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Invicta 9937 Review

Introduction

There are many good reasons to own a Rolex Submariner. It's a quality timepiece that has a proven reliability record and undergoes rigid quality control practices. In these terms, it's hard to beat. But, there's one area where it doesn't excel; its $4,000 price tag.

Is the quality and reliability and excellent quality control really so good that they can command such a high price? Some people would say yes, others would say no. I'm on the no side, myself. Yes, those features can command a premium, but $4,000? No, I don't think so.

There are many watches out there that are just as reliable as the Submariner and have all the same features, but have a price-tag that is one-quarter that of the Rolex. This is much better and much more realistic, in my opinion. But, what you don't get at the deflated price is the Submariner look. It's the look that draws me to the Submariner.

There are also dozens of watches that sport a Submariner-like look, some being made by Sandoz, Chronomat, Croton, O&W, and so on. For the most part, these watches, while similar in appearance, sadly lack in performance and/or features. Invicta's own 8926, the pre-cursor to the 9937, is a victim of this as well. It's almost there; it's certainly closer in appearance than the others, but despite this, it has some non-niceties, such as a Miyota movement, a mineral glass crystal, and a sad cyclops magnifier. These were enough to make the 8926 not appealing to me.

Several months back Invicta announced that there would be a new 8926, an improved one, that addressed all the previous model's faults. How to improve upon the 8926 was easy: look at the Rolex, look at the 8926. Fix the differences.

That set the ball rolling, and months later, after slipping their delivery date once or twice, the 9937 finally made it to the dealers with a retail price of $1075. Shortly thereafter, I ordered one for the heavily discounted price of $300, which included shipping. On December 27th, my watch arrived, and I slipped it on my wrist for the first time.

I was, and am, very impressed with the watch. I say this now because as you will read in this review, there have been some rocky times. Although I was required to spend money to smooth these out, I nonetheless am extremely happy with the 9937.

Take note that while this review specifically targets the 9937, it is equally applicable to the 9938 and 9939 as well, which differ only in finish.

The Movement

Inside the 9937's stainless steel case beats a Swiss heart, and one that has gained respect and popularity because of its ruggedness, reliability, accuracy, features, and low price. This is, of course, the ETA 2824-2. The variation that Invicta uses is gold-plated, but undecorated.

The movement, as purchased and implanted by Invicta, has been quite the source of controversy lately, and it is with this controversy that I shall deviate from the review for a moment. The tale I am about to relate, however, is quite pertinent to the review in general.

It seemed that a large number of the ETA 2824-2s, as delivered in the 9937, ran very fast, up to 30 additional seconds per day. My watch was no exception, and was indeed running 30 seconds fast when I received it. After a couple of weeks, it settled down to being 12 seconds fast, which, although an improvement, was much too fast for my liking.

The real question was, and is, why the 9937 that I received, as well as those that others had received were running not just fast, but consistently fast. There was much speculation, ranging from magnetic fields and airports to the batch just being plain defective. Someone went ahead and contacted Invicta about this and they were told that +30 is acceptable. Acceptable to them maybe, but surely not to anyone else who knows of what the ETA 2824-2 is capable. I'm quite dismayed that Invicta would say that they're comfortable manufacturing a Swiss made watch using a movement with a proven track record and having it delivered in customer's hands being 30 seconds fast.

It was my intention to give my 9937 a couple of more weeks to let it settle down some more, and then take it in to have it professionally regulated. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to do so. I woke up one morning and my 9937 had stopped dead in its tracks. No amount of winding or shaking would wake it up from its deep slumber. I was looking through the rear exhibition display and I saw something odd. There was a weird T-shaped metal piece rattling around free inside of the case. That's really the last thing you ever want to see in a watch. My trip to the watch repairman would come sooner than I thought.

