You are currently viewing The Tornek-Rayville TR-660 Tested Underwater (Specs, Price)

The Tornek-Rayville TR-660 Tested Underwater (Specs, Price)

Army-inspired watches… The time period “MIL-SPEC” will get thrown round fairly loosely lately. As soon as solely the territory of products produced for troopers all over the world, used to indicate them as such and set them other than their extra civilian-suited counterparts, it has grow to be a trendy, catch-all advertising and marketing phrase to let you know the way robust and well-made a specific product is. A fast Google search brings me every thing from footwear and socks to color and drill bits carrying the MIL-SPEC descriptor. If every thing is MIL-SPEC, is something MIL-SPEC? I invite you to spend many days pondering this philosophical posit, however first, let’s discuss watches. On the earth of watches, the very first thing MIL-SPEC would possibly make you consider is the Rolex Milsub. As a dive watch utilized by many army our bodies throughout the globe for years, it definitely deserves the tag. However within the early days of purpose-built dive watches, Rolex was neck-and-neck in competitors with Blancpain and their Fifty Fathoms, and that iconic watch is the start line for the story of TORNEK-RAYVILLE.

The backstory

Within the late Fifties, the U.S. Navy’s Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) was available in the market for a “submersible wristwatch” to be used by its “Underwater Demolition Staff” divers, an arguably cooler title than what they might later grow to be, the Navy SEALs. They wanted a wristwatch that may stand as much as the rigours of no matter precisely an underwater demolitionist does. We are able to assume that it’s no stroll within the park. Preferring an American buy, because the U.S. authorities is wont to do, they approached the Bulova watch firm of New York and introduced them with the specs they felt they required in a dive watch and put in an order for a “customary USN watch”. The choice was made to place a couple of different, already-in-production watches to the identical exams that the Bulova USN would ultimately endure, simply to see. The watches chosen have been the Rolex Submariner, the Enicar Sea Pearl 600, and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. After all of the throwing, dropping, smashing, drowning, burning, scraping, punching, yelling, screaming and no matter else these exams entailed was over, the Fifty Fathoms was the final man standing. The Rolex fared the worst, discovered to be “not watertight”, its bezel dominated “unsatisfactory” and its costly expandable strap “undoubtedly not desired”. Additionally, it was too shiny. And it’s ugly and silly. Okay, I made that final half up, but it surely appeared like we have been piling on Rolex. The Enicar did a bit of higher, however, being the most cost effective mannequin, featured no rotating bezel and was additionally too shiny. A shiny watch is undesirable when one needs to sneak round underwater. The Blancpain was really helpful to be used till the Bulova USN was prepared. 

In 1959, the Bulova USN was able to undergo testing itself, and the outcomes have been disappointing, to say the least. Of the three check watches supplied, two of them had their bezels fall off, and one stopped working altogether. It turned out to be a wonderful resolution to place these different backup watches by their paces in any case. Having a watch in place that they knew was as much as the problem, the U.S. Navy confronted a brand new hurdle. As a result of Purchase American Act of 1933, shopping for army gear that was not made in America, just like the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, was an advanced activity. A fast-thinking New York importer named Allen V. Tornek got here up with an answer. He would import the watches and rebrand them as TORNEK-RAYVILLE, a mix of his surname and the official enterprise title of Blancpain on the time, Rayville S.A., succ. de Blancpain. By doing so, he can be promoting the U.S. army watches from a U.S. firm. Downside solved. And identical to that, the TR-900 was born.

Classic Tornek-Rayville TR-900 – Picture by Christie’s

The U.S. Navy purchased round 1,000 of them for $55 a pop (think about that!), and so they have been put into service. Sadly, because of a large design flaw, a lot of the TR-900s can be destroyed as low-level radioactive waste inside only a few years. The rationale for this was using Promethium-147 because the luminous materials. A radioactive aspect, Promethium-147 would have glowed brighter and longer than its alternate options, however has a half-life of solely about three years, which means that after about six years, the lume will stop to glow, rendering the watch primarily ineffective in undersea situations. That, coupled with the grave caseback warnings of radioactivity and directions to return the watch to the closest army facility if discovered would have doubtless overruled any ideas of future collectability within the common particular person again then. As such, it’s estimated that solely about 30 of those watches are nonetheless round in the present day. It’s doubtless that Allen Tornek needed to maintain this association going with the army, however by the late Nineteen Sixties, with the U.S. headed in the direction of warfare in Vietnam, there merely wasn’t the finances obtainable, and no future orders have been positioned. No extra TORNEK-RAYVILLEs can be produced, and this one quirky, loophole-based second in watchmaking historical past had come to an finish. Or so we thought.

