Swihanic, the under-priced mystery watch, oh how you bewilder. I have been wearing the Riedenschild for few weeks now and it has definitely left an impression. It feels like an expensive watch, it looks like an expensive watch and for the most part, seems to be built like an expensive watch… but expensive is the one thing the Swihanic is not. OK, let me qualify that last statement. The Swihanic (still don’t know what that means) has many features that just don’t belong, as I understand the watch market, on a watch this price, being about $275. The watch features a sapphire crystal, a well-made deployment-clasp strap (optional), branded crowns and strap details, a decorated Unitas movement, an internal bezel and a unique case design. Sure, “built like an expensive watch” is a terrible generalization, since I am sure it is not built anything like a $5000+ dollar watch, or a $1500 dollar watch for that matter, but it is better than expected, and would beat the crap out of many brands in the 250-350 price range.
Case: Polished 316L Stainless
Movement: GeMatic 0788 / Unitas 6498
Dial: White with silver subdial and steel markers
Lens: Domed Sapphire
Case Back: Screwdown display
Strap: Black or Brown “Croco-Leather” with deployment clasp
Water Res.: 50m
Dimensions: 46mm/55mm lug-to-lug
Crown: 2 7mm x 4.5mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Warranty: 24 months
So, the question left is, “how is this possible?” I wish I had a solid answer for you, but I don’t. Maybe it is actually not a German watch, and the movement is not a Unitas, and it is actually all a big lie… While I severely doubt that is the case, it would still be a pretty good deal at $275! The Riedenschild international website does not clarify anything. As a weird mixture of stock photos, bizarre layout, iffy translations and a general funneling to their online store (aviator-watches.de) it is lacking in any real information on the brand. The German site is better made, but is in German, and doesn’t seem to have an about page. These all-too-brief forum entries here and here indicate that Riedenschild is out of business regardless. Perhaps then the conclusion can be drawn that these watches are/were everything they seem to be, including underpriced, which did not make for a viable brand. Or maybe Riedenschild just has the buying power of a large brand and is committed to value.
Whatever the case, I am actually here to talk about the watch. The face of the Swihanic is a real eye catcher and not like any other face I’ve seen before. To start, the dial is a super crisp white, which is not that out of the ordinary, but it is interrupted at 5 by a large subdial for the seconds. This subdial, which is my favorite part of the watch, is pearlescent silver with a very fine concentric circle pattern that catches light and throws it in unexpected ways… Certainly a flashy little detail, but I love it. The perimeter of the face is marked with black dashes for the minutes and large steel diamonds for the hours.
This is another strange and unique design feature of the Swihanic. These diamonds, which are sort of kite shaped, sit on top of the dial and are thick enough to actually cast shadows. The end effect is quite dramatic as the facets of the diamonds, like the seconds dial, are bouncing even more light off and creating, for lack of a better term, a substantial amount of bling. Normally I am not one for flash, but since nothing is jeweled or coated in precious metal, it doesn’t feel tacky or overly ornate, and I have no problem wearing it with jeans and other casual clothes.
There is also a lot of text on the face. Somehow, along with the steel diamonds, and subdial, they managed to fit: “Precision Instruments, Riedenschild Original, Swihanic, Second Edition Mechanical 17 Jewels”. They also manage to pull it off graphically. The face already has a strange asymmetry due to the 5 o’clock position of the seconds hand, so all of this text that gets put in fills the otherwise awkward empty spaces. Minimal it is certainly not, but all of these features balance out well in the end.
The rotating inner bezel feels like a continuation of the face rather than the body. It is a simple ring with black text and markers on a slightly gloss silver. It does not shine like the polished steel diamonds or the case, and frames the face nicely. The 12 hr numerals on the bezel are also the only numbers on the watch, which might help temper the more fanciful details of the face. The crown between 3 and 4 controls the bezel, which is used to indicate a second time zone. While the crown itself is quite sturdy, I find the action on the internal bezel to be a little loose for my liking. Having not played with too many internal bezels, I can’t say where this sits compared to average, but for simple tactile satisfaction, I wish it were stiffer. Functionally speaking, I don’t think it is going to effect using the bezel for a second time zone.
The case of the Swihanic, which is truly massive at 46mm/55mm L-to-L, has some really interesting details that I have not seen on other watches. At a glance, it appears to have the basic formula for a classic watch; there is a large circular central area that houses the guts of the watch and then triangular lugs protruding out. Hopefully my pictures do it justice, because it is sort of hard to explain the way the geometry fluidly curves to take away all of the harsh edges and create a much more elegant body, which is really necessary on a case this large. In all honesty, it is probably a bit too large for my wrist, but the subtle details and 22mm lug width make it wear a little smaller than one might expect. That being said, if you’re not into large watches, this isn’t for you.
The case back is a screw-down display back that houses the GeMatic 0788, which is a decorated ETA 6498 a.k.a. Unitas movement. These 17 jewel hand-winders are known for their robustness and reliability, so it is a great movement to have in any watch. The addition of blued screws and Geneva stripes just makes the whole thing a lot sweeter. And, at a glance the movement looks really great. However, when you look a little closer, it is still very nice, but not perfect. Basically, and this could be true on only my Swihanic, the stripes on one side of the movement don’t match the stripes on the other, and they don’t form a straight line across the movement.
Now, should I be so picky given the fact that other watches with decorated Unitas’ cost easily a few times what this costs? And the movement is only viewable from the back? Well, of course, because I want to give you an honest impression, and because even imperfect, Riedenschild has gone above and beyond to create a luxurious watch that surpasses expectations. The fact is, the cost of labor of having someone hand engrave each movement would probably cost more than the retail price of the finished watch, so these were probably parts that were ordered overseas and assembled, creating inconsistencies. Fine, I’ll take it. It’s still pretty.
Lastly, the straps that came with the watch, one black “croco-leather” with a deployment-clasp and one brown leather with a classic closure, are both also very nice. They look right on the watch, are strong and seemingly durable. The deployment clasp on the black strap is as nice as any I’ve seen, and both straps have these funny little rivets with a Riendenschild shield logo on them that sits just below 6. Once again, just a lot for the money.
So, what else is there to say? I hope Riedenschild is still around, because this is a great and fairly unique product that I am really enjoying. The bulk takes some getting used to, but the sort of sporty/classy/dressy/bizarre looks of the watch are an immediate win. And, not to sound like a broken record, but the price is absolutely unbeatable. If you like the looks of this at all, and think it can fit into your rotation, then find one on a forum, or try that aviation-watches.de site (which does seem to be up and running), since you wont find another watch like this where the parts are clearly more valuable than the whole.
thanks for reading, and enjoy the gallery!