Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Gruppo Gamma Mk I Peacemaker

Since 2013, Gruppo Gamma has made affordable, vintage-inspired watches. One of the things I have always liked about the brand is the way they use familiar design language (often, but not always, from Panerai) to create unique models. Some Gruppo Gamma watches take their cues from historic models, others from rare prototypes, but the result is a fresh spin on a familiar theme. The Peacemaker, which I sampled in prototype form, is perhaps their best yet.

I first got to play with one at the November 2017 DC Microbrand Meetup. I was manning a table with several fine microbands on it, all of which were getting their fair share of attention from the crowd, but I noticed that many folks were coming back later to get a better look at the Peacemaker. I'm pretty sure a couple of those folks went home an placed orders. After giving it some wrist time myself, I totally understand why. This is a truly charming piece.

Gruppo Gamma says they based the Peacemaker's design on a rare 1950's prototype that they then tweaked and updated. Its case is vaguely like that of a Panerai Luminor without crown guards and a touch softer around the edges. The watch measures 44mm wide, 52mm long, and 11.5mm thick (14.5mm when you include the tall sapphire box crystal). I've owned and/or reviewed several watches with this style case, and tried on the original article on several occasions. Regardless of variation, I would not have said that any one of them wears small. If anything, the broad cushion shape and sharply defined edges that epitomize that case also make it appear to occupy every square millimeter of your wrist. This is not the case for the Peacemaker, where softer edges, short lugs, and a brightly polished surface mask its size. Mirror polishes are usually reserved for dress watches, but the Peacemakers is a capable tool. That chunky, signed crown screws down and seals, as does the exhibition caseback, providing 200m water resistance. 

The crown is particularly important on this watch because you will be winding it every 42 hours or so. Yes, Gruppo Gamma went old school mechanical on this one, installing a 21.6k bph Miyota 8N33. I applaud the choice. There just aren't that many hand crankers in the affordable end of the market, and there should be. Few things convey vintage character like a hand wound movement. It is not a bad looking unit either, as the view through the caseback clearly shows. It may not be all blue and gold decorations back there, but it is nicely finished and a little reassuring to see the balance wheel working, particularly since this is a two-handed watch so there is no second hand out front to show the watch is in motion. 

The dial is a sandwich of black, stencil cut markers over a layer of Old Radium SuperLuminova. (They had a lovely blue dial too, but that one is already sold out). Two dial layouts are offered, a conventional Panerai style with Arabic numbers at 12, 3, 6, and 9, or a "Semi-Cali" with markers in those positions and numbers in the remainder, both with old minute and hour hands. I had the Semi-Cali, and I'd say it is the hands-down winner. Not that there is anything wrong with the other layout, it's just that we have seen it before and we've seen it a lot. I much prefer the more distinctive military look.  As you can see in the photo, the lume is strong with this one. 

The Peacemaker comes on a 24mm leather strap and signed Pre-V buckle. It is a comfortable, attractive slice of leather, secured with a set of screw bars through the drilled lugs. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing this. Its short length meant it fit the meager real estate on my 6.5" wrist, and I was even able to sneak it under a shirt cuff one day, but being a big watch, it still commanded an imposing presence. Bigger guys would carry it off much better, and might even pair it with a suit given its somewhat dressy bend. 

I loved the Peacemaker. It is a watch that grabs your attention and keeps you hooked. Vintage touches like that gorgeous box crystal, creamy lume, and hand-wound heart really won me over. I am looking for small watches these days, but I think I could happily add this 44mm gentleman to my collection. The Peacemaker sells for $599 and is in the process of selling out. Gruppo Gamma offered the watch in two sunray blue dials which are both sold out. The matte black dials won't be around much longer either. For more information or to order your own, see gruppogammawatches.com. ⬩

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