Before I received my first Lüm-Tec, I was picking up what they were putting down. Aside from Lüm-Tec’s personalized attention and veterans’ discounts, I couldn’t resist their unique design language and luminous technology. I signed-up for two more watches on pre-order. The Lüm-Tec Combat B49 24H was delivered a week or so ahead of its estimated July release. I received #38 of the limited run of 500. Unfortunately . . .
The watch arrived on a NATO strap. Like most NATO straps, it didn’t fit me or flatter the watch. All those NATO appendages and flappy parts stick out from my wrist and detract from the watch. The standard-issue Combat B49 24H isn’t a horological hair shirt, but there are DJ’s who scratch less.
Luckily, the Combat B49 has an optional rubber strap. With contoured ends that fit flush to the case between the lugs, the rubber strap looks and feels better than the NATO. Visually, it’s a lot sleeker and flows with the lines of the watch.
Which is just as well. At 43 x 51.5-mm, the Combat B49 is no shrinking violet. That said, the large dial combines with a relatively narrow bezel to make the watch both visually and physically comfortable on my 7″ wrist.
Thanks to the B49’s “military grade” non-reflective bead-blasted gunmetal gray titanium carbide PVD case, the watch is positively slimming. Does Lüm-Tec make bead-blasted gun-metal jeans? Asking for a friend . . .
Lüm-Tec slathers the inside of the B49’s slightly curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. The AR coating doesn’t disappear the glass but it tamps-down the “is that me I see?” reflections that can ruin a field watch.
The B49’s broad, peach-hued, sword-shaped, diamond-cut hands stand out against the black dial, assuring maximum legibility. Anyone sharing my OCD tendencies will be displeased to discover that the tip of the watch’s second hand doesn’t exactly line up with the indices; it’s about 1/5 of a second ahead. About those indices . . .
Looking at the Lüm-Tec Combat B49 24H’s dial for the first time is like confronting an Reverse Polish Notation Hewlett-Packard calculator. (Where’s the equals sign Kenneth?) Any watch placing 00 at the top of the dial and 12 at the bottom is bound to cause initial confusion, and require more than a little mental adjustment.
To be clear, it’s 11:05 pm above, not five anything. To get with the program, it helps to THINK in 24-hour terms rather than trying to mentally convert to 12-hour terms. Though my military service was 30 years ago, I still instinctively understand what “1800” means.
Admittedly, it’s much easier with 24-hour time in digital format than analog (at least initially).
The advantage of a timepiece with an hour hand that makes a single journey around the dial: you don’t have to use natural light to know if it’s day or night.
Swedish insomniacs, submariners and coders in windowless basements need apply. The rest of us not so much. Still, it’s a lot cooler to call out 15 hundred hours than five past eight.
The Lüm-Tec Combat B49 24H’s endlessly symmetrical dial is blessedly date window-less. Only not really. Ronda builds its quartz 515.24H movement with a date wheel. In this application, it’s hides behind the dial, whirring away doing away nothing visible. The good news: as a result of the architecture, turning the crown counterclockwise moves the hour hand independently of the minute hand, GMT style.
The B49’s “ghost date’s” downside: the double-sealed screw-down crown’s first detent is non-functional. On the upside, our sample watch averaged a respectable +0.11 seconds per day accuracy. The movement’s second hand is hackable for split second time-setting – as you’d expect for any watch claiming military compatibility.
To help, help, help me Rhonda, Lüm-Tec slots the engine in an anti-shock movement mounting system. As you can see, the Lüm-Tec Combat B49 and my FN SCAR-16 got along just fine. Again, as you’d expect for a watch claiming military compatibility. But what really sets a Lüm-Tec watch apart is . . . wait for it . . . lume.
Lüm-Tec calls its lume tech MDV, short for “Maximum Darkness Visibility.” Their watches light up your life via custom-developed grade X1 Swiss 208LE + highly reactive spec X1 grade C3 BL Super-LumiNova. Translation: after an evening exposed to living room light, hitting the sack at 23 hundred hours, the B49 remained clearly visible in 5 am darkness.
With twice the hour indices of a normal watch, the B49 sports twice the X1-grade Super-LumiNova. Even the logos are illuminated! Suffice it to say, the watch’s two-tone “thousand points of light” luminous array dazzles and satisfies the 12-year-old lumatic in all of us.
I wore the Lüm-Tec Combat B49 24H for a week straight (can we say “straight”?). I found it light, legible and legit – easily earning a slot in my daily-wear rotation.
More than that, the B49’s an American-designed, assembled and tested watch that’s well within reach of those who can’t afford to Sinn, but want a tough-as-nails timepiece for everyday use and abuse. A watch that can party all night long. A watch that never fails to lume large.
Model: Lum-Tec Combat B49 24H
Retail price: $495 (Paid $420 with pre-order 15% discount)
Case: Bead-blasted gun-metal PVD-coated steel
Crystal: Sapphire – curved with inner AR coating
Strap / Bracelet: NATO or fitted / contoured rubber strap
Display: Analog 24-hour format
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Dimensions / weight: 43(w) x 51.5(l) x 12(h)-mm / 98 grams (3.5 oz) with rubber strap
Movement: Ronda 515.24H
Accuracy: -10 to +20 seconds / month (claimed). +03.3 seconds / month measured over a week (+0.11 s/d).
Water resistance: 200 meters
Battery life: Estimated 45 months
Service: Lifetime free battery changes, seal cleaning and pressure testing
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * *
It stays well within Lüm-Tec’s design code, though some might see a bit of Panerai influence.
Legibility * * * * *
Setting aside the challenges of a 24-hour format, perfectly proportioned hands and contrasting colors make the dial as readable as airport fiction.
Comfort * * * *
Very comfortable on the rubber strap. Pass on the NATO. A tool-less micro-adjustable bracelet would be a welcome option.
Overall * * * * *
The Lüm-Tec Combat B49 24H is a hardy, handsome timepiece for value-oriented lumatics.