Friday, October 12, 2018

Victorinox Swiss Army INOX Mechanical Blue Bracelet Reference 241835 - A Capable Refined Timepiece with Limitations, A Review (plus Video)

As you know, I originally separated my watch collection into two blogs, one for watches made in the West while the other for watches made in the East. Due to the inconsistency and unbalance nature  of acquiring watches for the collection, it would appear my http://westernwatch.blogspot.com blog is not getting similar traction as this particular blog. As such, I have decided to consolidate all my reviews, whether it is Eastern or Western made watches, into this blog instead from this point onward. The existing reviews on http://westernwatch.blogspot.com will remain for reference.

When the first INOX (it is actually spelt as I.N.O.X. but for the purpose of this review I will write it down without the periods) was launched in 2014, I willed myself to wait for a mechanical version to appear. As the years progress, I actually lost hope that Victorinox will ever come out with an automatic caliber timepiece. Many reviewers have the assumption that such possibility is remote if Victorinox wants to maintain the 'indestructibility' quality of the INOX. No mechanical movement is deemed able to withstand the myriad of tests that an INOX is expected to endure. Before anyone accuses me of being a quartz-phobic, I am not. I do collect quart watches (see the list of quartz watches in the collection here). My preference is solar or kinetic powered timepieces because only these kind of quartz watches do not need periodic battery replacement. For me, an INOX would be better suited as a solar powered timepiece instead of battery powered. The though of always opening the case-back after every two-year cycle is too intrusive in my view. The integrity of the INOX can be put into question after every cycle. Do note that in the instruction manual for the quartz INOX, it is recommended that a maintenance service should also be done during a battery change.

As I see it, an INOX is better suited as a mechanical timepiece than a battery powered quartz watch. Yes, it can be debatable whether an mechanical movement can withstand the same level of punishment like that of a quartz but if someone can make a mechanical watches that take a few kilometres of water pressure (case in point Roles DSSD, Omega Ploprof  and others like them), this should provide and indication that such a thing is also possible with an INOX.

During Baselworld2018, my wish did come true. Victorinox introduced the INOX Mechanical series consisting of four models (please refer to a special section on The Series at the end of the review). Powered by the ETA2824-2 workhorse, the INOX became extremely desirable to me.

Gnomon Watches out of Singapore was the first to indicate availability in Southeast Asia and I promptly put in my order. I chose the Reference 241835, the model with the blue dial and bracelet. With 48 hours, the watch is on my desk. On Victorinox's website, the Reference 241835 was listed at USD850.00 before taxes. Gnomon Watches offered it for USD780 (all in costs) which translates to RM3,342.76.

The Watch

An INOX is well known as a Swiss made watch that can survive 130 torture tests devised by Victorinox which even consists of a military tank weighing 64 ton going over it. Although some speculate that the mechanical version may not be as fit as the quartz version, I believe it is still able to pass all the 130 tests. Otherwise, Victorinox would not have branded the mechanical version as an INOX as well.



I am actually rather curious of the word "INOX". If you look at the formal naming of the watch, it is spelt like an acronym or "I.N.O.X.". Disregarding the possibility that it is in fact an acronym, the word “INOX” can actually refers rustproof stainless steel such as the 316L steel used on a lot of watches. The word is derived from the French words: “acier inoxydable”. This is the metallurgical compound that has a low carbon content and is resistant to staining, pitting and rust because of the inclusion of at least 10.5% chromium.

Nevertheless, the explanation given in the last paragraph is not that clear cut. As we know, not all of the INOX were made from stainless steel. Some have cases made from high-grade titanium and others are made from space age carbon. Some have also argued that INOX is part of history of Victorinox itself. The company name Victorinox is a combination of two words: “Victoria” for the mother of the founder Karl Elsener and “inox” for stainless steel. Others have tried to explain the meaning of the acronym as “Impact Neutralizing Object for the X-tremes”. Until Victorinox come out with an official explanation itself, it is fair to suggest that the brand is creating a unique sub-brand in the same way Casio did with the G-Shock series of tough watches.

It is fair to say that the INOX is solid as a rock. This toughness comes from the structural integrity due to a combination of design elements that form a clean and solid structure. The case itself is a single 43 mm piece of steel (including the crown: 47.5 mm). Lug-to-lug is 51 mm and the height is 13.5 mm. The screw-down crown is nested between two massive shoulders that juts out of the watch casing itself. The surface of the 316L stainless steel casing (including the bracelet) is brush polished.