The Rebirth

Whispers began to make their method across the boards a couple of years in the past that the TORNEK-RAYVILLE title was being revived by none apart from Invoice Yao, the mastermind behind the much-beloved small American watch model MKII. MKII is mainly often known as a purveyor of high-quality and meticulously crafted homage items, impressed by nice army and aviation watches of the previous. As well-known (or notorious) for very lengthy wait instances as they’re for distinctive high quality, they’ve constructed up a rabid fan base since they began out almost 20 years in the past. As an American firm identified for catering to the love of considerably obscure and esoteric army watches, there’s really nobody I can consider higher suited to the duty of resurrecting the TORNEK-RAYVILLE title.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

A trademark search reveals that MKII Corp acquired the TORNEK-RAYVILLE title method again in 2009, so this idea has seemingly been simmering for over a decade now, as that is the primary watch from the newly revived model. Billed as a substitute for the TR-900, the TR-660 imagines a world the place the army by no means stopped utilizing these watches, and that is merely the improved, subsequent technology of kit that they require. These upgrades embody higher motion, higher water resistance and a lowered likelihood of radiation poisoning, which is at all times a plus.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

This subsequent technology of TORNEK-RAYVILLE arrives in a foam-lined, onerous plastic case, becoming for a chunk of army issued gear. There are areas to retailer two extra watches for those who so want, a pleasant contact. The field additionally features a few spare spring bars, a spring bar instrument, outcomes of timing exams/guarantee card, and a one-page instruction handbook. Simply the necessities. Now let’s speak specs.

The Tornek-Rayville TR-660 within the Metallic

You received’t discover any bells or whistles right here, and that’s just about the entire level: pure utility. The 40mm stainless-steel case is 14.7mm thick and 48.5mm lug-to-lug, and fully bead-blasted to eliminate that pesky shininess that the army simply can’t abide. The case design continues the no-frills spirit, with flat surfaces and easy traces being the order of the day. Beneath the subtly domed and AR-coated crystal, the dial is about as utilitarian because it comes. It stays true in most methods to its predecessor, with a mix of fully-lumed round, rectangular and triangle-shaped hour markers, positioned across the matte black dial. The TORNEK-RAYVILLE US textual content continues to be printed throughout the highest in giant letters, lest you suppose that is some type of Swiss watch in disguise (ahem!).

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

The primary distinction between the TR-660 and the outdated TR-900 is the moisture detector on the dial. The unique had a round patch above the 6 o’clock spot on the dial that may change color when it got here involved with water, a vital addition in a time when water resistance was at all times questionable and a soldier wanted to know for sure whether or not a watch was going to carry out its duties. Yao determined to not embody that within the new mannequin. It’s an comprehensible exclusion, as watches are far more water resistant and sturdy lately, however I’d have personally appreciated to see it included; that orange and white half circle is a giant a part of the allure of the unique, in my humble opinion. It’s a minor quibble, and the fashionable model at the very least nods to it with a black and gray circle in the identical spot that acts as the house for the “automated” and “200m” textual content. At the least the moisture indicator survived in spirit. 

Time is stored with a pair of pencil palms and a second hand that has an extended arrow tip, all absolutely lumed, after all. The bezel here’s a 120-click affair that may be very good and easy with just about no backplay, and every thing is lined up completely, as one would anticipate from Mr Yao’s meticulous eye. The watch is obtainable with both a traditionally correct acrylic bezel, or a extra fashionable aluminium bezel. Provided that the acrylic feels extra like the unique and can be absolutely lumed, it felt just like the no-brainer option to me, however the aluminium would in all probability get up higher to critical abuse, so it’s good to have choices. Retaining issues water-tight are a double-gasket, unsigned screw-down crown, and a minimally marked screw-in case again. Fancy logos are for the civvies.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

