Ophion 960 Review

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In the world of affordable watches, there’s a lot of variation in terms of design and concept, giving us lots of watches to be interested in, talk about and occasionally pursue for purchase. But within those watches, there is little variation in the mechanical movements driving them. Under $1,000 is dominated by Seiko and Miyota these days with the occasional Swiss or Chinese offering. Over $1,000 and you see the Swiss regulars, ETA and Sellita, with the occasional Soprod, and the rare in-house movement. Nothing wrong with any of them, but seeing the same movements over and over can get a bit stale, if only from my perspective as a reviewer.

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So, when I heard that a new brand called Ophion was using a TechnoTime movement I had never seen before, I was immediately very excited. Based out of Spain, Ophion decided to really do something interesting, manufacturing their watch in Germany, using a Swiss TechnoTime manual wound movement with a 5-day power reserve, and charging a remarkable 1,305 Euros or about $1,430. In fact, when I truly first heard about these, I put together an article called Introducing the Ophion 960: Accessible Luxury Done Right which goes over the watch, brand and movement a bit, but I knew I had to get one in for a review.

That’s all well and good, but you might be asking, who is TechnoTime and why should I care? Based in Switzerland, TechnoTime is a very small manufacture of movements with some impressive capabilities. They aren’t a “clone” company, but rather one that makes their own calibers for brands looking for a real ETA alternative. They also manufacturer their own balance springs, something few brands can do as well as tourbillions. And when I say small, I really mean it. According to an article in Europastar from August of 2014, they had 25 employees and make only 12,000 movements annually (they also manufacture 300,000 balance springs for other brands annually). Compare that to Sellita’s 500 employees and 1.2 million movements (built and/or assembled) and you get the picture.

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TechnoTime is a real bespoke manufacturer and as such, isn’t one whose movements you typically will find in our price range. In fact, according to the same article, their movements start at 575 francs, making them considerably more expensive than ETA, Sellita or Soprod 2824 equivalents, and many times more than Seiko or Miyota. So, you should care because the Ophion 960 gives you an opportunity to have something more exotic, a bit more “high-end” and a bit more luxurious than usual, should you be interested in such things. Regardless, with a 5-day power reserve, it’s worth making note of.

Of course, the movement isn’t the only star of the show in the Ophion 960. The design has an immediate appeal, with a reserved aesthetic and a hint of vintage flair. It’s a simple looking watch at a glance, but it’s full of little details that make it stand out, even further belying its price tag.

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$1400

Ophion 960 Review

Case
Polished Stainless Steel
Movement
TechnoTime TT 718
Dial
Anthracite Gray
Lume
Yes
Lens
Domed Sapphire w/AR
Strap
Genuine Alligator
Water Resistance
50m
Dimensions
42.9 x 51.7mm
Thickness
10.35mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
6.5 x 3.5
Warranty
N/A
Price
$1400

Case

With smooth, flowing lines and a thin profile, the case of the 960 is clean and elegant. The sides of the case and bezel are all rounded and polished, creating a smooth overall appearance. Sharp, near-straight lugs jut out creating contrast and adding a touch of masculinity. It’s an attractive design that is at once familiar, yet not quite standard. With that said, the case is likely to be the biggest and perhaps only point of contention on the 960, due to its size. Coming in at 42.9 x 51.7 x 10.35mm with 22mm lugs (to the top of the domed sapphire) it’s a large watch, especially for the style. Neither vintage or dress watches are typically this big, being most comfortable around 38mm, making the 960 feel oversized.

That’s not to say unwearable or uncomfortable, far from it, but it’s definitely larger than I would have preferred. This is likely in part due to the size of the movement. At 13.25 ligne, or about 30.4mm, wide, it has the same diameter as a 7750, granted it’s much thinner. That said, something more along the lines of 38mm should have been achievable.

With that out of the way… at 3 is a very nice looking crown that is a sort-of squashed onion shape. It’s all rounded, mimicking the case, with a couple of layers for something surprisingly intricate. Measuring 6.5 x 3.5mm, it’s fairly easy to grasp and comfortable to turn, something you’ll be doing a lot to wind the 120-hr movement. The only negative to be found is that the crown is unsigned. Not a bit deal, but the outer surface seems a bit naked, and they have a nice “O” based logo that would fit.

