Riding the Rails with the G. Gerlach PM36
Back in October, John brought you word of the new G. Gerlach PM36 series. Now, we’re a few months down the road, and we are able to bring you our hands-on impressions of this beauty of a railroad watch.
As John mentioned in his writeup, the G. Gerlach PM36 series is based on two trains created by Polish manufacturer FABLOK. These were known as the PM36-1 (which had an aerodynamic fairing) and the PM36-2 (which had a more traditional look). Fittingly, these are the model designations that are carried over to the watches; our review unit (with the white dial) is the PM36-1. If you ever forget which train your watch is honoring, you can check the case back, as the two models have two different images etched there.
When I got the watch in, you could tell the cardboard box had had a rough travel over the sea. No matter, though, because inside is a rather nice (and solidly-built) wooden box, held shut with a magnetic enclosure. When I opened that box, I was struck by the watch in a way the promotional pictures really did not do. At first, it was just the great font they used for the numerals, which really does give it that vintage pocket watch feel.
But as I spent more time with the G. Gerlach PM36, I realized that the dial had a sheen of it’s own, something that could not be attributed just to the sapphire crystal. I spoke to the brand, and wouldn’t you know it – the dial is indeed an enamel dial. Totally fitting for the era it is honoring, but totally unexpected from a watch that is not from a luxury brand. Along with the sheen, there’s a richness that comes to the dial, something that more than makes up for the dial itself being a wide, flat expanse.
This is because the 43mm G. Gerlach PM36 has a fairly slender coin-edge bezel, which means the dial is quite large. This fits with the idea of coming from an era where watches transitioned from pockets to wrists, and legibility is of course no problem on a dial this clean and large. I do wish the cathedral handset was a touch wider for the scale, but their lengths are spot-on. Rounding out the dial, you have the sub-seconds register taking up residence at the 6 o’clock position, under which you have the words “Made in Poland” hiding in plain sight.
With a case this big, you might be wondering what movement (in this case, a hand-wound one) is driving the G. Gerlach PM36. While there are brands out there refurbishing vintage pocket watch movements, they have instead gone with something quite a bit more modern – a Seagull ST3620 (which is based off of the Unitas 6497/6498). In the time I spent with the watch, the movement was not appreciably losing or gaining time, and the hand-wound power reserve easily made it through the day and into the next, with plenty left to spare.
For the review, our G. Gerlach PM36 came with a mesh bracelet, which went quite well with the polished finish of the case. Let’s not underestimate the looks of that polish, either. When you have a 43mm case that stands 13mm tall, you’ve got a lot of surface that can catch the light. On the black dial, you get a sand-blasted case, which also looks quite nice. Almost a shame you can’t choose which one you want with your dial choice. Regardless, the bracelet went well, and I found it to be quite comfortable. These mesh bracelets generally fit the wrist quite well (as this one does) and are all-but-infinitely adjustable, so you can get the exact fit you want.
Also of benefit with that bracelet is the fact that the G. Gerlach PM36 carries a 100m WR rating. No mean feat considering that large crown is not a screw-down crown – it just slides into position 0, and there you go. That does make winding the watch a cinch (even if you’re wearing it), and of course adjusting the time is just as easy.
If you could not tell from the article, I did rather enjoy my time with the $331 G. Gerlach PM36. It has a lot of wrist presence without being overbearing, and brings some excellent vintage touches to the party. It does work well in a variety of situations, though if it were a touch slimmer (say, 11mm rather than 13mm) then it would be an easy shoe-in for your favorite dress watch. Being a Polish brand, you are not likely to find these to handle in person, but I do not think you will be disappointed if you like the vintage style of railroad watches. G. Gerlach has been producing quite a variety of watches, and this latest, the G. Gerlach PM36, I think is my favorite to-date from them. gerlach.org.pl
- Brand & Model: G. Gerlach PM36
- Price: $331 (on the bracelet), $307 on the leather strap
- Who’s it for?: You like vintage looks, particularly enamel dials
- Would I wear it?: Yes, yes I would. This is a beauty, and it does quite a lot in an simple way
- What I’d change: I wouldn’t mind the handset being a touch wider. Oh, and the option to select the case finish for either dial.
- The best thing about it: That dial – between the enamel and the great font for those numerals, it is indeed a looker
- Seagull ST3620 movement
- Case size: 43x52x13 mm
- Case made from surgical stainless steel 316L, polished or sandblasted
- Waterproof: WR100
- White or black face
- Luminous hands and face
- Sapphire glass, one side covered with anti-reflective coating
- Leather or mash bracelet, 22mm lug-to-lug size