Review – The New Brellum Duobox Pandial Chronograph
If you’re a long-time reader of MONOCHROME, you should already be familiar with Brellum, a young Swiss-based brand responsible for the Duobox. This watch is everything of a no-nonsense chronograph: slightly vintage-inspired, robust, very well built and overall, cool to wear. We now have the first main evolution of this watch, the Duobox Pandial. The racing inspiration is now clear, with a two-tone dial and an external tachymeter bezel. Let’s have a closer look.
Brellum was founded in 2016 by Sébastien Muller, someone well-connected to his roots, as the 4th generation of a family of watchmakers in the Swiss Jura. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, he then decided to start doing his own watches, instead of working for others. The idea, when launching Brellum, was to offer high-quality, no-nonsense watches – only sports chronographs for the moment – with reliable movements, well-curated parts and some little extras (which we’ll explain later).
The first version of the Brellum Duobox, with smooth bezel and monochromatic dial
The first model, the Duobox, surprised us in a pleasant way. Not only is the styling quite nice but the watch also offers an interesting mix of modernity and some vintage details, which is perfectly in the spirit of the times. After that, the collection has been enlarged with several editions, including some versions with power reserve indication. Yet, all were based on the same case/dial/bezel concept… until now, with the introduction of the new Duobox Pandial, this time with a clear racing inspiration.
The New Brellum Duobox Pandial Chronograph
With the Brellum Duobox Pandial, we have the first evolution of the base concept. Indeed, it is more of an evolution than a completely new watch, as the fundamentals are still present. Case and movement are the same and the main differences are to be seen on the dial and the bezel. Both have been redesigned to make the Duobox Pandial slightly more modern, a bit sportier and manly, featuring now a racing style. This is clearly visible with the addition of an external tachymeter bezel (something invented by Omega in 1957, with the Speedmaster – which was designed as a racing chronograph) and of a panda dial (black sub-dials on a white dial), again something that immediately refers to the racing world.
As already said, the fundamentals of the Duobox are unchanged. The case is the same, with its 43mm diameter. Rather traditional in terms of shape, it remains pleasant to look at. The lugs, for instance, are bevelled with a nice polished surface on their sides. The crown and the mushroom-type pushers are generously sized, to make them easy to manipulate, yet they never felt intrusive or inconvenient when wearing the watch. In terms of quality, we’ve been impressed by the execution and assembly of this case. Everything is clean, perfectly assembled and adjusted, the surfaces are well demarcated with sharp (but not razor-sharp either) angles. The overall case feels solid and made to last, yet with a certain refinement.
The name Duobox comes from the specific construction of this watch, which features not one but two domed/box-shaped sapphire crystals. While rather common on the dial side, a domed sapphire is rarely seen on the back. While bringing a quite cool style when looking at the movement, it also helps the watch to virtually feel a bit slimmer (it is quite hefty, at 16.20mm) and allows for a smooth sensation on the skin.
The main novelty on this Pandial comes from the addition of an external bezel, in place of the smooth, polished bezel found on the first versions of the Brellum Duobox. Clearly racing-oriented with its black aluminium insert printed with a tachymeter scale, it also makes the watch slightly sportier, it adds some contrast to the dial and, surprisingly, it makes the watch more compact on the wrist.
Also surprising is the overall comfort on the wrist of the Brellum Duobox Pandial. While far from being a small and thin watch, it wears nicely, even on small wrists (I personally have wrists below 17cm) thanks to the curved crystal on the back and short, well-designed lugs. Don’t consider this a dress watch, however, the Duobox Pandial isn’t shockingly big either.
The second evolution visible on this Brellum Duobox Pandial is the two-tone dial – a so-called “panda” dial, hence the name of the watch. While previously only with monochromatic dials (in silver, blue, grey, black or brown), the Pandial now features contrasting elements… but not everywhere. Only the 12 and 6 o’clock sub-dials, those related to the chronograph functions (12-hour counter and 30-minute counter) are entirely black. The small second, a non-essential function when timing an event, is only circled in black. Also, this creates a more balanced display – and we all know that the 7750-based watches are not examples of balanced designs… A nice trick to make the watch visually lighter.
