If you like analog-digital watches, today's review might just make your day. This is the limited-edition Luminox SR-71 Blackbird, model #9052. Limited to 999 pieces, this seems to be their version of the Omega X-33. Let's start out with the specifications:
- 44mm across, 50mm at the widest point, 15mm thick.
- PVD-finished stainless steel case and bracelet.
- Bracelet is three-link, solid, with solid end links, fliplock, and 23mm lugs.
- Domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating.
- Inner dive bezel, operated by a screw-down crown at ten o'clock.
- Tritium tubes on hours, bezel, and hands.
- Reverse LCD display.
- In an interesting twist: it also has an electronic compass.
- Like the X-33, the caseback is a soundboard to increase the volume of the alarm.
- Also like the X-33, the crown is actually a push button; rotating it has no effect.
- 45 month battery.
- ISA quartz movement.
- Water resistant to 100m (330ft).
- Three time zones, countdown timer, alarm, stopwatch, and my favorite: seconds-only mode.
The Blackbird has some fascinating design decisions that I don't pretend to understand. For example, the inner bezel is set via the screw-down crown at ten o'clock; well and good. However, on your left wrist, it's quite tricky to operate, requiring removal. It's nice, but you probably won't use it much given that the watch has a digital stopwatch and countdown timer, anyway. The bezel does have a tritium marker, though, making it more useful at night.
Another oddity is the primary crown: as noted above, it's actually a button only, and unlike the bezel crown, it's not screwdown. I would have expected either a conventional button or a threaded crown. And lastly, there's no analog seconds hand. Seconds are displayed by a dedicated ring of segments on the outer edge of the display. It works, but I do miss the analog hand.
Here you can see the sounding board caseback design, very similar to the X-33. It's etched and inked with a very nice rendition of the SR-71 which, as an engineer and pilot myself, has always been one of my favorite planes. The alarm is good, though not as loud as the 80dB Omega. Luminox managed this compromise while still maintaining 100m water resistance, though, which is a good tradeoff and a strong point in their favor.
The face and dial are, in contrast to the Raptor just reviewed, quite sparse and understated. Stark white hands, minimal text and graphics, and a reverse LCD display; it all adds up to outstanding legibility. The sapphire crystal -- minimally domed with an inner camber and inner A/R coating -- also helps quite a bit. And, of course, at night the tritium tubes rock. Note, however, that the digital portion is not backlit, and therefore not useable in the dark.
The watch has some really unusual features you might enjoy like the compass, and the "week of year" and tachymeter modes. I like that you can select a display mode that suits you: time, full date (day/date/year/month), seconds only (very clean), time, second or third timezone, alarm or countdown timer. It's an extremely functional watch, and as with the X-33, the large curved segments are easy to read and use. The buttons and pushbutton crown are well-sized and spaced, and work fine even with gloves on; that's one advantage for the crown design.
Case and packaging are quite good; it comes in a very nice travel pack with padding and cleaning cloth that you can actually use as opposed to something you store on a shelf or discard. It also has internal pockets to hold the manual and warranty card -- another thoughtful touch.
The bracelet is good and fully PVD coated, including the inside bits of the clasp. It has snap closure, fliplock, four micro-adjustments, solid links with pins, and solid end links -- a good match for the watch, and with standard lugs on the case so you could try your own strap if you want. I suspect it would work well with a dark leather strap, as well.
ClaspOn the wrist, this is a fun watch to wear: substantial, but not massive, uniquely styled, and tremendously legible day or night. The sculpted bezel and profile mean that it's more cuff-friendly than you might expect which is one more thing to like about the design.
List price on the Blackbird is $1,500, consistent with Luminox's recent push into higher-end watches. For a watch that compares well to the X-33, that seems like a reasonable price, especially given the discounts usually available, and how much easier the Luminox will be to find.
If you like analog-digital watches as much as I do, this one is a clear winner: more waterproof than the X-33, tritium illumination, good alarm, tons of functions, cool inner bezel, cuff-friendly profile, and a clean, understated dial.
Our thanks to Luminox USA for the review loan.