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A Month on the Wrist: Glycine Airman SST “Pumpkin” Black Ref. GL0309
Watch Review

A Month on the Wrist: Glycine Airman SST “Pumpkin” Black Ref. GL0309

Glycine has again yet managed to keep the ‘Airman’ faithfully adapted and have captivated the watch audience who have been singing praises of this new release. Therefore, kudos to Glycine for being able to create yet another hit of an iconic piece from a bygone era, breathing new life into an old faithful. 

May 28, 2024

It always amazes me when I hear of brands that have been around for more than a hundred years. In an ever changing world, to remain constant and specifically doing the one thing for such a long period of time while remaining relevant is a spectacular feat. This is particularly so for watch making, as there are only about a handful of companies that have been around for more than a century. The brand I am speaking about today has managed to stay relevant, adapt and create some legends along the way. It is also not one that is typically known as a main steam brand which is more often than not plastered on the wrists of everybody but rather a brand that resonates with watch enthusiasts and people who genuinely enjoys watches and appreciate the stories and technical prowess behind or underneath the dials. 

The brand that I will be expounding on today has had some great releases, pieces and movements accredited to them. Founded in 1914 in Switzerland, they created marvellously crafted timepieces and specialised in miniature movements. They then found themselves entering the men’s watch markets, which gave them a great, segue, and found a way into becoming an essential among the British and American jet-setting population. It is none other than Glycine. 

When you mention Glycine, many times, people make an immediate connection to the word ‘Airman’. And there is good reason for them thinking as such. The Airman line debuted in 1953 as a collection of GMT watches with analogue dials and rotating bezels. This boded well with pilots from both military and commercial. This piece is was also on the very notable wrists of pilots during triumphant times like a spaceflight and turbulent times during war seemingly as a triumphant declaration of sorts. 

Over the years, there have been many variations of the Airman line. However, this time they have resurrected one of the most iconic of the Airman’s, the SST collection. This modern reiteration of the cult classic is an absolute balance between the new and old school charm. The SST or ‘SuperSonic Transport’ was introduced in 1967 during the popularity of supersonic airliners that was synonymous with the iconic Concorde. It was a piece fit for its time and it has withstoodthe turbulence times the airliners faced. The Glycine SST is still flying strong today and has had yet conceptualised another beautiful piece in the SST range. 

The piece that I am reviewing today is one of the most eye-catching colours from the range. It is the Glycine Airman SST ‘Pumpkin’ GMT Black Ref. GL0309. It’s a reboot with specs to meet the modern-day updates both on and beneath the case and dial.

With the world so interconnected these days and many of us travelling round for a myriad of reasons, a GMT watch adds a nice appeal to any watch lover who hops on a plane regularly and appreciates having two time zones at a glance. Personally, since the Airman VC9 from the sixties, this has to be my favourite release in a similar style and fashion. 

The Case & Bezel

Spotting an iconic and classic tonneau case shape and somewhat of a hybrid of a cushion style. This amalgamation of styles covers two of the most beloved case shape from the yesteryears. Incidentally this style of case pays homage to the original Glycine Airman SST as it seems very similar and has a curvier modern uplift.   

For a piece that comes in at case size of 43MM it fits on the wrist extremely well, it is predominantly due to the shape of the case which makes it only come in at 46MM lug to lug. The tonneau case style has an edge in this aspect, as it is short and has gently curved edges that seems very refined and elegant from an aesthetical point of view. It is this style of lugs, coupled with the finely fitted and seamlessly joint steel bracelet that helps add unison from the case to bracelet that particularly makes this piece so easy to wear and does not seem too clunky for a 43MM piece. If I could say so, this is a touch of design masterclass  from Glycine. 

For this piece, there is a very slim almost bottlecap styled bezel, this is done on purpose as it creates a nice contrast and breakage from the brushed case, almost as though to cross over nicely into the chapter ring that showcases all the capitals of the countries that you would use as your second time zone in regard to the GMT function. 

On the case, there are two crowns fitted, one at the two o’clock position which is used to rotate the chapter ring to set the secondary time. The crown at the two o’clock position mimics that of a flat screw head, it is something unique and different from the styles of crowns we are used to. As for the second crown at the four o’clock position, it is the main crown used to set and adjust the time and date and is screw down as this piece is 200M water resistant as well. On this crown, it bears the Glycine crown logo and is knurled to make it easier for gripping and setting the time. Both crowns are well made, nicely finished, and moves extremely smoothly when setting the time, date or location on the chapter ring. 

On the case back together with the rudimentary details, the name Airman SST-21 and Glycine, there is the iconic Boeing Concorde plastered on the back as well. It is a screw down case back to ensure that it is water resistant up to 200 meters. 

