I N T R O D U C T I O N
I love this watch. I've had it since late 1997, and it's the watch I've been wearing most often since then.
The Ventura v-matic auto was my first luxury watch. Up until then, I had a modest collection of vintage timepieces, but I was not aware of TimeZone and not particularly interested in new watches. I did read watch books and occasionally picked up watch magazines. In 1997 I saw a Ventura ad in an issue of International Wrist Watch, and fell head-over-heels in love with the design. For the next six months, I started taking an interest in new watches and read everything I could find. I didn't find anything else that I liked as much as the Ventura v-matics, but I didn't want to buy one without seeing it first. I was finally able to see and touch them while on a trip to Philadelphia, and bought a v-matic auto on the spot. Buying a watch in this price range ($2000 U.S. list) was a big step for me, but I liked it enough to take that step. I'm sure that my enthusiasm will come through in this review.
| S P E
C I F I C A T I O N S|| D I M
E N S I O N S|
D E S I G N
Everything about the v-matic is integratedeven the strap and buckle contribute to its look. The entire watch was obviously planned as a whole. The v-matic and v-tronic lines were designed by Hannes Wettstein, a Swiss industrial designer and architect. The v-matic models have won a number of design awards, and are included in the modern design collections of several museums.
Ventura's goals for the v-matic line are for all the models to be clean "architectural" designs, for them to be ruggedly and solidy built, and for them to all be certified chronomters.
I had briefly considered the v-matic large chronograph, but the simple elegance of the dial was what sold me on the auto. The dial is flat black, with white tritium hour makers. These are bright white, with no trace of green or yellow. The date indication is at 12, with the "V" Ventura logo directly under it. The logo and the date indication are the only typography anywhere on the front of the watch. The wide, black, bar-shaped hands have white tritium rectangles on their top surfaces, which are the same width as the dial's hour markers. The black hands blend in with the dial, so you only see the white rectangles.
The minute hand has a tiny white extension on the tip, which makes it possible to set and read the time very precisely. You normally don't notice it, but it is there when you need precision.
There is a slightly-domed titanium disk, the same color as the case, attached to the center of the crystal. This hides the hubs of the hands and eliminates visual clutter at the center of the dial. In an interview, Hannes Wettstein said that this disk provides a strong visual foundation for the hands to project from, which makes the dial look purposeful. This disk is one of the signature design elements of the v-matic watches. The face of the watch is very bold and strong, because of its refined simplicity.
The sapphire crystal is flat, and is raised just slightly above the surface of the bezel. It has an anti-reflection coating on its inside surface only, since the rather delicate coating can scratch easily. Because it is uncoated on top, you do get reflections on the crystal, but the white markings on the black dial are always clearly visible. In dim light, the white markings seem highly reflective (this may be an illusion because of the extreme contrast). The hour markers and hands (except the seconds hand) are tritium coated, and glow very brightly in the dark.
The only flaw I can see anywhere on the watch is a faint smudge on the underside of the crystal. It can only be seen from certain angles while in strong light, and I didn't notice it for the first few weeks I had the watch.
The date indication is unusual. The numbers 1 through 9 are as you would expect. 10 through 19 are indicated by a dot above the numbers 0 through 9. The twenties are indicated by two dots over the number (like an umlaut), and thirty by 3 dots. The date in the photo shows a five with two dotsthe 25th.
The v-matic auto has an instantaneous date change. The date changes with a small "snick" while it is obscured by the minute hand at midnight, so that the new date is revealed only after the hand passes 12:00. I was absolutely thrilled the first time I saw this.
The hour markers and the "V" logo are very slightly raised above the surface of the dialyou can generally see this only when looking carefully in bright light. Even the numbers on the date display seem to be slightly raised. The workmanship and finish on all of these elements is perfect.
W I N D I N G & S E T T I N G
The rotor winds in both directions, and I have no trouble keeping the watch wound. I don't hear or feel the rotor; it works very smoothly.
The crown is large and has a finely knurled surface. When unscrewed, it is extremely comfortable to grip. The crown's first extended position allows manual winding. Pulled to the next detente, the date can be set either forwards or backwards. Each date clicks in very smartly. Pulled out all the way, the seconds hand stops and the time can be set. There is no play when setting the hands; everything feels very smooth and tight, but I feel more resistance than I'm used to from other watches. Manual winding though the crown is also somewhat stiff, but again feels very smooth.
The first few times I screwed the crown back in, I thought that the threads were damaged, because of the odd resistance I felt. However, I soon recognized the sensationturning the crown to screw it in winds the mainspring.
Since I have never had another watch with this movement, I don't know if the feel of winding and setting are typical for an ETA 2824/2 or not.
There has been a lot of talk on Timezone about the superiority of proprietary in-house movements over the common ETA movements. For this, my first new, expensive watch, the fact that it has a "common" ETA 2824/2 was a point in its favor. I reasoned that I could get this watch fixed practically anywhere, even far into the future, and that parts would never be a problem.
C A S E
Most of the photos you see of the v-matics are straight-on front views, which do not give a sense of the shape of the case. An interesting feature is that the case tapers, so that the front surface is slightly larger than the rear. This is much more elegant than if the case had a simple cylindrical profile.
I find the finish of the case to be very beautiful. Although the case often appears glossy in photos (including some of mine), the titanium has a medium-gray, matte surface. It is smooth, but there is a slight velvet-like texture to it, almost like it was very finely sandblasted. I like the warm feeling of the metal; steel or gold feels heavy and cold by comparison. The case is not ordinary titanium, but has a surface of titanium nitride, nearly as hard as sapphire. After more than a year of wear, it has taken a few inevitable knocks, but still doesn't have a single mark or blemish on it; it could still pass for mint.
