Announced at Basel World this year, the Tradition family of watches is the Rotary Les Originales new signature collection. Taking design clues from their rich history and looking back at pieces from their heritage, the Les Originales Tradition range is an attempt to marry that history with a modern contemporary feel.
Presented in stainless steel, gold and rose gold, each is powered by an automatic Sellita movement, with double domed sapphire glass, a display case back and a sleek hidden crown. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to test drive the stainless steel variation (GS90161/32) to see if what Rotary had been aiming for had been achieved.
Rotary – The Company
Initially I would like to provide a little background to Rotary, for readers who are less familiar to the brand. Rotary has a strong presence in the UK which stems from its appointment as the official watch supplier to the British army in 1940, this made Rotary a household name within the UK.
Rotary was established at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1895 by Moise Dreyfuss and has a rich pedigree in watch making. In 1907 it started importing watches to the UK market, and in 1920 introduced its famous winged wheel logo that is still in use today, almost unchanged. In 2009 it introduced two significant initiatives, first its own waterproof standard and its lifetime guarantee. Both of which are present in the Tradition range.
The company operates under the Dreyfuss Group, which contains the Rotary, Dreyfuss & Co and J & T Windmills watch brands. In 2015 Rotary celebrated 120 years of watchmaking.
Les Originales Tradition – Summary
Case: Polished stainless steel
Case, Bezel & Crystal
The Les Originales Tradition case is an understated but classic design, with soft flowing symmetry. At a diameter of 40.5 mm it sits in the standard gentleman’s size bracket, and at 12mm in depth it slips easy under the cuff and sits comfortably on the wrist.
A double domed sapphire crystal sits proud of the bezel, the visible curvature is subtle but effective and the double dome helps reduce distortion, I found there were almost no observed distortions at shallow angles and the dial was clear and easy to read. The sapphire brings anti-scratch hardness and you can expect to have a pristine crystal for years to come, unless it encounters a sizeable impact. To give you a quick explanation of what a double domed crystal actually is: A double domed crystal is one that has a convex curve on the outer side and a concave curve on the inner, you can think of it thus )) A single domed crystal has a convex curve on the outer side and a straight edge on the inside, which is more like this |) With a double dome you can see that there is a more consistent and thinner amount of crystal, resulting in less distortion when light it travels through it producing a clearer and easier to read watch face.
The case itself is crafted from stainless steel (there are two other variations both employing PVD coatings, one in gold and the other in rose gold) and has a polished mirror finish throughout. The bezel curves down smoothly from the crystal and is cleanly cut in two by a crisp line that runs round the circumference, producing a contemporary stepped effect that makes the bezel stand out. I love this feature, it is subtle but has a marked impact on the face of the watch, it adds a modern touch to a heritage inspired watch design. Venturing past the bezel, which has a chamfered edge as it meets the body, the case curves around to the lugs in a soft almost uninterrupted fashion, save for an almost totally hidden crown (more on that shortly). The lugs downturn away from the body and angle upwards on the underside meeting the rear of the case on which the presentation case back sits.
The crown which is an intentionally unobtrusive feature (unsigned and understated) sits close to flush to the case, protruding 1 to 2 mm, just enough to see the coin cut edge. The effect of this is to produce a near symmetrical design, something that has a pleasing aesthetic effect and is another deliberately subtle choice to meld modern design with cues from the old. Not that the crown is without issue, it can be quite fiddly to operate and I found it prone to pop back in too easily when using the quick date adjustment, I think this is a design over practicality effect but it is something that is by no means a deal breaker.
The case back, is comprised of the same polished stainless steel as the body, with an inset disc of sapphire crystal to expose the inner workings of the Sellita SW200-01 movement. A chance to show off the heart of the watch, it is almost a shame that for the majority of the time the wearer will never see it. The movement itself is lightly decorated with the Rotary name, wheeled logo and “Swiss made since 1895” is stamped into the rotor. Around the stainless steel edge, the Rotary branding, model number, and usual specifications are found. The only one that requires further explanation is Rotary’s own waterproofing standard, the Dolphin Standard.
Rotary watches marked ‘Dolphin Standard’ on the case back have been upgraded to offer this exclusive waterproof specification meaning that you and your watch can swim and dive all day. Dolphin Standard watches are suitable for: Swimming, shallow diving, yachting, all water sports (excluding scuba diving) and showering.
From this and what would be accepted standards for water resistance I can surmise that this would have a rating of from 10 to 15 Bar (100 / 150 meters). So as long as you are not scuba diving you will be fine. As I have stated previously very good for any dress watch.
Dial & Hands
The dial is lightly domed to give a vintage feel, the doming echoes that of the crystal and follows its curvature. The index markers, which are silver faceted follow the curve of the dial and catch the light easily, this makes them stand out and be both aesthetically pleasing and easy to see. The minute markers are subtle black printed hashes, that are effective and understated against the silver indexes. It is of note that there is no luming of any index markers on the dial.
