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Tornek-Rayville Type 7B “BlakJak”

The Return of an Obscure & Mighty Tool Watch

Yes, that’s a mouthful to begin a review with, sorry. But I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the new Tornek-Rayville Type 7B “BlakJak”—which comes in a full package (a pelican-type case with a bracelet, nylon and rubber straps and tools)—ready for you to deploy to your next overseas tour or simply—just like yours truly—to tackle another day in the life of an urban watch journalist. Because you never know what could happen tomorrow when turning the corner around your house! And although I absolutely don’t need such a robust tool watch, this is the kind of timekeeping device which I prefer to wear on a daily basis. At the end of the day, it’s about wearing what makes us feel whole and happy. Nothing more. 

And you may have heard of Tornek-Rayville before, which was the name under which Blancpain sold watches to the U.S. military back in the day. (Like the 70s?) The brand was revived a couple of years back by Bill Yao who’s known for offering quality, vintage-inspired, and attainable tool watches under the brand MKII Watches. Reviving Tornek made it possible for Bill to further explore the somewhat obscure—and yet expansive—catalog of professional military watches that accompanied brave men and women in life-threatening missions all around the globe. And though technology has progressed so much in the past I-don’t-know-how-many-years, one can still appreciate buying what I describe as being a “proper tool watch.”

Again, we don’t need a BlakJak in our life, just like we don’t need a Rolex Submariner or Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar. But we choose to wear these watches. Got it?  


Let’s first get to the elephant in the room: the BlakJak is a big boy but it wears incredibly well on my 6.50”/16.5cm wrist thanks to a short lug-to-lug distance and an incredible case profile. Oh, and there’s the whole dial-to-bezel-to-case proportions which are nothing short of being idyllic (to me.) But we will talk about this a little later. For now, let’s focus on the good old specs and, obviously, the dimensions of this big baby: 42.5mm diameter at the bezel, 49mm lug-to-lug, 13.20mm thick and a 22mm lug width. So yes indeed the Tornek-Rayville is a big boy but a gentle one. Thanks to its massive body, you get a robust, all-rounder tool watch which will be perfect regardless of the situation you find yourself in. (Again, whether being deployed overseas or fetching a coffee from Starbucks.) 

All of that stainless steel encloses a regulated Seiko NH36 caliber which beats at 21,600 BPH (3Hz) and comes with 41 hours of power reserve. (The unit I had in for review ran at +/- 0 seconds per day which is just delightful.) The NH36 comes with a handy day/date complication which is visually oh so well incorporated here. The crystal is a flat piece of sapphire with inner anti-reflective coating to keep the dial ultra-legible. (A domed crystal would have made this more challenging.) Nighttime legibility is ensured thanks to strategic and abundant applications of BGW9 lume on the hands, the 5-minute increment markers recessed within the rehaut, and the 12 o’clock lume pip on the bezel. 

The bezel is itself technically very impressive: the 120-click unidirectional mechanism has a solid and confident action, the fully-graduated insert (my favorite type) is made of DLC-coated stainless steel for extra life-resistance. Moreover, the insert is sloped inward to provide additional protection against drops and frontal hits. Both the crown and case-back screw-down which endow the Type 7B BlakJak with a whoping 200 meters of water resistance. What else do the people want and/or need? Well, all of that and at a somewhat attainable price which I believe is what we have here: $895 USD for which you get a rubber strap, a Maratac “Mil Series” nylon strap (i.e. super robust with DLC coated hardware,) as well as a metal bracelet complete with screwed-in links. 

That’s a darn good bargain if you ask me. 


If you’ve never encountered a Bill Yao watch before, you only need to know this: they tend to be very well made and ultra legible. The design of the Type 7B BlakJak is based on that of a 1990s Type 6 SANDY 660 manufactured by Stocker and Yale, a prominent purveyor of equipment to the U.S. Military. Like the Type 7B, the 660 had a full stack of painted Arabic numerals for the hour markers, syringe-style hour and minute hands, lumed markers recessed within the rehaut (at the time lume was radioactive tritium,) a fully-graduated bezel, a lume pip at the twelve o’clock, as well as a date complication. Tornek-Rayville decided to revive and upgrade the original design which is, for the most part, that of a mysterious watch that is hard to come by. So much so, in fact, that the team spent 20 years pondering whether or not—and how—to bring this unique MIL-SPEC reference to life. 

And I’m glad they did. 

