Company: Gruppo Gamma
Mk IV Vanguard
Date, hours, minutes, seconds, elapsed time
Stainless steel, brushed
Diameter 42 mm excluding crown and lugs, length 50 mm lug-to-lug, thickness 14 mm excluding 1.5 mm crystal height, lug width 22 mm
Seiko Instruments NH35A (4R35)
140 g with strap
20 ATM/ 200 m/ 660 ft
It is often hard to change things up when you have something that you know has worked in the past with success. Pondering things, you have to ask yourself “do I keep with the formula that I know has worked or do I try something different, venture out knowing it can either be a hit or a miss?” Think about all the people throughout history that decided to take that chance. Some created something completely different and others took a chance to improve upon a good foundation. Change is definitely a good thing and so is taking chances. It’s really what life is all about if you want to get the most out of it. There is something commendable about when a person knows the risks involved but that doesn’t stop them from trying. That is what Naoki from Gruppo Gamma has done. Today we take a look at his risk that he most recently has taken, the Mk IV Vanguard.
The first thing that I took notice when handling the Mk IV was the case size. The dimensions of the brushed stainless steel case are 42 mm excluding crown and lugs, with a length of 50 mm lug-to-lug, thickness 14 mm excluding 1.5 mm crystal height, and finally a lug width 22 mm. You will definitely notice that it is smaller than the past GG offerings. The more compact Mk IV looks good. I was pleasantly surprised on how good a GG looks in 42mm. I admit, I was a little nervous when I heard that Naoki decided to go with a 42mm case. I’m initially pleased.
Something else that is a bit different on this GG model is the crown guards. There are two bolts on the crown guards and they aren’t just for decoration, these bolts actually hold the crown guards in place. This really adds to that tool watch feel, since you have something that is functional rather than just for decoration aesthetics. These crown guards job is to protect the screw down crown. Lining damn near perfect is the raised signed ‘Gamma IIII’. Not only is this crown easy to grip but it also operates smooth as butter.
The other thing that I was hesitant about this watch when I first heard about its potential specs is the bezel. Upfront it’s a 120-click unidirectional rotatable bezel, stainless steel. I was ok with that, but then I heard it was coming with PVD-treated insert, plain no markings on it except for a C3 luminescent pip/faux pearl. I really imagined that it would make the Mk IV way too sterile, but I am actually surprised how nice it looks in person. It really adds a unique look to the MkIV and creates a nice border for the dial. The 120 unidirectional magic of this bezel is addictive to rotate and sounds like heaven to the ears. It is a little tricky at first to get the feel for rotating the bezel, but once you figure out your finger placement technique it’s smooth & easy. How can it get any better? How about adding the fact that it lines up perfectly with the dial. Yep, it just got better.
The brushed stainless steel sides of the bezel are always a personal favorite of mine on GG watches because they add a touch of tool/rugged styling. This little detail is achieved by the flathead screws that are found around the edges of the bezel located at 2, 6, 10. The drilled lugs are nicely angled allowing the MkIV to sit comfortably on the wrist with virtually no overhang. No big or bulky lugs here, just some proportionate thin lugs that look great on this watch. The strap is held in place by screw bars, my personal preferred way to hold a strap on a watch.
A first for me on a GG watch is the exhibition case back which is a combination of stainless and sapphire crystal. This allows you to see the Seiko Instruments NH35A (4R35), that beats at 21600 per hour and has 24 jewels. The rotor is bi-directional winding or it can be hand-windable, which can be done by unscrewing the crown and rotating it while in the first position. The accuracy of the NH35A runs between -25 to +35 s/ day, and has a power reserve of 40 hrs. So far during my review this particular MkIV is keeping +9 seconds per day. The rotor is signed and decorated with Côtes de Genève aka Geneva stripes. What I think would have made for a killer detail is if the Gruppo Gamma skull logo was either engraved on the rotor or an actual cut out. This would push this from just another exhibition case back and push it to an awesome looking feature/detail.
