It’s tough to think of a collector who hasn’t dreamt of ultra-high-end watches such as F.P. Journe, Kari Voutilainen, Laurent Ferrier or Philippe Dufour? These dream-watches are however, for almost all of us, unreachable objects, with prices starting at 50k (and with no limits). Miguel, the founder of Ophion Watches, also harbors ambitions of owning such watches… but he know’s that, for most of us, the average collector, it will most likely never happen. Instead of living in a dreamworld, he decided to create watches that could, for a fraction of the price, provide somewhat of the pleasure of these dream watches mentioned previously. Here is the full review of his horological vision, the Ophion OPH-960, an affordable proposition with interesting horological content.
Let’s be straight and lay the groundwork first. Don’t expect the Ophion OPH-960 to be even close to a Laurent Ferrier or a F.P. Journe in terms of finishing or horological precision. It is absolutely impossible to imagine a watch priced in line with the Ophion to even resemble these wallet-breakers. Regardless, this wasn’t the goal of Miguel when he founded the brand. The main objective was to take some of the features of these dream-watches and to find an affordable way to implement them in a watch that could become a target for the average collector. When you think about it, what is it that makes us dream in the world of Ferrier, Dufour or Voutilainen? Obviously not the design. Clearly, these are simply looking timepieces (mainly void of apparent complications). If you are looking for a strong design in high-end watchmaking, you’d better move to MB&F or URWERK.
With understated watches like the ones we’re talking about, the wow-effect clearly comes from the movement and the hand-made execution – the shiny and large hand-bevelled angles, the superb Geneva stripes and the details applied on every single piece (even the hidden ones…). With Ophion, the goal was to produce pieces that would give the wearer a sense of wow-factor at a fraction of the price. If you look closely, most collectors tend to buy in the 1.000 / 3.000 Euros range (sometimes less, sometimes a bit more). Usually, what you’ll find here is a simple (but robust and valuable) ETA movement – or clone – with a very industrial finish. Not in the Ophion… at least, the look and the specifications of the movement are not the same… at all! And this is the wonderful bit.
The Ophion OPH-960
Design-wise, the Ophion OPH-960 is a rather elegant, simple, vintage-oriented watch. Nothing in the aesthetics leads you to think something different from most of the affordable luxury watches. It’s not shocking, nor bad. However, after a closer look, you’ll start to discover the details – and that’s, even before turning over to view the back. The Ophion OPH-960 takes the option of being a well made but simple understated timepiece with a clean, elegant and minimalistic design, when seen from the front. Then, you turn to the back of the watch and you’ll discover a superb movement – with this, Ophion tends to apply the same approach than that of Laurent Ferrier or Philippe Dufour in a much more affordable price range (dear purists, sorry for the comparison… we are not comparing the watches here the but the concept. Keep that in mind before getting offended).
With such a concept in mind, don’t expect the Ophion OPH-960 to bring stars to your eyes at first glance. The case is crafted from stainless steel and has a fluid, elegant, flawless design – a round central part, added straight lugs, rounded flanks and fully mirror polished surfaces, so to say, a very classical and satisfying design with nothing shocking or irrelevant. It’s understated and clean and will be usable in almost every situation (except certain hardcore sporty occasions – but that’s not the goal here). The case measures 42mm, which could be seen as slightly too large considering the formal look and the vintage inspiration.
At 42mm, the Ophion OPH-960 becomes more of an elegant day-to-day casual timepiece than a proper dress watch. Something that we, hardcore collectors, insiders and nerds, see as a default but that will also give the opportunity to people with a restrained collection to have a more versatile watch. 40mm would have been better for sure, but the quite large case doesn’t make the Ophion crippling either. To end up with the case, the 10.35mm profile remains thin enough to match it with a business attire.