The dial is visually simple and uncluttered but with many subtle nuances. The sloping chapter ring is painted blue and separated into three zones. The upper zone consists of minutes and sub-minute line makers in white. The middle zone consists of minute markers embossed in blue as well as Arabic hour numerals for a 24-hour scale in white starting from 13 to 23 (in the previous quartz version, the 24-hour scale was in red which was not as contrasting as white over blue). The lower zone is empty apart from slots cut for the hour indices to anchor into. These hour indices or markers are applied to the dial surface and consist of thin trapezoid shaped pieces with polished steel frame and painted with the luminous SuperLuminova. Unlike other typical timepieces, only one of the markers is different. The 12 o'clock marker is the Victorinox Cross & Shield and painted with SuperLuminova in such a way, you can see the logo clearly.



The blue dial of the INOX has a hobnail texture or guilloché styling that is similar to the grip handle of a Swiss officer's knife. It helps provide a point of reference or focus to the eyes which translate to a true sense feeling of depth. Coupled with the blunt tip sword hands, one can clearly see the inner height of the dial to the top surface of the crystal. The additional of the epee-shaped seconds hand with red tip gives a nice variation to the sea of blue and white on the dial.

There are only four lines of texts on the dial. The full name of the brand is located on the upper quadrant. At the bottom quadrant is a simple statement 'AUTOMATIC' that is obvious to see and the words 'SWISS MADE' in a much smaller font near the bottom peripheral of the dial. You can also see the date aperture located between the 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock position. Victorinox chose a date dial with black numbers on a white background to contrast against the blue dial.



The whole dial is protected by a thick flat sapphire crystal which has been given a triple AR coating for a clear view of the dial. It is set slightly lower than the bezel top surface to protect the crystal from side impacts. Even at high angles, you can still see the dial clearly.

The octagonal shaped sized bezel appears to be inspired by the late Mr Gerald Genta’s styling, a giant among watch designers. Its angled surfaces seems to suggest a bezel than can turn but it is in fact fixed in place. Unlike previous INOX, this time around Victorinox added a clear DLC coating on the bezel to make it more scratch resistant.



The large screw-down crown is well protected. The knurled barrel makes it easy to grip but the two large protective shoulders does come in the way of a good grip. To lock it down, I sometimes need more than one try to catch the screw-thread. It is definitely not as smooth as other Swiss made watches. In fact, it is reminiscent of a Seiko. I suspect the thread-twist used by Victorinox is tighter than other Swiss brands and more closely resemble the tolerances used by Japanese watchmakers. Meanwhile, the brand's Crown & Shield emblem is embossed prominently on the top surface of the crown.



To show the splendour of the mechanical movement, the screw-down case-back comes with display window. It is protected by a flat sapphire crystal. Through it you can see the ETA2824-2 Caliber operating at 28,800 BPH or 4 Hertzs with hacking and hand-winding capabilities. It has 25 jewels with a power reserve of 40 hours. Nothing extra has been done to the base movement apart from the small brand logo on the rotor.

The overall case construction has been water rated to 200 meters. You can definitely swim with this watch with confidence.



The watch casing is paired with a 316L brush polished stainless steel bracelet. This bracelet is slightly difference than the bracelet provided with the quartz INOX in that it has a more traditional folding clasp with safety flap plus a divers' extension mechanism located under the back of the clasp. When I tried out the bracelet provided with the quartz INOX at a shop, the buckle-like clasp, although looks clean and compact, was a chore to put on. The likelihood of the one accidentally losing grip of the watch in the midst of wearing it is much higher. For me, the traditional clasp system is so much handier.

All the links are machined from solid metal blanks. Do note that the links are not common along the length of the bracelet. The 'H' framed links are larger nearer the lungs with three of such links on each side. Also note that these links are not designed to be used an resizing pieces. These large 'H' links are attached to smaller 'H' links that has the access pins. It is these half-links that one can use for resizing purposes.

The end-link at the lugs is also slightly different. Although a solid piece, it is not rigid to the frame but can pivot easily around the spring-bar. As such, despite not having a drill-through lug holes, it is actually easy to replace the bracelet as you can easily pivot the end-links to an angle most convenient for you to access the spring-bars.



Victorinox uses a pin-and-collar to link the half-links together. Instead of one collar, there are two located on the inside of the outer link shoulders. For a better fit, there are three additional micro adjustment anchor points located at the clasp.



Hidden under the clasp is a simple divers' extension mechanism. When deployed, it adds approximately 50 mm to the overall diameter of the bracelet. Since this is an INOX, nothing says that cannot dive with it up to a 200 meter depth limit.

I do have one other comment regarding the clasp. Victorinox designed a friction lock when the clasp is folded in. The friction lock uses the machined bridge between the two halves of the bracelet for a secure hold. I would have preferred it if Victorinox uses a push-button-lock system instead. Eventually, the level of friction will diminish as the contacting surfaces grinds away due to use.



The INOX comes with the SuperLuminova C1 luminous paint for night use. All the primary markers and hands, including the logo can be seen. However, I would have preferred it to be brighter. The thin lines of paint will lose the light energy rather quickly. Personally I would paint in thicker lines.