Some people suggested that I return the watch to my dealer, or even to Invicta for a warranty claim. I thought about it, and then dismissed it. In addition to the 9937 running fast, there were also other complaints being circulated, and I didn't wish to get a replacement that was worse off than my watch, prior to it stopping. Besides, shipping charges can quickly get out of hand, as can the delays associated with waiting. I'm impatient when it comes to waiting, and even more impatient when it comes to poor service. I didn't want to risk upsetting myself needlessly, so off to the watch repairman I went.

My watch had been in the capable hands of the watch repairman for only an hour when he called me. He had found out what was wrong and the watch was now working. That was a relief. The problem turned out to be related to that T-shaped piece that I saw. It had a couple of friends, one of which found its way into a couple of gears and seized the mechanism. With the pieces now removed, the watch chugged along merrily.

Because the watch was already there, I had him go ahead and regulate it. It's possible to regulate a watch on your own, if you're brave enough to do so, have the tools and patience, and don't care about the water resistance being destroyed. I have the tools, I have the patience, but I don't have desire to mess something up, and I certainly want my watch to be water-tight; after all, it's a dive watch.

The next evening, I picked my watch up. It had been regulated and monitored for 24-hours. The watch repairman said that he regulated it to +1 second per day, purposely regulating it high because he felt that for such a new watch it might settle some. Sounded good to me.

I've had it back for a couple of days, and it's hard to tell, but it seems to be doing slightly better than +1. Despite the extra charges associated with getting it professionally regulated, I'm elated at its new-found performance.

I'll now resume with the review proper.

When it's working, the ETA 2824-2 is a marvel. If you've watched the second hand on the 8926, or other Miyota-based watch, you'd surely have noticed that it stutters as it makes its way around the dial. This is in part due to the slower beat rate of the Miyota movement, but is largely due to the liberal tooth spacing of the gears that drive the movement. Here's an analogy: let's say that you're back in grade school and are out in the sandbox playing with your friends and some Hotwheels (back in my day, this was the thing to do). The sand is moist and packed down. You draw two parallel lines in the sand, perhaps eight inches apart. On the second line, you place an obstruction, perhaps a board. Now, what you do is put your Hotwheels car somewhere before the first line and flick it with your finger. This will send it zipping past the first line, and either slowing down somewhere before the second or reaching the second line, crashing into to the obstruction, and bouncing back a short distance. Repeat the experiment.

What you'll find is that the car, although landing within the lines each and every time, always landed somewhere different. Once that initial flick of force was gone, that car was in no-man's land until it decided to stop on its own, which could have been anywhere in the range provided. The Miyota tick is similar; a force propels a gear into motion and because of the play with that gear, it stops when a) it has run out of play, or b) friction stops it before it gets to the end of its allowable play. That's why the Miyota second hand stutters.

Of course, why it stutters isn't all that important, aside from being an interesting diversion. The fact that it stutters at all makes it very unappealing to look at. One of the joys of the ETA 2824-2 is that it is stutter-free and moves around the dial smoothly.

The movement does some other tricks that the Miyota doesn't do. First, the movement of the rotor will wind the watch in both directions; it doesn't matter of it's moving counterclockwise or clockwise, either direction winds the watch equally well. This means that keeping the watch fully wound is pretty easy, even if you don't move around much.

The second trick is that the movement hacks, which means that when you pull the crown out to the time setting position, the second hand stops moving. This permits you to synchronize to an external source, such as the atomic clock in Colorado.

The Face

The face of the 9937 is near identical to that of the 8926. The primary difference is that the writing on the bottom that states "JAPAN MVMT" is not there, and instead, right under the winged Invicta logo, is the word "Swiss" in italics. Some people have said that they don't care for this much, but I rather like it. It's small enough and subtle enough that it doesn't get in the way, plus at the same time, it pays homage to the 9937's Swiss origins.

The 9937's face, just like that of the 8926, does a good job of giving a Rolex feel to the watch while allowing it to remain uniquely Invicta. The winged Invicta logo is the most notable example of this uniqueness. It's physically large and is actually an applied emblem. Like many things about the Invicta brand, this was one of those things that I didn't like initially, but have warmed up to since.

