We were very excited a few months ago when Magrette announced the upcoming release of two chronographs built around Seagull ST1901 movements. We thought, wow, there’s a brand that is willing to take a little risk to bring out an interesting and affordable watch. Mechanical chronographs are unfortunately all too rare in the sub $1,000 price range, largely because few brands other than ETA make movements that boutique brands can use. So, using a Chinese movement to reach an accessible price point is a great thing to do. On top of that, we already knew from Blake’s review of the Regattare that Magrette makes quality watches with interesting looks. So, we got our hands on the Moana Pacific Chronograph, which goes for $545, wore it around for a bit, and here are our thoughts.
Case: PVD Steel
Movement: Seagull ST1901
Lens: Domed Sapphire with AR coating
Strap: Brown Leather
Water Res.: 500m
Dimensions: 44mm x 52mm
Lug Width: 24mm
Crown: 4 x 8mm screw down
Weight: 110g (no strap)
Warranty: 1 Year
The 44 x 52 x 15mm PVD steel case of the Moana Pacific has a classic cushion case design, the same case design that Magrette uses on all of their watches. The central area of the case has a bowed square shape with rounded corners, the “cushion”, with straight lugs protruding out. The lugs have drilled holes for pushing through spring bars, which is always a welcome detail. The whole case, save the rim of the display case back, is PVD coated, but with varied finishes. The sides have been brushed, creating a matte black PVD, whereas the top surfaces are polished, creating a gloss PVD. It is somewhat uncommon to see such a high gloss PVD coating, as it is usually used to add a dark and stealth look to a watch, but it works well here and plays off of the bezel.
The insert of the bezel is made from a high gloss black ceramic. It actually has such a smooth surface that it is nearly mirror. Breaking up that surface, however, are etched matte numerals and markings, which is a nice and subtle way of adding the index without creating something visually distracting. That being said, I doubt it would be of great utility in low light environment. There is a lume “pearl” at 0/60. The bezel has a 60-click unidirectional mechanism that while precise in terms of clicking into the right place, has a sort of “plastic” feel to it and a bit of give.
On the right side of the case are the screw down crown and chrono pushers. The crown is quite large measuring 8 x 4mm, which is important because you’ll be using it a lot. Since the ST1901 movement is hand wound, a decent amount of cranking the crown is inevitable. Luckily the quality here is high and the crown is easy to grasp and unscrew as well as re thread. The chrono pushers have small collars that need to be unscrewed in order to use them. While that might be a small inconvenience there are 2 very important reasons for theme to be screw down. 1. The watch has a 500m water resistance, which is decently high, and something like a chrono pusher represents a potential seal break. Having them screwed in helps protect the watch. 2. It prevents accidental activation of the chronograph. Since the watch is hand wound, it is not constantly winding the spring. The chronograph draws more energy, thus when it is depressed the power reserve is lower.
The dial of the Moana Pacific Chronograph sticks with the edgy, racing inspired aesthetic of the Magrette line. The central area of the dial is quite simple, there are very large numerical markings for 12 and 06, smaller but still quite bold hash markings for the individual hours except 3 and 9, which have double hash markers that have been cut off by sub dials. A very nice detail of the dial is that the lume markings sit on applied gloss black markings, which stand out well against the matte black dial and add a touch of depth. At 3 and 9 are sub dials, the 3 o’clock dial is the 30 minute register for the chronograph and dial at 9 is the active seconds. Both have non-lumed white markings on top of an embossed concentric circle pattern. The dials are rimmed with a bit of polished metal, which is a nice touch.
There is a ramped internal bezel at the perimeter also in matte black. On it is an index for seconds, presumably to line up with the chronograph seconds register. The index is dark grey with dark red at 0/60, 15, 30 and 45. The look is subtle, adding more texture than anything else to the dial, which is nice as it does not distract from the central area of the dial. Overall, the proportioning of the dial is very nice, they introduced the chronograph registers into the Moana Pacific look without seemingly like they were adding bells and whistles. Furthermore, it is a very legible dial to read in both day and night, as the C3 lume is well applied and quite strong.
I still have to give Magrette a hand for choosing to use the Seagull ST1901 movement in this watch. There really aren’t very many options out there for affordable mechanical chronographs. Currently, there aren’t any Japanese options, which leaves you with Seagull, Poljot or ETA Valjoux 7750. But the 7750 can basically be ruled out at this point as any small brand that wasn’t a preferred buyer doesn’t have access, and regardless, watches built around 7750’s are usually 1000 and up. Unless a new affordable movement option becomes available, either we can expect to see more ST1901’s popping up or an unfortunate lack of new chronographs.
Anyway, the ST1901, which is basically what was in the Seagull 1963 we talked about, is a hand wound 2-register column-wheel chronograph with 19, 21 or 23 jewels (variant depending) that beats at 21,600 bph. Functionally speaking, it is quite simple for a contemporary chronograph, only have a seconds counter and a 30-minute counter. That being said, it takes much of its architecture from the Venus 175, which is a defunct movement from the 40’s/50’s, so it is not a contemporary chronograph at heart. Nevertheless, it provides the smooth sweep and instant reset that makes mechanical chronographs so desirable…that, and the fact that the movement is gorgeous.
In contrast to the stark and masculine exterior of the Moana Pacific Chronograph, the movement inside is an elegant arrangement of decorated parts. There are striped bridges, golden gears, and blued screws abound. Not to mention the complex and multilayered assembly of levers, plates, rubies and gears. And since there is no rotor to wind the mainspring, as this a hand wound, the entire movement is always in view. Though the complexity of what is happening is likely lost when viewed from above, one can see the chronograph engage, disengage and reset, as well as various other functions.
Straps + Wearability
Make no mistake about it, the Magrette watches are large watches, and the Moana Pacific Chronograph is as well. At 44 x 52 x 15mm it is about as large as I can stand on my 7″ wrist. The saving grace is that the lugs are relatively short, so there isn’t any overhang. That, and the fact that the watch is very well proportioned, so despite the fact that it is a big watch, it doesn’t wear huge. Instead, it feels like a very solid and sturdy sport watch, strikingly bold, but not ostentatious. It comes mounted on a 24mm chocolate brown leather strap with brown stitching. Though the strap has no construction issues and is fairly comfortable, it’s not a strap that is going to wow anyone. It feels a bit plastic and the color doesn’t really make the watch sing. Luckily, it’s just the strap and can be changed easily and often. For my taste, a more natural dark brown leather with black accents, like the Crazy Horse strap from Panatime, works better. The black accents work with the PVD of the case and the more orange and rugged leather works with the masculine aesthetic of the watch.
Another option is, of course, to put a 24mm NATO on here. Either a silver or green NATO with black hardware would suit the sportiness of the watch…and given that the watch has a high water resistance, it is good to have a strap option that will not get destroyed or damaged by water, should you want to take a dip.
All said and done, the Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph is a very cool watch with an interesting movement at a decent price. There are very few new mechanical chronographs out there in this price range, especially by brands with as much of a cult following as Magrette. Sure, $545 isn’t really cheap, but when you consider that it has a well finish PVD case, ceramic bezel, domed sapphire crystal and a mechanical chronograph, the price makes sense. Aesthetically speaking, the watch is pretty spot-on, assuming you like the Magrette style. The black case, black bezel and black dial come together to create a look that is bold and masculine, while not being too in-your-face or desiring of attention. Currently, the watch is out of stock, but they are taking orders for their next batch.
review unit supplied by Magrette
by Zach Weiss