Visually, the Tornek-Rayville Type 7B is a beautiful exercise in restraint. The printed Arabic numerals are rather small and perfectly proportioned to the hour and minute hands and each hand reaches exactly where its supposed to in order to guarantee superlative legibility. The 24-hour military scale, which I generally don’t care for, is discreet and doesn’t impact the superb (again) legibility. I particularly appreciate how the brand decided to integrated the day/date complications: white printed letters and numerals against a matte black date disc which perfectly matches the color of the dial*. These complications are barely noticeable whilst being easy to read—if that makes any sense. And I also adore the sublime monochromatic tones of the BlakJak which can be found on the combined dial, rehaut, and bezel. 

*Bonus point for Tornek-Rayville: the letters of the days and numerals for the date are perfectly centered within the frame. Something that most micro/independent brands rarely get right, even Seiko. 

The rehaut—since I just brought it up again—is quite fascinating to look at. Granted, Tornek-Rayville didn’t come up with the design of it but it feels as if they almost did as it is the first time that I see such a rehaut in my short three-year career writing about watches. (Though my watch nerd career started long before that.) The lume plots are recessed so that it’s easy to read the time at night without having had to make the hour markers larger. And although the hour and minute hands are small, the application of lume at their center is generous and even. So is the lume application on the bezel at 12 o’clock. I know this isn’t technical but the application of lume, and the way it gently glows evenly, reminds me of old tritium dials. 

What is done on purpose? I have a clue. 

The Heart of the Matter

Although I would normally talk about the case somewhere above the section we now find ourselves in, I wanted to highlight it here because it’s quite genius. From what I could tell by looking at photos of vintage Type 6 SANDY 660’s, the case on the Type 7B is quite different from the original. So it’s large but the flanks are, for the most part, angled down towards the wrist which means that the watch remains comfortable even when one twists their wrist. (A nerdy detail that makes a huge difference for those of you who would wear this type of watch long-term.) The long and polished chamfers aid in making the case look smaller and perfectly espouses the overall shape of the case. (Is it me or seen from above the case looks like a Mantaray?) 

The genius of the case design also comes from the perfectly flat case-back and the reasonably-proportioned screw-down crown which is protected by crown guards (the latter being nothing more than the continuation of the case flanks but flared up at the 3 o’clock side.) When looking at the BlakJak as a whole, we find ourselves with a large (in dimensions) watch, yet one which is well-proportioned, capable, and ultra-legible tool watch. The dial layout is that of a field watch and the count-up bezel makes the BlakJak double as a diver. (Note that a second version of the Type 7B exists and is fitted with a 12-hour/dive bezel as found on Type 1 watches from the 1970s/80s.) 

So what’s at the heart of the matter here, therefore, is that Tornek-Rayville created a battle/travel/adventure/life ready watch that is reasonably priced and which is (subjectively) gorgeous and (objectively) solid. At least, according to me. When I first posted photos of the BlakJak on Instagram, some people complained of the $895 USD price tag. But why are you feeling this way people, may I ask? As always, you got to experience the watch in the metal to better understand how well-made this one is. I mean, look at the double-knurling on the bezel which is both perfectly machined, finished, and darn practical when using gloves. (Diving gloves, field gloves, or even winter mittens, who cares!) And, as it is not customary for me to do so, I would say you get a lot of watch for what you pay for. 


It’s time for me to make a confession: I wasn’t sure where Bill Yao was going by reviving Tornek-Rayville since MKII is already a successful brand. However, the way I see it now is as follows: reviving TR enabled him (and his team) to dig into a legitimate heritage of military-issued watches that are, for the most part, no longer accessible or manufactured. To be fair, Tornek-Rayville and MKII are not the only brands to make proper, modern, military tool watches, but there are just a few independent brands that still do so—Marathon is the first one that comes to mind. So I think it’s quite neat to be able to have a proper tool watch, 20 years in the making, for under $1,000 USD that bears a recognizable name. There, I said it. 

I’m not the one to usually say “Brand recognition is cool,” however I do like the way Bill approaches it with both his brands—diligently and respectfully. He brought back a design that no longer exists, updated it to the 21st century, equipped it with good tech without cutting any corners—from what I can tell—all the while keeping the whole package (which, as you should remember, comes with three options to fasten it to your wrist,) rather affordable. At least, it’s below the anxiety-inducing $1,000 USD price border. As someone who has reviewed a MKII before and who reviews many military watches, it is clear that Bill and his team put in a lot of work to create solid watches that are, in fact, ready for action. 

You can learn more about Tornek-Rayville here and the Type 7B BlakJak here. At the time of writing this article, both models are sold out but I have it under good authority that the brand will restock them this summer. (I suggest signing up for their newsletters.) 

Thanks for reading. 


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