The Techné Sparrowhawk II stands out in the inexpensive chronograph market. It is a well-executed aviator with sharp styling, great build quality and the added perk of an interesting movement at its heart. At $269 one does not usually expect something unique, but Techné manages to pull it off. The aviator market is fairly saturated, with offerings from brands across the price spectrum, from Timex to Steinhart to Bell & Ross. It’s a look that does not change very much from brand to brand, but the Sparrowhawk II achieves something refined, that is clearly an aviator, yet not derivative. Combine this with the Meca-Quartz chronograph within and you can begin to see how the Sparrowhawk II is more that just an affordable watch, it’s genuinely innovative.
Case: PVD Coated 316L Surgical Stainless Steel
Movement: Seiko VK63 Meca-Quartz Chronograph
Dial: Black w/ Off-White indexes
Lens: Mineral w/ AR coating
Case Back: Screwdown
Strap: Khaki Canvas
Water Res.: 100m
Lug Width: 20mm
Crown: 7mm screwdown
Warranty: 1 year
The Seiko VK63 Meca-Quartz Chronograph movement is an uncommon and interesting movement that while not history making, is one of the first in this price range. Essentially, it’s a quartz movement where instead of having separate motors controlling the chrono registers, there is a single motor powering a gear train that connects the hands. The end result is a quartz movement with many of the benefits of a mechanical chronograph, such as 1/5th second sweeps and instant snap-back reset (watch our video for a demonstration). Other benefits over traditional quartz mechanicals are greater energy efficiency, as it does not require battery power to reset, stiffer and more tactile pushers and the ability to set the time while the chronograph is running.
Meca-Quartz movements were actually first developed in the late 80’s- early 90’s by Jaeger LeCoultre (the leCoultre 630) and Frédéric Piguet (the Piguet 1720). As you would expect from these brands, these movements were used in luxury watches, such as this $4500 dollar IWC and were massively complex. A $4500 quartz is a hard sell even for such reputable brands, so the Meca-Quartz revolution never exactly took off. The Seiko VK63, VK67 and VK83 movements now bring this innovative concept to the very affordable range, and given the benefits this style of movement offers, I bet it is something you will see more of. Sure, there are some inexpensive mechanical chronographs out there, such as the Poljot 3133 or the SeaGull ST19, but those are less posed for mass-market consumption, and frankly, while being fully mechanical, they don’t offer little perks like a 24-hour subdial.
Moving on to the rest of the watch, the 41.5mm x 11.7mm case of the Sparrowhawk II is well proportioned and sits very comfortably on the wrist. It was clearly designed to be large for practical reasons, i.e. have a large and clear dial, but was not over-sized for fashion. The distance from lug-to-lug is 49.5mm, which is also modest, and stays within the boundaries of my wrist, which is on the smaller size. The result is a watch that I am sure would fit well on wrists of most sizes, has a sporty stance, but does not dominate one’s arm.
This is aided by the “aviation grade” matte black PVD finish over sandblasted 316L steel, which Techné refers to as “cockpit” black. It is a superbly matte and even finish, that is dark as night and very attractive. I am a fan of PVD watches and I can tell you that not all PVD is created equal; sometimes it has a slight sheen to it, and other times it doesn’t read as deep black… The Techné, however, is a true and satisfying PVD. The coating continues onto the chrono pushers, the crown and the case back. The etching on the case back, which indicates various information such as water resistance and reference number, is executed very cleanly and has an interesting effect on the PVD. The areas that are etched have a slight gloss and an almost deeper black, making them standout and easy to read.
The deep black of the case is matched perfectly with the matte black dial. This is critical in the overall look of the watch, as the even flow from case to dial eliminates any visual distractions from the hands, indexes and sub-dials. The driving design motivation of most pilot and aviation watches is to have at-a-glance legibility from large lumed markers and large hands, even on dials with an abundance of information. The Sparrowhawk II achieves this with various design features and a solid sense of composition. First, the dial is broken up into 4 main components.
There is the primary index with large 12 and 6 markers, large trapezoidal hour markers, individual minute markers and, on the outer perimeter, 5 – 60 in increments of 5. The 12, 6 and trapezoidal markers are all lumed. Just looking at these elements, there are few interesting things going on. One: the trapezoidal markers are narrower towards the inside of the dial, leading the eye towards the center of the watch. Two: the large 12 and 6 create a quick reference point for the hour, are visually striking given their size and refer to classic aviator style. Three: the 5 – 60 index on the perimeter sits in a sort of quiet space, giving them maximum visibility.
The 3 sub-dials all have distinct looks that suit their individual functions. At the 3 position is a 24-hour or military time dial that reflects the design of the primary 12-hour index, with large 24 and 12 markers, smaller markers for the individual hours and medium lumed markers every 6 hours. At the 6 position is the small seconds that is part of the primary time. This dial is fairly sparse, with only small markers every five seconds and no numerals. While this lacks precision, the whole function is basically vestigial given the 1/5th second precision of the chronograph. Visually speaking, it does add necessary weight to the bottom half of the dial. Lastly, at the 9 position is the 60 minute counter of the chronograph function. This dial has large 0 and 30 numerals, and markings for all 60 minutes in 3 sizes: large lumed markers every 10 minutes, medium every 5 and small for the rest. Both the military time dial and 60-minute counter have light debossing, which ever so slightly breaks up the matte dial and gives added visual weight to the subdials.
Clearly, there is a lot going happening on the dial, yet the use of many different sized markers and dials of varying density make it easy to focus on a single piece of information. Aiding this is one of my favorite details of the watch, which are the 6 hands. Like the dials themselves, each hand is unique for its function. The main hour and minute hands are Roman sword styled and the largest on the watch. They standout and are proportioned well to the dial. The military time hand is a relatively large arrow that is distinct amongst the hands. I believe this is designed to refer to the ability to use the military time dial as a compass by means of referencing the sun, which is described in the watch’s manual. The small seconds hand is thin and half lumed. It basically looks like a moving marker, creating a minimal amount of distraction. The chrono seconds and minutes are both stick shaped with lume on the majority of their forms and clearly appear as grouping.