Years back, we reviewed the Terranaut I Trail chronograph—an aggressive, legible and surprisingly unique chronograph from a German firm that we’re quite fond of here at w&w, Mühle Glashütte. Today, we’re taking a look at another watch from the Terranaut line—the time-only Terranaut II Trail.Though fundamentally similar, the Terranaut II takes an explorer-inspired approach to the pilot watch aesthetic of the line, which has in recent years been pared down to a handful of core models. As is the case with many of Mühle’s watches, the Terranaut II—at a cursory glance, at least—is outwardly simple, with much of the value caged in the overall build and feel of the watch. With a retail price of $1,999, does the Terranaut II hold up to scrutiny? Let’s take a closer look.
Hands-On with the Mühle Glashütte Terranaut II
There’s no two ways about it, the case of the Terranaut II—coming in at 44mm wide with a lug-to-lug height of 52.5mm—is large. While watch size is certainly subjective—one man’s large is another man’s just right—I do find that there are certain compromises that occur when a case is scaled up, and these often impact the resulting design (but more on that later).
Sizing issues aside, the finishing and specs of the Terranaut II case are excellent and in line with what I have come to expect from the brand. The case features sharp lines and fine brushing all over, with a grain quality that gives the metal and almost pearlescent shine. It’s really attractive in person and on the wrist.
The screw-in crown is bead-blasted and features a tactile coin–edge and molded windmill logo on its end. The crown action is exceptional here. There’s no grittiness when operating and the threads catch without issue. A few turns and the crown locks in tight.
Flipping the watch over, you have a case back secured via five small screws. An aperture protected with a sapphire crystal shows the decorated and modified Sellita SW 200-1 automatic movement within. The SW 200 is Sellita’s near one-for-one copy of the ETA 2824, and it’s a movement we’ve seen with more frequency over the last several years among mid-tier, entry-level luxury brands.
Per Mühle tradition, there are some noteworthy modifications made here by the brand, among them the custom rotor and the brand’s woodpecker
neck regulation. Developed in 2003, it’s designed to resist the effects of sudden shocks that would otherwise impact the movement’s accuracy.
Turning to the dial, what we have with the Terranaut II is a stylized riff on a classic design. Sure, it’s by no means the only contemporary watch with a printed 3-6-9-12 explorer dial (hello Sinn 556 A and Tudor Ranger), but it does have a distinct visual flair. As ubiquitous as pilot watches are, the Terranaut II definitely stands out with its bold, graphic quality.
The hours track—large numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 and equally large hash marks for the other places—feels almost outsized, though it’s ultimately well balanced against the negative space of the dial. Furthermore, the handset—large, black-rimmed swords for the hours/minutes and a simple arrow for the seconds—is immediately legible and well paired to the dial. Contrasting the matte black base of the dial is the warm, sand-toned color of the lume, which works well here and doesn’t feel like an attempt at aping patina. Furthermore, along the very outer edge is a discrete grey minutes track with Arabic numerals at intervals at five and small hash marks for the remainder of the spots. The whole thing is subtle, but not without personality.
As I mentioned before, when a watch is scaled up, there are often design comprises that occur to deal with the inherent limitations of placing a smaller movement inside a larger case. Here, that compromise comes in the form of a date window positioned between four and five and around the halfway point between the edge and center of the dial. The result is that the date window appears to be floating within the dial, and to my eye it looks out of place. Obviously, Mühle could have just left the date window off, or better yet the whole watch would be better served scaled down.
So, here’s the kicker. Mühle actually produces a similarly styled watch in the form of the Terranaut III, and it avoids many of the pitfalls I’ve outlined here. The case is a more democratic 40mm, which should make it more appealing to those of us with smaller wrists. Furthermore, the date window is placed further away from the center of the dial, resulting in a more cohesive and thought out design. Overall, the Terranaut III seems like an excellent alternative for those who like the look and build of the Terranaut II, but have issues with the points I outlined above.
On the wrist, the watch is very comfortable despite its width. The height is a reasonable 11.5mm, so it fits well under a shirt cuff. As one might expect, the time is legible at a glance, with no extraneous details cluttering the dial. Adding to that clarity is a flat, AR-coated sapphire lens.
The strap is a padded, tactical two-piece with a rubberized lining. It’s perfectly serviceable and actually feels quite luxurious on the wrist, but this watch would also do well on a number of different bands, from calfskin and shell cordovan to nylon mil-straps.
All in all, the Terranaut II is an impressive watch from the brand, and despite a few issues that ultimately stem from personal presence, it’s a watch that I would wholeheartedly recommend to someone considering it. At a hair under $2,000, it is in a tight spot in terms of competition, but given the movement modifications and build quality, I’d argue it’s priced right for the package.
To learn more, visit Mühle Glashütte.