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Stolas Harbormaster Gennaker Review

by The TimeSurfer for webWatchWorld.com

Summary:  Stolas is a new watch company and the Gennaker is one of three watches in the Harbormaster series. It is a stylish timepiece with dive watch specifications and a hacking, quick-set date movement. The Harbormaster Gennaker sailboat theme lends itself very nicely for boating, sailing or other watersports.

The Stolas Harbormaster. Click on a photo to start the Lightbox photo viewer.


Background

Stolas (or STØLÅS) is a new American wristwatch manufacturer, named for its owner, Curtis Stolaas.

The watches are currently assembled and tested in the U.S. and they feature parts sourced from around the world.

The Harbormaster line is the first series offered for sale by Stolas and the collection consists of three sailing-themed watches: the Harbormaster Genoa, Spinnaker and Gennaker.

For wristwatch collectors who aren't familiar with sailing terms, the Stolas Harbormaster wristwatches are named after three different sails used on racing and other types of sailboats.

Sailing is an apt theme for the Harbormaster series, as each of the watches has dive watch specifications but with more styling touches than are usually found in the average boutique dive watch at this price.

The company sums it up nicely by the design theory behind their watches. They say that "the watch would have to stand up to the strictest and most severe conditions the user may encounter..." but  "Not everyone spends a month at sea, climbs Mt. Everest or hikes across the desert so (the watch) would also need profound aesthetic appeal".

I think the design philosophy is captured in the Gennaker watch; it is a rugged, well-built timepiece with all of the features expected by divers and "desk divers" alike, but with a healthy dose of style that keeps it looking interesting during the rest of the time when the owner is not necessarily wearing scuba gear!

The Stolas Harbormaster Wristwatch Series

A Spinnaker, by the way, is a large additional sail sometimes used for sailing downwind. And a Gennaker is a relatively new type of sail that is a cross between a Genoa and a Spinnaker.

So what differentiates the three watches in the Stolas Harbormaster collection? The Genoa, named for the extra-larged size jib used on many racing sailboats, was designed by Stolas, made in Switzerland and has the classic ETA 2824-2 movement. It has an un-plated 316L stainless steel, 44 mm wide case.

The Harbormaster Spinnaker and Gennaker feature a 44 mm, 316L stainless steel case, but they are PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated in a gloss black.

The Spinnaker is apparently sold out; it had a carbon fiber dial and a distinctive blue lume, while the Gennaker is black and white.

When Stolas contacted me, asking if I'd like to review one of their new watches, I chose the Gennaker because of its unusual design and out-of-the-ordinary movement. I'll describe the movement (as much as I know about it) in the next section, but first let's take a look at the case and features of the Gennaker watch.

Click on a photo to start the Lightbox photo viewer.


Features of the Stolas Harbormaster Gennaker

I pulled out the dial calipers to check, and the Gennaker case is indeed 44.1 mm across. The case has a very nice shape with its slightly rounded sides; I like this shape better than many of the copycat slab-sided watch cases used on too many boutique brand dive watches lately.

The bezel is slightly larger than the case, measuring 45.52 mm across. The dimensions are just about perfect for this watch and I think all of the design features are very nicely proportioned. I wouldn't want the case to be any larger, at least for my somewhat shrinking 7-1/8" wrist.

This watch is 14.2 mm thick and it has a nice sapphire crystal that is just ever-so-slightly raised over the top of the bezel, by a couple of tenths of a millimeter. It weighs 125 grams exactly with the standard strap.

The lugs are nicely shaped and they have a square-ish profile that looks modern and is a nice contrast to the slightly round case sides. The lugs also are nicely proportioned and not too long, measuring 8 mm from the inside bottom at the case to the outer tip. This helps make the watch more wearable and it also doesn't leave a big gap when fitting the watch strap.

The screw-on case back of the Gennaker case appears to be very high quality, or at least higher quality than I've seen on other watches in this price range. The back is etched with the watch information, along with a profile of the U.S.S. Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. I'm not really sure what this has to do with the watch; perhaps it's the limited edition -- only 125 Stolas Harbormaster Gennaker wristwatches will be made, according to the company. This is number 73.

