Since Ollech & Wajs reconstituted itself in 2019, they’ve released a string of well regarded sports watches that pay tribute to some of the brand’s key designs from the 1960s and 1970s. This period, obviously, is fertile ground for watch design inspiration, with plenty of unusual, colorful attempts to build something different, along with your normal array of no fuss, black dialed divers. Ollech & Wajs has really focused on the hits, and on a somewhat insane commitment to build quality (my favorite example: the C-1000, one of the most under the radar 1,000 meter divers you’ll find anywhere). For this latest release, however, they’re looking toward an old design that is heavy with 70s funk, and then…un-funking it? At a glance, the new OW 8001 is the product of at least a few strange decisions.
Let’s step back a moment and take a look at the watch that inspired the OW 8001, the OW 8000. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ollech & Wajs’ early foray into the integrated bracelet market in the form of a sporty, “TV dial” chronograph with a smoked brown dial. The case of the 8000 appears to be overbuilt and chunky in a way that Ollech & Wajs has always favored, but there’s a certain elegance to the case shape and the way the case connects to the bracelet (notice the facet angled downward at the top and bottom of the case). Ollech & Wajs were far from the only brand to make a TV dial style watch, and they certainly weren’t the only brand to experiment with integrated bracelet designs during this period, but that just plants this design even more firmly in a very specific time and place.
The OW 8001, you’ll notice, is not a chronograph. It also does not have a TV shaped dial. Furthermore, the integration of the case to the bracelet appears to be, well, a bit more severe than on the original watch, with the curved outer endlinks of the bracelet running right up against the flat slab of the case. The OW 8001 has effectively been transformed into a dive style sports watch, losing the defining characteristics of the watch that supposedly inspired it. The dial, it should be noted, is still a smokey brown, and the brand’s stated intent with the 8001 was to “contemporize” the character of the 8000. It’s still a sports watch rooted in a brutalist design language, and is built with robustness in mind (it has a 300 meter water resistance rating). But I can’t help but look at the 8001 and wish that it held over that distinct TV dial shape, which is rarely used in a contemporary context, even in a sea of brands re-entering a red hot market for integrated bracelet sports watches.
Taking the 8001 as it is, instead of what it could be, though, reveals what is surely a very capable sports watch in line with the type that Ollech & Wajs have been consistently releasing over the last 4 years or so. The 8001 has a case that measures 39.5mm wide and 12.5mm tall, and is brushed all around to reinforce the tool watch vibes the brand is going for. Notably, the bezel you see here is fixed, so what at first looks like a solid pizza and laundry timer is really something else entirely. The watch runs on the Soprod Newton Precision P092, and the movement has been COSC certified (this is the first time a modern Ollech & Wajs has been COSC certified).
The 8001 is a confusing release. On the one hand, it appears to be a rock solid sports watch that won’t let down the great reputation the brand has built over a few short years since their relaunch. On the other hand, by calling attention to a watch in their back catalog and linking it to this release when so many key ingredients are effectively missing, the brand appears to be inviting comparisons that don’t work out in the favor of the contemporary watch. This is a constant conundrum for brands that lean on their heritage, and every brand (and sometimes every new release) handles this balancing act a little differently. For now, we look forward to hopefully getting an opportunity to handle the 8001, so that it can be evaluated on its own terms.
The 8001 will be available later this summer at a retail price of CHF 1,856. Ollech & Wajs