As a fan of vintage as well as contemporary watches, I love it when brands are able to pull from the aesthetics of watches from the 20th century, without making something gimmicky. Luckily, as a bit of a trend, many brands have recently created such watches. From the remarkably cheap Orient Bambino to the stark and simple Hamilton Intra-Matic, there are a nice amount of options to choose from. Adding to this genre, Davosa has just released their new Vanguard model, which takes mid-century styling and adds a few twists for something unique.
I first saw the Davosa Vanguard in Basel last April. Then still unnamed, I was immediately impressed by the design in my brief viewing. It was a nice compact size, had cool texturing and had some details that seemed straight out of the 60’s. The very nice people from Davosa we met with also mentioned that the watch would come with a variety of straps to help accessorize the watch, adding to its value and functionality. As someone who changes straps as often as they change shoes, I greatly appreciated this idea and the sentiment behind it. There’s something very comforting when a brand seems to really get what a consumer wants, suggesting that they understand on a personal level.
Once finally released, the Vanguard clearly lived up to expectations not just in design, but also in value. I was very glad to see that this Swiss made watch, which features a domed sapphire crystal, ETA 2892-2 movement, three nice straps, quality build and finishing came in at a respectable $774. As we’ve seen before, Davosa is a brand that focuses on value, so this didn’t come as too big of a surprise, but it nevertheless makes the watch all the more appealing. That said, what makes the watch really successful are the well thought out and executed details, which are not only attractive but often unique.
Davosa Vanguard Review
Movement: ETA 2892-2
Strap: 3 x Leather
Water Res.: 50M
Dimensions: 40 x 45 mm
Thickness: 9 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 6 x 2.5 mm
I am going to gush a little bit over this case design, because I simply think it’s a great achievement for the brand. Thin, elegant and handsome, the Vanguard’s case is a perfect mix of dress, casual and vintage aesthetics. Measuring 40 x 45 x 9 mm (to the top of the domed sapphire), the case is a nice mid-size with a very thin profile. At 40mm, it’s a big for a classic dress watch (which should be 36-38, typically), but I don’t think it wants to be one. It’s more of an everyday design that hints at mid-century style. That said, the watch is very well proportioned, so it feels compact and perhaps a bit smaller than it actually is.
The design itself is simple and refined. The central shape is circular with short, narrow lugs and a 20mm width. From the side, you can see that the whole case curves from the domed sapphire to the case back. The sides of the central case have a slight radius thats adds to the overall gracefulness of the design, as well as the compact feel.
The case also features mixed finishes for an attractive effect. The bezel and case back are high polished while the central case is evenly brushed. Since the case is curved, the case back can actually be seen slightly from the side. The resulting mix of reflections, when tied in with the texturing on the dial, is very eye-catching. It’s just the right amount of restrained bling to say, “yes, I’m wearing something nice”, but not, “hey! look at me”.
They also gave special attention to the crown, which is perfectly matched to the case. Measuring 6 x 2.25mm, it’s wide and thin and has a slight onion shape. Reflecting the geometry of the case itself, it’s elegantly rounded. The edge is coined for grip and texture, and the outside surface has a deeply etched Davosa star logo, with matte negative space. Though the watch is an auto, this crown beckons to be wound.
Lastly, the watch features a display case back, through which the ETA 2892-2 can be seen. The window dominates the back at 27mm wide, around which are various details about the watch.
What the case starts, the dial finishes. The Vanguard has a distinctly mid-century design that uses texture, finishing and applied markers for a great look that is smart and stylish. The surface of the dial is satin black, and features a pinstripe guilloché pattern. I’ve never seen a dial with a texture quite like this. It’s extremely simple, but effective, adding depth and a unique sheen. The pinstripe motif is also masculine in an appealing way. On the surface, just below 12, is a large Davosa logo on an area that is lacking texture. The logo itself looks fine, perhaps a drop big, but the flatness behind is a bit unfortunate. Clearly this was to print, but the are just seems a bit too large. Above 6 read “automatic” which similarly is on a flat area, but a very small one that is not disruptive.
The primary index consists of large applied blocks, one per hour, of equal size and shape. Each block has a brushed top surface and polished beveled edges. Since each block is at a different angle, light hits them differently, throwing flashes in cool ways, yet the brushed top surface prevents them from getting too glitzy. The lack of differentiation, i.e. larger at 12, makes at a glance reading a little less quick, but this isn’t a big bold diver, so that’s not an issue.
The aesthetic is very 60’s in a cool way. The use of chunky steel is very indicative of the time period and gives the watch a unique presence. The texture of the markers also plays nicely with the patterning on the dial beneath; sort of like cufflinks on a striped shirt.