S T R A P & W E A R I N G C O M F O R T
The water-buffalo leather strap was a very pleasant surprise when I first saw the watch in person. It is of very high quality, is waterproof, lined and padded, and is the thickest strap I've ever seen. Although thick, the strap is very flexible and conforms easily to the wrist. It is dark, matte black and sets off the gray case and black dial perfectly. The black is so dark and so matte that it looks unrealthe effect doesn't come across in pictures. The strap is 20mm wide and the width does not taper, as most straps do. The thickness of the strap (not the width) at the buckle-end tapers, so that it is much thinner near the buckle. Because of the clever buckle design, with its sharply-curved tang, the thick strap lies flat and doesn't form a large hump going through the buckle. From the side, the titanium buckle echoes the shape of the strap lugs, another example of the way all of the elements work together.
After more than a year of constant use, the strap also shows very little wear. After going through a very sweaty, humid summer, the only change is that the inside lining is slightly wrinkled (this is visible in the photo above).
This watch is the most comfortable I have ever worn. If I'm working at my computer for long stretches, I tend to take some other watches off, but I barely even feel this one, even after wearing it all day. The lightness of the titanium and the width and thickness of the strap contribute to this. You do not feel the watch as a heavy weight pulling on the strap.
When I first bought the v-matic, it took me some time to get used to is its size. I have a 7.5" wrist, and many of my vintage watches are thin and small. Sometimes, when I got acclimated to the size of another watch and then put on the Ventura, it seemed gigantic. This was only an initial reaction; the size of the watch feels perfectly natural now. The style of it, however, with its flat surfaces, gives it the illusion of being bigger than it is.
T I M E K E E P I N G
My v-matic runs at +2 seconds per day, with almost no variation whatsoever, whether worn or sitting in its box. About once a week, I pull the crown for a few seconds to stop it and re-synchronize with the correct time.
A few months ago, I tested it in all six positions for 24 hours each. The maximum variation (between slowest and fasted rate) was six seconds. Unfortunately, the two slowest positions are both +2, so I can't compensate for the slightly fast rate by keeping it in its slowest position overnight.
My watch was purchased new, but had been sitting in a window display for a long period of time. It ran about -20 seconds per day. Sitting in the sun in the window display had dried it out, and it was in need of service. I had no problem getting the watch serviced by Ventura, and have been very happy with its performance since.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
The watch comes in a gray cardboard box, inside of which is a very nice vinyl case. The color, texture and stitching of the case match the strap. The interior, lined in gray velvet, has a heavily padded, partly-covered recess for the watch and a pocket for the C.O.S.C. certificate (which is the full certificate, not the small summary), instruction booklet and plastic warranty card. Originally, I didn't keep the watch in the case, because I was afraid of damaging the strap. The case forces the strap flat, causing its upper surface to wrinkle. This worried me at first, but I've been keeping the watch in the case every night for almost a year now, and the strap shows no ill effects.
The other members of the v-matic family are a chronograph with date (in 40mm and 36mm sizes), the Globe (a GMT version of the auto), a small (31mm) version of the auto with a rotating bezel, and the Loga, which is the large chronograph with a circular slide-rule surrounding the dial. The chronographs are the cleanest, least-cluttered-looking chronographs that I have ever seen. The family styling is very consistently carried across the line. The exception is the Loga, which lacks the distinctive metal disk on the crystal, and which has a busier face because of the calculator disk.
The v-matic models are also available in steel, with heavy steel bracelets substituted for the leather strap. The steel v-matics are heavier than their titanium counterparts, and the brighter, shiny steel gives them a very different look. Because I like the titanium case and the leather strap so much, I would personally not consider the steel versions, although I have spoken to several owners who love them.
F I N A L C O M M E N T S
The v-matic auto is an understated design. It is not going to attract attention like an ornate gold watch; it is not shiny, vulgar or flashy. Usually, it's the purely ornamental details that make any industrial design look dated or silly with time. This watch has no frills, and no ornamentation. Everything is functional, yet the overall design is very elegant. It is harder to make a good, simple design than to hide a poor design under lots of ornamentation. I think that this design will age very well.
As can be surmised by all of the above, I think that this is a superb watch, which succeeds both aesthetically and ergonomically. To me, watching the skinny white seconds hand sweep smoothly around the simple black dial is pure poetry.
During the time that I was considering a Ventura watch but was unable to see them, I had a huge hunger for images of it. As is often the case, Ventura's catalog, advertisements and website all showed exactly the same set of photos. Ventura has recently added a set of QuickTime 3-D movies to their website, partly addressing this. I hope that this review will give readers an impression of what this wonderful design looks like.
L I N K S
Here on TimeZone:
Interview with Pierre Nobs
(President and Founder of Ventura) by Richard Paige
Living With My Watches
by MJ (an excellent commentary on his evolving watch collection, including a Ventura v-matic auto)
Ventura v-matic Small Chrono Review
by Walt Odets
The Thermal Comfort of Wearing Titanium
by Justin Time
Why Titanium is Used in Watches
by Justin Time
All You Ever Wanted to Know about Titanium
Ventura information on the web:
Official Ventura website: http://www.ventura.ch
Ventura page at Paris 1925: http://www.paris1925.com
Designers working for Ventura
Products designed by Hannes Wettstein
Thank-you to Brad Cornelius, who sent me this list of links:
Quartz watches for Victorinox
The "Cyos," "Metro," and "Aura" lighting systems
Back to the TimeZone Public Forum
Text and photographs copyright © 1998, 1999 Paul Schliesser