The etching is very nicely done; I'm not sure if it was done by a laser or not. The watch also has a Stolas Limited Edition plaque to the front of the crown, and this can be seen in the video below.

The crown is protected by guards on either side and it is signed with an etched "S" logo, and the buckle also has an etched "Stolas" name. Overall, I think the etching is very well done and the black PVD coating is very thick, highly glossy and looks great, once you get used to it. I will admit to a few doubts at first, as the Gennaker seemed possibly slightly over-styled, but the more I wore it, the better I liked it.

And I can also say that this is one of the few wristwatches that has received many compliments by passers-by. I'm always puzzled at how few people notice my wristwatches, but not this time!

There is one other feature that attracts a lot of attention -- the apparent trademark Stolas design cue, the lightning bolt seconds hand. It looks great in orange against the black carbon fiber face and again, many onlookers have commented positively about it.

By the way, the carbon fiber face is, of course, another very distinguishing feature of the Gennaker, and another reason I picked this particular model to review. It is very nicely done and, when combined with the beautiful gloss black PVD finish on this watch, gives it a sort of stealthy high-tech look.

Harbormaster Gennaker Bezel and Lume

The bezel and lume require their own section description in this review, and for good reason. The bezel is probably the only feature I might agree is a touch over-styled. The addition of the "wings" or "waves" that were molded in between the numbers do seem a bit unusual and seem to be a quick focus of attention to dive watch collectors, who have strong opinions about how a bezel should look.

I think the Gennaker would probably benefit by a bit of toning down in this department and although the design doesn't bother me, I'd prefer something a bit more traditional.

One thing neither I nor the dive watch connoisseurs who have seen the watch definitely can not fault is the lume used by Stolas on the Gennaker. It is claimed to be a combination of SuperLuminova and LUM-Tec lume (see my LUM-Tech Bull45 A5 review), and it's killer.

Stolas said they have a patent pending on the process used to apply the lume to the bezel, and you can see in the photo at the top of the page and in the video that this lume really pops. In fact, whenever I go near a window or come in from outdoors, the lume is glowing brightly. And there's plenty of it, too! So no complaints whatsoever in the lume department with this watch!

Otherwise, the bezel has a thin but serrated edge that gives a good grip. Some have commented that the edge could be a bit thicker, but I think this might harm the overall aesthetic and proportions of the watch. In any case, it's uni-directional and easy to turn and it has firm, secure-feeling clicks...although this watch has only 59 clicks instead of 60. The dot doesn't quite line up with the 12, which is the problem I think, and this could affect timing for the start of a sailboat race.

But if you accept the fact that styling trumped function with regards to the minute indicators, of which there are only two between each of the five-minute indices, then you probably won't be timing many race starts anyway.

Again, I like the styling and I'm fine with the compromises. I'm not a diver but, like many watch collectors, I like the rugged dive watch look and the Gennaker does a take on this that is out of the ordinary.

Click on a photo to start the Lightbox photo viewer.
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The Harbormaster Gennaker Movement

The Stolas Spinnaker and Gennaker watches use what Stolas says is an SMC, or Shanghai Movement Company movement. It's an automatic, hacking, 28,800 bph (claimed) movement with a quick-set date feature. This watch also has a screw-down crown.

I did some research and could not find any information on a Shanghai Movement Company, but Chinese watch collectors on the Watchuseek forum helped out and they think it's actually a Hangzhou HZ6300 movement.

More information is available on this thread that compares the ETA 2824-2, the Sea-Gull TY2130 and the Hangzhou HZ6300 movement. It's not certain, but the Hangzhou 6300 movement shown disassembled in the photos in that thread look nearly identical to the SMC movement shown on the Stolas website.

There's nothing wrong with the Hangzhou 6300 movement in my opinion and, in fact, my feeling is that it appears to be the better-finished movement of the three in the thread photos.

The claim of 28,800 bph is also probably correct, as the seconds hand has a very smooth movement, which can also be seen in the video below.