Moving to the dial, we can spot several interesting and pleasing details (considering the price of course). Available in anthracite grey or silver, it has a domed shape that is reminiscent of 1960s dress watches. The hours are indicated with nice indexes. They are applied, polished and tapered. Furthermore, considering the domed shape of the dial, they are particularly nice when looking at the dial from the sides. To help the visibility during the night, the inner flange sports some thin makers painted with luminous material. An elegant option that keeps the indexes clean.
The dauphine hands are also simple in their design (and filled with a thin band of luminous paint) and provide a good legibility (the contrast between the polished hands and the matte dial is very good). Around the dial sits a minute track, which strangely isn’t on the periphery of the dial but slightly inside it. Even if visually pleasant, this option is rather strange, as the end of the minute hand and the markers are not matching.
As mentioned, the dial is available in either a grainy anthracite tone or a brighter silver edition. Both dials can be combined with a formal black leather strap or a more casual light brown leather strap (both attached to a generic pin-buckle, which could have been engraved with the name of the brand, for a more luxurious feel). In both cases, the Ophion OPH-960 remains elegant and discreet, with this idea of an understated watch that hides more than it shows… which leads us to the horological part.
Powering the Ophion OPH-960 is not the classical self-winding ETA 2824 or its clone, the Sellita SW200. That’s indeed what you could expect from a young brand, with watches priced below 2.000 Euros – and that’s even what you can expect from TAG Heuer or Longines. What you can see on the photo above is a 5-day power reserve, manually wound movement, with a really interesting shape: a Technotime TT 718, to be precise. Having an in-house movement would mean a watch priced way above. However, the Technotime really does offer a lot. First, it has two barrels for 120 hours of power reserve (and the advantage of being more regular in delivering the torque, compared to a large single barrel). Then, it ticks at 28.800 bph, which makes it supposedly precise. It displays the hours, the minutes and the seconds on the central axis and features a stop second.
Also interesting is the finishing of this movement. As said, Miguel, the founder of Ophion, dreamed of movements manufactured by Laurent Ferrier or Philippe Dufour. What he tried here is to apply a bit of the taste of these calibres, in a most affordable way of course. What you have are really large diamond polished bevelled angles on all the bridges (made by a machine and not by hand of course), thermally blued screws and perlages on the main plate. Together with the pleasant curves of the bridges, this finish is (again, considering the price) extremely pleasant and gives the opportunity to average collectors to enjoy a small slice of the pleasure provided by ultra-high-end watches. While the costs are maintained, the visual joy is certainly here. It rare enough in such watches to have the opportunity to enjoy the view on a movement that is technical and well finished. Again, seeing these shiny chamfered angles contrasting with the matte surfaces of the bridges (with a straight graining) is part of the pleasure of Haute Horlogerie. And even if the Ophion OPH-960 is far from this category, it brings some of these features to normal people. Well done!
You know us here, at Monochrome-Watches. We love high-end watchmaking, hand-finishing, creativity and new brands. However, we tend to keep quiet when it comes to new entrants, as their concepts are often mainly focused on design and tend to be powered by simple mechanical movements (when it’s not with quartz movements). There’s nothing wrong in this (everybody needs to live and to create projects) but that’s not what we want to share with you. Call us posh or close-minded if you want but we prefer watches with an interesting movement.
The Ophion OPH-960 has surprised us – in a good way! The idea of having an elegant, understated watch with a movement well designed and well finished attracted us. The concept became even clearer when Miguel explained the reasons behind it. Bringing to average collectors a portion of the pleasure of ultra-high-end watches with an affordable price is something that really is an attractive proposition. Now we have to say the watch itself is not perfect. The case is a bit too large to our tastes and there’s something strange with the minute track. However, after turning over the watch, we forgave the flaws. Ophion watches are somehow egoistic, with a design that, quite frankly doesn’t disclose much about what you have on the wrist as much of the horological pleasure hidden and reserved for the wearer to appreciate. This concept talks to us – especially at 1.580 Euros (including taxes).