There is no secret that the explosion of vintage watches and therefore vintage inspired pieces has been one of the trends that everybody can appreciate. Many brands have followed the vintage inspired route and some of them have been more successful than others, for example in my opinion, Longines is the one that executes this type of style to perfection, not only they have a back catalogue to envy but also they remain true to the proportions and colors when it comes to creating the watch. Then we have other side of the coin which despite having some great designs they cannot resist to oversize the end product or even overaged it (yes I am thinking of you Bulova). If we go to the world of micorbrands is a completely different ball game, I was having a nice exchange with a collector who owns a company and the inspiration translated perfect into the watch which is the same that happens with Vario. I came across them because I was getting into watches with a pink/champagne dials and there it was (I will do a review of this one later) the Vario Eclipse, but naturally as a watch enthusiast I started to look what else was on the catalogue and I found the Empire watch, an art deco inspired piece which feels like an object coming out the wrist from Leonardo di Caprio in the Great Gatsby (great book by the way) or even from a board meeting in the popular series Mad Men (which portrait life in the 60's), what I am trying to say with out rambling too much is that this is one classy piece, feeling at home on the wrist of a suited gentleman (but also a great unisex size) wearing a fedora hat.
I bet you already guess the diameter of the case which is 38mm and of course is spot on, its not to large nor to small being under 48mm lug to lug distance and a thickness of 11mm , this creates that subtle look that transports you to the streets of New York or London wearing a large coat protecting you from those cold winter nights, of course we opted for the manual version completing the old school feeling. The Empire has a display case back which shows the beautiful and decorated Miyota 6T33, funny thing is that this movement has now become a bit of a unicorn because it's not produced anymore, there is also an automatic version which seems very popular and houses a NH38A Seiko movement. The 20 mm lug width has a beautiful Italian leather strap with crossed stitching, more on that later as I have to speak about the case and the dial. The case is polished to perfection, giving curves as sexy as a 1930's car but the star of the show is the dial. That dial (I tend to be always positive but this time I am not exaggerating) has the best details I've seen on this price range and even watches 4 times the price, let's start with the hands, one has a syringe shape (the hour one) and the other one looks like a scissor (the minute hand), I have seem many details like this but never paired together, it works very nice and also helps the legibility as the watch being period correct inspired, has no lume. Then we go to the dial, a deco styled marvel with beautiful numerals (I cannot stop staring at that number 8) placed on a wide track which can be white or back with a 'Guilloche' center putting to shame some of the current offerings from more establish companies.
I've really went macro-crazy (if that is even a word) on this dial and the pattern is so perfect that I just couldn’t believe the price that the watches are being offered.
As a side note, there are 2 awesome dials coming into the Empire range, one emerald green (stunning) and another panda configuration with vintage lume, you don't want to miss out when these beauties come out.
On the wrist:
The empire is going back to it's owner and I am really going to miss it, the way that sits on the wrist makes it one of the most comfortable watches I wore in the past year, the case is so sleek and the dial so well contrasted that all I can do is stare. Then there is the leather strap, Vario was known for making straps before watches so they know their stuff. The straps tappers from 20mm to 16mm making extremely comfortable, the quality of the material used is incredible and I believe that it competes with other great straps in the watch world like the ones from Hodinkee or the Colareb but for half of the price.
I wore the Empire non stop for a week and I have to say that the weight, proportions and looks really stuck with me, not only is comfortable but also classy, I wanted to start to wearing suede slippers and pajamas just to match the watch at home, this is how cool the watch is.
I was trying to highlight the feature that I've liked the most about the Vario Empire, was it the dial? , or the hands? , perhaps the case and strap? All of them have a details to be admired but I have to say that the thing that I've enjoyed the most was spending a lot of time speaking about watches with Ivan and Judy who are the people behind this project,
their knowledge in watches and attention to detail is definitely reflected on the Empire.
We talked about vintage and modern pieces, the industry and our love for this hobby, there is something very refreshing when you really get to know the people who made something on your wrist, you stop being a fan and you become a believer, you do not need me to tell you that this is a rare thing, it doesn’t happen with every watch that comes into my hands meaning that this whole package wrapped up in a 1930's enchantment is truly something special.
more information at www.vario.sg
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