Hands-On with the Circula ProTrail “Old Radium” Limited Edition

Field watches work particularly well as a blank slate. They are rigorously simple by design, a watch made for pure function and to simply get out of the way of your day to day life. An easily legible dial and a compact case are the only true prerequisites. From there, watch brands have a ton of latitude in how they create a field watch that feels unique to them and will please their customers. There are literally hundreds of traditional field watches to choose from, made by just about every brand you can think of, from Hamilton to Patek Philippe, but I have a soft spot for the oddball interpretations that provide a twist on the norm. The Circula ProTrail isn’t exactly avant-garde or anything, but it’s just a few degrees away from “the standard,” giving it a unique contemporary sensibility among a sea (or a field?) of similar watches that tend to cling to the past. 

Circula is a German brand with roots dating back to the 1950s, but was effectively relaunched in 2018 by the founder’s grandson, Cornelius Huber. What started with a series of simple German made quartz watches has become a varied collection of precision machined sports watches (for the most part), often in vibrant colors. They put a focus on manufacturing, which is evident in the ProTrail I sampled, and can be easily seen in other watches in their catalog. They’re one of the few brands, for instance, to offer a dive watch in a true super-compressor case. 

I had the opportunity to sample the ProTrail in its Old Radium LE variant. Limited to 99 pieces, this version of Circula’s basic field watch is a blacked out take on the genre, and offers a handful of small details that make it a fairly compelling option at a price point under $1,000. It’s a solid reminder, not that we really need one around here, that there is an abundance of quality in the affordable watch space, with variety in places you might not expect. 


Hands-On with the Circula ProTrail “Old Radium” Limited Edition

Stainless steel
Sellita SW-200
Yes, hands and hour markers
Nylon sailcloth with leather
Water Resistance
150 meters
40 x 46mm
Lug Width
Screw down

Notable Specs and Features 

The ProTrail has a compact case measuring 40mm in diameter, 46mm lug to lug, and 12mm tall. I’d say it wears a bit smaller than the 40mm diameter would suggest, thanks to the short lugs and a prominent facet on each that angles toward the middle of the case. The case shape is angular, with some severe geometry, setting it apart from what we expect from a traditional, military inspired field watch. 

The stainless steel is black coated, and sand blasted by hand to a mostly matte finish (the bezel retains some shine, and there’s a cut out on each case wall with a rougher texture that adds some visual interest). Finishing is utilitarian, which is completely appropriate on a watch like this. I think some of the interesting angles might be a bit obscured by the blacked out nature of the design, but this version of the ProTrail makes up for it with an appealing stealthiness that you can’t get with uncoated steel.

The dial is where we start to see some finer details that put the ProTrail a notch or two above the competition. The interior section of the dial has a very fine radial pattern emanating from the center and a step down from the outer matte black sector that’s home to lumed hour markers and Arabic numerals at the cardinal positions. So there’s a sense of depth of contrast here that’s very appealing, and it comes to life surprisingly well in natural light – you can really make out the detail in that inner section. The markers are well lumed, the brand’s logo on the crown has been given a lume treatment as well. This is fairly inconsequential, of course, but it’s a fun and unexpected detail that will make anyone with a UV torch happy, I would imagine. 


The ProTrail is a pleasure to wear thanks to forgiving dimensions and a series of facets that serve to tighten the watch’s appearance on the wrist. It has a pleasing heft to it, thanks to a soft iron inner cage that protects the movement from magnetism to 80,000 A/m. It feels sportier than a traditional military style field watch thanks to the case geometry, but if your vibe is on the more casual side, this is certainly a watch you could wear daily if you happen to like the blacked out look. 

Circula’s sample came to me on a very nice fabric strap with a leather backing, which plays up the sporty feel for sure, and is quite comfortable. It left me with the impression that the ProTrail, at least in this specific guise, will really shine as a summer watch. As readers might be aware, I’m not much of a NATO guy at all, but I could easily imagine putting this one on a brightly colored NATO for a fun contrast and having a lightweight, sporty, highly legible watch on my wrist for water, beach, and travel activities. 

If I have a criticism, I need to call out the namesake lume color. I see what Circula is going for here with the “old radium” colorway, but on a watch that seems to exist for the purposes of putting a modern spin on a classic, I’d have preferred that they go all the way. Crisp white markers, numerals, and hands would have looked great and really popped against all the black. We also get a white railroad style minute track at the dial’s perimeter, plus the brand’s wordmark at 12:00 in white, and I think the dial might have been cleaner if a single color had been used throughout. Still, this is a relatively minor quibble. Legibility is the top priority for any field watch, and there are no issues here even with the radium colored lume.


The field watch market under $1,000 is crowded. Hamilton is the undisputed king in this realm, offering many field and field adjacent watches in a variety of sizes at price points that easily accessible, and even encourage collecting multiple examples. For the most part though, Hamilton’s lineup is largely in the spirit of historic field watches, the type they’ve been making for decade after decade. A brand like Circula, even thought they’ve been around for 70 years, has the flexibility to try something a little more adventurous, keeping most of the key field watch traits, but expanding beyond the hard and fast definitions of the genre in a few key areas. The shape of the case is the obvious example here, with its strong, angled shape. But the dial, too, is far more decorative than a field watch originalist would tolerate.

The ProTrail is quite a bit of fun, and the build quality is of a very high quality for a watch that retails at around $750 (after currency conversion). For a watch with a good Swiss movement (a Sellita SW-200), competitive specs, and a design language that is fully coherent and all its own, I think there’s a lot of value there. Importantly, it fits the mold of a field watch remarkably well, with a wrist presence that doesn’t scream at anyone across the room, and is unassuming in the best way possible. In black, it’s truly under the radar in every imaginable sense of the word. That’s not necessarily the original use case for a field watch, but it’s rather compelling today.  Circula

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.