Gear Review Marathon GSAR Automatic Watch Review

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by melbo, Jun 23, 2010.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I got back into the habit of wearing a watch in 2005 after Bear and I had a conversation about the fact that most people now rely on cell phones to tell them what time it is. He suggested I try the Marathon Field Watch (Mil-W-4637). It’s a great little 17 jewel, mechanical wind watch with tritium tubes on the hands and hours. You used to be able to find them for $80 and now if you see them at all, they’re closer to $200 (we just discovered that TopSpecUS has them for $137). I decided to upgrade myself to an automatic late last year and since I’ve been drooling at the Marathon G-SAR online for a couple of years, the choice was easy.

    This is the Marathon G-SAR Automatic Watch.



    The G-SAR sells for $780 USD. I purchased the optional stainless bracelet for another $157. So just what do you get for $937 worth of stainless steel goodness? Here are some specs from Marathon:

    The Marathon Watch Company started making watches in 1904 as Weinsturm Watch (later Wein Brothers) and has been manufacturing timepieces for military contracts since 1941.


    My G-SAR was born in Switzerland in October 2009 and showed up on my doorstep at the beginning of January 2010. Compared to the size of the field watch I’ve worn 24/7 for the past 5 years, this thing is huge. The sapphire face stands a full ½“ off the wrist and the bezel and knurled winding knob are beefy, easy to grasp and generally overbuilt. There are some who wear larger watches than this and actually call this watch small but I think it’s perfect.

    Here’s a side by side comparison of the G-SAR and the Rolex Submariner.



    The first item on my list was to swap the rubber band for the stainless one. Marathon suggests in the manual (attached below) that this band should be installed by a professional. Since I lack watchmaker’s tools, I complied and it took the jeweler nearly 30 minutes to install the new bracelet. He commented on the tight tolerance at the watch to bracelet mating surfaces and went slow so he wouldn’t scratch my new G-SAR.

    If you’ve never seen the tritium illumination of a Marathon watch, its tough to describe just how bright this thing is. I wear this watch 24 hours a day and can actually read by it at night if my eyes are fully night vision adapted. It’s the middle of the day right now and I can see the green glow as I turn the face back and forth. Brighter than any non electric illumination I’ve ever encountered; you would want to take measures to cover this watch up if concerned about not looking like a small solar flare to anyone watching you through NV.

    The bezel is a standard uni-directional elapsed time ring (60 minutes - 120 clicks) and I’ve found myself using it whenever I’m cooking something on the grill or need to otherwise keep track of time. I used to use electronic timers for this and I’ve now broken myself of the habit. The sapphire crystal is a 9 on the mohs hardness scale and is virtually unscratchable. This is a good thing as I’m hard on myself and my accessories.

    The crown (winding knob) is a 4 position knurled design that looks like it would be right at home on a creation by John Browning. It’s solid and screws down to lock, giving the watch its powerful seal against 1000ft of water. It’s easy to adjust the time and date (you must adjust the date at the end of any month that is less than 31 days as this watch is not a ‘perpetual’), and to wind the watch if you ever let it run down beyond the 40 hours of reserve time. It’s also has the ‘hacking’ feature that stops the second hand so that you can synchronize your watch with others on your team.

    The white hands and numerals on black face are easy to read in any light. The second hand has a red tip with a touch of Maraglo. I’m not sure why tritium wasn’t used on the second hand or the 12:00 position triangle on the bezel. The 12:00 position on the face is tritium illuminated yet glows orange in the dark. Nice touch! The date window is also between the 4 and 5 which is different than most other watches that display dates at 3 or between 3 and 4.

    The 25 jewel movement that is the engine of this watch is the ETA 2824-A2 which is also Swiss made. ETA makes the internal movements for nearly every watch company with the exception of a small handful. I tried to find a list and was told that I should instead create a list of who doesn’t use ETA movements. This G-SAR movement has a “A” at the end of its more common designation of ETA 2824-2 as the hands needed to be extended out further than the normal ETA 2824-2 to clear the tritium vials.

