One of the design approaches I love to see in watch making, is a simple understated aesthetic combined with a powerhouse of a movement. Look at brands like Laurent Ferrier and H. Moser & Cie, to name only two of many. They both make watches that are clean, elegant and minimal when seen from the front and sides… flip them over, however, and you have intricate and innovative movements with exceptional finishing. Watches like this aren’t about flaunting anything, or trying to impress people with bells and whistles. Of course these are brands whose watches cost tens of thousands. In the more affordable spectrum, there are only a couple largely because of the limitations on movement manufacturing. The C. Ward C9 5-day comes to mind, Nomos as well, but the options are few.
Enter Ophion Watches, a new brand based out of Spain. Named after the Greek titan who created the universe and fathered the gods, Ophion has set out with the goal of bringing the experience of high end watches to the affordable market. The watches they intend to create will each draw from a different time period, for a wide variety of styles. A quick glance at their first watch, the 960, and you’ll find something very simple, but appealing. A dial and case that hint at 60’s dress/casual designs, yet have a modern feel. The dial is plain, but satisfying, with a slightly domed anthracite gray surface, elegantly tapering applied batons and thin white lines. The hands too curve and are in the dauphin style with thin slits of lume, for a mid-century look. An interesting detail on the dial are the white lines on the steeply inclined chapter ring, which are in fact lumed. This detail feels very modern to me, and gives the dial an interesting personality.
The case is fluid and elegant, with rounded sides, a domed sapphire and a hand polished finish. The lugs jut straight out of the case for some contrast, giving the design a more masculine feel. Overall it’s just a satisfying and understated design. It is on the large side for this style, however, with a 42mm diameter. This makes it a bit more of a casual day-to-day watch than explicitly a dress watch, but the styling itself is very versatile. The watch is also quite thin at 10.35mm to the top of the crystal, 8.85mm without the crystal. Flip it over, and you’ll find a sapphire display back showing off something unexpected.
Powering the Ophion 960 is a Technotime TT 718 5-day manual wound movement. Technotime is a Swiss movement manufacturer known for higher end calibers, including a tourbillon. While the name isn’t as well known as the more prolific Soprod and Selitta, they also aren’t making replacements for the 2824. No, they make unique calibers and complications that haute brands such as Peter Speake-Marin have utilized in their movements. The 718 features double barrels for the 120-hr power reserve. 26-jewels, hacking seconds, instant date change (though there is no date on this watch) and a frequency of 28,800 bph. One look at the movement and you can immediately see that it’s exotic in appearance. There is a large 3/4 plate with cutouts that show the barrels, part of the gear train and a clearly visible balance in an elegant contour. Technotime allows brands to specify decoration and for the 960 Ophion went with flat sanding for the 3/4 plate and balance cock with beveled, polished edges, heat blued screws, perlage under the balance and sun-bursting on the barrels. The movement is also only 3.9mm thick, allowing for the svelte case.
In the price range we discuss at w&w, we’ve come to expect 99% of all the mechanicals we see to use only a few movements, and that range is getting slimmer as ETAs become more scarce. This is just how it works. There aren’t a lot of options for independent brands, start-ups, etc to go for, and making your own is prohibitively expensive. Seeing this Technotime movement is like a breath of fresh air. Not only is it simply different, it’s elegant and has a massive power reserve, which I personally love. It’s not just an expensive clone, it’s a unique movement with it’s own values. The fact that it’s manual is also great, as there a very few hand wound options out there, most brands ending up with the Unitas, which while a good movement is massive and a bit generic. In other words, I hope this is the start of a trend to use more exotic movements and not an anomaly.
So… you have an understated 60’s-inspired design and a high-end Swiss-made movement, but what does it cost? The Ophion 960 will go for 1305 euros, or about $1,460, plus shipping if purchased from the US, and 1580 euros if purchased from within the EU. That’s a pretty phenomenal price all things considered… I mean, you can easily find ETA 2824’s going for twice that and the occasional Miyota at the same price. It should be noted too that the case and dial are German-made, the hands are Swiss and the strap, which is real Gator, is Spanish. So on top of the movement, you’re also getting a watch where no expense was spared, and the best manufacturing was sought. The fact that it’s as inexpensive as it is, is actually quite surprising and I wonder if future offerings from Ophion will be able to stick to this structure. Regardless, the 960 is a very tempting watch for those looking for some mechanical prowess, while maintaining a modest aesthetic and price.