Beneath the hood is the second-biggest departure from the unique model, that of the Seiko NE15 motion. One may argue {that a} true homage piece ought to have included a Swiss motion like the unique, however bear in mind pals, this isn’t a homage, merely the subsequent technology and enchancment upon the earlier mannequin. To maintain prices down and retain reliability and ease of service, utilizing a Japanese motion right here makes good sense. The NE15 is a 21,600vph motion with 24 jewels, a good 50-hour energy reserve, and is rated to -15/+25 seconds per day. Adjusted in-house by TORNEK-RAYVILLE, mine has been working nearer to -2spd to date.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

Provided that this watch is supposed to enhance upon the older mannequin, the lack of the fastened bars and enhance to 20mm lug width from 19mm are each welcome modifications. That coupled with the drilled lugs means the TR-660 might be loved on any type of strap your coronary heart may want. Mine has but to go away the inventory possibility although, which is a Nytex™ Kind I-M2 basic function strap created in reference to MIL-S-46383, STRAP, WRIST: INSTRUMENT of 20 July 1963, which is theoretically the strap the unique would have been delivered on. It’s a single-pass, woven nylon strap that’s equal components snug, robust and rugged feeling, an ideal match for the watch. Obtainable within the purchaser’s alternative of black or Military inexperienced colors. 

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

On the wrist, the watch wears nearly completely. I’ve heard concern voiced in regards to the thickness, however the screw-in case again includes a barely domed form, which will increase the thickness on paper, however in some way improves wearability in apply, permitting the watch to considerably sit in your wrist as an alternative of simply flat on high. The scale all work collectively to kind a supremely wearable bundle, and on my 16cm wrist, I’ve zero complaints. I’ve worn the watch sitting idly at a pc all day, out for lengthy walks in chilly and warmth, and swimming in a pool, and it wears like a allure each time. Oh and likewise diving, let’s not neglect diving.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

Within the depths

This hands-on was supposed to come back sooner, but it surely felt like a missed alternative to not embody some diving with such a historically-driven dive watch, so I needed to anticipate a deliberate journey to Ginnie Springs, a cave/spring system in northern Florida, to get this factor within the water. The murky darkness of a cave appeared like a becoming place to check it out.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

In 2022, mechanical dive watches serve two distinct functions within the water: one sensible and one romantic. The sensible function, that of a backup to a full-featured dive laptop, is a activity that the majority watches carry out with ease lately, and the TR-660 is not any exception. Its black dial and white palms and markings are excessive distinction and make a fast test of elapsed dive time a breeze, and the ample lume on each dial and bezel imply that is true even in darker situations. The one cross strap is definitely lengthy sufficient to suit over the thickest of wetsuits, and it appeared to dry sooner than different NATOs as soon as the dive was over, however I’ve no tangible proof of that. It passes all the fundamental exams of a dive watch with type and ease. 

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

As for the romantic function, that’s the place dive watches set themselves aside and have their very own distinct personalities and charms, and that’s the place this one really shines. Because the successor to one of many coolest dive watches of all time, the TR-660 doesn’t disappoint. It’s onerous to look down at it and never instantly think about that you’re an early Frogman, down within the depths planting expenses to blast a secret tunnel or setting a minefield to keep off enemy ships, and even a number of the extra mundane duties I’m positive that job additionally required. It doesn’t matter. If a watch can spark that type of creativeness and sense of journey, that’s well worth the worth of entry alone.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

The reborn TORNEK-RAYVILLE is conceived as a model that may proceed, releasing different watches in addition to instruments, items, and equipment for individuals who “go locations, and do issues”. As their flagship launch, the TR-660 is a improbable watch at an amazing worth level and a worthy successor to an icon. I very a lot look ahead to what comes subsequent within the TORNEK-RAYVILLE story. Hopefully, it entails some extra cheeky subterfuge.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660

As might be anticipated with every thing Invoice Yao does, the TR-660 is at present bought out, however one other batch is deliberate to be launched for pre-order in late summer season 2022. With the preorder, you pay half up entrance and the second half when the watch is able to ship, which for me was about 7 months later, for a complete of USD 950. Extra data obtainable at