    This diagram is in the attached manual

    Here’s a little Wikipedia on the ETA 2824: ETA SA - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    This diagram is in the attached manual

    My watch runs 12 seconds fast in a 24 hour period and has been running for around 6 months which should have given it time to settle down. Most automatic watches run fast rather than slow because the movement has to regulate the super fast heartbeat or oscillations per hour down to 60 seconds a minute at the second hand. The G-SAR runs at 28,800 BPH - same as a rolex. I’m supposed to have the watch disassembled, cleaned and lubricated yearly (although some have advised I not take it apart unless it’s broken) and if I perform that maintenance, will also have the watchmaker regulate this watch to try to increase its accuracy a little although ~10 seconds a day is 99.988% accurate already.

    I’ve worn this watch halfway around the world already and I plan on wearing it around the other half when I get the chance. It’s a utilitarian yet attractive tool watch that is just the right size for my tastes. It’s a workhorse that is meant to be used and pushed to its limits unlike some of the ‘prettier’ autos. At $700, I could by 8 G-SARs to 1 submariner. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea! The illumination is superb and the accuracy is well within my needs. I highly recommend the Marathon G-SAR to anyone looking to step into the world of Automatic watches. Splurge and get the stainless bracelet as well – it makes the watch. Marathon GSAR Divers Automatic Watch WW194006 (Tritium H3) -

    My only complaint with the G-SAR would be that the Maraglo ‘glow in the dark’ paint on the second hand and the bezel triangle loses its illumination faster than I’d like it to. It should have been tritium although I’m sure there’s a reason why it is not.

    Below are some pictures of my G-SAR including some wrist shots (by request) as well as the G-SAR Instruction Manual and a couple of difficult to locate sets of schematics and technical drawings from ETA.












    ETA 2824-2 Manufacturing Information
    ETA 2824-2 Technical Communication

    The Marathon GSAR is now available from our new friends at - Marathon Watches, Voodoo Tactical Gear, Nylon Watch Bands, Bail Out Bags, Weapons Cases, Outdoor Products. Everything ships free!

    Update 2012 - Regulated my Watch to +/- 1 sec @ day! - read below for more info.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  2. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Awesome. Just absolutely awesome.
  3. seeker

    seeker Monkey+

    Thanks for the info. I'm not able to purchase this watch yet but I can get a 4637 mechanical field watch and that may hold me over for a bit.
  4. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    I have wanted one of these for a long time. Just out of my price range. I burn through watches at a ridiculous rate.

    My leaning these days is toward any watch that doesn't run on regular replaceable batteries. Thus, the interest in the Auto GSAR. My current watch is an Eco-Drive from Citizen. No problems to date. Just bought my wife one as well.
  5. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I don't plan to perform my own service and since I've only had this for 7.5 months, will wait until a year until I send it out for cleaning, lubrication and regulation. Still haven't decided on who I'll send it to but I am looking at ordering some basic tools for doing minor repairs.

    @Hispeedal2, you should go for it. Trade out one of your ARs and call it done... I like the eco drive as well but nothing beats a fully mechanical, self winding, tritium illuminated watch that will be passed down to your son or daughter.
  6. Wildboy

    Wildboy Monkey+

    I've been wearing the quartz divers model for 2 years now - quartz vesus automatic being an optomistic purchase, I admit.

    But I have an older automatic Hamilton I inherited from my father that will be my SHTF watch.

    The SAR's natural rubber band is a bit hot and also not long enough for wetsuit use, but the watch itself is stunning. I use a face guard made for Suunto dive watches to protect the already durable saphire face since I actually use mine for diving.

    Highly recommended!
  7. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    I have 2 self winders a Seiko dive watch and a Benrus military watch from my aircrew days... both need repair as i seem to have a "magnetic" personality and loose time on a regular basis... currently i also have 2 Citizens eco drive watches...
  8. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    My GSAR is now running 8 seconds fast a day. I wear it 24 hours a day and haven't ever tried letting it rest on my nightstand in different positions.

    8 seconds off means this watch is 99.98% accurate! Not bad for a tool watch beater.
  9. thursday

    thursday Monkey+

    I've got an itch to order your same watch right this minute, only without the metal bracelet. I've never owned a Automatic watch before, but I've always wanted to and this seems like a true bang for your buck auto watch.

    Anything worth mentioning now you've been able to wear it longer? How often do these need service and how much do you figure that'll cost?