The second contrasting element is the outer telemeter scale, replacing the pulsometer scale found on the previous Duobox – a function that would have been irrelevant in a racing chronograph. The dial is well contrasted and easy to read, with large applied indexes in polished steel and bold hands. It also features multiple textures and layers. One remark concerning the dial of this Pandial though… It is a bit too talkative. The 4 lines of text below the applied logo are probably too present. With all the scales and markers, it gives a quite busy, nevertheless pleasant dial.
To power the Brellum Duobox Pandial we have the same movement as the other Duobox watches, which is the famous Valjoux 7750 a.k.a the “chronograph workhorse”. Reliable, it will make this watch a no-brainer and a good daily companion, with its automatic winding and its date (which is discreetly integrated at 6 on a disc matching the sub-dial). However, Brellum went one step further here by providing a COSC-certified version. As chronometer certified, you can trust your watch to be accurate. This certification is rare in such a price range and should really be seen as a great added value to the watch.
On a daily basis, the 7750 is easy to use and offers its characteristic “wobbly” winding. Indeed, the rotor is heavy and rotates fast, making the watch quite alive on the wrist. This, on the other hand, guarantees a high winding efficiency. Also, the movement is nicely decorated for a 7750, with perlage, Geneva stripes, blued screws and a specific, open-worked oscillating-weight – same as the chronometer certification, such decoration is usually seen in higher-priced watches.
The Brellum Duobox Pandial collection already comprises 4 models. There’s this white dial with black sub-dials version but also versions with a blue dial/silver sub-dials, a grey dial/black sub-dials and a black dial/silver sub-dials. Several options are available for the straps too, including aged leather (as seen here) or perforated/racing leather. Both are secured with a well-finished (perlage on the blades) steel folding clasp. Also, it can be worn on a steel mesh bracelet, as seen in previous Duobox versions.
Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Brellum Duobox Pandial and I enjoyed wearing it. It is nothing extraordinary, in opposition to a high-end complex watch. However, it is a cool-looking, no-nonsense, slightly tool-ish chronograph, with high quality – and who doesn’t like a good old sporty chronograph. The case and the dial are well-executed and the chronometer certification is a nice extra. The Duobox Pandial comes at a price of CHF 2,490 on leather and CHF 2,550 on steel bracelet – which is highly competitive, considering the level of quality and the chronometer movement, both usually found in watches priced over EUR 4,000. More details and orders on www.brellum.swiss.
Technical specifications – Brellum Duobox Pandial Chronograph
- Case: 43.00mm x 16.20mm – 316L stainless steel – box sapphire crystal, box sapphire case-back with anti-reflective coating – water resistant to 50m
- Movement: BR750-1 calibre (Valjoux 7750) Chronometer certified by COSC – mechanical with automatic winding – 46h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – 25 jewels – hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, date.
- Bracelet: leather strap on steel folding clasp or mesh steel bracelet
- Reference: DB.CH.300
- Price: from CHF 2,490
Very nicely done. I like the 4 lines as it balances out the dial visually in my opinion.
7750’s are workhorses, I have a couple of watches based on it.
If I hear the word “workhorse(s)” one more time, I’ll kill your Hilary and feed her to Bernie’s hounds
Huge fan of “panda” dials (inverse here). It has a bit of early Daytona about it – great.
I am however not so much of the movement.
7750 is good in principle, more so if COSC, however its on the borderline of an irritating height and weight (more so in steel). Unless the case is well designed and sits just right on your individual wrist, it hooks and bumps on everything, flops around on the wrist and if on anything but the best metal strap, digs into your wrist.
Thinner mechanical chronographs are generally stratospheric prices (and for a reason I guess) – so not for a larger collection of a few chronographs for “beater” use.
How much would it take from Swatch to put the 7750 on a bit of a diet – an not a Hollywood one. Modern materials and manufacturing would surely make such a quest attainable.