A few months ago, I wrote an article about a Swiss brand that had quietly developed their own, fully independent (nothing from ETA, Swatch, etc…) serially produceable automatic movement over the course of 7 years. At first, I didn’t really believe what I saw, but after reading up and speaking to one of the owners of the brand, I was amazed. They were really doing something extraordinary, though not many people, at least in the US-blogosphere, were talking about them.
The brand was Horage, and their goal was to kickstart a line of watches that used their in-house movement the K1. Well, technically the movement is made by Accurat Swiss, but it’s all under one umbrella. They succeeded, which will help get this movement out there. But, this wasn’t the only watch Horage had made. In fact, they had an existing line of watches already for sale, manufactured by them. Some of these watches used sourced movements, but one featured their K1, the Autark, which is German for independent.
On top of being in-house, the K1 has some remarkable features. One of which is that is has a modular design that allows various complications to be added to a base movement with relative ease (in watch making terms). The Autarky was designed to show off the complications, featuring sub-seconds, power reserve and big date, as well as Horage’s general manufacturing capabilities. This 39mm titanium watch is expertly crafted in all ways, with some of the crispest lines and flattest plains I’ve seen in some time.
So, I had to try one out. Now, this watch is pricy at around $3.5k (USD w/o VAT), but when you look at what it is, what it does, the details of the movement, the build quality, etc, the price is inline with the market. That said, Horage/Accurat Swiss’ goal is to make the movement, eventually, more affordable, but that’s depending on their growth and output capacity. As such, you could see K1’s down the line is watches for less. As for now, the Autark is the best example available and definitely worth a closer look.
Horage will be at our Wind-Up: New York City event, showing their watches, talking movement as well as having live demos, so be sure to come and check them, and the K1 out in person.
Horage Autark Review
Movement: Accurat Swiss K1
Lens: Sapphire w/ ar
Strap: Titanium bracelet
Water Res.: 100M
Dimensions: 39 x 47 mm
Thickness: 10.5 mm
Lug Width: NA
Crownr: 6 x 4mm
Price: 3900 CHF w/ VAT
The solid titanium case of the Autark immediately brings 70’s sport watches to mind. It’s barrel shaped with a decorative bezel, integrated lugs and perfectly machined facets and lines. It immediately brings to mind the Genta classics; the Ingenieur, the Royal Oak, the Nautilus… but more than even those, it’s reminiscent of the slightly less popular but equally gorgeous Vacheron Constantin 222, with its signature toothed bezel. On one hand, Horage might have played it a bit close to the VC, but on the other all of the details are different and it looks like nothing else on the market right now. As such, I’d consider it inspired by a classic, especially since the dials are world’s apart. Furthermore, the Rolex Oysterquartz from the 70’s had a very similar design as well, demonstrating that this was more of a trend than anything else.
The case measures a delightfully svelte 39 x 47 x 10.5mm. When you see a watch like this with what might have been considered “small” dimensions a few years ago, you realize just how delusional everyone was. This watch is big enough to look sporty and masculine, yet small enough to feel refined and elegant. The proportions a harmonious throughout. I wouldn’t change it a millimeter in any direction.
The design is simple at a glance, but has a few interesting details that give it personality supported by immaculate machining. This latter point really matters in the look and feel of the watch. The case and bracelet in particular have perfectly sharp lines and flat surfaces, with clean satin/brushed finishing and the occasional polished bevel (on the bracelet). From above, the case has a classic barrel shape, ending in a sharp facet that angles down, becoming the integrated lugs. The bezel that sits on top has a notched design, giving it some texture. It’s a purely aesthetic detail as the notches don’t line up with anything.
Looking at the case from the side, things get a bit more detailed. The middle case actually has a long groove running along both sides from lug-to-lug. This makes the already thin central case seem thinner and adds a simple but effective aesthetic detail. It’s another place where the quality of the machining is apparent as even the internal corners are perfectly sharp. The general proportions are worth note as well, with the central case being thinner than one would expect, and the bezel balancing that out by being a touch thick, but in a good way as it gives the watch some more mass and robustness.
The crown off of three measures 6 x 4mm and is push pull. Screw down might have made the watch feel a bit more solid, but since there is a power reserve on the dial, I found myself wanting to wind the watch a bit more than normal. The crown itself is simple but well executed, with grooves for grip, a slight bevel on the outside edge and then the Horage dotted H logo in relief.
The caseback is snap-on, and features a wide display window. Around the window are various details about the watch, most notably is the use of the term “hand made”. Through the window you get a decent view of the K1 movement. It’s similar, but different from other movements you’ve seen, looking almost like a mix between a 2824 and 9015 in terms of general architecture. It’s lightly decorated with etched in patterns and an almost scratchy sanding, rather than the more typical stripes and perlage. As such, it’s sort of understated and industrial, but in-line with the brand and the goal of the movement, which is to be a work horse not a show horse. To be honest, it could have been hidden, but this is their first watch to use the movement, so showing it is to be expected.
