Vertex watches was “re-founded” by Don Cochrane of London, whose grandfather Claude Lyons (also of London) originally founded Vertex watches in the early 20th century. The brand’s rebirth indeed has a romantic twist, but the formula of bringing back a vintage timepiece is tried and true. Here is a guy who learned his grandfather started a now defunct watch brand with a neat military history. Just when vintage-style timepieces are in, and given the fact that producing timepieces in Switzerland has theoretically never been as democratized (if you have the money), this guy had an opportunity to bring something neat to the market. Did he? Let’s find out what the Vertex M100 limited edition “need to know someone” watch is all about.
As I understand it, the original Vertex was brought to market in 1944 as one of twelve companies selected by the British government to produce specially-designed military-specification timepieces. These watches were sold to the military, and issued to soldiers – who were not typically allowed to keep them. The “broad arrow” symbol on the dial under the logo (which isn’t unique to the Vertex M100) was the indicator that something was “property of the crown.”
Apparently, several thousand original Vertex military watches were made, and after World War II, the brand continued on for a while (until the early quartz crisis). When Mr. Cochrane decided to bring the brand back, it was probably an easy decision to go with this original field watch design. The military-spec history means that it is a real tool watch, and many men today appreciate sensible retro-style sport watches on their wrist. With that said, the Vertex M100 isn’t just another re-issue of a military watch that was never supposed to be a luxury. Instead, the M100 is a sort of higher-end re-imagination of the original Vertex watch – specifically imagined for watch collectors.
At 40mm wide, the Vertex M100 is larger than its 36mm ancestor, but it wears modestly in a well-constructed brushed steel case. The case alone demonstrates a large attention to detail. Vertex doesn’t claim to be an in-house manufacturer, but they did clearly spend considerable time and resources looking for good Swiss suppliers. This applies to the dial quality, and the overall presentation.
The most common complaint watch enthusiasts will have about the Vertex M100 is the price. I promise this won’t be the most money that the majority of the M100’s owners will have spent on a watch, but they might expect something like this to go for a bit less. With that said, given the production costs (recall, Swiss assembly and suppliers) the Vertex M100 doesn’t seem to have an unethical margin. This is just often the cost of the little guy doing something nice in Switzerland.
If you do like the core design of the M100, I really do think that you’ll like the detailing. The most impressive element is the set of molded, applied numerals that are produced out of solid luminant (made with Super-LumiNova) material. This doesn’t just help give the dial a welcome sense of visual depth, but it also makes the dial easier to read. More so, who doesn’t like three-dimensional luminant? In the dark, the M100 looks really cool – and for watch nerds, that goes a long way. Honestly, the solid lume-material-cut numerals are a clever trick, and one that more brands should consider. Isn’t it time we moved past… lume paint?
No date, and not even an automatic movement… at least a few horological purists I know just got perky. For the subsidiary seconds position and to maintain the original watch’s manual-wound movement, Vertex opted for a Swiss ETA Peseux 7001 mechanical movement. This is basically a smaller-sized pocket watch movement operating at 3Hz (21,600bph) with 42 hours of power reserve. The polished hands don’t harm legibility, and the overall composition of the watch feels like a very good way of enjoying the function and nostalgia of a mid 20th century WWII era military watch design (that sounds amusingly narrow but in the watch world, that is a big category).
Adash of red on the dial works like a charm to make the watch feel just a bit sportier. I have no idea why this works so well, but when done correctly, a dab of red on an otherwise two-color watch dial instantly makes it look cooler. The red is placed in the 12 o’clock hour marker, and works so well because in the M100 dial design, it helps differentiate this hour marker position a bit more to help you visually orientate the dial when looking at it from an angle.
Over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal – glare being a minimal issue (which is good). The M100’s steel case is water resistant to 100m (without a screw-down crown). I actually think the watch could have benefited from a screw-down crown. That would have made it a smidgen sportier, which would have positively fed the soldier fantasy a watch like this helps satisfy in the mind of the wearer. Anyway, only a few people will actually get this watch dirty enough that a screw-down crown would be of use.
Vertex sort of ruins the fantasy in the packaging, which is a black plastic Pelican-style case. These are literally the most common boxes for so many types of sport watches today. Since the Vertex M100 is supposed to be a WWII style watch, why not have packaging that would be era-correct? I sort of wanted to see it laying in a molded velvet pillow inside of a brightly printed paper box. This is their first watch, so I’ll try to be less of a finicky watch nerd. In reality, I very much enjoy this watch, find it appealing, but wanted the brand to have even more time and money to prepare for this launch by going all out with the theme. I’m totally subscribed to the notion that many of these toys are akin to toys (for older boys), so we want the fantasy to go from packaging to product.
Vertex includes both a soft black leather strap as well as a gray-colored NATO-style strap with the M100. Both are totally acceptable options, but also incredibly conservative in their look. Unless you really want a nondescript utility watch look, I would recommend immediately starting to experiment with putting the M100 on various colored straps (20mm lug distance).
Vertex is planning on making future watches, which is a good thing since I feel as though the limited edition of 600 pieces M100 is a great start and a timepiece that will make a lot of watch guys happy. Something a bit weird (but not bad in my opinion) is how Vertex is going about selling the M100. Basically, if you want to buy one, you need to know someone who has one. Owners have a code that they can give out if someone else wants one. About a third of the M100 pieces are sold out. That might sound a bit pretentious and elitist, but Vertex has noble intentions.
Cochrane admits this “referral” sales system might perk some eyebrows – it isn’t about the brand trying to be exclusionary. More so, he feels that it will help Vertex watches stay with watch guys. The idea is that watch collectors know and mingle with other watch collectors. Thus, to keep the relatively limited set of several hundred watches in a like-minded community, Vertex is trying to make sure all the owners are only separated by a few degrees of social connection. Cochrane also admits this strategy is an experiment – but it seems to be working so far. Price for the Vertex M100 watch is £2,500. vertex-watches.com
>Model: M100 Limited Edition
>Size: 40mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: British military history watch fan, or anyone who loves the idea of wearing a new, high-end version of a mid century pedestrian soldier’s watch design.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good emulation of the past in a modern package. Heartfelt brand story but proof of pudding is in the execution of the final product, which is quite impressive. Molded Super-LumiNova hour markers continue to delight.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Price combined with “newer” brand status will make value proposition challenging for some to swallow. Not everyone will be a fan of the “need to know someone” style of buying a watch either.