The matte black dial is all about deception(hence the reason for the custom Decepticon strap). It wasn’t until Naoki clarified this little detail for me. I originally thought that the MkIV numerals were printed on the dial but I was wrong. The MkIV is actually a sandwich dial but what makes it different is that the numerals are filled with C3 luminescent goodness. Not only does this look amazing in the daylight, but it makes for flashlight bright glow at night. The lume on this watch glows like a champ. It actually casts glow onto the wall. The dial is actually referred to as a SuperSandwich Dial.
We already established that the hour markers on the MKIV are amazing, but a dial can be made or broke by the hand choice. Luckily Naoki is a master at what he does and the silver hands are perfect on this dial. The red second hand is perfection. Adding just the right amount of color on the matte black sea. The arrow head on the second hand has a lumed tip and the hour/minute hand are filled with lume. The hands are proportional to the dial. I appreciate the fact that the second and minute hand both reach the minutes/seconds track that borders this dial. The track itself is crisp white which matches perfectly the text on the dial which is found below the 12 and above the 6. ‘Gruppo Gamma’ ‘Vanguard’ ‘200M’. Simple, crisp, text. Neatly tucked away between the 4 & 5 o’clock markers is the date window. Maintaining a stealth like presence with its black wheel and white printed numeral, the date window steps back slowly and can disappear into the dial. Dial purest can even appreciate that.
Another first for me on a GG watch is a OEM canvas strap. I find myself anymore wearing my watches either on canvas or nylon. These are my preferred strap materials lately. The military green canvas is 70’s vintage goodness which is well made and very comfortable. The double layers of canvas are held together by green stitching. I am so glad the thread matches the strap, I think a white stitching would look cheap/tacky in the case of the MKIV. The strap has a large brushed steel buckle. The strap is a little stiff right out of the box, but will loosen up the more you wear it and it will also age nicely. I love when canvas starts to age and get that broken in look. Like you favorite pair of jeans, full of great memories, that’s what this strap is waiting for you to create.
That is what is so magical about watches, they are always there waiting to create memories with you. I can remember what watch I was wearing at different important times in my life. I also pick my watch for what activity I’m going to do. Some watches are just perfect to pick for some good weekend adventures. The MkIV is that watch that will go with you on some great adventures. Fear not, this watch will be able to keep up with you on land or in water thanks to its 200 meters of water resistance. It’s smaller rugged case design is perfect, 42mm and 140 grams won’t weigh you down. This watch is very comfortable.
So here is what I think is a hit on the MkIV: great universal size, the bolted crown guards, the SuperSandwich dial/lume, canvas strap and the price especially if you get in on the $399 preorder price. This watch has some of the strongest lume that I have seen on a watch, ever. It even has awesome day lume, for example when you come in from being outside and you see how bright/beautiful this watch is glowing even though the inside of the building is bright.
Speaking of price, what I have learned from my experiences with watches is that price doesn’t make a watch. What makes a watch is the vision, the heart, the passion and the execution. This is the formula for making a great watch and Naoki is mastering this formula one watch at a time. Always moving forward, never losing sight of the past but with vision for the future. A sturdy foundation has been laid for the house of Gruppo Gamma and we have seen the first floor completed. Just when we thought we have seen it all, Naoki unveiled the the beginning of the second floor with the Dive Master, now the MkIV. I like the direction Naoki is taking Gruppo Gamma.
My nit picky ways have to mention a few things that I think would make this watch even better. I know that the exhibition is something new to this series so I can understand wanting to do something different, but like I mentioned before, add the GG skull logo to the rotor or printed on the underside of the glass. I’m just not wowed by seeing watch movements anymore, I’m spoiled and need something extra to make it special.
I always like to admire the watch on my wrist by looking at it from different angles. The MkIV has so many different details that can be admired from all positions. Whether it’s from a side view to see the slightly domed sapphire crystal or looking straight down the crown side to admire the signed crown & crown guards, or just admiring the square shape of the case. The point I’m trying to make is the dial isn’t the only thing you should be staring at (even though the dial is killer) and I can guarantee you that you won’t just be staring at the dial because of all the fantastic little details that add up to the sum of a awesome tool watch. If you have been holding off from picking up a GG because of the case size, now is your chance to finally enjoy one at a 42mm size.
Thank you Naoki for this honor and opportunity to review this watch. Thank you all for reading, and as always comments/questions are welcome below.