Can you reinvent a ‘Flieger’ watch? The Isotope Old Radium Tobacco LE
If you are a watch enthusiast in 2022, you are spoiled for choice, I don't remember the golden era of watchmaking nor know what was happening 35 years ago but, I can imagine that if you wanted a dive watch with heritage you would go to Rolex or Omega, for a ‘flieger’, IWC was the first and perhaps only choice with some other offerings here and there and definitely, no independent watchmaking. With the explosion of independent watchmaking, not only we have many offerings from many brands, but we also have different interpretations on watches that otherwise, would have never change in looks. Dive watches must comply with ISO certification so there isn't much that you can do in terms of design but not being an indispensable item anymore, we can now see a variety of colours and sizes available from many brands. In the case of the ‘flieger’ watch there is much more complexity in the matter, as an object that was commissioned by strict specifications with robustness and legibility in mind, the 'Flieger' or flyer was a precision at its best. So, what happens when a brand wants to maintain the basics on the functionality side but create its own version of this tool iconic watch? Well, I will not mention names, but some brands just changed the colour of the dial or reduced the diameter of the case, but Isotope took the task very seriously and decided to design a 'flieger' from scratch but keeping that legibility and robustness alive, enter the Old Radium Tobacco LE. This is not the first Isotope I reviewed but I can honestly say that it is my favourite one, you will see why, let's begin.
As the name suggest, the Old Radium LE has a beautiful brown (Tobacco inspired) dial, and it really looks like nothing I've ever seen before, the centre highlights the design language we are used from the brand with its lacrima in a darker colour, then on the outside we can really see the brown contrasting with the rest of the piece. The bronze hands that come from the centre have a brushed finish with luminescence material on the tips, you can already imagine even without the pictures that the watch is extremely legible. The Old radium also comes into play when we talk about the lume, a beige colour that really gives the watch not an old look but a cohesive palette, everything matches. The case is made of CuSn8 bronze, it has 40mm in diameter and the lugs extend to 47mm which are longer than the similar size watches, this really helps with the wearability as I have experiences 40mm with very short lugs and feels a bit odd. The watch is powered by a Swiss Landeron which can be viewed by a sandblasted titanium exhibition case back, the mix of premium materials is something that really surprised me, specially at this price point. Going back to the dial, the watch has no date (you can imagine
me smiling) the symmetry is absolute, from the centre to the edges going through the perfectly placed numerals, the Isotope Old Radium is a masterclass in harmonic design, there is a lot going on but nothing draws your attention when you need to catch the time on a glimpse.
On the wrist
There are several factors why the Old Radium is perfect on my 6.25-inch wrist, first the thickness of lack of it at 10mm, this makes the watch wear very well on a vast variety of wrists, the
second one is the straps, the Old Radium comes with 2 incredible handmade straps that are worth a standalone review. The first strap is an Italian soft calf skin leather in beautiful brown but is the second one that steals the show, it is handmade in Barcelona by Didymostraps, it has a matching bronze buckle (thank you) and made with a full-grain vegetable-tanned leather from Tuscany, it is just another level, the strap is a Marine Nationale style but with a twist, it doesn't go under the case but rather attached to the lugs keeping the thinness of the Old Radium at the original 10mm, how great is that?
Legibility on the Old Radium is one of the key elements that stand out, the lume is potent and the contrast makes the watch easy to see from every angle, the sword hands really make a difference as they reach the markers with ease and going back to the no date feature, there are no distractions.
If you are in the market for a traditional 'flieger' Isotope has a more tamed down version with a date in grey, looks incredible too but I think this new Tobacco LE is the one that I want to wear, it is warmer, more unique and also more exclusive to only 100 pieces. The Swiss Landeron movement also gives something extra, not only on accuracy (which is as this movement is rated to -12+12 seconds per day) but in rarity, you do not see many out there. This offering, this watch is one of the most compelling I've seen from an independent watch maker and the reason is the quality, if you see the macro shots everything looks as sharp as it can be and I got close, the level of quality is higher than many watches costing 3x the price. The Old Radium Tobacco really makes my life easy when it comes to photography it but really hard when you have to let it go, there aren't many, so I hope you manage to get one, it is really that good.
For more information visit www.isotopewatches.com
For the MN strap visit: https://didymostraps.com/
Video on the strap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-1i0zE9kMc
Visit us on Instagram #robbieandwatches