While I’ve had a few languages represented by the watches that cross my desk, I’ve never had one with French on it come in for a closer look. When you add in the fact that watches with brown dials are far from common, then you know we are in for a rather rare treat in todays review of the G.Gagnebin & Cie Karaktero.
Now, like me, you probably have not heard of the brand before. They’re based in Switzerland, and actually has roots in the Jura region going back to 1911. Now, the 4th generation of the Gagnebin family has started things back up, bring watches back to the forefront for the brand in 2013. If you’d like to know more about their history, check out this page. So, what is the French connection? It is actually due to the language being spoken by the family, and it of course helps to separate the brand a bit from the others in Switzerland as well.
That covers the brand – what of the watch? The one we were sent over, from the Karaktero lineup, is something that I feel splits the line between a dress watch, and something more, well, business casual. Had the 43mm case been polished, then it would be a full-on dress watch in my book. As it is, I think this allows the watch to be a bit more of a chameleon. I found it perfectly at home while at the office or even with a suit over the weekends, even with the less shiny surfaces of the case and leather strap. Perhaps it’s relative svelteness (it’s only 9.5mm thick) helped in that regard.
When going through the options Gagnebin had on tap, I specifically opted for the brown dialed variant (there is also a black dial, in either the stainless or a PVD finish), as it’s something that you don’t see that often, for whatever reason. I rather liked the chocolate hue, especially with the metallic undertones – it’s not a sunburst effect, but its in that same sort of family. It also managed to catch quite a few favorable comments while I was wearing it, so I know I’m not the only one out there who appreciates the color.
Speaking of color, you do have a few others that enter into the mix. You of course have the white of the luminant material, and then you have some slivers of black popping in as well – around the hands, and then from the date wheel. I think this was a fairly safe route to go, as it could be tough to match the color of the dial well, and this then allows the components to play nicely on the other dial in the lineup as well. That said, I wonder if future versions could perhaps play around with, say, a polished blue handset for a colorful contrast.
Or, if we’re really dreaming up things, I’ve got a totally different idea. The central seconds hand is nice, and the applied star logo up at 12 o’clock is nice and dimensional. Why not combine the two? You wouldn’t miss much from the central seconds hand being gone, and you’d have quite the play of light coming from that star spinning around. Sure, sure, it would require some customization to the Sellita SW 300 movement (or perhaps a different movement altogether), but it would definitely make this a watch that stands out from the crowd, no? But I digress – and with those last few paragraphs, it might seem like I’m down on the watch – and really, I’m not. The overall fit and finish was quite nice, and the watch just plain worked well for me in my daily and weekend routines.
We have kept our focus on the front of the watch, let’s flip it over for a moment. On the case back, you’ve got a small sight window (through which you can see the balance wheel at work), some details of the watch (in French, of course), and an engraving of a lion fighting with a snake. Oh, and you’ve got the 5 screws oriented to again call to mind the star logo of the brand. Simple and understated, and quite nice for a part of a watch most people rarely see.
On the wrist, the Karaktero is a comfortable watch. The strap presents a clean look against the case with it’s curved ends, and flexes well around the wrist. Given where they had to drill the lug holes, however, you may end up with a bit of overhang on the lugs, depending on how big (or small) your wrist is. For me, I did end up with a bit more of an overhang than I would like, and it did look a bit odd (aside from allow the lugs to potentially get caught up on something). I think this is largely due to the positioning of the strap to eliminate the gap between it and the case, so addressing this would likely mean some rework of the case and perhaps strap.
Aside from that lug/strap issue, this really was a rather nice watch to wear. It’s cleanly executed and shows up (at least in this variant) in a color palette we don’t commonly see. If you’re looking for a nicer watch for the office, or perhaps just enjoy French things, this might be an option for you. Pricing starts at $1,189 for the stainless steel models, and and goes to $1,363 for the PVD version – firmly in entry-level luxury watch territory. g-gagnebin.ch
- Brand & Model: G. Gagnebin & Cie Karaktero
- Price: $1,189 (stainless steel) / $1,363 (PVD)
- Who’s it for?: This is for someone looking for a dressy three-hander that offers something a bit different
- Would I wear it?: Very likely, yes, as the color palette works well with my wardrobe. That said, I’d have to see if the lug/strap issue noted above bothered me over the long run or not
- What I’d change: Position the lug holes out a bit further to eliminate the overhang
- The best thing about it: The well-executed use of brown
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