CJR Commander

CJR does not make predictable watches. Their first effort, the Velocita, was a huge bullhead chronograph in a spaceframe case. The second was the sleek and inventive Airspeed regulator, with its unique, wafer-thin case sandwiched between two massive crystals that effectively serve as the outer structure of the case. Now, they are introducing the flamboyant Commander, featuring a Miyota skeleton movement under an Airspeed-style dome.


In many ways, the Commander is an evolution of the Airspeed. Like the earlier model, its front and rear mineral crystals fit right to the edge, although the Commander's case is thicker and more conventional than the Airspeed's slim steel ring. Also, like the Airspeed, the expansive domes allow the pop of color from the O-ring seals to show through, turning these normally hidden, strictly utilitarian components into a unique design feature.


CJR initially used mineral crystal on the Airspeed prototypes, then switched to Hestilite for production. I thought this was a good idea as the domes would be susceptible to impact damage that could be polished out of acrylic. It also had the added benefit of imparting a warm vintage look. According to the press information, they have reverted to mineral glass for the Commander, so I must repeat the criticism from my earlier review. A crystal this exposed is bound to pick up nicks and scratches and there will be no way to address them short of replacement.


The case has polished sides and the tops of the lugs are brushed. Considering that it measures 45mm wide, nearly 51mm long, and over 16mm thick, you would expect it to be a big honking thing, but those dramatic see-through curves mask its size rather convincingly. A thicker barrel and conventional lugs make the Commander appear larger on the wrist than the slimmer, wire-lugged Airspeed, but only slightly. The push-pull crown is conical, wider at the base and narrowing to a clipped-off flat top that is unsigned. Operation is easy. Water resistance is just 30m/100feet.


There isn't much of a dial on the Commander, but what exists is intricate. Two sections of honeycomb mesh bridge a perimeter ring with applied markers and a recessed minute index. Beneath that is a slotted, semi-circular border for the 24-hour register and a ring around the small seconds bearing the names of the watch and its movement It all frames a decorated, modified, and skeletonized Miyota 82S7 automatic (21 jewels, 21.6k bph). Some of the ornamentation is expected, like the Geneva stripes and custom rotor, but then it gets a little weird. A transparent 24-hour disk is marked in red, and the small seconds disk is a gold turbine fan. Both registers are accented with asymmetrical black and white windows with gold screws. It's not terribly functional, but it's definitely different.


Speaking of not functional, if you look closely where the dome meets the case, you will discover a seconds track that appears to be printed directly on the case. Between the crystal's edge distortion and the red O-ring's reflection, it is nearly illegible; however, it doesn't matter because there is no second hand and the index markers are miles from the minute hand. You couldn't use it if you wanted to. I have no idea why they did this.


Although secondary functions are compromised, primary timekeeping is not. The handset is offbeat; semi-skeletonized rocket shapes filled with SuperLuminova and tipped in red. Funky as they may be, they are also highly legible, and even at night.


The Commander comes on a 22mm matte black leather strap, thick and straight with a single short row of red stitching at the top and matching red paint on its edges. It has a signed buckle and quick release pins. I found it to be comfortable and thought it worked well on the watch but given the Commander's tech-fashion leanings I might be inclined to try something more tailored, perhaps in a carbon fiber pattern to play off the aviation theme.

After a week with the Commander, I still love the twin dome case, both for its originality and its stunning good looks. It is one of the most innovative and striking designs I've seen. On the other hand, the dial is far too fussy and fanciful for my liking. SevenFriday fans who are looking for a different sort of fashion statement will likely love it, but I'm still hoping CJR will one day pair their unique case construction with a more traditional dial.

The CJR Commander launches on Kickstarter July 11. Super Early Bird prices start at $449, Early Birds get in for $475. For more information or to place an order, see the CJR Commander Kickstarter page or http://commander.cjrwatches.com.

[Update 7/18/17: Now that the Commander has surpassed its funding goal, CJR will give each backer a free NATO strap. They are also introducing two new rubber and nylon strap options, as well as three new color combinations: Storm Grey, Sunset Bronze, and Frost White. See image below.]


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