NOTSAG is a unique brand for many reasons. The name itself is an anagram of Gaston, the founder’s oldest son with developmental challenges including mitochondrial disease, severe autism and a GABBR2 mutation. Most readers at MONOCHROME are familiar with Only Watch auction, a charity auction held every two years to support research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. About 50 of the most prestigious watch brands produce one-offs for the auction, which has raised over CHF 70 million since 2005. NOTSAG takes a more personal and direct approach, donating 20% of net profits to mitochondrial disease research. The Type I is an intriguing and well-designed Swiss made diver in its own right but represents much more.
NOTSAG is a new watch brand in Los Angeles from founder Laurent Chardin Rischmann. The evolution of Gaston’s challenges marches on and Laurent felt that 2018 was the right time to establish the brand, honouring his oldest son, born in 2010, by raising money and awareness for his disabilities. I asked Laurent why he chose a watch brand over a seemingly endless amount of possibilities, and he explained that he had always been a watch enthusiast, fascinated by mechanical watches in particular.
Going back to 1998, he also designed watches with his cousin who specialized in graphic design. With this almost lifelong passion for watches, Laurent knew that a watch brand was the right fit for this journey. Leveraging virtual storefronts, social media and crowdfunding, along with his own design, two dive watches were developed – Type I and Type II. Although both pieces are limited editions, this is not a temporary endeavour. Laurent is in this for the long-term and he intends for NOTSAG to be an enduring brand. In fact, several more watches are currently in development.
The inaugural collection, Aquaelite, features well-thought pieces with a surprising maturity for a first entry – certainly not your typical Kickstarter offerings. For Laurent, “The purpose of NOTSAG is my passion for watches mixed with my dedication to my son.”
Case & Design
The NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I has a brushed stainless steel case that’s 42mm in diameter and 12.6mm in height (13.56mm with domed crystal). Lug-to-lug is 49mm. There’s an optional black DLC coated stainless steel case as well, as featured here. The bezel has a 5mm polished ceramic insert with a detailed 15-minute scale in red. White Arabic numerals mark 30 and 45 minutes with matching white indices and a triangular marker at 12 o’clock. The 120-click bezel also features Super-LumiNova BGW9 and is unidirectional to prevent accidental turns.
The sapphire exhibition caseback displays the Swiss automatic with a custom rotor and the dial is covered by a domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. The knurled crown has the brand’s logo embossed and screws down for water-resistance of 200 metres. The watch is up to the task for serious divers.
Dial & Hands
The matte black dial of the NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I sports oversized, applied Arabic numerals at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock filled with Super-LumiNova BGW9, while applied lume-filled indices mark the remaining hours. A sizeable power reserve indicator sits at 12 o’clock with a red low-power mark matching the red scale on the bezel (the total reserve is 42 hours). The large sword-style hour and minute hands are steel and completely filled with Super-LumiNova, while the lollipop seconds hand has a lume-filled circle and red tip, again matching the bezel.
The bit of additional colour is subtle, but adds to the overall aesthetic and maintains a uniform colour palette. A narrow minute track spans the outermost perimeter. SWISS MADE is printed small under 6 o’clock, which is significant as this isn’t another flashy design with a Miyota movement or the like, but a bona fide Swiss piece.
The heart of the NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I isn’t a typical movement from ETA or Sellita, but a Soprod C140 automatic – Soprod is a lesser-known alternative to the larger Swiss movement manufacturers, which even produces escapements and hairsprings for other brands.
The C140 is based on the Soprod A10 base and has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 42-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and seconds with a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock and date at 3 o’clock (which isn’t used by the Type I). The movement is decorated with perlage with a customized rotor featuring Côtes de Genève and the brand’s logo. The logo is based on the French fleur-de-lys design.
The Aquaelite Type I is fitted with a 22mm black rubber strap with a stainless steel deployment clasp. It’s a sensible option for a serious diver and comfortable out of the box. No need for a break-in period. There are two other straps available, including a black leather option and silver or black-DLC steel bracelet. All options will come with a deployment clasp and quick-release levers.
In a bubble, the NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I is an intriguing Swiss diver with two case finishes, a serious 200-metre water-resistance rating and bonus power reserve indicator, all for an accessible price. There’s a lot more to it, however, as it raises money and awareness for mitochondrial disease and Laurent’s 10-year-old son battling multiple disabilities.
Laurent’s design experience is evident as this isn’t a run-of-the-mill effort and he has big plans for the brand moving forward. There’s a lot of competition out there from established brands like Seiko, Tissot and Hamilton, but the style, quality and story behind this watch make it a very attractive offer.
Availability & Price
The NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I is limited to 999 pieces and the silver model is USD 799 during the pre-launch with a USD 1,099 retail price. The black DLC-coated model has a pre-launch price of USD 899 and retails for USD 1,199. Pre-orders open on April 1st with deliveries scheduled for December, and all models come with a 3-year limited warranty.