This review will feature not one, but two watches made by a small, Italian brand we recently introduced; Orologi Calamai. While I was in touch with the brand reviewing their CR42 Chrono earlier this year, I learned that a new watch was in the making. Being a quintessential Italian brand focusing on watches with an aviation look and feel, the Calamai family was developing the new G50 MKIII Solotempo. A simple yet effective time only watch. Let’s take a closer look at it.
As I mentioned in the first coverage of Orologi Calamai, the brand is founded by a family of real aviators. The father of Francesco Calamai, the founder of the brand, fought in the Battle of Britain for the Royal Italian Airforce in a Fiat CR42 and a G50. Francesco himself flew acrobatic aircraft over a period of 40 years, and the youngest one of the bunch, Manfredi Calamai, is in training to get his pilot’s license. Three generations of pilots and experience with aeroplanes and aviation instruments, all rolled into one watch brand from Italy.
Background – The G50 name
The Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo (Italian for “time only”) collection consists of two models, both featured in this review. The G50 moniker comes from the Fiat G.50 Freccia aeroplane, a World War II Royal Italian Airforce aircraft. Despite being underpowered compared to its rivals, in the hands of ace pilots, it was a formidable foe. The Fiat G.50 Freccia was also exported to other countries such as Finland.
Selecting the G50 name for a watch collection is an obvious choice when your father has flown one. It gives content to the brand and the name of the watch by creating a story to tell. As I explained in the review of the Orologi Calamai CR42 Chronograph, it is difficult to inject “soul” into a brand, unless you have something like this to build upon.
Overall appearance and features
The Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo is a clean, simple pilot watch. Both models have some interesting details that distinguish them. They are deceptively simple, yet well balanced – and there is nothing wrong with restrained watchmaking when it is done right.
The Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo comes in two versions; one with a blue dial/blue strap and one with a black dial/vintage cognac strap. Classical but nice combinations. The black dial with the cognac strap is, to me, the strongest one, but blue has been a very popular colour for watch dials for years now, so don’t discard it right away. The blue version is slightly different mechanically too, and is true to its Solotempo name – time only. The black one, on the other hand, has a date feature. The movements are similar though, so no really big changes between the two.
Case and Strap
While I have stated in the past that I tend to prefer big, hefty watches, this 38mm Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo is a welcome change. Not your average oversized pilot watch with a 45mm case, but a watch with reasonable dimensions instead. The steel used for the case comes from the turbine of a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. This supersonic interceptor aircraft first took flight in 1956 and retired from air force activity in 2004, having been deployed by dozens of countries around the world.
This following figure is going to spark a debate, as it is tricky to take into account just how true such a statement is. When it comes to Orologi Calamai, it is said that roughly 70% of the material used in the cases comes from the actual turbine. Two parts of the turbines are used, mainly the central body, which is regular steel, and the turbine blades which are made from a super-alloy containing titanium. It is melted down with regular steel to make an ingot from which the cases are cut.
It is a simple yet attractive case, mostly brushed but with a polished side on the bezel. Neatly curved lugs keep it snug on the wrist, and the stubby, knurled crown offers plenty of grip. A 316L stainless steel case back seals the movement, and it is engraved with the stylised C-shaped logo of the brand. As for the strap, both editions are delivered with slightly vintage-inspired straps with a steel pin buckle.
Dial and hands
The Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo can be delivered with two different dials: a sunburst blue or a grainy, textured black dial. Both dials become almost flat black in low light conditions, but come alive in direct (sun)light. Their texture adds a certain touch to the otherwise minimalistic style of the watches.
Polished steel applied markers around the dial are coated in luminous material on both versions. The difference though is the date window. The blue dial version doesn’t show the date and could be considered the slightly dressier version of the two, while the black dial version, with the date at 4 o’clock, has a more utilitarian look. Combined with the cognac, vintage-style strap this is the toolish one of the two in terms of looks. Other than that, there is not much more that sets these apart. The hands are the same, straight and simple styled hands for both. A red tip on the seconds hand completes the indications.
The movement selected for the Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo is a Sellita SW200-1. This time-and-date movement is based on the architecture of the ETA 2824. The hour, minute and seconds hands are on the central axis, with a date disc towards the edge of the dial, visible through an aperture. The choice to show the date in the black dial version and to not show it on the blue dial might be a little strange, but I can understand why. The blue dial, with its sunburst effect, benefits from the lack of a date window, which would interfere with the play of light.
The automatic Sellita SW200-1 runs at a frequency of 4hz and has a power reserve of 38 hours. A no-nonsense, no-frills movement that is totally in tune with the toolish nature of a pilot watch.
For those of us who are in the market for a vintage-inspired, simple and purposeful watch, at an affordable price and with a neat story to tell; the Orologi Calamai G50 MKIII Solotempo is a well-balanced option. To be fair, I think the black dial version is the best of the two since it ties in with the aeronautical background of its founders and the brand. The blue watch is just as pleasant to wear, and just as well-built, but lacks a bit of the utilitarian look that one might expect. Then again, it all boils down to a matter of taste.
Both versions are limited to 299 pieces and cost EUR 1,250 and are available through a small, selective network of dealers and partners. More information on OrologiCalamai.it.