Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Vratislavia Conceptum Heritage Chrono

The 1970's are back, baby! 

Ok, maybe not everything from the 70's. Leisure suits, 8-tracks, and flyaway collars are still consigned to the dustbin of history, but the better aspects of that era are very much a part of contemporary fashion. The disco years were the trailing end of mid-century modern design and were marked by a bold use of color, experimentation with form, and the occasional psychedelic excess. In the watch world, we saw the rise of the Omega Flightmaster, Seiko 6139, and second-generation Heuer Carrera.
Polish watchmaker Vratislavia Conceptum has drawn upon this rich history to create the Heritage Chrono, a barrel-cased racing chronograph now entering its third production series. Guest Bum GUTuna kindly lent me his bright yellow series 2 for this review and it is a beauty that perfectly captures the swinging style of a classic 70's chronograph for only $190 USD. This model is now sold out but then nearly identical series 3 is underway. I will note the differences. 
The stainless steel case wears smaller than you might imagine. I would not believe the listed dimensions until I brought out my calipers. Sure enough, it measures 42mm wide, 48mm long, and 13mm thick. The case tapers to stubby 20mm lugs and has a pronounced curve in profile as well, creating a lean, organic shape. The upper surface has a sunburst brush while the case sides are polished. A polished beveled edge runs the length of the case, slimming it even further. A push-pull crown and chrono buttons sprout from the right side exactly as you would expect. They are polished and coin-edged but unsigned. The case back is similarly unadorned. This seems a shame to me and apparently I was not the only one. The series 3 will bear the image of a 1960's sports car. 
The bezel wears an aggressive dental edging that is also polished. It looks great and begs to be turned, but don't bother, the black aluminum insert has a tachymeter scale so it is fixed in place. Inside is a sapphire crystal with an inner anti-reflective coating. The watch is water resistant to 100m. 

Lovely as the case may be, the dial steals the show. It is a bright chrome yellow that I associate with C6 and C7 Corvette LeMans racers. A white index surrounds the dial, coordinating with the white subdials at 9 and 3 o'clock, and the 6 o'clock date window. Polished wedges mark the hours. The pencil hands are also polished, beveled, and lume filled. The sweep hand is a red needle and the sub dial indicators are similarly shaped, but more triangular. Regular Time Bum readers know I am a stickler for font. Too many micros blow it in this department, diminishing otherwise solid layouts with oversized, unimaginative, or just plain ugly typeface. Not so on the Heritage Chrono. The text is rendered in a wide, lightweight, tastefully stylized font that is sized in proportion to the dial. Well done Vratislavia Conceptum, very well done indeed.
By examining the dial, you might have already surmised that there is a Seiko/Time Module VK64 MechaQuartz behind it. This quartz hybrid engages a mechanical module for chronograph timing allowing 1/5th-second timing with the sweep hand. A 60-minute dial is on the left and a 24-hour register is on the right.  Series 3 models will not have the Seiko, but will run a Miyota 6s21 quartz instead. This unit is not quite as sexy as the MechaQuartz, but it is perfectly sound, trading 1/5th seconds timing for 1/4th, and the 24-hour register for a more practical small seconds. 
The yellow and black combination is stunning, but it gets some competition from its stablemate, which has a bottle green sunray dial, a matching bezel insert, quite and orange accents and pips. Unlike the yellow model, the green Heritage Chrono has white blocks surrounding the sub dials, much like the Tudor of the same name. The series 3 versions are offered in a gray dial with red accents and black bezel, and a blue dial with a matching bezel, orange accents, and white color blocks. Of course a racing watch needs a racing strap, so all Heritage Chronos are supplied with a perforated black leather rally strap that is lined to match the dial and secured with a signed 18mm buckle.

The Vratislavia Conceptum Heritage Chrono is certainly appealing in photos, but once I wore one I was swept away. They have absolutely nailed the desired look and created a watch that is as easy on your wallet as it is on your wrist. Series 3 pre-orders are priced at 700PLN, or $190 USD, exactly the same as the series 2. If you are looking for a classic race timer that won't break the bank, this is the watch for you.

Pro: All the best elements of retro racing design.
Con: Series 2 lacks crown and case back detail (rectified in Series 3).
Sum: Immense appeal, outstanding price. The Time Bum highly approves.

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