Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chocolate review: Auro 42% Milk Chocolate

The 3 bars of Auro Chocolate we purchased includes this milk chocolate that claims to have 42% cacao content. It is not a dark chocolate but we wanted to check how their milk chocolates tasted. The cacao content also suggested that this won't be your typical milk chocolate that tend to be on the sweet and creamy side.

Auro chocolate's 42% milk chocolate - proudly Made in Davao, Philippines
Details on the chocolate at the back of the box
Nutrition information and Auro's story and contact information

This is a very good milk chocolate and if you don't really look at the label, you may assume it to be a dark chocolate that's closer to the 30 to 50% cacao content (this is a milk chocolate with 42% minimum cocoa solids). A good comparison is with Meiji Black, which is labeled as a dark chocolate but is not as bitter as how people would expect from those with higher cacao content. The bar retailed for 265 pesos (~4.91 USD) and I must say that its worth it for those who are quite particular with their chocolates. The only thing that probably will deter you from getting one is if you really enjoy your Meiji Black and realize you can get 4 or 5 bars for the amount of money you would spend on this Auro bar. :)


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Chocolate review: Auro 77% Dark Chocolate

Another Auro bar we got is this 77% dark chocolate, which we thought was as smooth as a bitter chocolate could be. Chocolates >70% tend to have a more bitter taste to them (matapang na at lasang-lasa ang cacao).

Auro chocolate's 77% dark chocolate
Details on the chocolate including the price tag is here.
Close-up of the nutrition information

This bar retailed for only 200 pesos (about 3.70 USD) so we were actually surprised about the difference in prices with the 55% dark chocolate bar. The shopkeeper couldn't explain it but I can only guess that perhaps this wasn't popular with their customers as they probably thought 77% dark chocolate meant it was too bitter to be enjoyed. They are wrong and are missing out on this chocolate that's only leaning towards bitterness (more a hint rather than absolute). It would be perfect with wine or ice cream but is okay as a standalone after meal treat to relieve yourself some of the after taste of savory food (pangtanggal ng umay).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Chocolate review: Auro 55% Dark Chocolate

We spotted the large bar version of this chocolate at a store that's mainly for baking supplies. The smaller bars you can get at Starbucks. And we wondered before if Auro had the big bar version since the small bars seemed to be "bitin" in as far as our chocolate intakes are concerned. We got one of each of the three varieties available at the store for this chocolate, which we thought was very good and perhaps already comparable to the more popular Malagos chocolates from the same region in the Philippines.

Auro Chocolate's 55% dark chocolate comes in a 90g bar.
Details on the chocolate at the back of the box
Here's a close-up of the nutrition information and a briefer on Auro.
Here is what the chocolate looks like once unwrapped.
The 55% dark chocolate from Auro is smooth and perhaps a good introduction to their chocolates. The taste and texture tells us that they have achieved a certain level in chocolate-making that sets them apart and above the mass production chocolates; never mind the pretender upstarts and amateurs. It also says a lot about cacao and chocolates coming out of Davao. The bar retails for 265 pesos (about 4.91 USD), which at first seems a bit expensive for a local chocolate but then if you're willing to pay the same or more for an inferior foreign chocolate, then you have no excuse shelling out the same for this very good dark chocolate.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Seiko Crown, Cal. 560, vintage watch

Another old watch in my collection is this Seiko Crown. It is somewhat a prelude to the release of the much sought after Grand Seiko and has an efficient manual winding caliber from the Suwa branch of Seiko.

I like watches with simple faces. This one does not have any complications, even lumes.
Side view showing the crown
The other side view - which shows a stain atop the watch name. This is part of the allure of vintage watches and the patina on this one shows it has aged well.
The case back. I am not sure if this is gold plated.
Here's a close up of the case back
This angle and lighting gave me a clear reading of the serial number.
I recently changed the leather strap for this watch and got one with a deployant clasp similar to the mechanism on my Hampton. Here is the watch on my wrist after the change.

The model, movement caliber and serial number indicate this watch to have been manufactured sometime January 1960. The movement on this watch is a Cal. 560 manual winding that beats at 18,000 bph. I have observed the watch a few times to see how long its reserve is. So far, it has been consistent at averaging about 43 hours on a full wind. Again, not bad for an old watch (58 year and counting).