The dial itself is presented in an off-white colour, in a minimalist style without any guilloche or other detailing (the gold and rose gold variations have a swirling guilloche effect). At the 12 o’clock is the familiar Rotary name and winged wheeled logo, set just under this is the “Les Originales” brand in cursive script. Just above the 6 o’clock is the date window, cut into the dial with a stepped effect, framing it and drawing the eye. Directly above is the word “Automatic” to denote its automatic mechanical movement and “Tradition” the watch family name. Finally set at the bottom of the watch under the date window and following the minute markers is “Swiss Made”, indicating the watch is a product of Switzerland. All of the text on the dial is printed in deep black, none of it is remotely flamboyant or overstated, it is minimalistic and elegant.
The hands, like the index markers, follow the curve of the dial and are also silver faceted. They are baton style hands, unlumed and classically elegant. The second hand is of the same style and had a circular counter balance, with a hollow centre.
At the heart of the Les Originales Tradition beats a Sellita SW200-01, a Swiss Made mechanical automatic movement, one born out of necessity and the fires of change within the Swiss watch establishment, a fire that starts with ETA.
ETA is a Swiss movement manufacture and supplier to the majority of Swiss Made watch brands, they supply movements and partially constructed movements (ébauches). In 2002 they started the move that some considered as big a change as the quartz crisis of 1970, they were planning to stop supply of all movements and ébauches to anyone outside of the Swatch Group family (of which ETA is part). Since the announcement there has been back peddling, cartel law breaches and negotiated staged supply reductions. As it currently stands 2019 is the stated date when ETA will stop supply, but there has already been significant reduction in availability over the past few years.
With reduced availability of ETA movements and the eventual demise of all access to ETA movements for third parties, Sellita has become one of the primary companies for a wide selection of watchmakers who do not produce their own in-house movements. With Sellita’s current track record of reliability and accuracy coupled with their previous experience performing outsourced assembly for ETA, I doubt this will trend will change anytime soon.
The SW200-1 is a near identical reproduction of the ETA 2824-2 (Sellita creates clones of ETA movements that are out of patent), the only difference is the addition of a single jewel (taking the count to 26) on the upper side of the barrel access, below the ratchet wheel. It has a beat of 28,000 semi-oscillations per hour (4Hz), it is a hacking movement (the second hand mechanically disengages to allow accurate setting) and it has a power reserver of 38 hours. It can be manually wound and has a quick date set.
Timing and accuracy has also been proven to be as good as ETA’s, the SW200-01 (outside of COSC) has three standards (Standard, Elaboré and Prémium) ranging from +/- 20 seconds a day to +/- 10 seconds a day. My observations having worn this watch for several days (and on a winder overnight) was from +5 a day to +9 a day, a level of accuracy I am most happy with.
Rotary is in good company with this movement, having such contemporaries as Tag Heuer, ORIS, Christopher Ward and others opting to use the SW200-1 on a range of timepieces. For me (and a lot of watch manufacturers) Sellita movements are for all intense and purposes a straight swap for ETA.
If you would like to view further information on the SW200-01 movement you can view the full technical document here, Sellita SW200-1.
The stainless steel variation comes on a black alligator leather strap (the same strap is used for the gold variant but a brown version is used on the rose gold, stainless steel bracelet version are also available, including a variation in two tone rose gold), it has a premium feel and is well manufactured and comfortable on the wrist. The strap is finished with a standard buckle in stainless steel with embossed Rotary branding and logo. For my personal preference I would have preferred a deployment clasp, but that is something that can easy be changed by the owner.
Rotary with the Les Originales Tradition, set out to bring inspiration from Rotary’s past into a range of modern contemporary timepieces, so has it delivered?
The classic styling is there with design cues that have more than a passing resemblance to the Rotary Incabloc watches from the 1960s and 1970s. There is for example the domed dial and crystal, the faceted hands and indexes. There are also flashes of contemporary design, with the double domed sapphire and the crisp line that slices through the bezel. I think overall the effect has been to produce an elegant timepiece that draws from the brand’s history whilst adding elements of contemporary style.
Having warn the watch for several days both at work with a shirt and in less formal situations I can say that it sits well on the wrist and easily fits under the cuff. As previously stated this is a no lume watch, personally for me I was initially worried about this but practically it had very little impact. For some people I could see this being a deal breaker but that is something you will have to decide for yourselves.
With the reviewed stainless steel version retailing for £495, (£525 for the gold / rose gold variants and £550 to £575 for the stainless steel bracelet versions) I think that is a strong price point for a watch with the features and styling of the Tradition. Add to that Rotary’s lifetime guarantee (you must have it serviced by Rotary every three years to maintain it) and there are a lot of compelling reasons to own this watch.
For transparency the Les Originales Tradition was kindly provided by Dreyfuss Group for this review, no conditions or terms were requested and no editorial influence was asked for or given in the writing of this review.