It’s always very exciting when a brand surprises you. Whether through the quality of a piece that belies its price or the thoughtfulness of a design, it’s reassuring when a brand seems to surpass what you expect. Gavox’s newest releases, the Legacy Navy line, are an example of a brand doing something quite unexpected that made me adjust what I think about them.
The Gavox watches we reviewed last January were pretty straight forward quartz pilot’s watches. They had a few unique twists, but ultimately used the vocabulary of modern pilot’s that we are very familiar with. As is typically the case, when a brand’s first watch is of a certain type, the proceeding watches are an evolution on that idea. But, with their newest watches, Gavox has taken an entirely different direction. The Legacy marine watches have a classically inspired design that is elegant and refined, with dials that have very interesting asymmetry and texture.
Loosely based on marine chronometers and the classic aesthetics of the likes of Breguet, there is a distinctly pre-twentieth century vibe to the Legacy Navy watches. Clearly very different than a modern pilot, what’s even more interesting is how they are very different from almost everything else in their price range. Despite their high-brow looks, sapphire crystals and Miyota automatic movements (also a first for Gavox) these watches come in between $400 and $450, which is quite affordable in the scheme of things. We had the opportunity to spend time with two models, one with an elaborate 24-hr subdial, the other more restrained,
Gavox Legacy Navy Review
Movement: Miyota 8218/8219
Water Res.: 50M
Dimensions: 41 x 51mm
Thickness: 11.7 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crowns: 6 x 4 mm
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $400 – 445
The Legacy series utilizes a single case design that is simple, but has a few elegant details. Measuring 41 x 51 x 11.5mm (our measure) it’s a nice medium size, being a bit smaller than marine watches typically are, but a bit larger than a typical dress style. The central area of the case is is a cylinder of polished steel with a relatively wide bezel and slab sides, pretty standard fair.
Things get a bit more interesting at the lugs, which have a large design with a tapered shape and beveled edge. Where the lugs meets the case on the outside, it suddenly cuts in, creating a lip rather than a smooth transition. This adds a small but effective ornamental detail, that speaks refers to the historical inspirations of the watch. The lugs also feature a mix of finishes for an elegant touch. On the top surface the steel is brushed, contrasting the polished bezel. On the beveled edge of the lug, it is polished again, then on the side it is very lightly brushed. The streak of polish from the bevel is very nice, though the edge where the two finishes meet could have been sharper.
One of the stranger features of the Legacy watches is the crown placement at 2. Clearly a result of the movement being angled to place the sub-seconds at 4 (more on that when we discuss the dial), having the crown up top takes a little getting used to, especially in the context of the classical aesthetic. The crown is small-medium sized measuring 6 x 3mm and features a simple grooved texture for grip. On the flat side of the crown is an etched “G” for Gavox. I think the design of the crown misses a bit, as something more akin to a rounded onion would have felt more harmonious. The etched G is also a bit out of place, feeling too modern and plain, but it’s a small an easily overlooked detail.
The Legacy watches also feature a display case back which shows off the Miyota 8218 and 8219 movements inside. The movements have a touch of decoration in the form of Geneva stripes on the plate under the rotor. There is also a custom gold-toned Gavox rotor, which adds some pop. All in all, more than one expects at this price.
Dials and Hands
With the dials of the Legacy Navy watches, Gavox really achieved something extraordinary. They are clean, well balanced, nicely textured and visually captivating. They nailed the classical style they were going for, while also doing things their own way, making for something fairly unique. The dials start with a slightly off-white backdrop that resembles enamel, giving it a bit more richness and depth than typical white. Adding to this is a strong use of texture that covers the entire surface, giving the watch the look of Guilloché.
The primary index consists of tall, thin roman numerals that are tasteful yet bold. Roman numerals have an interesting effect on a dial as they are inherently more decorative than the standard Arabic numerals and clean fonts used on watches. As such, when you look at the legacy, you can either see them as numbers, or just ornamentation. This is especially true with the font they chose, which I like a lot, as it abstracts the numerals even more. The numerals are also slightly raised above the dial surface, which has been given a concentric circle graining, creating more depth and play in light.
This contrasts the center of the dial, which features a Geneva striping of sorts. Wide vertical stripes cut through the otherwise undecorated region creating a very subtle but attractive texture. The area also appears to have a slight 3-dimensionality to it, giving it a wave-form look that does interesting things when light hits it. On the top edge of this area, just below the 12 numeral it reads “Gavox Watch Co.” in text that arcs. It’s a nice implementation of the brand name that works with the design while also clearly referring to the Breguet Classique watches.
