Seiko Prospex Street Series “Urban Safari”

Hidden Gems: Five Watch Releases You Might Have Missed In 2020

This last month has been a busy time with numerous watch launches from luxury brands via email, Zoom, and the new Watches & Wonders digital platform. Today, Watchonista takes a look back over the fun and brings you five interesting timepieces that you may have missed.

By Sophie Furley

Spring is our favorite season at Watchonista, as it is the moment in the year when watch brands unveil the vast majority of their new timepieces. Despite the current health crisis, this year was no different as the watch industry turned to the digital space to share its latest creations. We have covered the vast majority of them on our Watches & Wonders page, but here are five interesting pieces that we had yet to cover.

Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow”

The story behind the Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow” is almost as interesting as the watch itself. In 1970, just after the launch of the El Primero movement, Zenith made a prototype with a manual-winding movement and a blackened steel case, which was almost unheard of at the time. But it was never commercialized.

Over the years, collectors and Zenith employees continued to talk about this timepiece, but only one long-standing staff member remembered seeing it. Records and evidence were non-existent, fueling the intrigue around this prototype.

Then in 2019, when the brand was looking around its secret, walled-off attic (where Charles Vermot had hidden the El Primero plans and machines for safekeeping during the quartz crisis) for inspiration for the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the El Primero movement, they found a box with the mystery prototype inside. Inspired by the legend and this incredible discovery, Zenith decided to reimagine what this timepiece could have been, calling it the Zenith Chronomaster Revival “Shadow.”

The timepiece is housed in a 37mm micro-blasted titanium case, giving it a stealthy, matte dark-gray color. The case design is also a faithful reproduction of the first El Primero case. The matte black dial features grey counters, a tachymeter scale, and Super-LumiNova filled hands and applied markers that emit a bright green glow in the dark. At CHF 8,400, the legend has come to life at last.

Oris X Momotaro

Oris has joined forces with maverick Japanese jeans brand Momotaro for a special edition Divers Sixty-Five model that comes on a unique Momotaro denim strap.

Founded by Hisao Manabe in 2006, Momotaro is named after a Japanese folklore hero. The roots of the company lie in a textile company started by Manabe in 1992 with only three employees. Today, the company employs over 140 people across Japan and is known for its high-quality jeans worn by the style-conscious.

The brand’s motto is “made by hand without compromise,” and each pair of jeans (and now watch straps) is made using the finest long-staple cotton and deep indigo rope dye to achieve the best possible fade. The denim is also made on vintage shuttle looms to bring a hand-made feel to the weave. All the details are also sewn entirely by hand.

The Oris X Momotaro Divers Sixty-Five comes in a 40mm stainless steel case with bronze touches and a beautiful pale-green gradient dial featuring Light Old Radium (beige) Super-LumiNova treated hands and indices.

The vintage feel is enhanced with a bubble-curved sapphire crystal. But what makes this new timepiece stand apart is its Momotaro denim strap that includes the Japanese artisan’s signature white “battle stripes.” It also comes in a matching denim pouch that can be repurposed as a wallet, all for CHF 2,100. As if Oris wasn’t cool enough already!

Seiko Prospex Street Series “Urban Safari”

Seiko unveiled four new models in its Prospex Street Series this week. Making its debut in 2018, this popular collection inherited the design codes of the professional divers’ timepieces from 1975. The collection is fondly called the “Tuna” by watch lovers due to the cylindrical case shape that looks a little like a can of tuna.

Each of these four “Urban Safari” watches features a color scheme that combines the urban feel of Tokyo with safari hues. Each also comes with the brand’s iconic outer case protector.

There are two mechanical models – the SRPE29 and SRPE31 – which are powered by Seiko’s 4R36 automatic movement and are housed in a 43.2mm stainless steel case.

The other two models – the SNJ029 and SNJ031 – are modern versions of the hybrid diver from 1982 and are powered by the brand’s solar chronograph caliber H851. They have both analog and digital indications and come in 47.8mm stainless steel cases.

All four editions are water-resistant to 200 meters and come fitted with extra-strength silicon straps for the toughest of urban adventures.  

Ming 27.01: Version 2.0

After receiving the “Horological Revelation” prize at the 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for the famous 17.06 timepiece (read more HERE), Ming recently presented its successor. This new piece is called the 27.01 and is designed to be a versatile and accessible timepiece that can be worn every day.  

The Malaysian-based brand was founded by watch enthusiast and photographer Ming Thein, who is fascinated by watch design. So naturally, Ming timepieces have a very distinct style that makes them instantly recognizable. The 27.01 is no exception.

Radial symmetry, increased legibility, different markers, new flying blade lugs, smooth case transitions, a contrasting mix of matte and brushed surfaces in four different shades of silver, along with different layering and material transitions all come together in this new design that is particularly pleasing to the eye.

The timepiece is powered by the ETA Peseux 7001, stripped down to the gear train and escapement, and completely reconstructed by the Manufacture Schwartz-Etienne in configuration with Ming’s design. The caliber retains the same aesthetic as the 19 series, featuring a solid baseplate with a maximal opening of the bridges to display the moving components.

The 27.01 is housed in a 38mm stainless steel case, which is not only elegant but, at 6.9mm, is also the slimmest Ming timepiece to date. It is paired with an elegant dark-red strap made by Jean Rousseau Paris and comes with a travel pouch made especially for the collection by Studio Koji Sato. Priced at CHF 3,950, the 27.01 is currently limited to 125 watches but, once supply chains resume normal business, more will be available.

Czapek Quai des Bergues "Sursum Corda"

Czapek’s Quai des Bergues “Sursum Corda” is a unique piece created to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Czapek & Cie. The timepiece is based on the brand’s Quai des Bergues manually-wound SXH caliber with a 7-day power reserve. But what makes this timepiece particularly unique is not its movement, but rather its métiers d’art dial. As “Sursum Corda” is the Latin for “Lift up Your Hearts,” it seems a rather appropriate name for a timepiece released during these trying times.

The dial features a world map crafted with cloisonné enamel by Donzé Cadrans and is enclosed within a white gold ring, which is engraved with the words “Sursum Corda” translated into French, German, and Italian. The outer hour ring is engraved with waves by Michele Rothen following a design by Adrian Buchmann. As it is hand-engraved, the waves take an astounding 40 hours to complete!

The dial’s baseplate is also of particular note as it is made of a special white gold alloy by Précinox to support all these spectacular decorative arts. A little piece of fun trivia: All the artisans involved in the creation of the dial work within 300 meters of each other!

The timepiece looks like a world timer but actually indicates the hours, minutes, and seconds in a sub-dial positioned between 7 and 8 o'clock. It is housed in a 42.5mm white gold case and is water-resistant to 30 meters. Priced at CHF 60,000, this special edition is for just one lucky person!

(Images provided by the brands)

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