The Dial

If you have seen the many lovely variations of the Airman SST through the years, the first very obvious thing you will notice is that they have cleaned up the dial. The other older and more vintage versions spotted words like “Airman SST”, ”Airman”, “World Timer” and “AM/PM”. The newer updated and cleaner dial is definitely a hit amongst the SST faithful. One comment which I heard shared and resonates with me is that, with the lack of words and only numerals creates an overall feel of the dial that is so much sharper and has much greater clarity, yet manages to retain that old school nostalgia.

The only words on the dial this time round is the “GLYCINE” name, accompanied by the crown logo below the twelve hour numeral and “AUTOMATIC” above the six hour mark.  Keeping the number of words minimal on the main dial is a clever touch as it does not take away the attention of the capital cities written on the chapter ring. 

At a glance the dial has a great balance of colours and tones. With a predominantly black face, the stark difference between the orange or ‘pumpkin’ shade works well and there is also a slight splash of white which I will get into in a bit. Working my way in, the chapter ring which rotates when the crown at two o’clock is rotated is the most obvious facet of this piece. As it is brightly coloured in orange it garners the most attention. As a GMT piece, the chapter ring showcases all the capital cities of the world that are usually used as a reference for the timing in a particular time zone. Only Bienne in Switzerland is coloured white to stand out from the rest as it is the place where Glycine watches were conceptualised and created. All other major cities are printed in black. The contrast of black and orange works well as there is a clear distinction between the colours that makes it very legible. 

On the edge of the dial, it is marked with hours one through twenty four to represent the total number of hours in a day. As this being a GMT piece there is two sets of numerals on the dial to differentiate and distinguish the times of two different zones. As for the twenty four hours, half of the outer rim of the dial is white from number six to eighteen and black from the other end of eighteen and six in black to distinguish the difference between the day and night which seems like a very clever visual spectacle.  

Moving inwards, just below the twenty-four-hour Arabic markers, is a double circle with indices as a guide point for both sets of numerals on the dial, with both stick and triangular indices. For the main or primary time there is a triangular index for each hour from one through twelve. For the GMT time, the same triangular index is on every even hour point. The Arabic markers for telling the primary time are printed in white and is nicely contrasted against the black dial colour. With the only exception at the six o’clock position where there is a date window, where instead of the number six. 

With a few variants of styles of fonts and numerals on the dial, Glycine has managed to find just the right balance. It almost reminds me of a Breitling Navitimer, as having a lot of details but everything blends and works remarkably well. From an artistic point of view, the eclecticism of styles and feels of modern and vintage vibes come together impeccably as a whole in this piece. 

Movement & Bracelet

The Airman SST is sporting the iconic calibre GL293 Swiss automatic movement. This is another modern change from the classic models which were powered by the vintage Felsa, the Bidynator to be exact. Felsa are the guys whom we have to thank for the automatic winding mechanism which they patented back in 1942. The Bidynator was the first successful movement with bi-directional winding as well. 

Back to the GL239, this is a movement that is very much based on the Sellita 330-1 which comes with 25/26 jewels and has a power reserve of 38 hours and has a 28,800 BPH. The GL293 comes with a custom rotor and blue screws, however as the case back is not see through, it is hidden from sight. If you were ever to open it up for whatever reasons, I am sure it would be a great sight to behold as well. It is a movement that is hand winding and comes with a popular hacking movement that seems to be something that catches the eyes of many watch enthusiasts.  With the GL293, what you are getting in essence it an extremely reliable movement that is definitely going to be ticking without issues for years to come, and perfect for daily wear. 

The steel bracelet comes in 22MM and is a 5 link bracelet with each link alternating between brushed and polished surfaces. This adds a nice distinction and more definition and focus on the finishing of the bracelet.

Final Thoughts

Glycine with their newest iteration of the “Airman SST” has still managed to embody and capture the essence of their iconic cult classic in the newest range of models. 

The ‘Pumpkin’ being the most notable piece from back in the day, is still the star of the range. It is one of those pieces that has managed to bring a fresh and modern facelift to a timeless classic. When placed in comparison with the SST 12 from 1998, the newer SST looks so much fresher, curvier and has a very high polish finish form case to bracelet. This finely ‘polished’ look just makes it look very modern and as a piece suited for any occasion for the modern day man. If you are looking for a finely made GMT, rich in history, worn by actual jet setters from the past and at a very justifiable price point, look no further. The Glycine Airman SST might just be the watch for you. If at this point you are thinking, I am not one for loud colours and want an everyday piece that can blend with casual daily wear, fret not. There is a piece for everyone as they do come in a broad spectrum of colours. Personally, my next pick would definitely be the Red GL0314, which has a very calming and subtle blend of greys and blue.

In conclusion, Glycine has again yet managed to keep the ‘Airman’ faithfully adapted and have captivated the watch audience who have been singing praises of this new release.  

Therefore, kudos to Glycine for being able to create yet another hit of an iconic piece from a bygone era, breathing new life into an old faithful. 

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