For its first endeavour, the fledgeling brand Ophion surprised us with a nicely designed watch equipped with an interesting hand-wound movement. This first model, the OPH 960, was probably lacking a bit of personality and personalisation – standard looking movement, plain dial… With its new watch, the OPH 786, Ophion sets the bar much, much higher. With a convincing design, a great looking movement and multiple details that you usually find in a different price range, Ophion has resorted to several well-thought-out tricks to keep the watch at an affordable price. Let’s look at this 18th-century inspired watch in detail.
The story of Ophion watches starts in a country where watchmaking is not a renowned speciality: Spain. Certainly, watches are not produced there (they are assembled in Germany) but this is where Miguel Morales Ribas, the founder, comes from. Driven by his passion for watchmaking, he decided to create his own brand with affordability and a quality/price ratio in mind. This sounds familiar since various start-up brands use the same motto, however, unlike many, Miguel succeeded. His idea was to implement certain features of his dream watches (Voutilainen, Journe or Ferrier – obviously inaccessible pieces) in newly designed timepieces with a reasonable price tag. Rather plain and clean, the first watch of the brand was, however, pleasantly finished and assembled, as well as showing a nicely decorated movement – and not an ETA or a clone for once, but a 5-day, hand-wound calibre based on a Technotime ébauche.
While the first collection proved successful, Miguel decided to launch a second watch, this time with much more personality and even more attention to detail – and again, with affordability and value for money in mind. This Ophion OPH 786 is clearly an ode to ancient pocket watches and classic high-end Swiss codes – we won’t hide it, there’s a strong Breguet and Voutilainen influence. Classic styling, guilloché dial, blued hands and a highly decorated and highly modified movement are key elements that make the OPH 786 unique – and overall, quite a bang for the buck, as this watch retails for approximately EUR 2,000. This is clearly Longines’ territory (both in style and price), yet you’ll see that the quality and features play in a completely different league.
Case and feel on the wrist
The case of the Ophion OPH 786 is rather simple. No bold design features, no originally shaped lugs or caseband. Just a simple, well-proportioned round stainless steel case, entirely polished with straight lugs. This is not an issue here because the vocation of the watch is clearly to steer on the traditional side of watchmaking. The case is composed of three parts: a convex (domed) bezel, a central container with a domed caseband (the sides of the case aren’t flat but rounded) and a screwed sapphire caseback. Simple at first sight, the case is slightly more complex than you’d think, due to the combination of various domed surfaces. It plays with the ambient light, it is softly shaped but not too simple either.
Proportions are also very pleasant, as the case measures 39mm in diameter (38.5mm for the bezel) and 10.35mm in height. While not exactly a true dress watch, it does qualify as an elegant timepiece with reasonable yet contemporary dimensions. It wears well, not too small and has some presence due to its elongated lugs. The knurled onion crown complements this classic design. In terms of quality, it is clear that Ophion has made an effort. This is something that photos can hardly relay but, as we got to wear the watches extensively, we can attest that Ophion isn’t playing in the same category as watches from Baume et Mercier or Longines. Assembly, polishing, weight and overall feel are much more pleasant. It’s neat, clean, solid and well assembled.
The Ophion OPH 786 are delivered on leather straps only (calf leather as standard, alligator leather on request) which are on par with the overall quality of the watch, even though the standard buckle feels a bit cheaper than the rest. Still, this combination of nice proportions, classic looks and a leather strap makes the Ophion a nice option for a daily watch, even though an additional weekend piece would be preferable if you want something more casual.
Dial: guilloché or grained
While the case is nicely executed and designed, the true beauty of the new Ophion OPH 786 can be appreciated on the dials. Three options are available: a dark grey with granular (grained) finish and a guilloché dial in silver or dark blue. Different in texture, they also bring a different look to the watch.
While somewhat antique, the grained/granular pattern feels more modern than the guilloché version. Slightly simpler, less on the decorative side, it is also more versatile and more casual – which is also the result of the dark grey colour. Intended to have the “hammered” look of antique pocket watches, it is nicely executed and refined, with a fine surface texture – it isn’t too obvious either and only reveals its granularity once looked at closely.
The second option, which is the one we’d recommend here, at MONOCHROME, is the guilloché pattern. True guillochage, as we recently explained with Breguet, is a time-consuming and complex process, requiring specific tools and trained hands. This, unsurprisingly, results in an expensive dial. When it comes to sub-5K watches that feature a (faux) guilloché pattern, the texture is obtained by a simple stamping process (a tool presses a matrix on a metallic plate and applies a pattern). Such stamped dials are nothing like true guillochage. It doesn’t have the same level of details, you don’t get the impression that material has been removed from the dial, there is no depth effect.
What Ophion has done is to create an intermediate process that could come close to true guillochage, without the costs of such a process. Instead of removing some material by using an engine-turning machine controlled by extremely skilled hands, Ophion chose to have the pattern created by a CNC machine. This way, the dial still is properly engraved – meaning that it has some deep incisions and the brightness and reflections resulting from these patterns – without the need to use a costly technique. The result is extremely detailed, precise (and of course very regular, on the contrary to a hand-made dial) and really adds to the perceived value of this watch. This is what we meant by ” well-thought-out tricks to keep the watch at an affordable price”.
Apart from this textured main plate, the dial also features several other layers. Adding to the sense of depth and creating a nice contrast are the two brushed rings for the hours and the minutes. The indices, numerals and dots are cut through the metal, revealing the guilloché pattern underneath. In all fairness, we can’t think of another watch priced at around EUR 2,000 with such a level of detail on its dial. The final touch is the hands, again with a truly classical design. They are finely executed and are either nickel-plated or thermally blued, depending on the dial.
The movement – outsourced but highly modified
Just like its first watch, Ophion relies on an outsourced hand-wound movement for the OPH 786. This 5-day power reserve calibre, with a 4Hz frequency and twin-barrels, is already good in its basic configuration – the one used on the OPH 960. This movement was developed by Technotime, which is now part of the Festina Group.
However, compared to the first model of the brand, Ophion has drastically revised the design and the decoration of the movement in order to offer something truly unique in this price range. Most sub-2K watches are based on machine-decorated ETA movements – if ever they are decorated – but Ophion uses both a powerful engine and one that is unique in its styling.
First, all the bridges have been reshaped to offer something consistent with the pocketwatch spirit. For instance, the barrels are held in place by two long finger bridges – something found in antique Breguet or Arnold watches. The cock bridge is also shaped in 18th-century style. Also, the nice symmetry of this movement has been kept.
What is really fascinating is the decoration applied to the dark-grey coated bridges. They are hand-hammered on the flat surfaces and feature (machine-executed) polished chamfers on the sides. This décor perfectly echoes the guilloché dials. Creating nice contrasts, the cock bridge is straight brushed and the main plate sandblasted. Such attention to detail is usually reserved for much more expensive pieces.
The Ophion OPH 786 isn’t per se a cheap watch and retails for EUR 1,890 (before taxes and shipping costs) for the granular grey dial and EUR 2,190 (before taxes and shipping costs) for the silver or blue guilloché dial. What it is, however, is one of the best quality/price ratios we’ve seen in a long time. A price that would correspond to a Longines or Baume & Mercier watch, but neither brand can offer the same attention to detail or the same level of decoration.
The Ophion OPH 786 is inspired design-wise, mechanically interesting and satisfying for true watch enthusiasts with a lower budget. More details and orders on www.ophion-watches.com.