Straton Curve-Chrono Review

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When I first jumped into the world of watches, it was vintage racing chronographs that really hooked me in. Legendary pieces from Heuer, Seiko, Universal Genève and countless others would shape my taste in watches, and years later still form the backbone of my personal collection. With that in mind, the current explosion of ‘60s and ‘70s-tinged chronographs is fantastic to watch. With micro-brands like Autodromo and Nezumi leading the way, it feels like the whole industry is pushing to capture that sporty essence. Straton is another Kickstarter-based brand founded on chasing that ethos, and judging by the Curve-Chrono, one of the best. The Curve-Chrono blends diverse racing influences together with a choice of either a Seiko NE88 automatic or VK64 meca-quartz heart, and with prices starting at $330 (early bird pricing) it seems like a no-brainer. What’s it like to live with, though? We spent a week with it to find out.

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$330

Straton Curve-Chrono Review

Case
316L Stainless Steel (optional DLC coating)
Movement
Seiko NE88 (automatic)/ Seiko VK64 (meca-quartz)
Dial
Black, Green, Brown, Blue
Lume
Super-LumiNova C3
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Genuine leather, Milanese bracelet, Nylon
Water Resistance
10 atm
Dimensions
42 x 47.4mm/39 x 46.5mm
Thickness
13.9mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
7 x 4mm
Warranty
2 years
Price
$330

Case

The case of the Straton Curve-Chrono is a greatest hits album of design cues, with little touches recalling the Heuer Autavia, Seiko 6139, and Omega Speedster Mark II. The overall shape, though, takes its lineage from a watch not often associated with racing—the Sinn 142. The 10 o’clock crown, short lugs, and broad top surface are all straight from the Sinn playbook, along with the wide bevel around the case edge which removes some visual heft from the case. From there, though, the Straton takes its own approach, with a mix of detailed brushing and mirror polish highlighting the simple but well-executed surfacing. From the top down, it’s pure ‘70s tonneau case, with a blocky stance that calls to mind the Seiko “Pogue” and the later Heuer Autavias that creates an imposing presence on the wrist. Along the side, the generous polished bevel keeps the 13.9mm height from feeling too slab-sided, and a tall 7x4mm crown flanked by round pushers make for easy access to the watch’s functions (author’s note: while the crown on our testers were unsigned, the final production model will have a crown signed with the Straton logo).

This design is available either in stainless steel or a well-applied black DLC finish, which ups the aggression level of the design quite a bit and makes it feel more race-ready. Around the back is one of the Curve-Chrono’s party pieces—a deep, sharply etched caseback featuring either a classic BBS or Fuchs wheel. The etching work here is superb, with some of the cleanest edges I’ve seen in this price range. Flanking the design is a rather sparse list of information, simply reading “STRATON WATCH COMPANY CURVE” along with the 10 atm depth rating and the movement.

Straton-Curve-8321

Dial

Like the rest of the watch, the dial of the Curve-Chrono wears its influences on its sleeve. In true ‘70s chrono fashion, it’s pleasingly busy, managing to lay out piles of essential information while avoiding clutter and imbalance. The subdials at 3 and 9 (30-minute and running seconds for the automatic, 60-minute and running 24-hour for the meca-quartz) are in the Goldilocks zone for size, fitting in perfectly between the 2 and 4 (or 8 and 10) hour markers and just brushing the tachymeter ring on their outer edges. Applied split baton markers form the inner ring of the main dial, surrounded in turn by a 1/5 seconds track, a tachymeter ring, and finally a wide, steep rotating hours bezel.

This tall inner bezel gives the dial an almost bowl-like appearance and miles of depth. More importantly, however, it functionally extends the range of a 30 or 60-minute chronograph to 12 hours if one places the triangular marker over the current position of the hour hand. It’s a pragmatic addition, one this one shares with the Sinn 142 and Seiko Pogue, and one that I wish would make an appearance on more modern chronographs.

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The theme of depth started by this bezel is continued through the inward-sloping markers, and finished off by the subtle blooming effect on the dial. This dial itself comes in a wild array of colors, with black, brown, blue, and green variants available. Our testers came in black and a deep British Racing Green, which give the watch two completely different characters. The black dial, with its bright orange accents, gives off a harder, more menacing vibe, while the cool green adds a pale yellow highlight and feels more laid-back and compact. Another plus for the green dial is the use of a contrasting color for subdials and the tachymeter ring, making chrono functions easily legible at a glance and adding some quirky panda dial appeal. The meca-quartz Curve-Chrono also features a beveled date window at 6, which while breaking the flow of the dial adds to the general Calibre 11 look of the piece.

Both variants are signed with the Straton “S” at 12, and feature two lines of text at 6 detailing their movement. In addition, both the automatic and meca-quartz share a similar tapering handset topped off by a heavily weighted orange chrono seconds. In terms of lume, the Curve-Chrono offers SuperLuminova C3. While lume performance was somewhat underwhelming during the review period, Straton has since assured us that the final production Curve-Chronos will receive upgraded lume.

