moVas is a boutique watch brand based out of Singapore that was founded by Sean Wai, an architect by training. For the last few years, moVas has been quietly going about designing and building watches. Their products, which draw from the likes of Panerai and AP, though are in no way homages, have a unique appeal as the brand pushes every detail to make something a bit different. In the process of the brand’s growth, it’s also changed shape a few times. As outlined in their thorough history they, unlike most boutique brands at their scale, do all design and engineering themselves, and rather than use factories that “do-it-all” they source everything independently. Assembly and repairs are then done entirely in-house.
Another interesting facet of the brand is their emphasis on using Asian made calibers, namely by SeaGull. While some brands do this to save cost, for moVas it’s more about supporting and utilizing the industry. They also, in clear words, suggest that it is their goal, even if many years down the road, to make their own in-house caliber, and that they are beginning to make strides in that direction by modifying existing calibers.
In the last several months they have released a handful of new watches that have caught my eye. Amongst them are new versions of existing designs, such as the model we are looking at today, as well as a very sexy new internal bezel diver called the Oceaner. While I always liked their work, these new editions pushed a little further aesthetically, creating some very attractive designs. The watch I’ll be reviewing today is the Military Regulateur II, which costs $690 with shipping and is a limited edition of 50. As the name suggests, it has an automatic regulateur movement in it made by SeaGull, which is a complication I always like to see, though I don’t see often enough.
moVas Military Regulateur II Review
Case: Stainless Steel
Movement: SeaGull ST2708
Dial: Matte Black
Strap: Leather + Rubber
Water Res.: 100m
Dimensions: 45 x 55.9 mm
Thickness: 16.5 mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Crown: 10 x 5 mm push/pull
Warranty: 2 years
The case of the Military Regulateur II is massive and built like a tank. It has an interesting design with an untraditional shape that hints at some luxury sport designs. Coming in at 45 (50 to the crown) x 55.9 x 16.5mm (to the top of the dome), this isn’t a watch for the thin wristed. It’s unapologetically chunky and blocky, with thick masses of metal building off of already large proportions. Though my tastes runs towards smaller sizes, I do believe this design wasn’t out of playing off of trends so much as the genuine interests and tastes of the designer. For big watch guys, this is an unique piece that will likely be very tempting.
The design is also quite attractive. Rather than having a round central case, it’s sort of cushion shaped, though veering towards square. It has broad radius corners, but flat sides contrasting soft and hard elements. On top of that is then a Genta/Off Shore-esque octagonal bezel with vertical brushing that responds to the geometry below in a cool way. The cascading shapes play with your eyes, creating a form that seems to shift. The lugs continue this by having facets cut into that suggest more forms.
On the right side of the case is a huge crown flanked by enormous guards. The crown isn’t quite like anything I’ve seen before. It’s ratchet shaped (their description) with a 10mm diameter. The shape isn’t circular, but rather a rounded square, like the central case, with teeth coming off. The flat side then has a deeply etched “V” logo, while the side towards the case quickly tapers in. It’s a cool design, and because the crown guards come up flush with it, it doesn’t dig in as much as one would expect. My one issue is that it’s not screw down. This is more aesthetic that functional, as the free spinning crown belies the weight and build.
The case back is thick steel that screws down, but surprisingly does have a display window. While being able to see the movement is fun and often a bonus, on a watch this size, it’s a bit silly as the movement is dwarfed by the case.
As the name indicates, the dial is regulateur style with a military aesthetic. It’s a simple play on a theme, but one that works and is made more interesting by use of sandwich construction. Typically, on a sandwich dial, there is the main, top layer, and then a lower lume layer that one doesn’t really see. On this watch, they played with it a bit to create something more visually effective. There is a broad central area that stands above the rest of the dial. Punched through to a c3 lume layer below is an index of large rectangles, giving it an immediate military look. Outside of the central area is a lower level that has a minute index in white, which works with the primary index for easy reading. The depth here is very dramatic, with the upper area standing at least a mil off of the layer below. The effect is attractive.
At 12 and six are sub-dials that are also cut out of this central area. Both are rounded rectangle shapes, mimicking the case. The hour index is the larger of the two and has numerals for 3, 6, 9 and 0 (a signature of the brand) and lines for the others. The seconds index is just lines, thicker at 60, 15, 30 and 45. By making the hour index larger, it gives a clear hierarchy to the information, making reading at a glance easier. Regulateurs are nice alternative to classic 3-hand designs, though they take a little getting used to, so this design helps.
