Tuesday, September 15, 2015

MEET THE WATCH: Victorinox Swiss Army Original Chronograph Limited Edition

The MEET THE WATCH Series showcases a timepiece in more detail than just a casual glance. I often find out more about my own watches writing these articles than I like to admit. So sit back and keep reading... we might learn something together. 

This article is about the Victorinox Swiss Army Original Chronograph 25 Year Anniversary Limited Edition Watch that I owned for about a day before I decided to trade it. Hmmm... How did that happen?

At some point in every watch collector’s career, he may decide to sell a watch for no obvious reason to the casual observer. Heck, most non-collectors think of us watch nerds as a bit crazy anyway, but believe me, there is always a stimulus for our behavior. That usually includes seeing something new and shiny or old and rare... either of which can make a collector do strange things.

The Swiss Army Original Chronograph - Limited Edition 241549. Only 1,989 were made.

A Watch Collectors' Secret Lists

Watch collectors maintain several lists that they constantly update. It does not matter whether they use a thought bubble, a scrap of paper or a high-tech database. We can spend many hours daydreaming about the perfect collection. To keep all of the specimens straight, we collectors put the watches into different categories. Studying the items on each list can tell a story of changing tastes, interests and finances of the collector.

Typical groups include:

• Grail Watches
• Hunted Watches
• Current Watches
• For-Trade Watches
• Beater Watches
• Sale Watches
• Sold Watches
• Retired Watches

In this case, my "For-Trade" watch was a Victorinox Swiss Army Original Chronograph Limited Edition, reference # 241549. This watch debuted 2014 to celebrate Swiss Army’s first quarter century of watch making, and its production was limited to 1,989 units… not exactly a small run unless compared to the warehouses full of watches they produce a year.

The Original Swiss Army Watch

The Swiss Army Watch was Born in 1989... 

The “1,989 units” referred to the first year of watch production by Swiss Army. Before 1989, the brand was better known for its do-everything Swiss Army knives, kitchen cutlery and military bayonets. The doors opened for Victorinox way back in 1884 so their watch making venture was a relatively recent event in its long history.

The first Swiss Army watch was powered by an ETA Swiss quartz movement in a rugged but cost-effective case. That watch pointed the brand in a new manufacturing direction, and they have been producing excellent “bang-for-the buck” timepieces ever since. Later this model was called “The Original” for literal reasons. 

"The Original" had a compact 39 mm nylon case with a small date window, a dial with large legible 12-hour scale and a smaller 24-hour military scale (a recurring theme for years), a protected crown and the Swiss Army style band of leather and canvas to complete the look.

Twenty five years later, Swiss Army wanted to celebrate its silver anniversary by releasing a limited edition watch with design cues that paid respect to "The Original". I believe that they designed a timepiece that felt both updated and familiar at the same time.

However,  it is not necessarily easy to see the related design DNA when comparing the models separated by 25 years. Only the crown protectors seem to be a "in the family". The glowing logo (now Victorinox Swiss Army), the cut-out numbers, the skeletonized hands, the tilted date window, the longer lugs and bright luminescent paint are all different. That is not a slight on the designers because I think they did a great job creating a desirable watch, and that is really the more important goal for a retail company to achieve.

The use of orange on the chronograph hand, in the saddle leather and inside the strap was a "must have" for me.
Part of what makes it unique is the seldom seen bund strap, which is made of 3 pieces of high grade saddle leather. There is a wide lower section that touches the wearers wrist. This leather follows the contours of the watch's shape. Then a long ribbon-like strap threads both the watch lugs and the lower leather piece. A cup shaped hood snaps in place on top which completely protects the watch and in my opinion makes it impractical because the wearer has to unsnap the cover when he wants to tell the time. Luckily, the 3 leather parts can be combined and worn in several ways making it a versatile strap set. Below is a photo from an excellent Japanese web site that illustrates it better than words.

Photo from http://www5b.biglobe.ne.jp/~brow/takeya/VNOX-W.html
Having seen wildly differing online photographs of the watch, I wanted to try to capture what my eye was seeing in person, The gray polymer used to mold the watch appears to change in different lighting conditions like many gray objects will. Have you ever noticed how military jets are a medium gray? They blend into different sky conditions making them harder to spot. 

The dark gray polymer case can appear to change from light gray to almost black depending on the lighting conditions
Also, this gray really picks up local reflected color. Look closely and you might see some green from my walls and foliage. You might also see an aluminum insert on the outer edge of the glass, which is a subtle design feature that adds a shiny circular edge between glass and case.

This gorgeous bund strap is a bit warm for Georgia's summer sizzle.
Perhaps one of the most engaging ways to enjoy this watch is by viewing a lovely short film movie that Victorinox Swiss Army made for the product called “The Exchange”, which barely showed the watch. What a great idea that was beautifully filmed! Click this video link if you can't see this movie below. I wish more advertising was this intriguing.

Given the relatively slim $500 suggested price point, Swiss Army did a good job at making this limited edition feel special. Just look at the packaging, which is a display box covered with gray linen with a matching leather clasp. Did you notice the safety orange on the chronograph hand and the back of all the leather bits? See what I mean for a lot of bang for your buck?

The limited edition watch has a gray linen display box with matching leather belt.
The watch itself is 40 mm in gray plastic, which is 1mm larger than "The Original" and acceptable for modern tastes. The polymer has a high quality surface that is smooth to the touch. The pushers are integrated into the crown protector area and almost blend into the case. 

The dial has a simulated sandwich dial with decent glowing lume. Real sandwich dials like the ones found on Panerai watches have a layer of luminescent material under a dial with cutout numerals. These are known to glow a long time. The Swiss Army's numbers are just paint inside indentions.

Notice the dial's lined texture and simulated cutouts.

Pretty strong lume from the simulated sandwich dial

In the end, it all came down to timing...

So, why did I change my mind and trade the watch? If I am being honest, "The Original" LE Chronograph was not for me. I found the extra wide bund strap to feel warm on my wrist. It bothered me that the case is plastic and that the glass is reflective mineral glass not sapphire crystal. It is smaller than what I have become accustomed to wearing. I knew this the moment I first held it.

This is mineral crystal is highly reflective... but can be par for a watch in this price bracket.
It was a bit of a coincidence that a watch forum buddy told me that he had been looking for my watch model and also that he was selling a Swiss Army Chronopro automatic that I had been eyeballing for months. If we traded watches, we would both get what we wanted, right? 

Zack the Boston Terrier thinks he perfectly matches my new acquired Chronopro watch.

Fighting the Pollen, Y'All...

I wanted to show the watch in an outdoor setting but Atlanta’s suffocating pollen explosion was in full force. In literally minutes, me, the camera and the watch was covered with tiny specs of yellow dust. This stuff is no joke! So instead of going to nature, I brought nature inside by sourcing some great bark I found in the woods and borrowing some ferns from my back yard.

Hundreds os pollen specks appeared in just minutes when photographing outside.

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