The Vertex M100B is inspired by a military watch harking back to 1944, the Cal 59 Nav watch. However, this modern-day version is imbued with a judicious application of modernity, courtesy of its black DLC case and ebullient red NATO strap. Angus Davies reviews this eminently honest hand-wound watch.
This detailed review of the Vertex M100B includes live images, specification details and pricing.
‘Upcycling furniture’ is becoming increasingly popular. All too often, old furniture is painted in pastel shades, distressed to give it a neglected look and then embellished with random pieces of chicken wire. Despite the time and effort expended, in my opinion, such furniture lacks authenticity. Indeed, it can only be described as ‘fake’.
In the world of horology, there are numerous counterfeit watches, devoid of merit. Considering that a watch says much about its owner, why would anyone choose to wear a fake?
In addition, even some ‘legitimate’ watches purport to be the last word in luxury when, in reality, they lack virtue. Beneath the veneer of branding, there is a so-so movement, incomprehensible dial and a case with razor-like edges. These watches may be sold legally in ‘authorised retailers’ but they are also devoid of merit.
When it comes to watches, there is one thing I hold dear, authenticity. Vertex Watches Ltd has legitimacy. Its name harks back to 1916 when the company was simultaneously founded in London and La Chaux de Fonds. The brand’s strategy was to encase Swiss movements in Great Britain.
During the Second World War, Vertex was chosen, along with 11 other companies, to supply the British Military with watches. Similar to Germany’s Reichsluftfahrtministerium, which produced a specification for a pilot’s watch, the British Military specified criteria for its own military timepiece. These had to be luminous, regulated to chronometer standards, tough and waterproof. A total of 12 companies fulfilled this criteria.
During the 1940s, with its British factory lying in ruins after wartime bombing raids, Vertex turned to several factories in Switzerland. These factories produced Vertex watches to the brand’s exacting standards.
Fast forwarding to the 1970s, similar to its Swiss counterparts, Vertex suffered declining sales owing to the advent of quartz watches. Sadly, it ceased operating in 1972.
In 2016, the brand was rekindled by Don Cochrane, the great-grandson of Claude Lyons, the founder of Vertex Watches Ltd.
Recently, I attended The Watchmaker’s Club event at the M Restaurant in London. Vertex exhibited a selection of its watches at this prestigious venue. Like a horological magpie, I swooped down and clawed at a Vertex M100B. The combination of a brooding black DLC case and an ebullient red NATO strap proved a seductive pairing I found difficult to resist.
The dial of the Vertex M100B appears identical to one of its forebears, the Cal 59 Nav watch, a timepiece harking back to 1944. However, unlike some ‘retro’ watches, the modern-day Vertex M100B does not appear sepia-toned or quaint. The virtue of the original design is that it is timeless and has not aged, despite the onset of years.
Similar to the German observation or deck watches of the 1930s, the Vertex M100B delivers extraordinary lucidity. Plump Arabic numerals denote each hour with stylish aplomb. The syringe hour and minute hands have supremely slender tips articulating the time with notable efficiency.
A chemin de fer encircles the dial. The laser-like tip of the aforementioned minute hand floats above the railroad track, allowing the wearer to read-off one-minute integers with ease. Each 5-minute integer is marked with a green luminescent circlet or baton. Two red dots straddle the index at noon, providing a means of orientating the watch in darkness. An arrow-like index below the brand’s nomen also serves as a means of aligning the watch in dim light.
The Vertex M100B is equipped with a snailed, small seconds display positioned above 6 o’clock.
Vertex has eschewed a myriad of potential indications. The raison d’être for this timepiece is to converse with the wearer using clear, succinct dialogue. Like the original, there are no superfluous functions, merely the essentials necessary for daily use.
The Vertex M100B measures 40mm in diameter. Its size, which would have been considered large in the 1940s, proves modest by today’s standards. The moderate scale of the watch does not overwhelm the wrist and should prove suitable for the majority of would-be wearers.
While traditionalists will probably err towards the M100 model with its brushed steel case, I am drawn to the stealthy hues of the M100B with its black DLC housing, which fuses harmoniously with the black dial. Moreover, the black tones of the case provide the perfect foil for the dial indications.
In 1944, the case of a military-issue watch would have been fitted with a solid caseback. In fact, German wartime watches featured a soft-iron core, precluding the fitment of an exhibition caseback. Vertex has chosen to uphold tradition, equipping the M100B with a solid caseback. Ordinarily, the absence of an exhibition caseback would leave me frustrated, however, in this instance, I feel Vertex is justified in respecting history.
The Vertex M100B is supplied with three straps, a two-piece rubber item and two NATO straps, one in black and another in a cheery shade of red.
Vertex has equipped the M100B with the Calibre ETA 7001, a movement which is measures just 2.5mm in height. This is evident when appraising the Vertex M100B. While the watch is not marketed as ‘thin’, it does exhibit a neat lateral profile.
The hand-wound Calibre 7001 has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and incorporates 17 jewels. The sole spring barrel harnesses sufficient energy to deliver 42 hours of autonomy.
Owing to the fitment of a solid caseback, it was not possible to appraise the movement finishing, however, the brand states the movement is embellished with a ‘rhodium finish and Cotes de Geneve decoration’.
When Vertex designed its Cal 59 Nav watch of 1944, the company elected to use Arabic numerals to maximise legibility. The dial of the Vertex M100B upholds this design detail. The luminescent Arabic numerals, the prominent chemin de fer and the syringe hour and minute hands join forces to impart time free of ambiguity.
Beyond its functional prowess, the Vertex M100B is stylish. The covert DLC case and black dial provide a handsome combination. They sit deferentially against the noticeable time indications, augmenting readability. It is this marriage of practicality and prepossessing looks that sets the Vertex M100B apart from many other similarly priced watches.
Vertex has never hidden the fact that during the 1940s some of its watches were made in Switzerland. Today, Vertex freely admits that its watches are ‘Swiss Made’, albeit the company is from Blighty and its timepieces evince a palpable sense of Britishness. It is this openness and honesty which I find heart-warming. There is no marketing hyperbole or political spin, the merit of Vertex watches is clear to see.
The Vertex M100B is attractively priced at £2624.40 (RRP at 31.12.2018). It may not be the last word in haute horlogerie, its modest pricing precludes this, but, in my opinion, it proves an attractive authentic ownership proposition. Moreover, it brims with integrity.
- Model: Vertex M100B
- Case: Brushed DLC black case; diameter 40mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
- Movement: Calibre ETA 7001; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 17 jewels; power reserve = 42 hours
- Strap: Two-piece rubber strap and two NATO straps (black and red)
- Price: £2624.40 (RRP at 31.12.2018)