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Potential impacts of Mangkut/Ompong

The last times there were typhoons comparable in perceived and actual physical impacts, the socio-political impacts also eventually manifested. Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in 2009 dumped record rainfall across a wide area that included Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region 3) and Southern Luzon (Region 4A). The government's response then and the issues that came about afterwards essentially contributed much to the doom for many of the administration's candidates in the 2010 elections including its standard bearer who was Defense Secretary at the time. The follies of many politicians and government agencies were also exposed and most people judged them for that in the elections.

Come 2013, another typhoon, Haiyan (Yolanda), laid waste to much of the central Philippines. It was a super typhoon that again caught most, especially government, unprepared for the devastation that was its outcome. It spelled disaster, too, to many political aspirations with the then Interior Secretary becoming the poster boy somewhat for the government's failures. Apparently, many of the lessons of Ondoy were not heeded despite gains here and there in weather forecasting and disaster preparedness. But then these were perceived to be more on the side of politicians. There were no lack in politicking, self promotion and grandstanding. And there was even more drama among rival sides in Philippine politics. There was enough material for fodder come 2016.

The current administration is much aware of the issues and the dangers of playing into the same script. After all, they created much of the political storm that led to an almost complete defeat of the previous admin's ticket (the current VP survived that and hopefully gets to finish her term instead of being replaced by the ambitious son of a former dictator). But the present set of leaders and wannabees are not lacking for distasteful maneuvers as relief goods are being prepared by government agencies and local government units bearing the name (and sometimes even face) of aspirants for electoral posts in the 2019 elections. Among these are a Presidential "alalay" who is somewhat desperate for a senate post if only to protect himself from charges once his sponsor(s) bow down from power.

Will Mangkut/Ompong effect positive change in the country? Perhaps so and we can only hope it will be for the better.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Seiko Kinetic SKJ001P (5M43-0A40)

My collection of Seiko watches include this Kinetic diver known as SKJ001P and/or 5M43-0A40. I've written before that I really don't collect divers but there are certain watches that present themselves and I don't easily pass up the opportunity to acquire those I can establish a link to. I have had a fascination for AGS/Kinetic watches since the 1990s when I resided in Japan while I was a post grad student in Yokohama.

Dial showing date and day features as well as the functioning bezel.
Side view showing the screw down crown and the power reserve button
The other side view
Another look at the crown and power reserve button. These watches originally had a 7 to 14-day power reserve when they first came out. So far, I've monitored the watch and it seems to have a very long reserve. I assume that the seller had the capacitor changed and this one probably has a power reserve of at least over a month (my Landmaster has a 6-month reserve!).
Original jubilee bracelet with lug size 22mm
Case back showing the model and serial number
The lumes still work perfectly
Close-up of the bottom of the dial showing the watch model
Wrist shot

According to the online Seiko date finder, this watch was manufactured in January 1997 (21 years as of this writing), which is right on the button for when this watch came out as part of the 2nd generation of Seiko Kinetic divers' watches. I was also in Japan at the time and it was my first full winter in Yokohama. I recall these watches were quite expensive then (about a third of our monthly stipend for the really good model watches) and the models released for the Japanese market were still branded AGS instead of Kinetic. The Kinetics were for the international market and you could get them in most stores offering duty free items in Akihabara in Tokyo or elsewhere. I haven't had the water resistance tested for swimming but at least it should offer water resistance in more common situations such as washing my hands or walking in the rain.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tissot Le Locle automatic watch

Tissot is another brand that's part of the Swatch Group. It is the official timekeeper for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and has ventured into sporty electronic and hybrid models that seem to appeal to the younger, techy generation. This model is not one of those and has some classical or conventional features. The model name is derived from the Swiss town of the same name that is famous for watchmaking.