On the outer edge of the dial, on a surface without texture, is a series of white lines for the minutes/seconds and double sided blocks every 5, reinforcing the applied blocks. In these split rectangles is actually black lume, providing limited glow at night. This index adds some graphic elements to the dial, finishing it nicely towards the edge and adding a more casual undertone. It also adds a more precise reference for minutes, which helps.
Just off of three is a date window, through which the black on white date is readable. The window is kept very small as to not be too obtrusive, though the white does stand out. I’m of a couple of mindsets on this… I usually prefer color matched date wheels, but on a dressier watch, that could be a bit weird, too sleek. So, the white doesn’t hurt the look of the dial. That said, I think the dial would have been more striking without any date at all. In the end, it is there, and not too disruptive.
The hands on the Vanguard are simple and successful. The hour and minute are both fence post style with a lightly brushed finish and black lume filling. The black lume here is very cool looking, tying the hands in with the dial well. The lume itself isn’t very strong, like on the dial, but that seems to be the nature of black lume. The seconds hand is then just a thin brushed steel stick. The use of finishing on the hands is a nice, subtle touch that I think helps tie the overall design together.
The Vanguard comes with an ETA 2892-2 inside. This Swiss made staple is a reliable automatic with 21 jewels, date, hand winding, hacking, 42 hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. The movement is minimally decorated, with only the rotor showing cotes de Geneva and a Davosa logo. The 2892-2 is a high quality movement and while similar to the 2824-2 in function, is thinner allowing for the lithe, 9mm profile.
Straps and Wearability
One of the cool little features of the Vanguard is that is ships with 3 distinct leather straps for a great amount of versatility right out of the box. The straps are all the same elegant tapering cut, but in very different leathers, each giving the watch a different look and feel. First there is a bright honey brown leather with an interesting grain. This is a really beautiful strap that immediately became my personal “go to” of the group. The color is really vibrant, and the grain is really interesting, giving the watch a lively and perhaps more casual look. The brown made the black dial stand out a bit more as well.
Second, there is a matte grey leather that appears oiled and feels a bit like nubuck, with a unique mottled grain. The dark grey is sober and masculine, giving the watch a monochromatic look. This strap is a bit more formal than the brown, but still has a rugged quality that could work with jeans, etc. The grey tone rides between the steel and the black dial, creating a more subdued look. This was my second favorite of the three.
Lastly, there is a black faux-gator with a satin sheen. This is a classic and conservative dress option that is definitely nice to have available. That said, it wasn’t as unique or exciting as the other two. Perhaps had the right occasion arisen, I would have had a chance to put on a grey suit and black shoes to accompany it, but as far as day-to-day goes, it was a bit too formal. The black strap down plays the black dial, but makes the applied markers and their respective glimmering stand out a bit more. The quality of all of the straps is very good and the croc certainly was made well, though the surface had a bit of a plastic feel. In the context of three complimentary straps, it is still pretty great.
The Vanguard wears wonderfully. The case, while larger than a standard dress watch, is just right to ride the line for a casual to formal design. Though 40mm in diameter, the short lugs, thin profile and curved sides make it feel more like a 38mm. It’s compact and well proportioned, so it just looks and feels right. The size also give it decent presence on the wrist, being noticeable but not flashy. Perhaps most notable in terms of comfort is how remarkably thin the watch is. At 9mm, it’s very thin for an automatic with a full rotor. This makes it sit nicely on the surface of your wrist, as well as slip under a shirt sleeve with ease.
The overall design is very attractive when on, regardless of which strap you pair it with. The little sparkles of light off of the case and dial, the subtle change in surface from the pin striping… it all makes for something very appealing. As said a few times, it also has a very mid-century look, though the size and build make it feel contemporary. As such, it is inherently stylized, but in a good way. The pin-stripe texturing has a particularly interesting effect as it plays off of patterns and textures in your clothing. Against a striped shirt, it can be a bit noisy (in a good way) and against a solid shirt it the pattern stands out more. Lastly, the black and steel palette is very versatile, which is emphasized by the strap options.
The Davosa Vanguard is a very successful watch overall. It perfectly mixes vintage styling cues with nice finishing and some unique details that make it really enjoyable. I particularly liked the shape of the case, which is just different enough, the textured dial surface and applied markers. Though many brands in the last few years have made similarly priced vintage styled watches, the Vanguard is still a unique offering. The pin-striped dial stands out in particular as something distinctly Davosa.
Apart from that, it’s also a well made and priced watch. Swiss made, domed sapphire, ETA 2892-2 and 3 quality straps make $774, while not an amazing, stop-what-you’re-doing, deal, still very competitively priced and a good value. More over, it’s a very versatile watch that you can easily where in most casual and formal situations. Pair this with a good tool watch, and you’ll have most of your bases covered.
by Zach Weiss
Review unit supplied by Davosa Watches