Flipping the watch over, you have a display case back with a wide window. Around the glass are various simple markings, with “Made in Germany” standing out. In my mind at least, watches that are made in Germany have a certain air of quality and precision that, honestly, Swiss watches at the same price don’t seem to have. Looking into the window you are treated with a view of the TechnoTime 718. It doesn’t look like any other movement you’ve seen, with strange, almost organic apertures and large plates. We’ll get more into the decoration below.

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Dial

The dial of the 960 is very simple, made interesting through some stylish details and great execution. The surface is a gorgeous anthracite gray with a light metallic quality giving it more life than a simple gray field would. Adding to that, the surface domes gently, creating a subtly shifting surface. The primary index consists of long, but thin tapering applied markers in polished steel. Their shape is elegant and attractive, and while hinting at vintage designs, have a more modern shape. Because of the domed dial, they sit in a curious way, angling down towards the edge of the dial. It’s one of those little details that adds some character to the stripped down design. The polished finish of the markers also add a nice point of contrast to the more satin dial.

Between each marker are white lines for the minute/second. They are long and very thin, giving them a very light quality. I quite like how they are placed, towards the inside of the markers, rather than the outside which would have been more typical. Since they align with the markers, they section off an inner area, which is used to present the brand name. The layout is very well considered, with each area feeling just right, each marker just wide enough, each line just long enough.

At a glance, that is all there is. Simple and clean, just the way we like it. But there is actually one more detail that is hidden at first. Along the edge of the dial is a very steep metal chapter ring with hat appear to be thin white lines per hour, doubling at 12. They almost look like reflections from the markers, making them easy to pass over. However, they are actually lume lines, coming alive at night. It’s a very cool application I haven’t seen before, one that makes the watch feel firmly from 2015.

The hour and minute hands are flat dauphine style in polished steel with thin slits of lume. The watch really looks awesome at night with just the lines on the hands and chapter ring glowing. The dauphine style really works with the watch, playing off of the more vintage elements. The seconds hand is then a thin polished steel stick with a slight taper. It’s very simple but looks right. Both the seconds and minutes hands curve down at their tips, flowing over the dial. This is another subtle detail that really adds to the watch. It’s a tiny thing, something you probably wouldn’t notice wasn’t there, but since they added it, it just feels like a more complete thought and design.

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Movement

The TechnoTime TT 718 is a manual wound caliber with 26 jewels, hacking seconds, 120-hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. It also has a quickset date, but that is not in use on the Ophion 960. In use, the watch has buttery smooth winding and functioned accurately. The decoration on the 718 is clean and minimal, clearly the brand’s style, with blued screws, polished, beveled edges, flat sanded plates and balance cock, sun-bursting on the two large barrels and prologue under the balance. The flat sanding, something we’ve seen on C. Wards SH21, is a classic and understated type of decoration. Far less exciting than cote de Geneve, perlage or some of the other fancy graining methods, but still attractive. I’m certain people will complain that it’s under-decorated, but in person, between the odd shapes of the openings, large 3/4 plate, and balance spinning away, there is plenty to enjoy.

Movements like this are interesting as, like I said before, they provide something different from the norm…but it’s largely invisible. On the surface, you have a three hand watch with a smooth sweeping seconds, same as you’d find on a 2824, SW200, A10, 9015, etc… The increased power reserve, which is many times greater than those other watches, tying the C. Ward SH21, just means you can be a bit lazier about winding it, or take it off for a few days to find it’s still good to go. It’s a detail of convenience, and one I’m a fan of, but it’s not an exciting bell or whistle, at least without a power reserve indicator to flaunt it. In the end of the day, it’s sort of like having a simple in-house movement, such as the Nomos Alpha. It’s not what it does, it’s that it’s there that matters.

Straps and Wearability

The 960 comes on a gorgeous cognac brown 22mm, tapering genuine Alligator strap. The style of the strap is actually very sporty. It tapers 4mm, has a blunt end and a substantial amount of padding. This makes it hold up against the large case, but also makes the watch perhaps seem larger and more rugged… either way, it’s very comfortable and well made. More over, the color works perfectly with the anthracite dial. Grays and medium browns go so well together, immediately creating something very stylized. The only downside of the strap is the buckle. It’s a very basic thumbnail without branding.

