Defakto Transit

Every so often, a watch will sneak up on me. I'll see it and think, "Oh, that's nice," but then, as I wear it, I begin to notice its details, balance, and versatility and realize that what had at first seemed merely pleasant, is truly something special. Such was the case with the Defakto Transit I recently borrowed for this review. "Oh yeah, the German modernist watches," I thought, "that'll be cool." After about a week of wrist time with the Transit, I must admit that I had wildly underrated Defakto. This is a damn near perfect watch. 

Defakto Transit

In 2009, Rafael Ickler founded Defakto in Berlin in 2009, adding his own unique branch to nearly a century of Ickler family watchmaking. While the brand is a one-man operation, the components are manufactured in Ickler's Pforzheim factory. The brand is young and fresh, but its roots go very deep indeed.

Defakto Transit

A quick look at the Defakto catalog reveals a clear design theme throughout the line. The watches are clean and sparse with black and white graphics that maximize legibility. It is impossible to miss the Bauhaus influence. There is nothing fussy here, each piece is highly functional, which is not to say they aren't attractive too. It's just that their beauty conveys a certain gravity as well. 

Defakto Transit

Raphael created the Transit to celebrate Defakto's tenth anniversary, and he knocked it right out of the park, winning the 2020 German Design Award for product design and luxury goods. Its three-piece, stainless steel case is 40mm wide, 44mm long, and 9.8mm thick from the case back to the crystal. The sides are flat but the way its curved bezel meets that tall, sapphire dome lends it an almost sensual roundness while the matte black dial, anti-reflective coating on the crystal, and fine matte brushing all around sober it up. The lugs are short and tightly tapered; the crown, modest and unsigned. After all, if you are making a minimalist watch, why would you add extraneous decoration? I'd describe it as a modern incarnation of a traditional 1960's vintage case. 

Defakto Transit

Rafael describes the Transit as "extravagant" which should give you an idea of just how seriously he takes minimalism because at first glance it is quite the opposite: there are no numbers, everything is printed in white, the hands are simple batons, the only text on the dial is the brand name, and even that is optional. Like many things, extravagance is relative. 

Defakto Transit

But take a second look, the Transit's curved hands are black and filled with lume, but only about ¾ of the way down the shaft and they have no tails, so all three appear to float over the black dial. Now check out the markers, long and thick. They are far bolder than those of other Defakto watches. The hours are fatter than the minutes, and you will notice the hands are exactly the same shape as their markers, which makes the even slimmer red second hand seem that much sharper. Turn off the lights and, boom! It's SuperLuminova time; light red for the second hand and BGW9 for the rest. Again, not at all what I was expecting. Would I call this meticulous attention to detail extravagant? I don't know, but it is mighty impressive. 

Defakto Transit lume

Inside is a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic. You know the one: 25 jewels, 28.8k bph, Incabloc protection, etc. It's hard to find fault with this choice. The movement is beloved by watch nerds everywhere and easily serviced. Wave to it through the display case back and move on. While you are back there, you can appreciate the Limited Edition engraving, "10 Jahre Defakto Uhren Manufaktur." You will also notice the 3 ATM water resistance rating, which is incorrect. It is actually 5 ATM (50m) but this early sample had an outdated case back. Given that you are unlikely to take your Transit diving, 50m is more than enough, and well worth it for such a slim case. 

Defakto Transit case back

If I have a nit to pick with this watch, it's the strap. Black, unstitched, and thin, it is a sound choice for such a watch as this, but so very bland. A more interesting choice of leather or a bit of black stitching would have improved it considerably. Also, while I appreciate the signed buckle, I wish it matched the head. But that is it. That is all I can bring myself to complain about; the strap could be more exciting. That's it.

The Defakto sells for €925, or €777 ($869 US) for buyers who don't have to pay VAT. It is not cheap, but for the money, you are getting a brilliant modern design, top-notch construction, and a watch you might very well fall in love with. For more, see defakto-watches.com

Defakto Transit strap

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