Somewhere along the way, I became rather drawn to interestng case shapes. Then again, that should not be all that surprising. There is plenty to like about a well-executed, classic case design, as production (and sales) numbers will attest. With the flood of watches from new brands though, how best to stand out? Prior to today’s example, the best one I can point to, in terms of standing out with a new case, was Visitor Watch Co. Well, there’s a new (patented) case out in the world, in the form of the Virata VRT1 series.
First things first, though – what’s up with that brand name, Virata? What better source to go to than the guy behind the brand, Patrick Wacks:
In Italian, VIRATA means to veer or to change direction. I’ve decided to change direction in my life and to pursue this dream of my own watch company. I also believe that the case itself and the overall design changes direction compared to the rest of the industry, which is why I patented it.
Now, on to the watches. At present, there are six models that make up the Virata VRT1 watches (1.1 through 1.6), and we got to spend time with model number six, as well as a yet-to-be-released seventh model, the Virata VRT1.7. Regardless of the varieties (which are simple differences in the dial, strap and case colors, as well as case finishes), there are a lot of similarities between the watches. First up, of course, is that crazy 44mm case. I mean, how many of you have seen an octagon set (well, offset with a twist) into another octagon? If it stopped there, you might cry foul of a Royal Oak rip-off, and I will admit there must be some inspiration there. That is just the bezel, though.
When you get out into the main body of the case, you pick up an additional bevel on the four corners of the case. This is a small thing, but it does dramatically change the look of the watch. On the full-polish Virata VRT1.6, this gives the look and feel of a wireframe made solid. On the PVD-coated Virata VRT1.7, I get more of a feel of a stealth fighter plane, all matte and flat angles. Regardless of how you choose to view it, there is no denying the uniqueness of the overall look of the stainless steel case.
One most of the watches in the Virata VRT1 series, you have a sandwich dial, which I have long been a fan of, given the crisp lines and dimensionality it can bring to the table. It’s also an opportunity for some interesting luminous application. Now, on the Virata VRT1.6, as this is a “dark” lume, it’s not as bright as you might hope for, but it’s still plenty legible. Actually, between the two watches we sampled, the Virata VRT1.6 was overall the more readable of the two. This is due to the silver dial contrasting with the dark numerals and dark handset – at a glance is no problem.
Contrasting that, we have the Virata VRT1.7. Continuing on with the stealth fighter theme, you have a dark (but glossy) handset set over the top of a carbon fiber dial. As you might expect with the CF, we do not have a sandwich dial, and instead have the numerals printed onto the resin layer of the dial. On one hand, this does give you that cool, floating effect that I’ve liked on previous CF dial watches I have handled. As the numerals and indices are white, they also contrast nicely against the dial (though not as sharply as on the Virata VRT1.6). Where things break down a bit in readability is in the handset.
As I mentioned, you have a black handset set on top of a black dial, with small bits of luminous paint at the tips. Yes, there is a difference in finishes, but it is still black-on-black, and that means the contrast is not there. For me, that means at-a-glance readability has gone out the window. Now, this is not something specific to Virata. No, this is something many brands have problems with when they create a stealthy, or blacked-out, watch. It looks cool at first, but those looks are at the sacrifice of utility. How do you fix it? Well, you introduce another color and outline the handset. It can be a thin line, so long as it is something that the eye picks out quickly (say, an orange). Then mix that color into the strap somehow (say, contrast thread), and you have a cohesive look. Then again, maybe that’s just me, as plenty of people must be buying these stealth watches, as they continue to be made.
Regardless of the case finish and dial, wearing the 106g Virata VRT1 was a comfortable affair. I am not going to say that the case looks smaller than the 44mm dimensions might suggest, but it does definitely fit to the wrist like a slightly smaller watch, at least from the top; when viewed from the side, on my wrist, it’s obvious there’s some overhang. This is due to the 22mm lugs that are set into the edges of the case, making for a “lugless” design. This brings the strap in a touch closer, though not as close as if there was some downward curve to things.
Flipping the Virata VRT1 over, and you are treated to an exhibition caseback (with a sapphire crystal to mirror that up front) that shows off the Miyota 9015 movement, the choice of no small number of independent brands. I’ve handled plenty of watches with this movement, and have had no complaints against it. It’s reliable and accurate, and certainly helps keep costs attainable. Speaking of that, the whole series is actually pretty affordable. While list pricing starts at $645 and tops out at $849, the brand is currently running $100 pre-order discounts for the watches (which ends on August 14th, so move quick). For a watch this unique, in terms of looks, I think it’s a fair price that is being asked. Just be ready with an answer when your friends as you what it is you have strapped to your wrist! viratawatches.com
- Brand & Model: Virata VRT1 series
- Price: $645 and up (MSRP)
- Who’s it for?: You want an indie watch that’s affordable, not a diver, and looks rather unlike anything else out there
- Would I wear it?: Yes, but likely in one of the finishes we didn’t review
- What I’d change: Widen the handset a bit
- The best thing about it: The unique case
Tech Specs from Virata
- 44mm width case excluding crown
- 22mm lug width
- 316L Stainless steel
- Leather, perforated strap
- Miyota 9015 Movement, 28,800VPH
- Sapphire Crystal with AR coating
- See-through Sapphire Crystal caseback
- 100M Water Resistance
- One Year Limited International Warranty
- Date function at 4:30
- Super-Luminova Numbers, Hour markers
Limited Edition Quantities
- VRT 1.1 – 100 PCS
- VRT 1.2 – 100 PCS
- VRT 1.3 – 33 PCS
- VRT 1.4 – 33 PCS
- VRT 1.5 – 33 PCS
- VRT 1.6 – 100 PCS
- VRT 1.7 – 50 PCS
- VRT 1.8 – 50 PCS