The watch after I took it out of the box
Elegant watch face featuring Roman numerals and a date complication. It would have been better if the hands were blue. By the way, did you notice something unusual about the numbers? Instead of the roman number IV, it is IIII.  It's not a mistake but more a matter of aesthetics or visual symmetrical balance. It is called the "watchmaker's four," and helps make the time 'readable' or 'legible' from different angles.
Side view showing the signed crown and highlighting the textured dial
The other side view again emphasizing the textured dial
I was impressed and intrigued by the case back. It shouts craftsmanship.
Inside the watch is an ETA 2824-2 movement running at 28,800 bph with an accuracy of within 20 sec/day and storage of 37 hours. I have estimated the watch to last about that long after using it almost every day for a week (taking it off at night time).
Wrist shot for this watch that's somewhat most appropriate for formal or semi-formal occasions.
The watch is not part of my regular rotation but it is something that I think would be for-keeps - for now. It is a big one and on the heavier side in as far as watches are concerned so its not something many would fancy. Tissot is supposed to be part of the mid-range collection of brands of the Swatch Group along with Mido and Hamilton. Incidentally, my Hamilton King Khaki has the same movement as this watch.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Citizen Eco Drive Cal. 8700

My collection of Japanese watches currently includes several Seikos. I also have several Citizens including my Japan National Railways (Koku Tetsu) watches and this technological breakthrough in solar watches - the Eco Drive. These are more recent photos I took of my Eco-Drive for documentation purposes.

The Citizen Eco Drive Cal. 8700 perpetual calendar watch
This is a complicated watch and that's part of its charm. The watch has a perpetual calendar feature and to set that up requires some effort and the help of a manual at least the first time you make the adjustments. Its a good thing that you can now download these manuals to help you understand how to operate the watch.
Side view showing the crown and buttons for adjusting the watch features
Side view
Movement and serial number in very fine print at the lower part of the dial
The bracelet
Case back stating that the watch is supposed to have 10 bar water resistance and with a Cal. 8700 movement. The charger on this movement is quite sensitive to light that it can run on low light conditions including on a single candle. On a full charge and after its stored in total darkness, it can run for a period of 6 months!
I had the watch on while working on a project recently.
The lumes are working on this piece.
The display on this watch's face reminds one of the instrument panel you'll find in most cars.

Good things come to those who wait. And I waited (and hesitated) about getting an Eco Drive for quite some time. To get this one, I was quite lucky again with an auction. Few people seem to have an appreciation for this watch perhaps because most of the other watches in the auction were Swiss vintage or Seiko divers watches, which I think are more popular.

[Note: I no longer have this watch as I decided to sell it. It was quickly sold and I hope the current owner is enjoying this complicated piece.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Chocolate review: Chocolat Stella Intense Dark Chocolate 75% Cocoa

We haven't had chocolates from this maker in quite a while and I thought we had this particular one and that I wrote about it before. Turns out that the previous one is a different chocolate.

This is a 75% cocoa chocolate so I would agree that this is on the 'intense' side in as far as dark chocolates are concerned.
Details about the chocolate at the back
Nutrition information on the chocolate
There's an interesting thing about this chocolate as it is supposed to have been produced using sustainable means.
This chocolate is another winner in terms of the taste and texture. It is basically very smooth despite the 75% cocoa content. The chocolate retails for 3.85 USD (~204 PHP) at the NAIA Duty Free Shop. I got a 5% discount on this and other chocolates that I usually buy prior to a trip to avail of their Travel Light promo.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Zodiac Olympos automatic vintage watch

An interesting watch in my collection is this automatic from Zodiac. The shape, for one, is unusual for a watch. Typical are the circular, oval and rectangular shapes for most watches. This one's like a shield. The Zodiac Olympos is part of an entire model line for this Swiss watch company.

Trying it on for the first time after the watch was delivered
The watch has an unusual shape. I have square watches, rectangular ones, oysters, UFOs and the usual other circular cases. A friend referred to this as a 'batman' watch.
Side view giving more emphasis to its shape
Another side view showing the crown. This is not the original one for this watch as I've seen one with the Zodiac logo.
Case back showing the watch to be water and shock resistant
This is a gold plated watch - 20 microns
The watch after I removed the leather strap
I got the same nato strap as my other Zodiac watch and replaced the leather strap. I thought this made the watch more casual and wearable.
A quick wrist shot while waiting for the green light
The watch is powered by a Zodiac Cal. 72 movement that beats at 21,600 A/h with a power reserve of about 40 hours. I have not timed the watch but it has always survived overnight so I guess this watch still has it in terms of storage.