The Autark is available in either Rhodium white or a Carbon black. These aren’t fancy names, but rather describe the material of the dial. The model seen here is obviously the Carbon black, and what’s quite striking about it is that material more resembles some sort of stone than what I would normally expect of “carbon”. It shimmers and shines with random flecks that catch the light. Sometimes it’s deep black, yet in some light it’s almost a gun metal gray. It’s a pretty striking material that while attractive I question if it should be used for an entire dial. The reason being it’s a bit over powering, and at times interferes with actually reading the time, as the hands get lost in the reflections.
The design itself is also a bit quirky. They used this watch to show off their movement, the K1, and it’s modular capabilities, so they fit in a sub-seconds at 9, a power reserve at 6 and a big date at 3. That’s all of the modules for the movement at once, which while cool, could arguably be overkill, with one or two modules at a time being ideal. But before we get into each, the primary index consists of large applied numerals in polished steel. This gives the watch a very different look from the Gentas, one that is somewhat less “luxury” or more day-to-day in style. A bit hard to explain, but to my eyes, the numerals are less about style and elegance than sheer legibility. With that said, by being polished they can actually be hard to see against the carbon dial, making me wish they were brushed to have a more controlled reflection.
On the very outer edge of the dial is a minute index of small white dots, getting larger and having lume at intervals of 5. This index almost disappears amidst the rest of the dial, though I was surprised by the potency of the lume in the small dots. When charged, they are piercing little lights along the edge.
Each of the complications is executed in its own way. A nine is the sub-seconds dial, which consists of an applied black ring with a white index, and a silver hand. The index has a 60-numeral followed by dashes getting larger at intervals of 5. This is a cool way of creating a sub-dial in general, but it was also a smart way to get it to stand out more against the carbon dial.
At 6 is a power reserve which is printed directly on the dial. Here’s where things get a bit stranger. The power reserve is a hair larger than 3-quarter circle, with zero-power at, if you imagine a watch dial, between 9 and 10. Full power is then at 12, and the hands sweeps clockwise back to zero as/if it runs out of power. The index itself is then illustrated through a rainbow of sorts, going from red for empty, to dark blue for full, hitting a range of pinks and bues in between. While it’s obvious if the watch is wound or not, the logic of red to blue is a little odd, and the index adds, in my opinion, a bit too much color to the dial. It perhaps if the sub-seconds hadn’t been there, or the big date, the added presence from the color would have been desirable, but here it just overwhelms.
At 3 is a window showing the big-date complication. It is larger than your average date, using a disk for the tens unit and a disk for the ones unit, though it is perhaps a bit smaller than other big dates I’ve seen. That said, it’s very visible, especially since they used a piercing blue for the humerals set against the black surface. It’s an odd choice, again, emphasizing the color in the power reserve. Obviously, I like that they customized the date (one would expect as much from the manufacturer of the movement), but it’s almost too playful and sporty for the watch. It just doesn’t gel with the price tag and the elegance of the case, in my eyes. In fact, the same could just be said for the dial as a whole. It’s interesting, has some cool elements, but it feels transplanted from another watch.
The hour and minute hands have a unique design that is quite attractive. On Horage’s site, they refer to them as “diamond cut” which perhaps speaks to their precise machining. If so, it looks great. Both hands are thin forks with a sliver of lume towards the tip, and a matching sliver of finishing towards the center of the watch. So, what you have is sort of skeletonized, and has a very delicate but technical look. It’s a cool design that I wish was more reflected in the dial itself, perhaps in applied markers.
Movement: Accurat Swiss K1
Inside of the Autark is Horage/Accurat Swiss’ own K1 automatic movement. I highly recommend reading my article on this movement, Introducing the K1 Caliber: Picking Up Where ETA Left Off, to get a background on the brand and the movement as there is a lot to say about it. The K1 is an independent answer to the ETA 2824-2 and the limited amount of movements available on the market. Developed over the course of 7 years, it’s a new movement that we’ll hopefully see not just in Horage’s but in watches from various brands looking for a Swiss-made automatic. What’s really cool about it is that they designed it to use modules for the complications (small seconds, date, big date, power reserve and central seconds) making a lot of variations possible, and features an in-house (in the sense of developed by them with partners rather than under their literal roof) silicon escapement. It’s a very modern movement in more ways than one, which is something that is lacking from other movements in the space.