Movement

It’s rare enough to review a watch with two different movements, and it’s rarer still to say that they’re both great choices. The sexier powerplant is naturally the Seiko NE88, previously seen here on worn&wound inside the Stuckx Bullhead. The specs for this one speak for themselves—both a column wheel and vertical clutch, 45-hour power reserve, and a buttery smooth 28,800 bph. It’s a supremely competent movement, very possibly the best choice this side of the Valjoux 7750, and one that deserves more exposure than it currently gets. On the other side, you have the Seiko VK64 meca-quartz hybrid system, shared by most of the current vintage chrono renaissance. The Autodromo Prototipo, Helgray Silverstone, and Nezumi Voiture all have one of these at their heart. While it invites skepticism at first, the VK64 quickly proves itself to be a solid choice in its own right. The hands sweep like a mechanical chronograph, reset like a mechanical chronograph, and barring some occasional mushy top pusher action, deliver the mechanical pusher snap. Purists may cry foul, but as a value proposition it’s hard to say no.

Straps and Wearability

If there’s something the Straton Curve-Chrono lacks, it certainly isn’t strap choice. Big-hole leather rally straps, Milanese mesh bracelets, and racing-livery NATO straps are all part of the package here, and it’s a testament to the Curve-Chrono’s versatility that it works so well on all of them. Each Curve-Chrono comes with a classic racing-inspired NATO strap that plays off the piece’s dial, in our case Gulf Racing blue and orange for the black dial and Team Lotus green and yellow for the green dial. They’re fun additions that add some casual comfort along with a subtle homage to some of racing’s greatest teams.

In my opinion, though, the real winner here is the rally strap. It’s nicely padded with orange contrast stitching that matches the orange dial highlights perfectly, and really makes the piece feel like a coherent whole. Likewise, the Milanese mesh bracelet is a great choice for the stainless steel case, adding some extra flash to the watch.

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With a 42 x 47.4mm tonneau case, the Straton Curve-Chrono gives off some serious wrist presence, and the 14mm height definitely shows. That said, a ‘70s-inspired chronograph is just the place for a big ol’ hunk of metal on the wrist, and even on my 6.75 inch wrist it never felt oversized or unwieldy. This is definitely a watch that skews more to the casual end of the spectrum, but in stainless steel with the Milanese bracelet I wouldn’t put blazer duty past it in a pinch.

Conclusion

Like I said at the start of this review, there’s a special place in my heart for old-school racing chronographs. There’s a certain kind of magic there, a swagger and passion which sets them apart from the rest of the pack. With the way the current vintage market is, however, it’s almost impossible for many enthusiasts (myself included) to enjoy the original pieces for ourselves. I talked a bit in another review about jazz, and to really explain my feelings on the Straton Curve-Chrono I have to talk about music again, this time classic rock. This watch is the spiritual brother to the Strolling Bones, Led Zep-Again, and The Fab Four—it might not be the original, but it’s made by people who clearly love the material, enjoy the hell out of what they do, and at the end of the day the concert was only $20.

At $330 for early Kickstarter backers, the meca-quartz is a deal, and even at the full final price of $500 it’s well priced. Likewise, the current price for Kickstarter adopters for the automatic at $745 is a solid value, and at just under $1000 the full retail price is still very competitive. It’s pure fun, prepared by a passionate hand, and a strong contender against the current field of racing chronographs.

Images from this post:

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.

seanpaullorentzen
  • Legaser

    Nice looking watch with proven mvmt but Autodromo (Prototipo) presented basically the same model 2 years ago. I know Autodromo was inspired by the Heuer Autavia but at least offered a modern alternative to the pricey Autavia. This to me is more of the same and by no means a ‘no-brainer…

    • Sean Paul Lorentzen

      Comparing this one to the Prototipo is completely fair- it’s something that I tried to mention in the article- but the Straton’s a pretty different approach, not to mention significantly cheaper.

    • Arcord

      Autodromo Prototipo is a great looking watch, that is for sure, but Straton offers a mechanical movement for the same price Autodromo offers quartz and there is no mechanical option. There is also only a 42mm version for the prototipo, while straton offers a 39,5mm version as well…and btw, there is not enought of these watches around 🙂

  • DanW94

    First glance at that automatic had me thinking Heuer Monza re-issue for a split second. Great retro vibe on these and you’re right, that NE88 movement doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

  • Randy Alava

    Too bad they just copied the Sinn 142 / Lemania case design, very uninspired (pun intended). Pass

    • Arcord

      What you are saing is that round watches are a no no because they copy themselves over and over again? Gosh, haven’t seen such a stupid comment in a while…

      • chiefmatex

        Wow such an enlightened comment. So all round watches are the same design?

        • Arcord

          No, but the shape of the case is the same, many times lugs are about the same, just as the shape of the bezel…and the case (Except that the Straton is sleekyier, especially with the 39,5mm version) is just about the only thing that Straton shares with Sinn 142. Thinking that Straton is bad just because it resembles the Sinn just shows that you seriously lack attention to detail…

    • Graham’s Ghost

      So you wouldn’t buy a Doxa because they use the same case as a Squale? What a stupid argument

  • Никита

    Crown is not signed.. Sorry, but I’ll pass then. Such little things bother me.

