Review of the LÜM-TEC M38
By: John B. Holbrook, II
By: John B. Holbrook, II
Finally! I finally have gotten my hands on a watch from LÜM-TEC. Does this red-hot company need any introduction? LÜM-TEC is the brain child of Chris Weigand (you might know him as "Ray Knight" in the Official LÜM-TEC forum) of Wiegand Custom Watch, LLC in Mentor, Ohio. That's not a typo by the way - LÜM-TEC is indeed located in the United States of America, and in my very own state of Ohio (Mentor is roughly four hours from where I live in Dayton).
In a VERY short time, LÜM-TEC has gone from being an unheard of start up brand, to a powerful maverick, renegade brand that has turned the industry on its ear. In my humble opinion, Weigand has taken the technical, and "customer first" experience developed with Wiegand Custom Watch, and created a watch brand that combines a fantastic product with unparalleled service and support at the right price. When you're selling watches as fast as you can make them, it's hard to find a spare watch to send to a lowly watch reviewer, but LÜM-TEC recently sent me an M38 to review.
The 44mm diameter, brushed finish stainless steel case of the M38 is solidly constructed from 316L grade stainless steel. The cases also exhibits a screw lock crown featuring LÜM-TEC's double diamond sealing system - the M38 has a stated water resistance rating of 100 meters/330 ft. The brushed finish (which is less prone to showing scratches than a polished finish) and moderate water resistance means the M38 will be suitable for a great many sporting activities in and out of the water.
Between the 24mm case lugs of the M38 is a well-padded and delightfully comfortable black leather strap featuring quick release pins for fast, simple strap changes. The strap is held together with a LÜM-TEC signed, case matching "Panerai style" tang and buckle. Also included with the purchase of this watch is an excellent rubber strap, and a very well constructed metal bracelet. I didn't want to risk scratching a watch that isn't my own, so I didn't do a bracelet change. But the rubber strap and bracelet are top notch, and it's impressive that they're included with the watch given the well-under $1000.00 price point.
The dial of the M38 is the feature which perhaps shines the most on this watch - and not just because of the famous LÜM-TEC coating on the hands and markers. The charcoal dial features a unique sun ray pattern which is laser cut into the dial - it was very difficult to capture photographically, but in person is quite stunning. This isn't just another "me too" black dial watch. In normal lighting conditions, the dark dial background, combined with the large stick/Arabic number markers and sword hands is the epitome of "at-a-glance" legibility. The red LÜM-TEC logo is the icing on the cake and is reminiscent of a vintage "red" Rolex Submariner - red dial writing is a personal favorite feature with me. I'm also found of the offset date complication located between the four and five o'clock marker, and really appreciated the dial matching background on the date wheel. It integrates so well with the dial you hardly know it's there unless you're looking for it. The dial is protected by a very thick sapphire crystal which has an anti-reflective coating applied to the underside of the crystal.
Thanks to the LUM-TEC MDV technology® hand filled luminous coating applied to the hands and markers of the M38, the low-light legibility of the M38 is absolutely spectacular:
The case back of the M38 is of the screwed-down variety, constructed from solid stainless steel. In my experience, one of the tell-tale signs of lesser quality watch is the engraving on the case back. Inexpensive, shallow laser engraving is obvious and just doesn't exude the workmanship which you see present on the M38 case back:
Inside the case of the M38 is an ETA 2824/A2. I see an increasing number of watch manufacturers using lower-end Asian movements or ETA clones in watch models designed to appeal to the "entry level" buyer. Whether you see that as a good thing or not is a matter of personal preference, but from my perspective, the ETA 2824 is a preferred choice which underscores LÜM-TEC's commitment to quality. The ETA 2824 is a 25 jewel self-winding mechanical movement with a balance wheel which oscillates at a speed of 28,800 beats per hour and has a power reserve of about 40 hours.
I did run an accuracy test on my example of the M38. While the ETA 2824 is certainly capable of chronometer-level accuracy, it's rare to see a manufacturer put the time and effort into adjusting an ETA 2824 watch for optimal performance. In the case of the M38, it delivered accuracy results out of the box which were more impressive than some of my COSC certified chronometers:
Little known fact: LÜM-TEC offers free lifetime timing adjustments. I know of no other watch company which provides this level of after sale service - this is a HUGE value-add in my personal opinion. Take a watch to a competent watchmaker and a timing regulation will run you at least $100.00.
I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to finally sample an example from LÜM-TEC and see what the buzz is all about. My wallet is less so because now I want one. But at a price point of just $795.00, The M38 is one of the best values in mechanical sports watches on the market today. Show me where you can get another ETA 2824 powered sport watch with three included straps, and free life time timing adjustment? Not to mention one that's looks great (and I typically don't care for anything over about 41mm in diameter) and has LÜM-TEC's incredible luminous dial treatment. It's no mystery why LÜM-TEC has come out of nowhere and become a red-hot brand among mechanical sport watch fans.
LÜM-TEC fans will be excited to know that I have a factory visit and tour scheduled with LÜM-TEC later this year (Fall of 2011). I can't wait to sit down with Chris and see "where the magic happens." Until then, head over to LÜM-TEC's website and check out the M38, among the many other special offerings.
**Photos & Text Copyright 2011 WATCH TALK FORUMS. No part of this report can be reproduced outside of WATCH TALK FORUMS without the expressed permission of John B. Holbrook, II.