Review: Damasko DC 80 Chronograph

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Damasko took us by surprise last year when they announced the DC 80 chronograph, a central-minute chronograph with similar functionality as the Lemania 5100. In order to achieve this feat, Damasko developed a largely in-house caliber called the C51-1 including patented features, and built off of the Valjoux 7750.

New chronograph movements are always of interest as they are few and far between, but ones with central-minutes are of special note. After the demise of the 5100 in the early 2000s, central-minute chronographs have become increasingly rare, which is a real shame considering their utility. Since then, only a handful have emerged, and they have tended to be very expensive.With the DC 80, Damasko has delivered not only a well functioning example of the central-minute chronograph, but also currently the best value for one with a starting price of $2,737, which is around half that of the competition. That would be exceptional for a watch with a heavily modified chronograph regardless, but in the case of Damasko it also includes a long list of tech that Damasko is known for. We’ll get into all that, but in short, the Damasko DC 80 is one of the most intriguing chronographs currently on the market, delivering features few brands can compete with and at a price that seems too good to be true.


Please note the version of the DC 80 shown here is a custom version they call “Panda,” which features the pushers, crown, and bezel edge rendered in black.
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$2737

Review: Damasko DC 80 Chronograph

Case
Ice-hardened steel
Movement
C51-1 central-minutes chronograph
Dial
Black
Lume
C1-GL Super-LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire with AR
Strap
Di-Modell Chronissimo
Water Resistance
10 bar
Dimensions
42mm x 50mm
Thickness
13.9mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$2737

Case

Damasko’s watch cases appear simple from the outside, but are anything but, with each watch packed full of more features than most brands have across their entire lines. Starting with the metal itself, normal steel won’t do, so here you’ll find bead-blasted, ice-hardened, and nickel-free steel that rates to 710 vickers. This makes the DC 80 highly scratch resistant, which means it will look new for longer. The crown then features the brand’s patented Damasko-system, which includes a fully hardened mechanism for durability, a self-lubricating cell for smooth function, a screw-in tube for easy service, and Viton gaskets for long lasting seals. The pushers are also hardened and feature lubrication. The movement is then encased in a cage of martensitic steel, which includes the dial, providing  80,000 A/m of protection.

 

Then there’s the bezel, not to be left out of the tech party. It features their DAMEST-coating on the insert, which brings the hardness way up. It also has a bi-directional 60-click bearing system. As I have espoused before, this is one of the best feeling bezels out there. The click is strong and satisfying, and it always lines up perfectly.

The DC 80 is a robust, modern tool watch. At 42 x 50 x 13.9 millimeters (43 millimeters at the bezel), it’s medium/large in size, which fits its masculine overall look. At a glance, I first thought it was the same design as that of the DC66 (previously reviewed here), but it actually differs slightly. Though both are 42 millimeters in diameter, the DC 80 is longer at 50 millimeters lug-to-lug, and it features thicker, more pronounced lugs. This subtle redesign ups the aggressiveness of the watch.

Additionally, the bezel edge has changed from a wide, chunky style to a finer tooth. Visually, it’s a bit less striking, but the feel against the fingers is excellent.  One con is that the drilled lugs were lost. Not a huge concern, as most watches don’t have drilled lugs, but it’s a detail I appreciate on tool watches.

For the DC 80, Damasko went with a 60-minute countdown bezel rather than an elapsed or Zulu/dual-time. This makes sense with the new movement, as it highlights the use of the central-minute counter. Simply turn the amount of time desired to elapse over the minute counter, and check back in periodically. I like the idea, and it’s certainly more practical for use of the chronograph than a classic elapsed-time counter, though they each have their pros and cons and having an option would be nice.

The elapsed counter most obviously lines us with the actual index, providing a quick reference when not turned. Given that the dial has no numerals, this could be useful for day-to-day use. Similarly, a dual-time bezel provides the hour index when not turned, and then a second time-zone when in use, which is always handy.

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Dial

The dial of the DC 80 is a departure from their previous chronographs, in both style and function, yet it is still very Damasko. It’s a simple, yet bold design, utilizing non-numerical graphic shapes for maximum legibility. The primary index consists of large, lumed rectangles at the hour, doubling at 12, and small white lines between for the individual minutes. Running from three to nine and six to twelve are cross-hairs (I’m a sucker for cross-hairs) tying the dial together.