On the outer edge of the dial is an angled chapter ring with a minutes index. It consists of a ladder type design with emboldened markers every 5 minutes. Just above the ladder index are numerals every 5 as well, this time in an Arabic font. Once again, the font chosen was well selected as the slightly more calligraphic and humanistic style works with the classical aesthetic.
Off of 4, or IIII in this case, is the sub-seconds dial. Another well executed detail, the sub-dial consists of a ladder index with large numerals at 10 second intervals in the same font as on the chapter ring. The whole surface here has a concentric circular graining as well, which gives it a nice separation from the rest of the dial. The off-center placement works very well in this design, reminding me of watches by haute horology brands like F.P Journe, Jaquet Droz and Breguet without feeling likes it trying to copy or ape those brands. It’s really just a smart flourish that adds intrigue the overall design.
On the reference 358.5 model, there is an additional, and large, 24 hour sub-dial. Though the design here might not work for everyone, I have to applaud Gavox for really going for it. The sub-dial consists of an index with numerals at 2 hour increments which sit on circular graining. The crazy part happens within the sub-dial, where you are presented with an engraved scene indicating day and night. From 18 – 6 is a pale blue night sky with stars and a moon, and from 6 back to 18 is a rising sun, with bold beams projecting out of it. It’s a lot of texture in a small space, which gives it a lot of weight within the dial, but it’s well executed and kind of fun.
I personally prefer the clean and simple version, reference 346.5, without the 24-hour dial, but I think for an individual who wants a little more decor and likes a busier dial, this is going to be very appealing and simply is not something you are going to find on another watch in this price point. There is another model as well, reference 358.9 (how they come up with these ref numbers is beyond me) which features a golden star motif instead of an engraving. It’s a bit bizarre almost looking like symbolism for day and night from an ancient civilization. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it certainly is unique.
Regardless of the option, every dial features a date window at 6 which is outlined in black. The date is presented as black text on a white surface, melding with the dial. Amazingly, Gavox customized the date wheels to have their own font as to suit the watch better. They have my undying gratitude for doing this as it’s the little details that make all the difference. So, it looks good, works with the concept and is easy to read. That said, I would have liked to see a no date option as well, as even the simplest version of the dial still has plenty going on.
Lastly, the Legacy watches feature Bregeut style hands, for the perfect finish. No matter how many times you see then, Breguet hands are just always a very elegant choice, and they naturally are at home on a dial like this. All of the hands are blue steel, and appear to be actual flame blue steel and not a chemical or film (can’t say for sure), but they do appear black at times and blue at others. The one strange thing is that they decided to fill in the circular gaps on the minute and hour hands with lume… It’s just out of place and doesn’t really make the watch that legible in the dark.
The Legacy Navy watches feature either Miyota 8218 or 8219 movements, the difference being the 8219 has a 24-hour hand. Both are automatics with 21 jewels, date, hand winding, 40 hr power reserve and a frequency of 21,600 bph. The movements have been customized by Gavox to include a gold-tone rotor and unique date wheel. In our time with the watches, they were accurate and had no issues with power reserve.
These are kind of cool movements that not many people use, so I was glad to see them here. Small-second automatics are fairly uncommon, as there aren’t many movement options out there. For a slower movement, the stutter of the second hand is mitigated by being small and off center. The 8000 series of Miyotas, while not as revered as their newer counterparts the 9000 series, are still very decent and apparently inexpensive. In the context of this watch, I think they were a great choice.
Straps and Wearability
When you order any of the Legacy watches, you have a choice of 6 different 20mm straps, 3 smooth leather options in black, cognac or maroon and 3 faux-croc leather options in black, royal blue and tan. For varieties sake, we went with smooth cognac and royal blue croc, both of which suit the watches perfectly. The straps have a simple tapering design with a pointed tip and stitching running along the side. The cognac strap has a contrasting white/cream while the royal blue has matched stitching.
The cognac has a beautiful rich honey tone that works very well with the slightly off white dial. It gives the watch a clean and light look that compliments the aesthetic. The royal blue, which I’d call more midnight, gives the watch a more sever look, emphasizing the markers and hands. The design and size of the Legacy make it a versatile watch, leaning towards formal, that can be worn casually or conservatively depending on the strap and context. On the cognac, I wanted to wear it with a broken in blue shirt, khaki slacks and boat shoes for a relaxed but conventional look. On the blue, I wanted to put on a blue or grey suit, as the contrast and structural design would work well in that context.
On the wrist, the watches wear very nicely. They are larger than you expect, but tolerable and not so large as to betray the design. the watches are also thin enough to not be cumbersome under a shirt. The one slightly iffy thing is that lugs felt a bit long on my 7″ wrist, so I’m not sure how they would do on a smaller wrist.