    Also how do you know the date your watch was born?

    Did you end up ordering from county comm?
  10. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Do it.

    I still wear it 24/7. I might order another one as a shtf backup.
    Servicing Autos is a debatable topic. Some say never, don't open it until it's broken while others say yearly cleaning and lubrication. I'm getting ready to send mine in for a cleaning /lube and I don't know what that will cost yet or where I will send it. Maybe $150? I think a 5 year plan is a good compromise.

    I know the date because it's stamped on the back. Also, the guys from countycomm will tell you before you order and I requested the very freshest one they had.

    Tell them survivalmonkey sent you! I don't make anything off it but I'd like them to know about this thread since I nabbed a couple of pics from them (GSAR/Rolex side by side comparison.)
  11. thursday

    thursday Monkey+

    Damn it! I shouldn't have bumped this to the top two of you sons of ****hes are snipin my eBay find! I think the tritium in it is about done with on it anyways, date says 2000.
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

  13. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I have some Marathon manual wind field watches that say 2001 and they are still bright enough to read by. I think the 12 years is a very conservative estimate.
  14. thursday

    thursday Monkey+

    Well it is a half-life not an end-life. After 12.5 years it's rated to be half the original brightness and then another 12.5 years half that half-life brightness. I'm sure like you mentioned there's a little bit of a buffer.
  15. thursday

    thursday Monkey+

  16. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Set it by naval time (online) and then checked it 24 hours later. Repeat periodically.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  17. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    Nice watch! I was just looking at these this morning before reading your post. I bought a bunch of stuff from CommunityComm and was drooling over a couple of those watches.

    I have a few questions that I couldn't seem to figure out:
    * What does "SAR" stand for? Anything??
    * What is the difference b/w the SAR and TSAR. The SAR states "automatic movement" and the TSAR talks about "quartz movement." Does this mean the TSAR has a battery and the SAR winds by body movement? Or, are they both body movement with just different guts?

    Regarding the price of "maintenance": I have a Rolex GMT Master II--had it since 1988. Last year was the first time I ever had it serviced. The "service" replaced a few parts that were in need of repair (I dropped it off a counter onto a tile floor ... wouldn't stay wound after that) and the bill came out to a new SAR with metal bracelet...wish I had known. I don't know what "just maintenance" would be...I'm guessing about half of that (at a Rolex dealer)

    Given that it has the same movement as a Rolex, it makes sense that you'd need a qualified Rolex repairman to do the servicing. I would shop around on this and go to a watchmaker/repairman, not necessarily a Rolex re-seller. They have to pay for those fancy buildings some how.

    I have never checked my watch to see how fast/slow it is. I will now and may post back (just out of curiosity's sake). Do you have a website that you recommend?

    As an aside, I can't see jack in the dark with mine and could barely make out the numbers 20 years ago. When I got the repairs, I was asked if I wanted the glow circles replaced, but the price was just too exorbitant. I wonder how much for a complete replacement of the tritium vials?
  18. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    * What does "SAR" stand for? Anything??
    Search And Rescue. GSAR is Governement Search And Rescue

    * What is the difference b/w the SAR and TSAR. The SAR states "automatic movement" and the TSAR talks about "quartz movement." Does this mean the TSAR has a battery and the SAR winds by body movement? Or, are they both body movement with just different guts?
    Yes, Quartz is a Battery mechanism and the GSAR use Self Winding Movements

    I have never checked my watch to see how fast/slow it is. I will now and may post back (just out of curiosity's sake). Do you have a website that you recommend?
    I use Navy Time What time is it?
  19. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I use my Servers NTP subsystem to set all the computers on my network, and then set all the non-connected clocks to those. I do not need a watch out here, today is usually close enough, and if I need something more accurate than that I have my iPod Touch, (Brains in a pocket) that is sync'd to my main workstation. Server Time is locked to Navel Observatory Time, once an hour, with a GPS backup from my networked GPS.
  20. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    GSAR is still running fine after 10 days in salt water to depths of 50 feet.

    Still running about the same and I have not yet sent it off for regulating. I'm thinking of picking up another one as a backup to this one.

    Can't say enough about this watch and don't think I'd ever look towards another tool watch after finding this $700 model.
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