The main large minute and the small hour hands are both straight swords made of brushed steel with lume filling, a style that works with the mil-inspired design. The seconds hand is diamond shaped, which is a bit of a departure, but it looks good sweeping away inside of its sunken area. The lume on all of the hands is quite bright, while the lume through the sandwich is a bit less so. It’s decent and even, but not as hot as the hands on other C3 applications I’ve seen.
The moVas Military Regulateur II is powered by the SeaGull ST2708. This movement automatic movement features 20 jewels, hand winding, regulateur function, bi-directional winding, 42 hr power reserve and a frequency of 21,600bph. Looking through the case back, you can see that it’s minimally decorated with Cote De Geneve on the rotor and a few plates below. There is also and etched in moVas logo on the rotor.
What’s cool about this movement is clearly that it’s an automatic regulateur at an affordable price. Neither Seiko or Miyota have similar offerings and the only Swiss pieces we’ve seen like this have been in the $3k range. Naturally, there will be some hesitation because it’s a SeaGull, but I think it was a smart choice for adding functionality. Also, using SeaGull and exploring the world of Asian movements is at the core of the brand’s philosophy.
Straps and Wearability
The moVas came with two impressive 24mm straps, one leather on rubber. The leather is straight cut and thick, with contrast stitching around the edge. It’s a nice medium brown with dark painted edges. Putting it on the watch makes it nice and rugged. The rubber strap is perhaps more impressive just because it is a bit more original. It’s very thick, measuring 7mm at the lugs thinning to 4mm at the tip. It has deep grooves as well as the moVas “V” in a rounded rectangle logo, molded into the top surfaces. The bottom side then has pill shaped ridges along it, presumably to allow air in and water out. Aesthetically, I prefer the leather, but the rubber is a nicely made addition.
Along with the straps are two very overly designed (in a good way) buckles. These are clearly totally custom designed and fabricated for their watches, which I really appreciated as buckles are often overlooked. The first one, which comes attached to the leather strap, is a riff on pre-v buckles. It doesn’t flare out, but rather keeps the rounded-rectangle motif of the watch going, but it’s much larger and thick than a thumbnail would be. It has a V milled right through it, and moVas branding on the its side. It also is made of 3 parts that are welded together. There are two flanges welded to the bottom of the main plate, which the screw-bar bar that holds it to the strap passes through, that lifts the buckle up, allowing the strap to flow more easily. It’s a clever design.
The other buckle is more like a big belt buckle. It’s a large surface steel surface that covers a portion of the strap and has a big “V” milled out of it. It has no tang, but rather a vertical prong that pops through the leather. It’s bold, but cool looking, and something I’m very surprised we don’t see more of.
There’s no doubt this is a very large watch, but it wore better than I expected on my 7″ wrist. It’s well proportioned, so no single part feels out of weight. As such, nothing looks too long or too wide, making it seem more sensible. That said, it clearly wouldn’t fit a small wrist out of shear scale. Once you get past the size, it’s a great looking piece. There is a lot of depth to the dial, which when combined with the case geometry, creates an architectural effect. The dial then has a definite restrained military look, but is still very interesting do to the regulateur function and the use of layers.
Naturally, it has a lot of wrist presence, though it’s not flashy or in your face. And while masculine and rugged, is actually not too aggressive, which I think makes it more wearable given its size. This is a watch that really wants to be worn with boots and jeans and maybe a trucker jacket. It’s tough watch that is best complemented by hard wearing clothing.
The moVas Military Regulateur II is a big, bold watch with a lot of nice aspects to it. The case pulls you in with its layered geometry while the dial holds you with its depth and restrained style. The straps are great out of the box, giving you two well made options for very different styles. If you’re a fan of the Panerai look, but want something different that wont be called an homage, this, and the other “military” series watches are a great option.
Some people might scoff at the price of $690 due to the movement inside, but I think it’s totally fair for what they are doing. Small run, unique and well made watches aren’t cheap to make even in Asia, especially since they aren’t using stock parts or sourcing from catalogs, etc. All At the same time, the price might not grab you and shout “value”, but that’s also not their business model. They are trying to build an Asian-made accessible luxury brand, and I think they are making strives in that direction.
Looking at some of their other models, such as the AG Diver and the Oceaner, things get a bit more exotic from here. They are using interesting movements (a GMT with 9 o’clock sub-seconds and linear power reserve is a cool combination…) and pushing their case design and manufacturing abilities. I’d love to see them do some models in the 40 – 42mm range as well, and I imagine if things keep up, they will.