As part of the Gnomon Watches customer appreciation, the Company threw in a free bumper protective casing made out of black silicone plastic that fits the casing like a glove. It adds approximately 3 mm to the overall height of the watch.



I have no doubt that it gives a much higher level of protection to the already capable watch but it may not fit well for normal daily wear. If you are thinking of doing mountain biking or white-water rafting, this is something that you should have on the watch to at least protect it from get scratched. Despite the watch 'indestructibility', it can be scratched just like any 316L cased watch.

Below is the watch with the bumper case on my wrist. It does look a bit like a G-Shock.




The Wearing Experience

The Victorinox INOX Mechanical is a sports watch without a doubt. It has the look that can take on the world. Nevertheless, the uncluttered dial makes it easy on the eyes and works well in the field as well as in the Boardroom. I do have some aspects of the design that Victorinox should consider in the next iteration of the series.

 

I only have three issues. The first is the overall design for the bracelet. Looking at the pictures above, the lack of any tapering in the bracelet width is visually boring as it does not help accentuate the watch casing itself. The second is the choice of a friction lock instead of a push-button lock for the clasp (I have explained in detail about my issue on this in the previous section). The third is the weak nighttime illumination. A full adventure watch requires a strong presence in daytime (which is does) as well as in nighttime. In the latter, unfortunately, it performs under expectation. Please be more generous in the use of the SuperLuminova C1 paint.  



Despite its weight of 201 gm with full links (mine is slightly lighter since I took off four links to fit my wrist), the watch does not feel excessively heavy. At 43 mm wide, it is at a size that is just at the border for my wrist size (7.25 inch circumference) and it also conforms to the contemporary fashion statement for big watches. The sharp looking bracelet is surprisingly comfortable to wear.

Honestly I thoroughly enjoyed wearing the INOX. As I do love sporty watches, I just adore the INOX style and how it looks and feels on my wrist. It’s not a dive watch but you are able to take it into the sea with a simple divers' extension provided as a standard package with the watch. I have worn it for office and it does not feel out of place. In fact, I can truly say this watch fits the bill as a 'daily-beater'.


NEWS FLASH!

I just got an email from Victorinox Swiss Army SA, Customer Service Coordinator. I earlier emailed to the Company asking for a list of the 130 tests done on the watch. In the reply, it was categorically said that, “No the watch wasn’t submitted to the extreme resistance tests because a mechanical movement can’t handle it (it might break). But of course, the watch was submitted and passed our 100 strict standard quality tests in order to offer the expected Victorinox quality like for example 3 years international warranty."



Will this be a deal-breaker for you? Not to me….


 

The Series

Under this INOX mechanical series there are four models to choose from. The choice is either blue or black dial with either bracelet or wooden strap. The very unique wood strap is actually made out a combination of leather and real wood.


Reference 241835
Reference 241837
Reference 241834
Reference 241836


The Unboxing

The cost of the watch listed by Gnomon Watches is inclusive of DHL courier charges. Hence, delivery is more secure and quicker. The package was also well protected by layer of special air cushion covers.



Gnomon Watches also added a nice branded plastic bag as well as branded polishing cloth, a NATO strap and the bumper protective casing on complementary basis.



The watch-box is a like a black cube box protected by a white cardboard sleeve with no markings. the watch-box comes in two parts, the outer traveling box with is made out of hard cardboard and printed with the brand logo at the top surface. Taking off the cover, you will be able to see the main watch-box which is slightly smaller. Within the outer traveling box is a slot where the manual and guarantee documents are kept. Flipping open the main watch-box you will find the INOX seated on a pillow in the centre.



I also got a thank you card from Gnomon Watches which doubles up as a lug width measurement instrument (see the bottom photo on the right).



The manual and guarantee documents.




Other Victorinox in the Collection

I have on other Victorinox in the collection. It is the Victorinox Dive Master 500 Black Ice Mechanical.


Specifications

Maker: Victorinox - Swiss Made
Movement: Swiss Made ETA2824-2 Automatic Movement
Dial: Blue with Guilloché texture
Luminous: SuperLuminova C1 paint
Date: 4 o'clock
Case: 316L high-grade stainless steel case
Bezel: Scratch resistant coating and a protective removable bumper
Crown: Screw-down crown at 3 o'clock with Victorinox sign
Lug: 21 mm
Crystal: Scratch-resistant, triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Strap: Stainless steel with divers' extension
Water resistance: 20ATM / 200M / 660 FT
Diameter: 43 mm (w/o crown), 47.5 mm (with crown)
Length: 51 mm lugs to lugs
Height: 13.5 mm thick
Weight: 201 gm
Features: Screw-down case-back, see-through case-back
Warranty: Three years
MSRP: USD850 (excluding taxes)








Photo Gallery











2 comments:

  1. I loved this review as I was waiting for the release of this watch. The Inox looks as a slightly classier alternative to the G-Shock for me.

    ReplyDelete

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