The minute markers around the face are raised and surrounded by chrome borders. This separates the 9937, and Invicta in general, from other watch brands that make Rolex-like watches, such as Chronomat and Sandoz, both of which use markers that are entirely painted. The end result is that Invicta has the honor of making a watch that is as close in appearance to a Rolex as you're going to get, with the notable and cringe-inducing exception of fakes, of course. Whether or not this is a good thing is up to you. I happen to like it a lot; it captures the Submariner look, and that's why I like Submariner to begin with: its look.

The markers are filled with Invicta's tritnite compound. Tritnite has been a poor performer in the past, and it doesn't do much better this time around. One of the big requests for the 9937 was the use of a superior compound, such as Super Luminova, but this request went unheeded.

The mercedes-style hands are close to the real deal also. The minute hand is a bit skinnier, and the luminous circle on the second hand is closer to the tip than on the Rolex, but these are trivial considerations.

The Case and Case Back

The case is the usual Invicta Oyster-style affair; polished sides, a brushed top, and the word "INVICTA" engraved into the side of the case. I really used to dislike the engraving on these watches, but I have since mellowed on that point. I've decided that it's part of what makes the watch uniquely Invicta and helps to reinforce the idea that while it may look like a Rolex, it's an Invicta and proud of it.

The signed crown is satisfactory. My preference would be for something taller, but it works fine how it is. The screw-down action is smooth and problem free. I am somewhat concerned about how robustly the crown pops out when it is unscrewed. I can picture it slowly chipping away at the tailing edge of the threads every time it is unscrewed. I had to have a crown and crown tube replaced on a different watch because of this, so I'm now cautious when it comes to unscrewing crowns. As I'm unscrewing, I maintain a pressure on it so it won't pop out when it reaches the end of its travel.

The rumor is that the exhibition back is mineral crystal and not sapphire. This is probably true, but I don't see it making much of a difference either way. The opportunity for scratching is remarkably small, being against the wrist and all, and anyhow, if it gets scratched, does it really matter? Admittedly I'm a bit bitter with the whole exhibition back thing; I like solid case backs.

Finally, the watch is constructed with such exacting tolerances and attention to detail that you can dive with it to 200m. The Rolex Submariner, on the other hand, is good to a depth of 300m. This difference, while possibly important to some, doesn't mean much to me.

The Crystal

The crystal used on the 9937 is synthetic sapphire and is one of the big perks of the watch. Sapphire is a big deal because although not indestructible, it is virtually scratch proof, which, if you bang your watch around a lot, is something that can be quickly appreciated. Most of the other models in the Invicta line, and a lot of lower end watches in general, use a hardened mineral crystal, which can be scratched rather readily. In fact, I doubt I own a single watch with a mineral crystal that does not have a scratch on it--and I'm not all that hard on my watches, although I don't baby them either.

There is speculation that there is an anti-glare coating on the surface of the crystal and perhaps the underside of it as well. No one knows if this is 100% true or not. If I compare the 9937 to a watch that I know to have an anti-glare coating, there is a very obvious difference between the two. The crystal on the anti-glare watch is, for all practical purposes, invisible to my eye, except at very extreme angles. When it does catch the light, a very vibrant blue color is produced. The 9937 doesn't behave this way at all. I can tell the crystal is there, seeing reflections in it a practically any angle, and it also doesn't produce the vibrant blue color at extreme angles.

People who spend time photographing the 9937 have reported that it takes much better pictures than watches that are known not to have an anti-glare coating, such as the 8926. I have a couple of theories on this. My first theory is that there is an anti-glare coating on the 9937, but it's: on the inside only, on the outside only, more economically priced and thus not as effective, or some combination of these three. My second theory is that people are having more luck photographing the watch because the optical properties of sapphire are somehow different and are naturally better at reducing glare.

Adorning the crystal at the 3 o'clock position is a cyclops magnifier, used for increasing the size of the date for the purpose of making it more legible. Many other Invictas don't hold up in this regard, employing magnifiers that barely magnify, and look, quite frankly, stupid. But not so on the 9937. It makes use of a powerful cyclops lens that does the job very well, although perhaps slightly shy of the aggressive magnifiers used on Rolex Submariners.

