Hands On with the Roue Collection

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Like most endeavors, freshman efforts in watchmaking are rarely the strongest. Designers are still figuring out their brand’s language, parts are tough to source and even tougher to design, and there’s the simple fact of money to be considered; it takes a lot of cash to start your own watch brand, and most startups aren’t exactly rolling in it. Every once in a while, however, there’s a newcomer on the scene who seems to have these issues just about figured out. The kind of new brand that seems destined for future greatness. Alex Iervolino and his inaugural offerings at Roue seem to point to stunning things down the road, but does this upstart brand’s “first album” warrant buying into on its own?

The first series of watches from Roue. From left to right: CHR, SSD, HDS, and CAL.

On paper, there’s something for just about everyone here. In this first group of four quartz pieces are a ‘70s-inspired chronograph (the CHR), an automotive-inflected sub seconds (the SSD), a field watch with serious Braun vibes (the HDS), and a fresh take on the minimalist three-hander (the CAL). That said, breadth doesn’t always equate to quality, so let’s dive a bit deeper with some of the case and dial combinations we have here.

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$160

Hands On with the Roue Collection

Case
Stainless steel (Black PVD or blasted)
Movement
Miyota 6S10 Quartz (CHR), Seiko VD78 Quartz (SSD), Miyota 2315 Quartz (HDS & CAL)
Dial
Black/Gray (CHR), Black/Silver (SSD), Gray (HDS), Black (CAL)
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather/Nylon/Silicone
Water Resistance
50m
Dimensions
41.5mm x48mm
Thickness
10.9mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Push/pull
Warranty
2 years
Price
$160

One of the ways Roue has kept a strong brand identity (and kept costs down as well) is in their cases. All four of these pieces share a common case design–a 41.5mm blasted cushion case. The lines are kept simple here, with only a single bevel along the upper edge of the case/lugs to break up the shape. This allows the finishing to really come to the fore, and to Roue’s merit, the all-over blasting is impressively even with a rich matte black on the PVD versions (the CHR, SSD, and CAL). The Roue crown at three, while unsigned, is nicely detailed with both a coin edge and an indented ring for easier pulling. Around back, the case backs are finished with a razor-sharp etching depicting a checkered flag pattern, surrounding the Roue logo itself. Like on the case proper, the finishing here would be impressive for three times the price, especially with this being the brand’s first attempt.

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The real party piece of Roue’s cases, however, is right on the border between the steel and the dials–in an unorthodox hallmark move, all four trade off the traditional black crystal gasket for a rich, highly-visible one in golden yellow. It’s a simple, easy change, but this minor touch completely changes the character of these watches. The yellow adds a vibrant splash of color into the mix, but this doesn’t only add visual excitement. By surrounding the dial itself in this bright, eye-catching color, Roue quickly and easily establishes the dials as the focal points of these pieces.

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And what focal points they are! There’s a treasure trove of stylish touches here, each with its own distinctive identity. The CHR chronograph is clearly meant as the flagship here, and while so many brands are using ‘70s racing chronographs as a creative wellspring, Roue has taken things in a surprisingly different direction. This piece may be the first ever to draw inspiration from the weird and wild Valjoux 7765.

CHR with a black PVD case.

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This resemblance, of course, is immediately apparent from the offbeat nine and 12 o’clock sub-dial placements, but there’s more here than initially meets the eye. While the sub-dials are hardly where you’d expect, the dial overall remains admirably balanced thanks to both the three o’clock date window and the oversized printed Roue logo at six. There’s some nice contrasting depth at play here as well with the outer index ring sitting slightly above the main dial plane and the sub-dials cutting in deeply in contrasting black. Speaking of contrast, the color play on this particular CHR variant is superb–both the indices and the hour/minute hands pull in the deep yellow of the gasket ring, and the main dial’s gray matte finish contrasts just enough with the black of the sub-dials and outer ring.

Next up would be the stunning SSD. There are obviously automotive themes at work here, too, but compared to the CHR the inspiration is a touch older (think the early ’60s) and significantly more literal. Rather than reinterpreting another classic watch design, the SSD quite successfully deconstructs the classic Smiths gauge. Given the amount of material in Roue’s press package dedicated to the Smiths gauge cluster of the legendary Jaguar E-Type, it’s no accident there’s a resemblance. I’ve written about automotive-inspired design here at Worn & Wound many times before, and my general opinion is that trying to bring too many literal automotive elements into a timepiece comes off as clumsy and childish. But Roue manages the feat of riding the razor’s edge with the SSD–changing just enough to not immediately read as a dashboard element, while at the same time imbuing enough of its own character to make it distinctive.

