If you’ve followed my writing for the past few years, you are no doubt aware that one of the reasons I like mechanical watches is the simple fact that they buck the trend of disposable consumerism. In other words, properly maintained, a quality movement can last for decades. This is nowhere more evident when a brand takes an old movement and puts it into a new application. One of the latest ones to do this is the Circula Heritage Automatic.
In some ways, the Circula Heritage Automatic is emblematic of new life writ large. You see, the Circula brand actually started back in 1955, and after being in business for awhile, went dormant. Then, in 2018, the grandson of the founder, Cornelius Huber, brought the brand back to life. Interestingly, one of the watches they’re offering now (the one we’re reviewing today) features a movement utilized back in the 1970’s.
The movements come from PUW, and call Pforzheim home, as does Circula (along with a number of well-regarded watch brands). The movements are what are known as New Old Stock (NOS) which meant they were never built into a watch. In fact, these particular movements never existed as movements. Circula received the components in, and then assembled them up from the first screw – totally in-house. This should mean a particular eye to the quality of the build, something you’d want to keep an eye out on with movements that are 50 years old!
For the Circula Heritage Automatic we spent time with, it was truly a prototype (the watch itself is just up for pre-order). In large part, however, what we saw will be what you’ll have on your wrist, with a few changes:
- Lume will be upgraded to SuperLuminova
- The train bridge on the movement – steel in color on this prototype – will be gilded on the production version
- The limited number engraving on the rotor will be moved up to ensure visibility
You’ll agree, those are fairly minor changes, and in my time with the watch, I wasn’t really picking up on a lot else that would require changing. On the wrist, the Circula Heritage Automatic presents as a classic three-hander, albeit one that is a bit dressier (given the high polish on the case and handset) and a nod to modern tastes (the case comes in a 41mm).
Then again, flip the Circula Heritage Automatic over, and you’ll quickly see that this is not all modern. What struck me was the rotor. First, it is much smaller/narrower than we’re used to seeing these days (note, I did not have any problems with it keeping things wound), and the bearing in the center is much smaller than we’re used to seeing as well. These are just some small details (I’m sure the movement wizards will notice even more) that let you know you’re literally carrying a piece of history on your wrist.
In my (admittedly limited) time with the Circula Heritage Automatic prototype, I did not feel like I had to treat the watch like some aged safe queen. Sure, you don’t want to go banging around with a 50 year-old movement, but for day to day, I was not worried about the watch. The stainless steel case (with a sapphire crystal) seems adequate for protecting the movement, and it has the look of a good every day watch.
Legibility on the dial of the Circula Heritage Automatic is crisp, with long lumed hands that stand out crisply against the deep blue dial, and polished numerals and indices that catch the light. Additionally, you’ve got lumed hands, so you’ve got some decent night-time visibility here as well.
All in all, this is a very admirable effort for the Circula Heritage Automatic. The star of the show is of course the hand-assembled NOS movement, and the overall design seems understated – though perfectly serviceable – in the service of giving attention to the renewed movements. In this case, pricing starts at 748? (approximately $824) for the watch, which includes shipping. This is a pre-order, with deliveries anticipated for January 2020.
There are three dial colors available (blue, black, or white) and a rose-gold finish also for the white dial. And should you like this look, but want something a touch more budget-friendly, they have a Miyota-powered automatic starting at 390?, and a quartz version starting at 139?. In all, a very solid starting range for this brand coming back to life. I like what I see that they’ve done with their heritage and NOS movements, and cannot wait to see what’s next in their journey. circulawatches.com
- Brand & Model: Circula Heritage Automatic
- Price: starting at 748 ?
- Who?s it for? You want a clean German design that gives new life to a movement, instead of sending it to be melted down
- Would I wear it? Absolutely!
- What I?d change: Hmm. Wouldn’t mind the hour/minute pips on the dial being lumed
- The best thing about it: The movement is the obvious answer. Less obvious, I’ll give props to the handset – it’s familiar, but elongated just enough to make it different from what you’re used to.
Tech Specs from Circula
|Build||3-piece, quadruple screwed back with sapphire crystal|
|Material||316L stainless steel|
|Finishing||Polished by hand and brushed horizontally on the sides, embossed crown|
|Crystal||Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, double domed, double anti-reflective and anti-fingerprint coated|
|Water resistance||5 ATM|
|Thickness||11.5 mm (incl. curved glass)|
|Length over lugs||48.5 mm|
|Strap width||20 mm|
|Max. wrist circumference||21 cm|
|Caliber||P.U.W. 1661s (new parts) from Pforzheim, German automatic movement|
|Power reserve||40h max.|
|Bearing stones||21 jewels|
|Special features||Mounted, oiled and regulated in Pforzheim; Incabloc ? shock protection, bidirectional winding rotor|
|Place of production||Pforzheim, quality Made in Germany|
|Dial||Blue matt coated, with sunburst and applied numbers|
|Hands||Curved hour and minute hands filled with Swiss Super-LumiNova ? C1, silver-colored and polished|
|Strap||Leather strap with quick exchange system, plant-tanned (no chemical sealing), handmade in Germany|
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