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As I said before, this watch is big, bigger than you want it to be for the style. But, with that fact accepted, it’s still very enjoyable to wear. And, I really wore it quite a bit, despite being a little put off at first. It’s not that 42.9 is really that huge in the scheme of things, it’s that on something so simple and elegant with a big dial and a vintage vibe, it looks really quite large. Also, the lug-to-lug is long enough that on my 7″ wrist, it hangs over a bit. A little more curvature on the lugs would have helped with that as well. The thinness of the case, however, does do some balancing. At 8.85mm without the crystal, it’s a slender watch that sits nice and low.

The look of the watch though does a lot to override any issues. It’s gorgeous. It’s so matter of fact, and restrained, with just the right amount of extraneous details, which are details that only a watch person would enjoy. Things like the lume on the chapter ring, the curved hands, the domed crystal… and the movement within. They are only visible up close, and imperceivable to those who don’t know to look. They just add to the overall appeal and sense of quality of the watch.

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The gray of the dial is also perfectly balanced. Darker than mid gray, but never to be confused with black. With the steel from the hands, markers and case, you have a very monotone, metal palette, that as an urbanite who wears a lot of black and gray, I can really get behind. The styling of the watch lends itself to be something more formal, while the size more casual. I found it worked well with tweeds and denim..sort of casual office wear. If you like to rock a larger watch with a suit, on the brown strap it would look great with a blue or gray wool.

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Conclusion

There’s a lot to say about the Ophion 960, but to take a step back and just think about it as a whole for a second, it’s a very impressive watch. For a first watch from an unknown brand they really set out to accomplish a lot, and I think they nailed it. They made something gorgeous, well-styled, well-made, unique, manufactured in Germany and managed to pack a cool and uncommon movement inside. And they did all of that for around $1400 dollars (and without kickstarter for a change). That’s a big achievement, and one that to me speaks to a brand with vision. Not another me too brand or brand that’s just trying to hop on the watch train as it speeds along. No, Ophion know what they are doing and I’m certain they will continue to impress us with new designs down the line. Hopefully working with TechnoTime was a good experience and we’ll see more cool movements as well.

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The one caveat, the one thing that keeps me from saying it’s a 10/10 is the size… it’s just too big. It’s subtle watch in all ways but the sheer size of it. But, that’s a preference thing as well. I sure plenty of people will like it as is, and I’m sure the designers at Ophion must like it the way it is too. In the end, it’s their aesthetic vision, and their duty to stick to what they believe. And, I still enjoyed wearing despite my grumbling.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something boutique, genuinely very attractive and has some horological chops ticking away inside, the Ophion 960 is a watch you should seriously consider.

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Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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  • Curmudgeon

    Actually, I like everything about this watch! From all the design particulars to the interesting movement, it’s a well thought-through piece. And, yes, it’s too big, but they can be forgiven for that. Hopefully, they’ll participate at the next Wind-Up because this is a watch you undoubtedly have to hold and strap on to really appreciate. I bet they’ll even have a 38-39mm execution by then. Please put Made In Germany in tiny letters at the bottom of the dial. This is something to be proud of.

  • chenpofu

    I like this but my wrist is just too small for it. And I think the large and flat proportions makes it look out of balance regardless wrist size.

  • notfunny2u

    Love this watch, and count me in the side of those who like the larger watches. With large wrists and hands, 38mm feels much too small.

  • Justin Yates

    I was pretty excited about this watch when I first saw pictures awhile ago. The dial is simple in an elegant way and has a nice depth to it; definitely something that can fill multiple roles. Then I saw the case diameter, bought a second hand Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin, and never looked back.

  • Richard Baptist

    Got one and love it!! For the price and the movement one of the best deals out there.

  • Surfrider

    Same old story… too big. 38 – 40 would be ideal for this type of watch, in my opinion. Nice looking and interesting movement, otherwise. For large wristed gentleman or those who like the over-sized look, there’s much to like.

  • gurrgurr

    the large size is the only thing wrong with this watch