked totally bad ass! I have never seen another watch, anywhere, as covert and stealthy as this. The black is very understated and not flashy (obviously), and doesn’t have the high gloss black finish other black watches have. While the tinted sapphire covering the face does cut down on visibility, it doesn’t interfere or make it hard to read. I’ve never been in a situation where I could not read the time because of the tint. I guesstimate it to reduce the visibility by 25%, roughly. Additionally, the sapphire has anti-reflective coating that does work and cuts down on all glare.
How did you get yours?
Unfortunately I discovered the Lum-tec Company long after the reserve opened and closed on most of their watches so there was no easy way of getting an M17. I witnessed a couple M16 and M18 watches come and go in the forums, and while I could have easily pounced on one of those, I would not be deterred! Like any good watch enthusiast, my due diligence paid off and I snagged one in used condition from a seller on one of the forums after months of searching and lessons in patience.
So tell me about the M-auto movement; is it accurate, is it durable, will it help me attract members of the opposite sex?
The M-automatics house a Slava movement. From everything I have read online about these, and from Lum-tec’s president himself, these are a very robust overbuilt movement designed for rugged use. From my couple weeks experience with the M17, the Slava movement is remarkably accurate. I’m not one for nit picking watches down to the granular level of “seconds per hour” accuracy, if I look at my watch to see if it’s 8:00 and time for American Idol to start, I don’t care if it’s 8:01 or 7:59 and 30 seconds – it’s close enough. But I know some people are, so for the sake of information I did a 4-day test where I synced my M17 up with time.gov the best I could (because the M-automatics do NOT hack) before I left for work at the start of the week and checked it periodically for 4 days.
Checking the accuracy through the day it would be as slow as -4 to -9 seconds. Resting the watch on the dresser while I slept usually got me those few seconds back and would somedays be +3 seconds fast after sitting face up for 7 hours during the night. I don’t think it was ever exactly ‘in time’ with time.gov after the first day. I really could not care less about this stuff, but it is interesting for some of you reading this, I’m sure. So for me, there were no wild accuracy variations, I can easily deal with +/- 10 seconds deviation here and there. At the end of my 4-day test, it was +4 seconds from where it all started. Verdict: Accurate!
I have only had the watch a couple weeks, but in my opinion the M17 seems built like a tank. This can be said for all the M-automatics, since they all basically share the same design only being separated by color differences. The watch case is very thick and robust, bracelet seems rock solid, the clasp is of high quality too. The lugs are thick, and although the bracelet is a real PITA to change, it is comfortable and easy to wear. Being a used watch, some of the PVD coating on the clasp had been scuffed but I do not know how this happened, or what the previous owner put it through.
The M-automatics are chunky watches. You really cannot get an idea of their heft until you feel one in person. You definitely will not ‘forget you are wearing it’ like some people say. They’re big (44mm), they’re heavy, and they’re ready to add definition to your biceps. This is not your grandfather’s thin, puny “vintage” watch. Girly men need not apply. Verdict: Durable!
So let’s be real, what don’t you like about the watch?
Well, nothing. It’s pretty much exactly what I figured in terms of look and appearance. It wears more comfortably that I expected a 44mm watch to wear, and is accurate enough for my standards. I am not a fan of the end links on the bracelet. There is zero tolerance for movement in those end links so changing bands/bracelets is going to be a problem for a lot of people. I couldn’t even get my bracelet back on after taking it off and had to send it to Lum-tec to have them do it. So I will not be decking the M17 out with different straps like I did with my B3. The bracelet is on to stay, for as long as I own it. The M-automatics come with a SS bracelet, a leather strap, and a rubber strap. All of which seem to be high quality, the rubber was especially soft and pliable.
The button at the 2 o’clock position is used for setting the date. You just push it in, and the date changes as the button is released. It is important to NOT do this between 10pm-2am as the watch is naturally doing it’s automatic date change inside. Doing so might jam things up and you will kick yourself for breaking it. Luckily Lum-tec will take care of you if you ask right. I would prefer a traditional crown date set, but it’s a minor complaint.
What about the fit and lume. Does it sit like a brick on your wrist? Does it glow like the pictures?
I took 2 or 3 links out to fit my 7.5” wrist and its fits comfortably. Like I said, for a 44mm watch that is this heavy, the contour of the watch + lugs really makes it enjoyable to wear and not at all a hassle. It’s slightly taller than the B3 but does not knock into things or become obtrusive.
The lume is nice, and lasts hours, but it just doesn’t glow as bright as my B3 – and it shouldn’t, due to the tinted sapphire crystal on the M17. I would imagine the other M-automatics with regular sapphire shine just as well as my B3 does. Keep in mind that most of the pictures you see online are "long" exposure, so naturally the lume glow will appear brighter as a result. There is plenty of lume on all the indicators and hands, you can see the texture if you look closely in the right light. So the lack of glow on the M17 is not due to the lack of lume, but rather the tinted crystal.
Let’s cut to the chase – should I buy it? Do you recommend it?
This will depend on your fondness for the tinted crystal. Either you like it, or, you think it cuts down on the visibility too much for your tastes. I have seen pictures online of someone who sent in their M17 and had a clear sapphire crystal put on and it didn’t look as good IMHO, but it’s all personal preference. As a whole, without question, I would recommend the M-automatics for someone looking for a unique, durable, manly watch. The Slava movement is a fun conversation piece, and while I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, I like the idea of wearing an older Russian movement restored right here in my home state of Ohio.
If you have been looking for an M17, keep holding out, and searching the forums for a used one. Your patience will be paid off with a great time piece that is supported by an even greater company. Good luck!