The Bezel

The rotating bezel is reasonable. The black insert is flawless, and the dot that resides at the zero minute position is a big improvement over other Invicta models that I've seen, which use a green plastic blob. The dot is glossy in appearance and a tasteful ivory color, as are all the luminous surfaces on the watch. The dot is mostly recessed, but it does sit a hair above the surface of the bezel, creating a very pleasing effect.

The serrations along the edge of the bezel, are, in my opinion, on the smooth side, which makes grasping the bezel difficult. This has the side effect of requiring a person using his right hand to grasp the bezel with the thumb at 4 and the index finger at 10, twisting the bezel a small amount, and then repositioning the fingers to advance it some more. If the serrations were more aggressive, it would be possible to get a good grip on the bezel anywhere along its perimeter.

The serrations aren't the only factor in moving the bezel, however. The ratcheting mechanism that sits between the case and the back of the bezel also plays a large role. Upon initially receiving my watch, this mechanism was much too firm to the point that it was impossible to move the bezel at all with anything but completely dry hands. With time and a non-trivial amount of daily play, it has loosened up nicely.

The ratcheting mechanism, while acceptable, doesn't have the nicest feel to it. It feels somewhat abrupt in its workings, and it's also on the loud side. I've handled several watches that have had a near-silent mechanism that had a very smooth feel to it, and I find myself wishing the 9937 were similar.

I've always found the alignment of the zero minute marker with respect to the markings on the dial to be somewhat lacking on Invicta watches. Not that this is restricted to solely to Invictas, mind you, it seems to be a common affliction of many lesser-priced watches in general. Non-alignment in a bezel is one of those things that drives me absolutely crazy because whenever I look at a watch where it's a problem, it's all I can see. This is why I'm very pleased to report that the bezel on my 9937 lines up exactly with the markers on the face.

The alignment success of the bezel probably has a lot to do with Invicta saying several months ago that they will pay more attention to alignment issues. This came about after a small storm of complaints from unhappy customers. As significant as this is, it doesn't hurt matters that instead of there being one click per minute as with most Invicta bezels, there are actually two in the 9937. These extra settings undoubtedly help visually minimize any physical error in alignment.

The Bracelet

The stainless steel bracelet is outstanding. It actually blows the stock Rolex bracelet out of the water (which, admittedly isn't that hard; even the 8926 did it). It has beefy links, with a thickness of 4.85mm, which just cry out that this is a serious watch. The endlinks, which are hollow on the 8926 and most other similar Invicta watches, are solid, hewn out of a block of stainless steel. Unfortunately, the links use pushpins rather than screws, which I view to be a major oversight.

Appearance-wise, the bracelet has brushed outer links and polished inner links. Some people don't like the polished inner link all that much, citing that it's prone to scratching and deviates from the Rolex look. I like it quite a bit, myself.

The clasp, which appears at first glance to be a standard Invicta clasp, opens to reveal a surprise. Gone are the pressed metal sheets and in their place is a precision-made hinge, made of solid stainless steel that very much looks like it could have been picked up from an operating table. I've never before seen this sort of thing offered on such a low-priced watch.

I do have one wish for the clasp: That it would use pushers instead of the friction-lock that it currently uses. That's just once small wish; the clasp is very good just how it is.

Packaging

My 9937 came in a very fancy stained wooden box that was assembled using dovetails. The inside is covered with black velvet, which makes the whole package a very luxurious affair. Also included is a clear dome with wooden sides that is intended to be placed over the watch to protect it from dust, while at the same time allowing it to be viewed. It's an interesting concept, albeit one that isn't free from being somewhat cheesy.

Conclusion

Considering its ample features, the 9937 does make it hard to justify the cost of a Submariner. What you don't get are screw-links, a super-smooth bezel, an in-house movement, 300m water resistance, or the prestige of owning something with the name Rolex on it. But you do get one heck of a fine watch.