    • Adrian Licu

      If you read the article carefully you will find out that crown would be signed for the production models, not that it matter to me. I find this kind of nit picking some time very close minded.

      • Никита

        Thanks for pointing that out. You may consider that as nit picking – but why close minded? Simply because I don’t like plain crowns – I am close minded in your opinion?

        • Adrian Licu

          Sorry, I was too harsh. I just heard this argument so many times. Also, crown is something you rarely seen from one side, unless you wear the watch on right hand. Also if the main crown bothers you that is not signed, how about the crown of the internal bezel for this chrono? This is always facing you, will you want that signed too?

          • Никита

            I rarely see the crown, but this little touches indicate care for me. Many micro-brand watches are just assembled from stock parts, so when the crown is signed, caseback is beautifully engraved (here Straton gets huge plus from me), the buckle is also engraved – the watch stands aside from that crowd. If I say I want another crown to be signed as well, I would look too demanding.

    • bjs314

      lol…you were on the verge of buying a $500 watch, but decided to pass because the crown isn’t signed. No sir. You didn’t pass. You were never interested.

      • Никита

        What makes you think you know me better than I know myself? I hate plane crowns! Look – I really wanted to buy 569$ Citizen – http://c-watch.co.jp/ww/nb1040-52.html – it looks great: applied well-polished markings, blued hands, guilloche, robust inhouse movement. JDM model. What not to like? The plain crown is what stopped me.

  • David Tyne

    Too much when you can buy a cheaper Seiko.

    • Randy Alava

      They should have at least came up with an original design case if they were going to ask for that much. They took the easy route by copying an existing design

      • Patrick Peters

        Ask for that much? $330 for Kickstarter backers is a bargain! and don’t you think Sinn take a good look at the Seiko 6139? Isnt it too bad Sinn just copied the Seiko 6139 case design? No! it is a classic case design.

    • bjs314

      There’s always that one guy trying to convince everyone that they should just buy a Seiko. lol Please tell us the exact model that looks similar to this watch. Be specific.

      • David Tyne

        And there’s always some clown using lol. How old are you? But anyway, I should have expanded my comment. The problem I see with watches like this is that they have no reputation regarding the quality of their cases. I was merely pointing out that you can buy a Seiko (any Seiko) and you know you have a reliable piece of kit.
        Which model? Walk into a shop and pick one, I think they have quite a large range.

  • Randy Alava

    “From there, though, the Straton takes its own approach, with a mix of detailed brushing and mirror polish highlighting the simple but well-executed surfacing.”

    Not true! The Lemania reference case as used in the Sinn 140 / Sinn 142 uses a mix of brushed and polished as well. Not surprised, they started copying the case shape anyway

    • Michaelstocky

      With watches you cannot reinvent the wheel, unless you going very abstract. Watch cases will always have simularities, I can see subtle differences in the pictures you posted to Straton’s case, the Sinn Lemania being more rounded. Your tone seems to suggest its a blatent copy? I certainly disagree. I believe Straton is offering real value, a micro brand offering 2 case sizes, 2 movements, and other multiple options? Where do you see a main stream brand or even a micro brand offering such a wide array of options essentially allowing you to create your own watch. I backed this project and its actually the first Kickstarter watch I have backed and not a decision I made lightly considering some failures I have read, but since I have read the feedback on Straton’s first watch launched last year I am confident enough to back it

      • Randy Alava

        Just focusing on the watch case as I’m familiar with the design and not the rest of the areas of the watch. In terms of watch case design, certainly an area where they can be more creative? While the Lemania/Sinn 142 is more rounded, the second example (Arctos) is more elongated and closer to the final shape of the Stranton’s. Copy? Who can really say if they deliberately copied it, but only themselves right? But this is a classic design which is familiar with some vintage collectors and the similarities are too striking.

        I must admit, i’ve only seen a few samples of kickstarter watches so I’m not aware if others draw inspiration from classic designs

        • Michaelstocky

          You obviously did not read the inspiration behind the watch? 70’s chronos and this case shape is classic to the period, why re-invent the wheel if its not possible? The watch is celebrating the 70’s period and there are only so many case designs reminiscent of the period. Making your argument irrelevant when Straton are already saying openly the watch is reminiscent of the period

          • Randy Alava

            Hmmm is it classic to the 70’s? I thought it was prominent from the late 70’s through to the 80’s and even used to this day by Sinn. But oh well, I guess to each his own I guess

          • Michaelstocky

            Exactly late 70’s is 70’s, point made. As Sean duely mentioned in the write up as well “its purely 70’s tonneau case”

          • chiefmatex

            Alright, i just re-read and saw that part. I was initially surprised that the case shape bears too much of a striking resemblance (about 90%) to some of the watch cases I’ve owned from the 70’s/80’s (Lemania, Sinn, Tissot) and some modern as well (Sinn). I didn’t realise they deliberately sought to recreate that styling

  • Bill Hicks

    Looks like the auto versions are all gone now. Guess I’ll settle for the mecaquartz and save some dough.