Back in March, I posted a preview of Ventus Watches, a micro brand created by Elshan Tang of Zelos watches, and his friend Shane, a fellow collector and enthusiast. They had just launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Caspian, a line of four aviation-inspired watches that included three-hand automatics and MechaQuartz chronographs, and I was rather keen on them. Apparently, 636 backers agreed with me, sweeping the watch into production. The Caspian line is now available directly from Ventus for just $249. They provided a model C-01 for this review.
Elshan has a real knack for effective packaging. The Ventus arrives in a simple, unfinished wooden box carved with the company logo. The watch is nestled inside a hollowed wooden insert. Underneath, you will find an oiled leather, two pocket watch folder containing a leather Zulu. Like the watch itself, it is deceptively simple and exceedingly clever.
Like the rest of the Caspian series, the C-01 has a diver's style case, domed sapphire crystal, an engraved crown, and 100 meters water resistance. It is distinguished by its brushed brass construction and sandwich style, Type-A flieger dial featuring dagger shaped hands and an "umlaut" navigator's triangle at 12. The dial is perhaps my favorite element on the watch. Its traditional military layout is further enhanced by stencil-cut numbers and unencumbered by text or logo. It is offered in either BWG9 or orange SuperLuminova. I thought the orange would complement the brass and provide a nod to the watch's vintage inspiration, and I was right. The "orange" is closer to the tan color of aged radium, pleasantly warming its appearance without trying too hard. It also does not try too hard to glow - the luminance is just about non-existant, but the daytime appearance makes it worthwhile.
The case is 42mm wide, 50mm long and 13.5mm thick, which is fairly standard for a modern tool watch. Some owners report that it appears much larger on the wrist, but I disagree. The smooth bezel is more substantial than the thin lip found on a typical flieger, thus requiring a smaller dial. To my eye, the result wears true to size, unlike the expansive dials on traditional pilot's watches that tend to make them look one size larger. The flieger dial and brass diver case are an unlikely combination, but all works perfectly, the slab-sided case with its chunky crown and tapered guards enhance the no-nonsense bearing of the pilot's dial. One look, and there is no doubting the Caspian's tool watch credentials. My only gripe is that it is difficult to get a fingernail under the push-pull crown. You need to pinch it to pull it out, and it has only a few deep grooves for texture. I got the hang of it after a few tries, but a little scallop on the underside would have made it much easier.
The C-01 uses a Seiko NH35. This is a hacking and hand winding variant of the venerable 7s26 automatic with 24 jewels and a 21.6k bph oscillation rate. I have sampled this unit in several watches, and I appreciate its rugged construction and quiet rotor.
Buyers will get their Caspian with two 22mm straps: a buttery soft leather Zulu and a tapered black sailcloth, both of which look great. I wore the sample on the sailcloth for several days, finding it to be quite comfortable and far more versatile than the undeniably casual Zulu. I also liked its signed, brass colored buckle. I was a bit surprised, however when the keeper began to fray. I am not at all hard on my watches, and even less so with review samples, but the friction of a desktop was enough to cause a halo of loose threads.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Caspian and found myself reaching for it day after day. The case is just large enough for some tool watch swagger, but not too big to wear under a buttoned shirt cuff. The watch may be neutral, but it is in no way boring. If you want maximum night visibility, you should order the BWG9 option, but I preferred the mellower aesthetic of the orange with brass. If this combination doesn't grab you, the Caspian is also available in gunmetal stainless steel and MechaQuartz chronograph variants. Just about every aspect of the watch hit a sweet spot for me – especially the price. All models in the Caspian line sell for $249 USD, including international shipping.
Pro: Handsome and capable.
Con: Weak orange lume, frizzy sailcloth.