Sunday, November 19, 2023

Wrapping it Up - 15 Days with the Vario 1918 Trench Watch

While this is a new review of Vario's 1918 Trench Watch, it is in fact a few years overdue. When I was the owner of Tempus Fugit, I was asked if I might like to do a review. And the truth was, yes I would have. The problem was that I was in the process of selling the blog formerly know as Tempus Fugit. And probably the less said about that, and the rather dubious attempt as stewardship that was demonstrated by the erstwhile purchaser of the blog formerly known as Tempus Fugit, the better.

But it is now 2023, Tempus Fugit appears to be frozen in time, and Ivan Chua has been kind enough to send me the very watch that I had been unable to review previously. And in a funny sort of way, it's like reconnecting the past to the current, and hopefully the future. And in a lot of ways, that is just what Ivan has done with the Vario 1918 Trench Watch. 

There are many devotees to the trench watch style, many of whom seek out and buy original as well as Franken-trench watches. And it is understandable because it is a great style. But the problem is that the condition of such historical relics is often such that they are not really viable as anything you would wear beyond as a prop for a photo shoot. Even if you can find one in which that the exterior (case, crown, dial) is viable, the amount of work and fuss it takes to make it wearable is such that it will cost a lot of time and money. And then you will need to baby it, never really enjoying wearing it.

Then there is the other extreme, when brands like Zenith, Blancpain and others try to crank out "fauxmage" watches that may harken back to another time, but frankly for the price and the half-assed attempts they have made explain why those watches are frequently available "new in box" through various grey market outlets at "value proposition" prices. And beyond that, they often are more characactures than watches. Sorry, but I gotta' call this like I see it, particularly the Pilot Type 20s. They are a bit too reminiscent of the "Fluffy Shirt" from Seinfeld -

So I guess this is a way of saying that even the great and mighty can fail when trying to do something in an inauthentic way. Which is why Vario's 1918 Trench Watch is such a wonderful execution of an idea that so many other brands have made a mess of.

So back to the matter at hand -

The Vario 1918 Trench Watch comes in perhaps the most sensible packaging you could get -

A donut or bagel shaped cordura skinned shell, which is the perfect conveyance for shipping the 1918, and as packaging it will prove super-handy in future for any owner.

The watch itself is, particularly for the price point, unbelievably well made. 

The case is stainless steel and measures 40 mm in diameter. It is also available in a 37 mm version. 

The model that shipped to me for review comes with the standard case back, which is engraved with an image of a World War I era soldier. It also bears the poppies of Flanders Field -

Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Vario also offers the option of having a blank (non engraved) case back.

Courtesy of Variao

Beyond the engraving, the case has wired lugs. These are not like the originals of that era which were the result of converting pocket watches to wristwatches. These are solid, secure, and the perfect complement to this watch.

The crown is engraved with the Vario logo, and is a screw down type. The threading is quite smooth and secure. This helps ensure the water resistance which is rated to 10 Atmospheres or 100 meters.

The 1918 comes standard with a bund style strap crafted of what Vario describes as Crazy Horse leather. Now I am going to be very honest here - I have never really been a fan of bund straps. Until now. The strap was comfortable pretty much right from the jump. Where a strap is typically stiff, often scratchy at first, the Vario bund strap has proven to be quite special. 

The dial? Well let's just say the dial could sell the watch on its own. The model that I reviewed is described as "white with orange lume". The layout of the dial is my favorite - a sub second at 6 o'clock. The numbers are bold, but beautifully so. The hands are the perfect complement to the numbers, which stand out beautifully against the white dial, which is described as white enamel.

The lume is described as orange. And it does work, and does illuminate. But this is perhaps the only area where the Vario 1918 Trench Watch is slightly lacking. Slightly. Because in fairness? There is even a statement on the Vario website stating that the orange lume is not as strong as the white lume. It does glow, but it could be stronger. 

The movement is the Miyota 82S5. The movement ran phenomenally, the accuracy was beyond reproach. Over the review period it did not lose or gain one minute.  Following the test period, I let it run down and was impressed that the power reserve time more than lived up to the advertised rate.

So to sum it all up? This was a review that was well-worth the several year wait. The Vario 1918 Trench Watch is an extremely well-made time machine that would be a bargain at twice the asking price. And just how much is that? An extremely affordable $388!

There are a lot of watches churned out as gimmicks, as attempts to capture or capitalize on a bygone era without any real effort to create a wearable, credible watch for today - often at usurious prices. And that is yet another thing that makes this Vario so special. Whether you can only afford one watch, or if you are a collector, this is an extremely fine watch for the money, and it offers something far better than anyone else has been able to provide, certainly at this price point. Or to paraphrase - what would a trench watch look and feel like if it were created today, using modern materials and manufacturing? Well now you know!

Should you be so interested, here are the pertinents, straight from the source -

Case diameter: 37mm or 40mm
Case thickness: 10mm
Dial: Enamel
Crystal: 2mm double domed sapphire with inner AR applied
Lug width: 18mm(37mm) or 20mm(40mm)
Lug to lug: 45mm(37mm) or 48mm(40mm)
Lume: C3 Lume
Case Material: 316L stainless steel
Caseback: 316L stainless steel with option for empty caseback and laser engraving at additional cost
Crown: Screw-down crown
Movement: Adjusted Miyota 82s5 automatic gilt movement (Côtes de Genève) with hand-winding and hacking seconds. 21 jewels 21.6kpbh more than 40 hours power reserve
Water resistance: 10 atm
Strap: Crazy horse leather with bund pad (75mm/120mm) or single pass (270mm)
Warranty: 1 year global warranty


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