Vapaus Veli

Article by Guest Bum GUTuna, photos by The Time Bum.

My tumultuous affair with the Vapaus Veli, the debut project from Vapaus Watches, began in May of 2015. Brothers Oliver and Rudi Laing revealed their concept for the Veli on the Watch Concepts & Designs forum on Watchuseek and sought feedback. Their stated purpose: “The design, and the brand, are inspired by the stunning watches of the 1940s-1950s, with their textured yet minimal dials, domed crystals, polished metal, and beautifully engineered movements.” It was love at first sight. Vapaus, which means “freedom” in Finnish, had made an early statement in the nascent trend in hand-wind watches. Their design was a 38mm case in highly polished 316L stainless steel. Wire lugs extending from the case. A total thickness of under 10mm! A design that effectively recalled the beautiful Peseux-driven watches of that earlier era. 



The brothers presented four colors of dial: space black, ice white, slate grey, and deep blue. The dials would come with the owner’s choice of two possible handsets. The Veli 1950 with classic alpha hands or the Veli 2050 with Vapaus’ signature syringe hands. I followed the debate for the next year between devotees of each handset, preferring the updated hands of the 2050. I felt they captured the spirit of those vintage designs in contemporary form. 
The movement that would drive the watch took the longest to define. Vapaus settled on the Sellita SW215-1 (ElaborĂ© grade) hand-wound pulsing along at 28,800bph. My initial enthusiasm for the project crashed. The designers were dedicated to a Swiss made watch, and I was concerned that paying the premium for a Swiss movement would push the offering price too high and not offer good value. And the initial descriptions of the retail price seemed to confirm my fears. A design I loved, but would it be worth a retail price of £699 ($875)? Then, shortly before the project’s debut on Kickstarter, a politically-driven watch miracle! The citizens of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union sending the value of the British pound crashing versus my native currency, the US dollar. Down came the Kickstarter cost and I pledged for a Veli 2050 with the Deep Blue dial.


The arrival of the watch swung my feelings back toward my initial passion. The designers worked very hard to find the right high-domed sapphire crystal, correctly sensing it was the key to the entire design. This special highly-concave crystal combined with a slightly convex dial sends light splashing across the gorgeous blue dial in interesting ways. When the designers named the dial “Deep Blue” it was not hyperbole. The dial has a real depth of color that reaches a black at some angles and royal blue at others. The extra-long sweeping second hand overlaps the well-detailed indices with the fat part of the syringe minute hand just touching each hour index. Around the outer track, numerals in modernist font mark the seconds at each index. The entire dial ensemble is topped off by a bespoke color-matched date wheel…nice.


In a move that will please many dedicated watch lovers, Vapaus has eschewed a display case back in favor of a thinner profile and provided a graceful figure as custom case back art. The 20mm lugs bear a French calf leather strap with Vapaus signed buckle. The whole package arrives in a lacquered padded box bearing the Vapaus logo.


There is still part of me that wishes that Vapaus had opted for a Miyota hand-wound movement and kept the cost of the watch down. But this reviewer will readily admit that he values the Swiss made label far less than the great majority of watch lovers. And it is hard to argue with the overall result. This is a wonderful watch. Considering this is the debut watch from Vapaus, it makes the accomplishment even greater. It often takes a couple models for even the best microbrands to reach this level of refinement in design and execution. Perhaps more importantly, Vapaus accomplished what they set out to do. This is not a one for one copy of what a watch was in 1950. This is a contemporary watch that captures the spirit of what made those watches great. 

The Vapaus Veli 1950 and 2050 can be purchased for £699 at vapaus.co ⬩



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