Review: Vertex MP45 Monopusher Chronograph

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My first experience with the modern incarnation of Vertex came last year at London’s SalonQP. I already knew the name, mainly as one part of the “Dirty Dozen,” and then later when the brand was revived — under the stewardship of Don Cochrane, the great-grandson of the brand’s founder — with the release of the referential M100. 

Whereas the M100 took direct inspiration from what is now regarded as the most historically significant watch the brand ever made, their newest, the MP45, is a contemporary reworking of a watch from the same period that was, in fact, never made. In 1945, the War Office commissioned Vertex to make an “Ordinance timing watch” with a Lemania monopusher chronograph movement. After the end of the Second World War, however, Vertex faced restrictions on how many movements they would be able to import, so the watch was ultimately shelved. The MP45 brings into existence the essence of that original watch, this time powered by a new movement from Sellita.

The introduction of both a new monopusher chronograph caliber and watch is fairly rare (though Bremont’s timely announcement of the Arrow provides some fairly direct competition), so naturally I jumped at the chance to get to know it in a little more detail. Let’s take a closer look.

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$3780

Review: Vertex MP45 Monopusher Chronograph

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Sellita SW510 MP
Dial
Black
Lume
Molded Super-LumiNova
Lens
Box sapphire
Strap
Black leather strap with rubber and mil-straps
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
40mm x 49mm
Thickness
15mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push/pull
Warranty
2 years
Price
$3780

Case

With a listed diameter of 40mm, the MP45 feels appropriately sized. It’s large enough to feel modern, yet still small enough to successfully assume the styling of a historic military piece without looking awkward. As you’ll often seen with military chronographs, the case is asymmetrical, splaying out on the right-hand side. At its widest, the case measures almost 42mm, excluding the crown. This asymmetry isn’t only present when viewed face on; the case also gently slopes down toward the crown, helping the watch appear slightly thinner from this angle.

At 15mm, there’s no pretending this is a slim watch, but that height is par for the course for a contemporary chronograph, and the watch feels more solid rather than bulky. In profile, part of that height is apportioned to the tall, brushed bezel with a box sapphire crystal protruding further still. With a little of the thickness also attributed to the case back beneath, the mid-case manages to avoid looking bloated or slab-sided.

The case is well finished with vertical brushing from the top lug down to the bottom. The brushing also slightly disguises and softens the lip on the right-hand side of the case as it extends out towards the crown and single pusher.

The signed crown is neatly — and just-a-touch recessed — into the case, though the majority of the ridged area of the crown sits outside the case and remains easy to wind. Both the crown and the chronograph pusher, capped in black, are reassuringly firm to operate.

Dial

Sitting beneath the double-domed sapphire crystal, the dial of the MP45 is clean and sharp with excellent legibility. The tips of the syringe-style hour and minute hands extend fully to their respective markings, and the white blocks of Super-LumiNova within offer a stark contrast against the black dial. The large chronograph registers feel well balanced against the dial as a whole, and their super-fine concentric grooves almost make them look like individual sunburst dials.

I’m aware that numerals being partially eaten by sub-dials are a huge turn-off to some, and I anticipate that feeling is only going to be exacerbated here due to the 3-dimensional blocks of lume being severed. As someone who isn’t generally affronted by such treatment, I actually find it heightens the effect of the numerals and makes them even more interesting. The precision with which the indices have been cut is impressive to say the least, even when viewed through a macro lens.

The sub-dial/numeral conflict aside, the dial is almost entirely monochrome with white on black markings drawing the eyes to the relevant information. Glints of polished  stainless steel for the running seconds sub-dial hand, or the framing of the hour and minute hands, are so subtle that they largely go unnoticed. There is also a splash of red on the minute track on either side of 60, which again is so unobtrusive you need to really look for it to see it. The dial text is kept to a minimum with the brand name on the upper half of the dial and a broad arrow on the lower.

As you would perhaps expect for indices that are cut from a sheet of solid Super-LumiNova, the nighttime glow here is excellent. Thankfully, the hands match the indices.

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Movement

Beating inside the watch is an entirely new caliber from Sellita. Single pusher chronograph movements are few and far between, so the timing of Sellita’s launch into this niche area is perfect for Vertex. If you are familiar with Sellita chronographs, then you’ll no doubt know the SW500, which is essentially Sellita’s take on the Valjoux/ETA 7750. The new caliber, dubbed the SW510MP, belongs to the same family, but features a slightly different dial layout and is revamped into a single pusher chronograph. The SW510MP is available as an automatic and, thanks in part to a little encouragement from Vertex, as a hand-winder.

For those not familiar with monopusher chronographs, all actions (start-stop-reset) are done through the same single pusher. This does offer slightly less functionality than having the reset pusher split out from the start-stop action as you can no longer restart the chronograph without resetting it first. But if that ability isn’t a requirement (and it wasn’t for the War Office in 1945), then basing all operations out of a single pusher increases usability and is a fun throwback to watches from a past era. Look at almost any vintage stopwatch and you’ll see the same arrangement.

This new caliber is visible through the display back and shows some really nice finishing, including an engraved Vertex logo. Vertex’s MP45 is also available with the automatic version of the Sellita SW510MP, which increases the thickness of the watch by 2mm.

Straps and Wearability

As standard, the MP45 is delivered on a quality solid black leather strap lined in red. Hidden in a second tier within the Peli Case are three other straps — a black rubber strap and two mil-style straps. For me, the rubber works perfectly with it being more malleable than the leather straight out of the box, therefore offering a comfortable fit.

The leather and rubber straps are both fitted with quick-release spring bars. Though I can see the benefit in having them, I’m usually indifferent to quick-release straps as more often than not one of the straps being switched out or switched in will need to use regular spring bars anyway, thereby taking away a lot of the convenience. But when a watch comes with more than one quality strap, and all are equipped this way, the benefits are much greater. To make use of the mil-style straps, Vertex have even included a small vial containing a set of individual quick release spring bars.

The nylon straps give the watch an entirely different look, and, as great as it looks off the wrist, I did find the watch wore slightly too tall for me personally on nylon.

If none of the included straps are to your liking, a combination of a 20mm lug width and black dial is probably the most versatile pairing you could ask for, so options are almost limitless.

Conclusion

Relaunching a brand isn’t easy, but it could be argued that Vertex had a leg up with the M100 as a modern interpretation of their legendary “Dirty Dozen” watch. But then came the issue of keeping up that momentum with the difficult task of putting out a solid sophomore release, which I think required a bit more consideration. Vertex may have found a design that was already pencilled and just waiting to be brought to life, but that’s a different trick second time around when the watch never actually existed. The cachet of a historical piece isn’t present, but that also allows more freedom to make the MP45 its own watch.

This is a watch I struggle to find fault with, and part of that is because there really isn’t too much to compare it to. I guess the overall thickness, partially cut numerals, and even the functionality of the monopusher chronograph itself could all subjectively be seen as negatives, but these are also features that make this watch feel distinct. Furthermore, the level of finishing, details, and execution of the design are excellent. Given the price of £2,900 excluding VAT (roughly $3,780 with current exchange rates), the Vertex MP45 is certainly aiming high, but I’d argue the whole package largely lives up to that billing. 400 watches are being made (200 with the hand-wind movement seen here, and 200 with the automatic version), and are available now directly from Vertex. Vertex

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
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