Beyond wearing well, they simply look fantastic. They are eye-catching in all the right ways, masculine, yet elegant and a pleasure to gaze at on your wrist. You’ll find yourself fairly entranced by this one during the day. The version with just a seconds sub-dial particularly worked for me as the asymmetry of the dial and the texturing was more emphasized. In both cases, the dial textures have a profound effect on the wrist, as the dials feel like they are ever changing in the light.
The watches came with a slightly different type of pouch that is worth looking at. Made of faux-leather that is lined with a micro-fiber like material, there is something pleasantly organic about how it looks and works. The simple design has a long pocket for you to put the watch in, un-folded. You then close the flap on the pouch and use two straps to tie the pouch closed. It’s not the most beautifully made thing, but I like the idea and as simple travel pouch or way to keep you watch safe in a sock drawer, it will do the trick.
There is a lot to like about the Gavox Legacy Navy watches. They are elegant and refined, handsome and classic. They feature dials that you can just get lost in, sapphire crystals and automatic movements. When you’re wearing this watch, it’s easy to forget it costs just north of $400 bucks. On top of all that, it’s one of the few watches in the marine style under $1000, and it stands out as unique amongst them, given the texturing and asymmetry and elaborate 24-hour dials. So, if you’re looking for a cool alternative to those tool divers and pilot watches we all love, this is a great option.
watches supplied by Gavox
by Zach Weiss
Interesting looks. I, too, like the plainer one.
Do these Miyota movements do that horrible stuttering of the seconds hand a la 8215 whenever you move them?
Not that i’ve noticed. I think that issue doesn’t occur or is imperceivable on the small seconds.
Nice review. I would be very interested in an Arabic numeral version.
Why is it common for watch companies to use IIII instead of IV? That drives me nuts.
It’s a watchmaking tradition to use ‘IIII’ instead of ‘IV’, maybe because it allegedly provides better ‘visual balance’ on the dial.
Also, I read somewhere that the Romans themselves were less rigid in their use of their numbering system than we are today and used both ‘IIII’ and ‘IV’ for ‘4’, although I don’t remember the source.
I really like these watches. I love the subtle-looking textures on the dial, the overall design, and the elegant blued hands. These seem to be very elegant watches and an excellent value.
Great review. Can the 24hr subdial be set independantly for a second time zone?
I’ve had the version with the 24hr. subdial for about a month now, and it’s a fantastic watch. The subdial can’t be set for a second time zone. Also, keep in mind that for my 7.25″ wrist, the watch feels like it wears smaller…like a 39/40mm so I don’t have any issues with the size. It really is a very elegant, good quality timepiece.
coupon on their retail website time 2 give has a $40 coupon for this watch.. you can get it for $393 shipped!
Great review Zach, as always.
I think the Zeppelin lz 129, which you reviewed, shades it in terms of marine chronometer looks, but it is very elegant and stylish. I too would go for the less cluttered dial and I love the guilloche pattern.
I simply couldn’t buy this though, as that 51mm lug-to-lug would dwarf my spaghetti like 6.5 inch wrists. I love a 41mm diameter but the lugs have to be kept in check. I wish brands would provide different case sizes more often.
Do you know if they sell these watches anywhere in the New York City area? I’d love to see one in person before buying it.
I bought one of these watches (the day/night dial version) received it today. I am very impressed with the quality of its finish. Had it Fedex’d from Belgium to the UK arrived 1 day after dispatch. The crown positioning for me is ideal as i find the crowns dig into my wrist a little. I am glad i came across this review as I found it of great use. For the money it wears beautifully.
I just received this watch and the subtle design elements mentioned in this review look even better in person. The watch also came with a bonus springbar tool. Awesome!!!
just picked one up…thanks for the great review
Thanks for this outstanding, detailed review. Purely on an aesthetic basis, these models are exceptionally sophisticated for the price. I’d prefer to see an ETA movement, but overall these are really tempting.
If there was an ETA movement, this would cost considerably more and with Swatch scaling back supply to third parties, it would not be a viable long term option. Having said that, these are very beautiful and Mike is a nice guy!
Oh I know — I finally went and bought one!
The major issue I have with it is that nowhere was it mentioned that the Miyota doesn’t offer a hacking second hand. Even the documentation that came with the watch offered instructions on how to stop the second hand, and only when I wrote Mike at Gavox to ask why mine wasn’t working did he sheepishly admit the instructions were wrong.
In all candor it would’ve been a deal-breaker for me had I known prior to purchase, but now that I have it I don’t plan on returning it.
The other issue is that the stock faux-crocodile strap is of extremely poor quality: flimsy, stiff, thin, and matte-finished even though a crocodile-print strap should have some shine. I replaced it with a strap from Crown & Buckle within a week.