As far as the base specs go, the K1 features 25-jewels, a tungsten rotor, hacking, hand winding, silicon escapement (palette, escape wheel and hairspring) coated in mono-crystalline nano diamonds, a frequency of 25,200 bph, or 7 beats per second and a 56-hr power reserve. The silicon components are really quite rare still in a movement that is intended to compete with the 2824, when produced at scale. The complications seen here are then are drop-in modules. So, as said, we have sub-seconds at 9, power reserve at 6 and big date at 3, which is controlled through the crown rather than a pusher.
It’s very cool to be able to have all of these functions so long as the design allows them to be harmonious. More than that though, the modular design allows brands to design various concepts around a single movement, and then alter the movement to fit their needs in-house, rather than ordering each variation separately. Once/if they add GMTs and chronographs, this single movement could support a brand’s whole catalog.
In practice, the watch works like any other and keeps good time while doing it. I had no issues with it in terms of accuracy or power reserve. The only thing I noticed was the sub-seconds hand stuttering, sort of like what you’ll occasionally see on a 7750, which is due to indirect drive and that (going to try to decipher technical talk here) they didn’t use “brakes” on the second hand as that could create inaccuracy and draw more power.
The decoration is meant to be different from the norm. You have a pattern of etched H’s composed of little squares on a surface that is almost rough and scratched looking from a coarse brushing. The same brushing is on the rotor as well. This is intentional, and meant to impart an industrial look. That said, this sample watch is from an earlier batch and they have since toned that down a bit. For me, I like the concept, but the execution was perhaps not far enough. Either it’s very rough and utilitarian, or elegant and classical. For a watch this price, I do think people would expect something more towards the latter, with either perlage or cote de Geneve.
The solid titanium bracelet on the Autark matches with its integrated lugs, making it, at least at this time, the only strap option for the watch. It’s beautifully made, matching the quality of the case. The three link design is attractive, and they’ve thrown in polished bevels on the center links to really make them pop. The bracelet also features Horage’s patent pending U-flex, single fold clasp. It’s an interesting design that, like a butterfly clasp, gives the bracelet a seamless quality, but opens more simply to one side. It’s truly a very nice and comfortable bracelet, but I do have one issue and that’s that it is straight. Barrel shaped watches really look best with tapering bracelets (see all of those Gentas) and they continue the flow of the case around the wrist. As is, it’s elegant, but just a bit too wide.
On the wrist, the Autark is a pleasure to wear. The size is perfect, and the material just makes it very comfortable. Well proportioned barrel cases are really delightful. They have presence and mass, but shorter lug-to-lug length, typically, thus they sit well. The watch looks good on the wrist too. The detailing of the case really stands out, giving it an interesting, sculptural look. The dial then adds a lot of reflection and texture to the mix. The carbon shimmer, the hands and numerals glint; they contrast the deeper gray of the titanium for a range of grays.
At it’s heart, this is a gentleman’s sport watch, which always lean more towards dress than sport in actual use. So, while not a formal dress watch, it’s certainly welcome under a blazer sleeve, in the office, etc. At the same time, it’s casual enough, especially with the hints of color from the dial, to look decent with jeans and more relaxed attire. It’s pretty versatile, in the end, though it definitely exudes a certain 70’s style, so you ought to be into that from the start.
The Autark is a tricky watch to review. There’s a lot going on inside and out, so coming to a real conclusion about it is difficult. I love aspects of it. The machining and finishing of the case and bracelet are beyond reproach, and though the case hints at others, it’s a very cool design that I’d welcome on my wrist. The dial has components I really like, and the over all look is intriguing, but I want to see them separated, and perhaps used in a different case. I want something more toned down for this one. In fact, one of Horage’s other watches, the Omnium, uses the same applied numerals, and they make more sense in that watch’s round case.
Then there’s the movement. The K1 is this awesome and almost unheard of achievement for any brand, let alone a new one to accomplish. The Autark shows off some of what it can do by way of packing in a few complications. In fact, the Autark really is a show case to demo the movement. But the real magic of this movement isn’t in this isolated watch, it’s when it gets used by other brands as an alternative to ETA, Sellita, Soprod, etc…
With a price tag of around $3.5k, the Autark is an expensive watch. On one hand, a Swiss-made watch with an in-house movement with a silicon escapement is always going to be pricey. If Tudor hadn’t unveiled theirs, I’d say it was unheard of, but the difference is scale of the brands does account for something. On the other, the movement here is meant to eventually be an affordable alternative to others… but that doesn’t mean inexpensive. It’s probably going to remain in watches in the $2 – $4k range for sometime. Looking at the other aspects of the watch, in particular the case, the Autark delivers as well as anything I’ve seen. It’s just perfectly machined. If the dial just exuded the same class as the case, and the bracelet tapered in to continue the flow, I think it would in fact look and feel like a $4k watch. As is, it’s close, I just want a touch more refining.