SSD.

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The outer applied silver minutes index is one of these distinctive elements, adding a metallic sheen to the dial and seriously kicking up the pop factor. The hours indices are bold printed Arabic numerals, sharpened and squared off just enough from the original Smiths typography to make them feel tight and modern. At six is the small seconds dial, rendered in a stunning combination of matte and gloss black that only further adds to the visual dynamism at play here. The handset is a pair of instrument-style tapering white sticks with a black-tipped minute hand for contrast against the silver minutes track, and it’s clean and immediately readable. Lume-wise, the SSD is pleasantly robust with all hands and hour markers putting off a lasting, if unspectacular, green, but the real surprise comes from the faint reddish lume treatment of the outer minutes track. It’s an eye-catcher in low light, and one more example of the polished design work on display from Roue.

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The SSD’s stablemate, the HDS, is a very different animal, but it’s hardly less impressive. The general feel here is a deft blend of mil-watch and German minimalist (especially Dieter Rams’ work at Braun) elements, with a bold oversized outer minutes ring surrounding two separate hours tracks–one clean Arabic numerals, the other line markers.

HDS.

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All these separate concentric rings give off an almost stepped effect, which is only enhanced by the subtly darker gray of the outer minutes ring. While all of this seems rather clean and straightforward, Roue again sets this one apart with its own fine touches. The hands, instead of staid straight pieces, are organically tapered in resemblance to the classic Marc Newson Ikepods, adding some contrasting curve and liveliness to the domination of straight lines here. What’s more, the Roue gasket yellow is echoed through the dial emblem and seconds hand of the HDS.

Finally, we have the CAL. “Less is more” was undoubtedly the philosophy here, with no indices save for an outer minutes ring. In fact, the only thing allowed to mar the perfectly matte black dial surface is the Roue emblem at 12 and the date window at six. The handset is shared with the HDS, with the organically tapering lumed sticks here rendered with a bright orange seconds hand.

CAL.

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Yes, all four Roue pieces are quartz, but just because they’re battery powered doesn’t mean the brand hasn’t taken the effort to ensure quality. All four are driven by quartz engines from Miyota (for the CHR, HDS, and CAL) or Seiko (for the SSD), and are robustly built with two-year warranties. Sure, they may not be as romantic as mechanicals are, but they’re all solid performers. Not to mention if Roue ever does get around to putting traditional movements in these pieces, especially the CHR and SSD, they’ll have some real contenders on their hands. After all, Autodromo started out the same way. Quartz is a fine stepping stone for a new brand.

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While all four Roue offerings may share a case, the brand certainly hasn’t taken the same approach to straps. The line is launching with three impressive options: a streamlined modern take on the tropic strap, a leather-lined nylon, and a brilliantly supple big-hole rally strap that suits the CHR better than anything else I can imagine. The fit and finish on the straps themselves are impressive, as well, with signed liners and a sharply etched double-sided buckle on all three options. That said, it’d be interesting to see Roue’s take on a bracelet, especially in their blasted PVD finish.

In terms of wearability, the 41.5mm diameter is on the high side of my sweet spot, but even on my 6.75-inch wrist, the cases feel perfectly sized. A large factor to this is how slim these watches are–most clock in just under 10mm, while the added complexity of the CHR bumps is up to 10.9mm. When compared against similar mechanicals, the Roues look positively svelte.

Overall, then, it’s undeniable that Roue has produced a stellar opening salvo with their initial four watches. While there are minor signs of first-time jitters here and there–the borderline oversimplification of the CAL’s dial and the quartz movements, for example–there’s a fascinating blend of ideas and craftsmanship at play here. If you’re not the type to turn up your nose at quartz, this freshman album is full of great pieces at even greater prices. I, for one, cannot wait to see what their second round might look like.

The CHR is priced at $230, the SSD at $190, and the HDS and CAL at $160. Beyond the case and dial combinations shown here, other options are available. For the full spread, visit Roue.

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Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.
seanpaullorentzen
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