Defakto watches is one of the few brands out there that can scratch our itch for a minimal, design focused watch. In the last few years, we’ve reviewed their Eins, a mechanical one-hander and the Detail a quartz one-hander, both of which were unique and enjoyable. Their focus on minimal dials, stark colors and bold shapes gives them an appeal not often found in the realm of sports watches, while their manufacturing gives them a quality not often found in “design” watches.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the Akkord Modular model. The Akkord has been out for a couple of years, and was the brand’s first departure from one-handers into the world of precise minutes. It stayed true to the brand’s aesthetic, but adds some needed functionality. This year, they updated the line with their “Modular” color ways, which mix steel/PVD or bronze/PVD elements for uniquely beautiful cases. Inside, the Akkord is powered by a Swiss-made ETA 2824-2 for good, reliable time keeping. Amazingly, despite rising movement costs, and more complicated finishing, the Akkord Modular comes in at a very reasonable $600 in steel and $710 in bronze.
Defakto Akkord Review
Case: Bronze/PVD Steel
Movement: ETA 2824-2
Strap: Black Calf
Water Res.: 50m
Dimensions: 42 x 51 mm
Thickness: 9.5 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 7.5 x 2.5mm push-pull
Warranty: 2 years, limited
Price: ~$710 or 567.23 Euro
Though the Akkord has existed for a couple of years, the new “Modular” series, which I would just think as two-tone series, revitalizes them with a clever play on case finishing. Measuring 42 x 51 x 9.5mm, the Akkord has a medium/large sized case with a pleasantly thin profile. I would define the design as classic and almost pilot like, with thin, elegantly contouring lugs, slab sides and a broad bezel. That said, as this is made by the Icklers in Pforzheim (same family that makes Archimedes and Limes) the execution is perfect.
The crown stands out as a point of interest, despite being brutally simple. It’s a wide and flat, 7.5 x 2.5mm cylinder with a toothed edge. No logo on the outside, just flat steel. It’s so simple, it’s striking, and the proportions looks great with the case. Though the watch is automatic it can be hand wound, so having a large and easy to grip crown is nice.
Obviously though, what separates the Akkord Modular from the pack isn’t the size, but the materials, as the Akkord Modular mixes a bronze central case with a PVD bezel and crown (there is also a steel/PVD version). Though a seemingly obvious move, it’s one few brands have made, and a great idea. All PVD watches can be a bit too specific. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they are less versatile than steel. However, subtly used PVD adds character and detailing to an otherwise simple case, bringing it to life. Here, it’s found just in the bezel and crown, enough to be noticeable, but not so much as to dominate. Similarly, though bronze is cool, I find this limited usage more interesting.
Together, the two are amazing. It riffs a bit on the classic black and gold combo, but doesn’t look ostentatious or precious, rather it looks industrial, but warm thanks to the unique characteristics of bronze. The naturally dulling and patinating material adds a rugged look to the otherwise super clean watch. The slowly developing haze of oxidization plays well off of the PVD elements, gaining character by the day.
Flipping the watch over, you have a solid steel screw-down case back. On it is a laser etching of their Berlin offices called “Brückenmeisterei”. It’s a simple line drawing, but fitting of the minimal nature of the watch. The Eins we reviewed a couple of years ago had a display case back, but I honestly am ok not seeing the base 2824-2 all the time. Yes, when it’s there it’s fun, but using the space for a drawing is very welcome.
Defakto’s watches have a modern, graphic sensibility that is restrained yet bold. It’s part of what we love about the brand. The owner/designer Raphael Ickler has an aesthetic he is trying to pursue, and he sticks to it. The Akkord is deceptively simple, as what it lacks in indexes, type faces, numerals, etc… it makes up for in proportion, balance and restraint. On the matte black dial is but one index of thick, but short white lines for the hours/5-minutes and shorter, thin lines for the individual minutes.
The makers never change shape, are never truncated by a date window or logo. Just simple, even shapes all around the perimeter of the dial. Just below 12 is a Defakto logo in a blocky font that suits the style of the watch. And that’s it. Markers and single logo, which does provide some sense additional sense of up from down. What makes it work is the tension between the size of the markers and the negative space, the rhythm of the forms. It’s sparse, but any additional element would have been too much.
The Akkord was Defakto’s first 2-hand watch, making the conceptual leap from one-handedness. They now also have a 3-hander, the quartz Struktur. While I love the idea of one-handed watches, in practice I prefer at least two. Simply put, I need to know the exact minute otherwise I get antsy, though I could refer to my phone, I do prefer actually using my watch. So, the Akkord works perfectly for me. The lack of seconds keeps the calm, inactive feeling a one-hander has, but with added precision.
The hands on the Akkord are also very cool. The minute is a long white rectangle that just about matches the width of the larger hour/5-minute markers. The hour is shorter and inverted. It’s a super thin edged skeleton hand with a white border and an empty interior. It’s a subtle play, but it works perfectly, distinguishing the two hands, but creating one graphic sensibility. The hour hand also serves as a visual centerpiece, having more complexity than its surroundings.
Straps and Wearability
The Defakto Akkord Modular bronze came mounted to a 20mm tapering black calf leather strap. It’s soft, supple and beautifully made with clean edges and a thin line of stitching. As a standard strap for the watch, it makes total sense, the black playing off of the PVD elements while emphasizing the bronze. Brown could be interesting too, but it would soften the overall look. My one complaint is the buckle, which is a matte stainless steel. Nothing wrong with the shape, but I was expecting a PVD buckle, which would have completed the concept. As is, it’s far from a big issue, but on such a well detailed piece, it seems like an oversight.
On the wrist, the watch wears beautifully. It’s a small wearing 42mm, thanks to the materials and 9.5mm thickness. That said, the size allows the dial to be wide enough to be bold and eye-catching. Though I typically like 38-40 on my non-sport watches, I think this would have lost something being any smaller.
Stylistically, it’s on point too. It’s sophisticated and elegant while also being masculine. The stark dial, warm, textured bronze and inky black PVD come together for a unique look that can be dressed up or down. The added warm tones of the bronze make it work well with blues and browns, while the black works with everything. As an alternative to a sport watch, flieger or field, this would make for a cool everyday watch. Perhaps the steel version is even a bit more versatile, but I love the way the bronze works here.
While the aesthetic might not be for everyone as it is minimal, for those who are looking for a more design (in the graphic sense of the word) focused watch the Defakto Akkord Modular is a great choice. The stark dial is striking and the mixed material case is gorgeous, adding real materiality and personality to the concept. It might have taken a bit of a leap of faith to commit to doing the bronze/PVD thing, but it was a great idea. Looking now at my wrist, just seeing the edge of the case protrude from my sleeve, the PVD bezel, bronze case, and PVD crown mixing together…it’s just gorgeous.
What I love about Defakto is that unlike many of the watches found in museum shops (Junghans Max Bill being the outlier) which have cool concepts and mediocre executions, the Defaktos have that clean, modern look, but also the build quality and movements we hope to find in our watches. The fact that it’s powered by an ETA 2824-2, has a sapphire crystal and is made in Germany checks all the boxes for a high-quality timepiece. The fact that this watch costs about $710 in bronze and about $600 in steel makes it all the more compelling and frankly, a decent value.