Faithful readers may remember when Zach Weiss reviewed the Atowak Ettore Drift a little more than a year ago. This affordable wandering hour watch had a modern, even futuristic, aesthetic, and employed a rarely seen complication using a humble Miyota movement as a base. The Ettore Drift, inspired largely by automotive design, had a bold, colorful look and executed the wandering hour effect in just about the simplest way possible, hiding most of the “wandering” behind a large plate. Not exactly Urwerk levels of finesse, but impressive nonetheless at a $1,200 price point. Now, with their follow up watch, they’ve upped the stakes a bit, putting more of the mechanics on display in a design that really does recall watches that are considerably more expensive and made with custom, in-house movements.
The new watch, dubbed the Cobra, replaces the rotating hour wheels of the Ettore Drift with a revolving satellite hour wheel. There are a total of three wheel arms in constant rotation, and each arm has a sharp pointer at the end that reads the minutes via a scale located near the bottom of the case. The hour block at the end of each arm rotates 120 degrees as each hour passes as it moves around the “dial” (that word seems to be somewhat meaningless with this watch, but you get the idea), landing in the correct position as each hour passes.
The Cobra immediately appears more complex than the drift because so much more of the rotating time telling elements are on display. Furthermore, the hour blocks rotate on two planes as opposed to the single plane of the Drift, which spun its hour wheels around in a flat, circular motion. Like the Drift, the Cobra is available in a variety of color options. The Steel Silver is the most straightforward, consisting of an untreated steel case with blue accents on the minute track and satellite hour wheels. The other options incorporate black DLC coated cases into the mix, with the Desert Brown featuring tan dial accents and the Carbon Black using pops of contrasting orange. In all cases, Atowak has applied what appears to be a generous amount of lume to the minute scale.
The case, shaped like a cobra head, is split between two viewing areas. The lower region is where you read the time in a way that’s actually quite intuitive, and the smaller upper region shows the rotating arms as they spin away from the minute scale. Large carbon fiber plates flank each side, and frame a crown located at what we’d normally think of as the 12:00 position. The case size is listed as 50 x 43mm with a thickness of 16.2mm. That seems, well, enormous. But you have to ask yourself if you want a watch like the Atowak Cobra to simply blend in. I’m guessing you don’t – this is a watch that kind of demands an explanation from the wearer.
The Cobra, like the Drift before it, is clearly a very niche watch. But it’s worth highlighting simply to illustrate that there are still brands doing genuinely creative work at affordable price points. If you have about $2,000 to spend and want to wear something that nobody else in your watch group has likely heard of, let alone owns, Atowak (probably) has you covered. The Cobra, along with watches like the MB&F adjacent M.A.D. 1, also represents an expanding category of affordable watches that do particularly creative things with a simple Miyota movement as a base. It’s proof that with a module and some creative engineering, almost any complication or dial layout is possible without spending a fortune. Atowak