When one is on a press junket for a watch brand, it is entirely normal to worry if there will be anything to drink, other than champagne. That’s an exaggeration – a liberty taken by this writer to grab your attention because there was no champagne to be had on this Luminox journey to Kuala Lampur. In its place there was nothing but discomfort, a sweat bath, and a palpable scent of fear that was only alleviated by the Luminox watches we were issued, which in my case was the Navy SEAL 3600.
If you know anything about Luminox, you might be thinking that this will be yet another tale of discipline- and fitness-challenged watch journos struggling through a pared-down version of the Navy SEALs training course. Leave that notion aside because we’re here for an entirely different reason, which is why other watches issued this trip included Luminox ICE-SAR Arctic 1200 models, and the 30th Anniversary Sport Timer 0900 series limited edition.
Now that you’re all settled in, I pray you stay and get to grips with what the new Luminox collaboration with the Malaysian International Search and Rescue (MISAR) is all about. We are all assembled at the MISAR headquarters in KL as Captain Balasupramaniam Krishnan, a cheerful bear of a man, tells us about the search and rescue course we’ll be participating in, the Luminox Code Red Survival Course. Yes, instead of getting yelled at by a burly former US Navy SEAL as we try to tackle a course designed to rob us of our dignity, we’ll be learning the search-and-rescue ropes. In some ways, that’s more terrifying because this involves a measure of using both empathy and asking useful questions — journos are usually only required to do the latter.
What’s the point of a watch in a situation like this, you might ask? Well, there’s a firm time-limit on our activities — 30 minutes for each of the five separate set-pieces we were assigned — so we had to synch up our tickers within our respective groups. As Captain Bala says, search-and-rescue operations are always run against the clock. Speed is key in getting to victims trapped under the rubble of collapsed building, for example, even if that happens to include getting through concrete and steel.
Time on Our Side
Watch writers and collectors are accustomed to thinking of time as a friend or a companion, but when you need to save lives, the ticking of the hands of time takes on another meaning. It is of course entirely appropriate for Luminox, whose tagline happens to be Every Second Counts (#everysecondcounts). For people such as Captain Bala, a safety activist besides being a rescue professional, it is a reality to be faced with equanimity and steady hands.
Captain Bala is the founder of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association (MVFRA), the President of Road Safety Marshal Club (RSMC), and the founder of MISAR. He describes MISAR as a non-profit non-governmental organisation dedicated to search and rescue operations, powered entirely by generous deposits of goodwill, and the passion of its core team. MISAR has thus far answered the call of duty in Aceh (the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake, as well as the 2004 tsunami), Nepal (the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake), and Sichuan (the earthquake in 2008). Those are just the major engagements because MISAR does assist in flood alleviation programmes in Malaysia, for example.
Of course, we are here at the invitation of Crystal Time, distributors of Luminox in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, so that speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by Captain Bala.
It is a rare occasion that we get to put a watch through its paces in a proper training scenario, unless it happens to be a watchmaking training session. These days, even that may be with generic movements and parts, rather than anything brand-specific. Anyway, this course was not about watchmaking, rather it was about making the watch work for you. For the Luminox Code Red Survival Course, it was plain to see that a watch that shows you the time in a fuss-free fashion, without an LCD/OLED display, is key when both your hands are busy, and you have to pay attention to instructions as well as the cries and pleas of “victims.” Being able to just glance at the time gives one the ability to function properly and get one’s tasks done. This is truly why a watch should deliver the time en passant, as they say in watchmaking, not on demand.
Visibility is key, especially when there’s smoke and water in play, and that happens to be where Luminox excels, thanks to the tritium tubes on the dial. With the Luminox Navy SEAL 3600 series, the brand has updated these tubes — they still get the incredible lifespan of 25 years — such that the horizontal tubes have been replaced with vertical ones. Toughness is also important, which is where the superlative water resistance of Luminox watches comes in handy. Good for up to 200 metres in Davy Jones’ locker, the watches can also hold their own against heat and hard knocks, all of which we experienced with the MISAR team as they took us through the course.
We certainly felt the heat as we put out a raging fire, getting as close as possible without getting singed — although everyone certainly got very wet! Speaking of which, there was a sixth training exercise that involved splashing around a small pool, simulating what happens when the MISAR team goes out to rescue flood victims. The watches stayed on, and were none the worse for wear, as everyone splashed about and engaged in Captain Bala’s exacting drills. This one certainly felt longer than 30 minutes!
Both the fire-fighting and flood-victim rescue situations presented rare challenges, as far as watch junkets go. The normal course of action with a loaner watch is to stay away from even the remotest hint of physical danger. Nevertheless, Luminox is kind enough to ensure that their watches follow alongside as we get beat up. As far as I know, no watches were harmed in the making of this story and the journos suffered worse indignities at drinks after dinner.
Speaking of using the watch in the wild, the Luminox ICE-SAR Arctic 1200 series encourages a rather clever secondary use for a wristwatch with hands: as a sun compass. It takes a bit of imagination but no math is required. Just point the hour hand at the sun (do not be cheeky and try this at night, or indoors) and note the angle formed by said hand and an imaginary line from 12 o’clock to the centre of the dial. Bisecting that angle gets you true south, and the Arctic 1200 series has a helpful “S” on the rotating bezel to assist you in marking the position. This is for the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, you will do the exact same thing and find true north instead. And there you have it.
Like the Arctic 1000 series before it, the Arctic 1200 features a stand-out blue model, this time in a much darker shade. The case is actually blue too, unlike last year, but in a more restrained shade. This is probably a good thing because last year’s blue would have been a tad too bright as a case colour. The strap is black, but with reflective elements.
By the way, the ICE-SAR is the acronym for the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, which has been in partnership with Luminox since last year. This organisation performs the same sort of role as MISAR, albeit in Iceland of course.