Our colleague @admin already published a post dedicated to the Glycine Airman in which he reviewed its extraordinary history as a pilot watch. I strongly recommend a read of this for background.
The above mentioned post included a short video at the end in which I was wearing my Airman DC-4 in the cockpit of my ultralight. It is a watch that I promptly added to my collection when I returned to the hobby in 2018, this time much more focused around the aviation theme.
Today I want to go into further details about the piece which, like Miguel Ángel Cladera’s, is from the Vintage range, albeit in this case the 12-hour version, specifically the reference Airman GL0217. This is no longer part of the current range for the brand, although remarkably similar watches continue to be offered.
Glycine as a brand has pedigree, having been established by Eugène Meylan in 1914, in Bienne, Switzerland, where it continues to have its base of operations. It lost some glamour after its acquisition by Invicta in 2016.
Invicta is a special case in the world of watchmaking. It is a brand founded in 1837, thereby being one of the historical houses. However, when watches began to get bigger and less discreet from the 1990s, it decided to bet very strongly in this direction.
These trends, which have been in reverse for some years now, are still very present in the Invicta range. That is why the brand is associated with bad taste. I am of the view that a watch should satisfy its owner, and no one else, but there is little doubt that Invicta is not trying to please anyone other than its own core public. Anyway, this issue does not seem to have affected Glycine. In fact, since the acquisition four years ago, Glycine has narrowed its range to focus on its two flagship products: the Airman and the Combat Sub.
However, Glycine has suffered from Invicta’s deranged pricing and sales policies, which have been widely criticized and justifiably in my view. The company has a habit of announcing absurd retail prices only to then offer its watches at what appear to be succulent discounts. This is very damaging to the brand, in my opinion.
I believe the following two images perfectly illustrate these two issues.
And this third image illustrates that the commercial policy issue also plagues Glycine-branded watches.
The Current Range
The Airman came out in 1953. When first introduced to international markets, it received a great reception, especially among pilots. In addition to local time, its GMT complication allowed the time in an alternate time zone to be clearly legible. It was born just when transcontinental travel was growing by leaps and bounds. Since then, it is a piece that has always remained in the brand’s collection.
Three aesthetic variants are currently offered.
First, there is the Airman Vintage sub-range, with a vintage look, but with modern construction and components. It is offered in three sizes (36 mm, 40 mm and 42 mm), with and without the GMT complications, and in 12 or 24-hour format. It retains the second crown at 4 o’clock to secure the rotating bezel, which allows the indication of a third time zone by turning it.
Glycine also offers the Airman Contemporary sub-range, in three sizes (42mm, 44mm and 46mm), with and without the GMT complication. Again, it retains the second crown to secure the bezel.
Lastly, Glycine offers the Airwoman sub-range, in 36 mm. These are all three-hand versions that preserve the aesthetics of the Airman, including the second crown.
Glycine currently offers 16 Vintage type models, although its website warns that there are others, I imagine unsold inventory. This includes my model, although it has a lot of similarity with the GL0071 shown above. The range includes the traditional “DC-4” in 12- and 24-hour versions with a cyclops over the date window, with a screw-down crown and Dauphine hands. In addition, the limited “N01” versions are offered without the date magnifying glass or screw-down crown, as is also the case with the “The Chief” versions. For these two, the hands are different and there are GMT models as well as three-hand ones.
Glycine offers a whopping 40 models in its Contemporary collection, in the three sizes listed above. In this segment we find more dial colours, and different case finishes, including bronze and black PVD. They all have a screw-down crown at 3 o’clock. A special version is the so-called “Double Twelve”, which is a three-hand piece with 12-hour markings on the bezel.
Five models are currently offered in the Airwoman sub-range, with steel finishes as well as PVD in yellow and red gold, and which come with a bracelet or a strap. They are all three-hand models and have a bezel with 12-hour markings, not the traditional 24 hours of the Airman.
My Airman DC 4 has reference GL0217. As far as I can tell, it only differs from the reference GL0071 that we find in the current collection by the colour of the NATO strap that it is supplied with, which in my case was olive green and in the current line-up model is black. The NATO is of exceedingly high quality and comes with a signed buckle.
The watch is 42 mm in diameter and is a rather modest 12.1 mm thick, including the cyclops over the date. The models without the cyclops have a height of just 10.3 mm. It measures 50 mm lug-to-lug and has 22 mm between lugs. The sides of the case are polished, as is the back, which is a screw-down exhibition type with a mineral glass. The tops of the lugs are brushed. A similar finish can be found on the bi-directional bezel, which carries the 24-hour indicators for the GMT function hand. It moves after unscrewing the locking crown at 4 o’clock. The main crown is also of the screw-down variety and is signed. The locking crown also includes markings.
The dial is matte black with luminescent hour markers (Super-LumiNova). There are small triangles alongside small numbers that serve as markers for the 24-hour GMT hand. These are interspersed between the main hour numbers, thus allowing the bezel to be used to control a third time zone if it is moved from its usual position.
The hour and minute hands are of Dauphine type, finished in brushed steel and filled with luminescent material (also Super-LumiNova). The second hand has a luminescent circle near its tip. The GMT hand is straight with a brushed finish.
The watch offers a date at 3 o’clock, with a magnifying glass. The date ring is white, with red font. From the proper angle, it is incredibly easy to read.
The watch has a domed sapphire with three applications of anti-reflective coating.
The whole package is waterproof up to 200 m, an unusual feature for a pilot watch albeit one that it shares with another great watch of its kind, the Sinn 104, which I recently wrote about.
The watch carries the automatic caliber GL293, which is a Sellita 330-1 with 25 jewels, in turn based on the ETA-2893-2, finished to grade élaboré and with a signed rotor. The caliber offers a 42-hour power reserve. It beats at 28,800 bph. It offers quick-set adjustment for the GMT hand and the date. The GMT hand moves with the time in the hacked time-change crown position. My unit arrived very well adjusted, but not particularly well regulated. This has an easy fix, but since I rotate the collection so often, I have not got round to it yet. In the traditional five positions, the timegrapher indicates an accuracy of between -9 s/day to -15 s/day. The Sellita 220 in the Sinn 104, for example, offers much better performance of between -1 to +3 s/day, depending on the position.
The DC-4 has a casual look and conveys a great tool-watch feeling, without being brutish at all. I find the 42 mm version very wearable on my wrist, which is 17.5 cm in circumference. I imagine that the 40 mm version will be more appropriate for smaller wrists, and the 44 mm version from the Airman Contemporary collection may be better for those with bigger ones.
Both due to its history and its performance, I consider the Airman a fundamental piece in any pilot watch collection. All that remains is to show you to the usual carousel of images of this great watch.