One semi-surprising omission is that of the date. Damasko is known for their off-center day/dates. In an effort to strip the DC 80 down to its barest essentials, even the date was removed.

In fact, one could easily mistake the DC 80 for a time-only watch as it lacks any sub-dials. In introducing the C51-1 movement, Damasko decided to use it in its most stripped down form, emphasizing the central minute counter. No elapsed hours, no active seconds, no date—nothing but the hour and minutes hands for the time and central chronograph seconds and minutes. It’s austere and purpose driven. And for the act of timing events with less than an hour long, it’s extremely easy to use.

This does bring me to my one issue with the watch, which is entirely personal in nature. I can do without active seconds and the date, but having no hour counter did bug me a bit. Perhaps it’s because I time things like long walks, travel time around NYC (I’m way out in Brooklyn, so that can be longer than you’d think), and various other more glacial (to a New Yorker) events. In those instances, I find 60-minutes just wasn’t enough.

For hands, you’ll find large Roman swords for the hour and minutes, a tapered stick for the chronograph seconds, and a crossed stick for the chronograph minutes, which was pretty standard on Lemania 5100 watches. They come together to create a highly legible handset that works well with the overall design. The luminous paint on the DC 80 is Superluminova X1 GL C1 White 10, which glows bright green. It glows decently well, though it has a bit of a spotty texture.

Movement

At the heart of the DC 80 is the new C51-1 caliber, based on the Valjoux 7750. Damasko heavily reworked the movement to change the functionality to that of a central-minutes chronograph. All fabrication of new parts for the C51-1 were done in-house by Damasko (who do manufacture some entirely in-house movements as well). The movement features 27 jewels, automatic and manual winding, and a frequency of 28,800 bph. In my time with the watch, it was extremely accurate, coming in at 0 – +1s/day on the timegrapher.

In addition to the central minute counter, another great feature is that the minute counter jumps rather than crawls. This is an improvement on the Lemania 5100, as the minute counter stays in position right until the change, which makes it even easier to read. While my criticism of not having the hour stands, I do believe they will be bringing out more versions of this movement with additional functionality as well.

Straps and Wearability

The DC 80 comes mounted to a 22-millimeter Di-Modell Chronissimo black leather strap. These are super heavy-duty straps made out of black pebbled leather, with a ridge of padding down the middle and two outline stitches, one in white and one in black. A cool detail of this strap is that it is notched by the lug, continuing the lines of the case down the strap. This also makes it wear wider and feel more substantial, which works for the DC 80 given that it’s such a rugged watch.On the wrist, the DC 80 wears like what it is—a big chronograph. It’s not subtle, but it is incredibly masculine and tough, which seems more the goal here. At 42/43 millimeters in diameter and 50 millimeters long, it’s not for those of us with tiny wrists, though I felt it was comfortable on my 7-inch wrist. It also has a nice heft and solidity to it. This watch feels indestructible and with all of the case tech built in, it’s darn close, too.

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Aesthetically, this watch is pretty intense. It’s severe and technical looking, definitely bringing instrumentation to mind. The dial and bezel are high contrast, while the new heavier case is strong and exudes durability. The Panda variation seen here is amplified in its aggressiveness as the black bezel and pushers add a tactical feel to it. This is definitely a watch that works best with casual, outdoor, and sport attire.

Conclusion

The DC 80 is a big step forward for this already cult-favorite brand. By entering into the world of bespoke or in-house chronographs, Damasko have further proven what an independent, family-owned brand can achieve. The fact that this new movement or line of movements are based around the central-minute counter concept, vis-a-vis the Lemania 5100, makes it all the more cool and desirable. This isn’t just another chronograph, it’s one that does something different. And sure, there are a few other watches out there with similar movements, namely by Sinn, Tutima and Habring2, but none are doing it at this price point.

The watch itself is another heavy-duty modern tool watch from the brand. This is something they do well and are loved for. It’s tough as nails, packed full of tech, and looks like it can put up a fight. If you’re into that kind of thing, this will definitely be up your alley. The price tag ($2,737) isn’t cheap, but it’s a hell of a value for what you are getting. A similar watch by a Swiss luxury brand would likely be over $7,500, but it’s worth noting that there isn’t anything similar from a Swiss brand so that point is moot.

I cannot wait to see where else they go with the new movement. Will we see 40mm bezel-free versions? Will we see more complications? The future is bright for us chronograph fans, that’s for sure. Damasko

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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