Saturday, February 4, 2023

Why I Bought (and kept) the Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956


Courtesy of Echo/Neutra
One of the advantages of participating in trade shows is that you get to check out a lot of watches that you would not normally see "in the wild". Insofar as North America goes, this can be a real opportunity to see first hand what you would typically have to pay for first, wait to receive, and then decide if it was really for you. Fortunately, fate had me at the Wind-Up show in New York this past autumn, and I got to see, touch, and try on the Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956 for myself -

Now to be clear, I was in attendance working for another brand. And proudly so. But if you are serious about your work, you will (at a minimum) take a walk around the space and see what else is out there - first hand.

I had been following Echo/Neutra from my previous Tempus Fugit blog, but had yet to see one up-close and personal. I had my eyes laser-focused on what Serica was offering. And while their field watch was (and is) very nice, I had sent multiple emails to them as a potential customer that went unanswered. (and multiple emails regarding availability and pricing since the Wind-Up show have also received no reply). So I would be less-than forthright if I gave the impression that I only had eyes for the Cortina. But the lack of response I had from Serica prior to the show made me reconsider my first impulse - or at least put it on hold for the time being. And so when I happened upon the Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956 I was somewhat blindsided by how cool I thought it was.

There was not a whole lot of discussion about the pros and cons with the two guys from Echo/Neutra. It was a pretty straight-forward pitch:

"This is the watch, this is the price."

I have to say that I truly appreciate and respect that level of clarity. So after checking it out on the final Sunday morning of the show, I walked over at around noon and to paraphrase that other great commentator on the watch business, Boz Scaggs - "I put my money on the table and drove it off the lot". 

So now nearly 3 months later, it is still in fairly heavy rotation. Which begs the question - why?
In and of itself, it is a fairly straightforward field watch, much like many others. It's a nice "Goldilocks" size (not too big, not too small, but just right) at 40 mm in diameter. The strap width is 20 mm, and if you order online, my understanding is that your purchase price includes 2 straps. I opted for the original green and a black tropic strap. While both are well made and comfy, I find that the retaining loops on the tropic strap are slightly too large and tend to slip over the end of the strap and buckle. Not a massive issue, but one to be aware of when you take the watch off at the end of the day.

The case back is solid (mille grazie Echo/Neutra) because display case backs are very annoying from an aesthetic point of view, particularly when discussing field / tool watches. They just look cheap.

The crown bears the Echo/Neutra logo (which I love for its subtlety), and is screw-down, helping ensure the advertised water resistance of 100 meters/330 feet.

The dial is what you would want and expect for a field / tool watch - large numbers and indices, highly legible. This is enhanced by the second hand with its red and white striped tip.

The domed sapphire crystal is the perfect "capper" to the watch as a whole. The bezel is fixed, with a standard 60 minute scale, green with yellow markers and numbers.  While some others have commented that this is a "vintage" vibe, I think that is a bit too simple an answer. It is clearly a field watch with its own sensibility. In a world filled with black dialed watches, it is something special.

And finally the movement. The Cortina 1956 utilizes the STP1-11 automatic. This is (to the best of my knowledge) the first STP equipped watch that I have owned (or worn, for that matter), but I have only positives to report. The timekeeping is solid, well within the advertised specs, and the power reserve is slightly above those same claims. Always nice to under promise and over deliver ; )

And finally - pricing. The Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956 is not the least expensive micro / small brand field watch out there. The Serica that I had my eye on will set you back about $622 (Euro 575) at todays exchange rate. And the Swiss Watch Company Bunker is $450. And these are certainly fair prices. But I also think that, at least for me, the Cortina was an emotional purchase. Trying to drill down to what a visceral choice should be priced at is like trying to make a cat bark like a dog - it's a pointless exercise. In the end, you like what you like - what speaks to you. And the Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956 speaks to me. 

After everything is said and done, you have to be honest with yourself. Most of us, in this day and age, do not need a watch. We can get the time from our phones, our computers, pretty much any other gadget that we come into regular contact with. A watch is something we want. It connects us to something emotional, something that can't really be quantified like the infamous "Pritchard Scale" in Dead Poet's Society:
"I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can't dance to it" -
And because I know you want them, here are the pertinents, straight from Echo/Neutra:

Cortina 1956 | 3H Green

FROM: $750.00

→ DIAMETER: 40mm
→ THICKNESS: 11.9mm
→ LUG2LUG: 46mm
→ CROWN: Screw-down type
→ CRYSTAL: Box-shaped Sapphire glass
→ MOVEMENT: STP1-11 Swiss automatic
→ BEZEL: Ceramic fixed bezel
→ STRAPS: 2 X Straps included
→ WR: 100m

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