Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Calvin Jr. Velocita Prototype

Today, the Calvin Jr. (CJR) Velocita launches on Kickstarter. Unlike many crowdfunded projects, it is not a cookie cutter design. CJR's founder, Calvin Ng is an engineer and watch enthusiast and he comes by it naturally, both his parents worked in the watch manufacturing industry. His passion for horology led him to create a unique bullhead chronograph in a unique, oversized case. It is brash, and it is bold, but is it Bum-worthy? He sent me two prototypes to find out.

The Velocita is a highly stylized race timer offered in six distinct variants. The two top-of-the-line models use an ETA 775 automatic. They are priced at $1999 with early backer rewards of $1299. Four quartz models use the Ronda 3520.D and fit more closely into The Time Bum's usual range, selling for $399 with early backer rewards starting at $199. All share the same dial layout and case, but vary in color, finish, and case detail ranging from the conservative sandblasted steel Army, to the outlandish shiny gold C3PO (and I wonder if the folks at Disney might have something to say about that). For this review, Calvin provided a pair of quartz models. The Series 1 Spacecraft has a black case with glossy accents, an open frame on the sides, and a grey and yellow dial. The Series 2 Fire Red model has a matte black case with glossy red enamel inserts in the sides, and a black and red dial. 

Both Series 1 and Series 2 cases are PVD black and water resistant to 100m with a sapphire crystal, engraved case back, and a signed screw-down crown. The chiseled chronograph pushers are grooved at the top and decorated with a triangular pattern that mimics the case sides. The Series 1 Spacecraft is brushed north to south with polished sides and bezel. The Series 2 case on the Fire Red is sandblasted for a matte finish all around and wears shiny red inserts in the frame. 
The Velocita's shape is its most arresting feature. In classic bullhead fashion, the crown and chronograph buttons are positioned at the top. The case is a two-piece affair consisting of a round central barrel bracketed by curved, open frames that form the lugs. Their triangular geometry was inspired by motorcycle frames. A series of tiny screws fixes the sides to the center case while larger screws secure the strap. It is a massive affair. The 45mm width and 52mm length are fairly large on their own, but the real kick is the thickness. Both the case and lugs are asymmetric, measuring over 17mm at the bottom and a whopping 22mm at the top, canting the entire unit 30 degrees upward. It cuts an imposing figure, but does it work? Well, that depends.
On the wrist, it is undeniably huge. The curvature of the case and lugs helps it wrap around even a modest wrist like mine. Still, a 22mm thick watch is going to look big on almost anyone. It is top heavy, but the crocodile embossed leather strap is engineered to balance it out. It is 50/135mm with the short end at the bottom and tail at the top so it wraps under your wrist, placing the overlap nearer the shallow end of the watch. It secures with a signed deployant clasp decorated with the framework design.

You can see this watch from space, and indeed I believe that is the point, but there is another part to the equation. A bullhead is designed to be used as a hand-held timer, so you must evaluate it off your wrist as well. With the Velocita in your palm and your index finger and thumb on the big pushers, its size and shape make a lot more sense as it is comfortable to hold and easy to operate.  
The central barrel of the case is about 42mm wide and has only a slim bezel so there is plenty of room on the dial and every bit of it is occupied. The 3520.D's crown-up orientation places the registers at 9 and 3 instead of their usual 12 and 6. It has a 30-minute totalizer and small seconds. The central second hand is color-keyed and runs with the chronograph. Subdial hands are white. White subdial indices are on raised rings for some added dimension. All other elements are printed. You will need to keep your timing runs confined to daylight hours as there is no luminous material anywhere on the dial. The 1/5th-second chapter index looks cool but serves no function on the quartz as it can only jump the second hand in one-second increments. A minute track rings the outer edge of the dial. Moving inward, you are greeted by large angular numbers. The 9 and 3 have been wisely eliminated and the numbers are either filled (Red Flame) or edged (Spacecraft) with the accent color. The CJR logo occupies the 12 o'clock position, and this is where the layout starts to go overboard. 
The brand is displayed in three places on the dial: the CJR logo at top center, Calvin Jr. printed below, and then the logo reappears on the counterweight. Any one of those would have informed us of its maker. Three times is too much. At the bottom of the dial, we have the model name in a color block, "1/5 Sec. Chrono," and in tiny print below "10 ATM Water Resist." It is crowded, unnecessary, and with regard to the fifths, inaccurate. A 4:30 date window squeezes in as well, snipping off the 5. I am becoming less tolerant of dates on chronographs. These watches already carry so much information it is almost impossible to incorporate a window without it looking like an afterthought. The black-on-white wheel arguably coordinates with the white in the registers and indices, but it still sticks out uncomfortably against the grey and yellow on the Spacecraft. It works better on the Flame Red where it can play into the black-on-white model name block. Either way, it would have been better left off. 

The hands echo the same triangular motif of the lug frames and the chronograph buttons. They are skeletons on the Flame Red and filled on the Spacecraft. Like the repetition of the logo, it looks like it is trying too hard. If you consider the motorcycle analogy, many bikes use their exposed chassis as a design element, but they don't repeat the pattern on the gas tank, seat, and hand grips. Unlike some chronographs I have sampled, the Velocita remains functional and legible, but it is not grounded. It lacks a strong, solid element to anchor the dial. Simpler hands would have accomplished this. Less branding and text would have created some welcome negative space. The elimination of the date and logo counterweight alone would have balanced it a bit. 
I can appreciate the Velocita as a design exercise. The exoskeleton case is a novel idea that works very well on the open sided Series 1, although I wish it were scaled down to something closer to 42mm. I also like the color combinations provided, and again I must give the nod to the Series 1 Spacecraft with its cool yellow on grey combination. I think CJR has correctly identified its market and will likely be successful with its campaign. Fans of big, brash, bullheads like the Bomberg Bolt-68 may be tempted by the more affordable Velocita. As for me, I think there are some good ideas here, and I am curious to see what CJR does next, but the Velocita is not quite there. 

Pro: Unique case geometry.
Con: Excessive.
Sum: Intriguing, but not my cup of tea.  

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