Don’t look back in anger

I recently held various timepieces  from Zeitwinkel, including their 181° model, in my shovel-like palms. Read my review of this watch from St. Imier.

Zeitwinkel 181°

In 1956, John Osbourne wrote a play, “Look back in anger”. Ultimately the play would be made into a film in 1959, starring Richard Burton. The iconic Welsh actor played a disaffected working-class young man, Jimmy Porter. The narrative focussed on Porter’s relationship with two women in a “love triangle”.

The character, Jimmy Porter, was portrayed as intelligent and educated but he clearly had a “chip on his shoulder”.

Watching the film made me take an introspective look at my own life. I am of working-class, Northern origin and my accent is broad with a Lancastrian timbre. My first few trips to London on business would sometimes be met with light-hearted jibes about being a “Northerner”. However, unlike the fictional Jimmy Porter, I am at ease with my roots.

There is an honesty to the place of my birth and a distinct absence of the seemly veneer some present to their neighbours in leafy suburbia.

It is probably for this reason I was drawn to the truthfulness of Zeitwinkel’s timepieces when I first met their acquaintance a few months ago. The finishing of the cases, clasps, dials and most notably the manufacture movements within, is quite exceptional. There is no hint of superficiality. These watches have a palpable quality.

I look with my hands as well as my eyes. I recently held various watches from Zeitwinkel in my shovel-like palms. My usual appraisal process commenced, with inquisitive fingers, stroking each faceted face of the case and clasp to discern the success of the execution presented. I held a loupe against my right eye, my pupil scrutinised the chamfering of the three-quarter plate and the open-worked rotor.

These are watches worth discussion. They bestow veracity and candidness with their timeless aesthetics.

The dial

The Zeitwinkel 181° is available in two dial variants: galvanic silver or galvanic black. It is the latter which particularly appeals to me.

Zeitwinkel 181°

Zeitwinkel 181°

Hours and minutes are communicated with lancine-shaped hands. They are facetted, diamond-worked and finished to an impeccable standard. I repeatedly inspected their lithe form, looking for the merest hint of blemish. Despite my diligent inspection, I found no trace of fault, they are perfect.

Framing the dial are simple strokes depicting each minute and every five minute integer is marked with a facetted, applied baton indicating the hour. The elongated isosceles triangles lead the eyes to the centre of the dial and the hands employed.

At 3 o’clock, an aperture reveals the date disc beneath. Silver text against a black background provides contrast and peerless legibility.

A snailed subdial positioned above 6 o’clock features subsidiary seconds. It is large compared with the subdials on some competing timepieces, yet its scale confers ease of readability. Zeitwinkel clearly have an obsessive attention to detail. The design language of the main dial is repeated in microcosmic form, with similar faceted appliqués featuring on every 15-minute integer.

The brand’s nomen and logo are proudly proclaimed beneath noon. The young company should feel a sense of pride as this timepiece proffers greater virtue than some costlier watches from the more established brands.

The case

The case is made from 316L stainless steel. It is cool and sleek. The case diameter is quite large at 42.5 mm, with a height of 11.7 mm. However, Zeitwinkel also offer a range of models with smaller proportions, measuring 39.0 mm in diameter.

Zeitwinkel 181°

All surfaces of the case are highly polished, save for the recessed central area of the caseband. The highly polished surfaces dance with light, looking handsome and refined, and never appear too showy or excessive.

Returning to the caseband, the profiling of the vertical flank is very involved and quite costly to execute. The satin polishing of the recessed area will have presented the casemaker with many challenges and, no doubt, the cost of supply reflects this. However, the resultant outcome is elegant and justifies any additional overhead the manufacture may have incurred.

The highly polished lugs draw the strap close to the caseband with the leather kissing the metal. It provides a neat appearance and, in conjunction with the well-proportioned lugs, allows the strap to cosset the wrist comfortably.

Zeitwinkel clearly understand that I am not the only person in the world who perceives quality with fingers as well as eyes. The 181° proffers exceptional tactility with the various components which coalesce so pleasingly. The crown is cylindrical in profile and manipulating its knurled surface is a delight.

There is much virtue within the case of the Zeitwinkel 181° and I am delighted that the company has fitted a sapphire caseback to afford a view of the finely finished movement within.

The movement

The Caliber ZW0102 is a self-winding manufacture movement. The word “manufacture” should not be overlooked. It takes considerable resources to bring a movement to market.

Several watch companies choose to source a movement from ETA, Soprod, Sellita et al. to avoid incurring the huge capital investment necessary to realise movements in-house. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but with the word, “manufacture”, there is cachet.

It is the no-compromise engineering in the Zeitwinkel movement that I particularly admire. The finishing is exceptional and shames the movements featured in some watches costing substantially more.

The bi-directional oscillating weight is open-worked allowing the owner to see more of the finely finished components beneath.

The three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver is particularly attractive and stands testament to the high-end craftsmanship Zeitwinkel have chosen to adopt. It is expertly decorated with the Côtes de Genéve motif.

Examining the Caliber ZW0102, perlage can be seen on the mainplate and the screws are chamfered and polished, completing the assemblage of refined finishing.

Conclusion

On seeing the soubriquet allocated by Zeitwinkel for this model, I looked over my shoulder and reflected on my youth.

I am proud of where I have come from and have a clear sense of direction. I know the route I intend to take with the rest of my life. My heading is planned and my path strategised.

Zeitwinkel have shown an irreproachable adoption to haute horology. They have eschewed faux history, marketing hyperbole and politicians spin. There is virtue and merit in their timepieces.

The honesty shown with their designs, presented without headline grabbing gimmicks, resonates with me. There is no pretence. The craftsmanship practised by their adroit artisans is clearly evident to those who understand watches.

By eschewing huge marketing expenditure, they have delivered the exceptional at a remarkably accessible price.

I can identify with Zeitwinkel. They appear at ease with their short history and clearly have embarked on a successful path, adopting a refreshing angle to watch manufacturing.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Zeitwinkel 181°
  • Case: Stainless steel 316L; diameter 42.5 mm; height 11.7 mm; water resistant to 5 Bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds; date.
  • Movement: Caliber ZW0102, self-winding; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve more than 72 hours
  • Strap: Blackhand-sewn calf leather strap or black rubber strap supplied on a stainless steel folding clasp.

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