This watch ran very accurately at first, when I wound it up and set it crown-up on the watch box overnight. It was within 1 second of "atomic" time the next day. But it loses about 30 seconds per day when I wear it, which is probably within spec and not all that bad for a mechanical watch. I feel certain that with a little bit of extra timing effort, the watch could probably be made to run much more accurately.

But otherwise, the Hangzhou 6300 movement is used in many other brands of watches and it has a reputation as a rugged engine that is also easy enough and cheap enough to replace, should anything go wrong. In fact, this is an interesting strategy, because getting a watch repaired or serviced can cost almost as much or more than many watches these days, so simply dropping in a new movement might be the better choice.

Stolas offers a one-year warranty on their watches, by the way.

Gennaker Lug Width and Strap Choices

The Gennaker uses a 24 mm wide watch strap (24 mm lug width) and there are many choices available in that size from our favorite watch strap retailers.

The watch comes with what appears to be a composite waterproof strap with nylon stitching. It's actually pretty comfortable, although if I owned the watch, I'd probably fit it with an all-black soft silicone strap. Silicone straps are my favorite for dive watches, especially large-ish dive watches, as they help make the watch fit more snugly and comfortably on my wrist.

One of the nice features of the original equipment strap is that the 9 holes for the buckle are spaced closer together than the norm, and this makes it easier to find an exact position that fits the watch correctly on my wrist. The strap is 125 mm long on the tail and 3 mm thick. The buckle side is 80 mm long and it has a single keeper.

The buckle is removable and the strap also has handy notch cut-outs under the lugs to facilitate strap changes.

A stainless steel bracelet is available as an option, but it doesn't appear to be PVD coated and I think the contrast between the light-colored "bare" stainless steel and the black PVD on this watch makes the original equipment strap the preferred choice.

webWatchWorld Video: The Stolas Harbormaster Gennaker


Pricing

Stolas wristwatches are new to the market, and the pricing for the three models varies. The all-stainless, made-in-Switzerland Genoa with the ETA 2824-2 movement lists for $1,199.00. The Spinnaker with the PVD case, carbon fiber face and "SMC" movement lists for $579.00 and the Gennaker shown here has a list price of $619.00. I'm not sure how many Gennaker wristwatches are still for sale of the 125 made for the limited edition run.

The stainless steel bracelet is available as an option for the Spinnaker and Gennaker, as is a see-through sapphire crystal back.

I think the pricing for the Gennaker described in this review is reasonable, especially considering the quality of the watch, the build quality, the carbon fiber dial and the lume. But if that isn't enough to temp you, how about this?

Stolas has been very kind to offer a unique savings for webWatchWorld.com readers: a discount of 20% is available when ordering a watch, simply by using this code: TIMESURFER20

That brings the price of the Gennaker down to a very reasonable $495.00 or so. A real deal! What's the catch? Only this: you better act fast, because they're going fast...and don't forget to use the code!

Conclusion

I really enjoyed having the Stolas Harbormaster Gennaker available and I appreciate the opportunity to review the watch with "no strings attached" by Stolas. I wasn't sure at first if I'd like the styling, but it quickly grew on me and I was especially impressed at how many positive unsolicited comments I received when I was wearing it.

I think the watch exhibits a high quality in its build and I'm especially impressed by the very thick and high-quality PVD coating. I probably wouldn't have picked gloss black until I viewed the watch first-hand, and I now think it looks very nice indeed on this watch. It also seems to be very protective and it hasn't shown a single scratch, despite my ham-handedness.

Another outstanding feature is the quality of the lume, which I can confidently say is the brightest and longest-lasting of any watch I have ever owned.

The list pricing of the Stolas wristwatches is probably just about right for the features and content. I'm looking forward to seeing more watches from the company and I hope they continue to offer movement choices, as I'm kind of tired of the old formula of simply popping in an ETA movement in any old case and calling it done. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing a Stolas-designed watch with a Sea-Gull or even a Vostok movement!

So if you're in the market for something out of the ordinary, with a boatload (sorry) of styling and a wristwatch that will set you apart from the crowd, check out the Stolas offerings.

Published: April 2011


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