In-Depth Review – RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red – Bold & Architectural

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Robin Nooy | ic_query_builder_black_24px 10 min read |
RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

You cannot accuse RJ-Romain Jerome of being boring, even though you might not be a fan of the brand like I am. The fact of the matter is, the Geneva based brand does unorthodox things but every now and then hits a sweet spot that should entice even the doubters! The need for a Pièce Unique Pokemon watch is debatable of course, but any doubt can be swayed with the simple question of: why not? Well, that is the question we will hope to have answered by extensively reviewing the RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red. We already covered it when it was first released back in December 2013 but now we will give you the full rundown.

As a brand, RJ-Romain Jerome has conquered a playful niche section in the market, and has built its legacy on the DNA of legends (literally!) By incorporating exotic materials, or hinting at icons, in most of their collections, RJ-Romain Jerome has created its own identity. Standing out from the crowd, most of their watches have a certain degree of liberty about them, which is quite welcome from time to time! While we, watch-snobs, think highly of tradition, classicism, romance and heritage, thinking out of the box and making unconventional watches is also welcomed with arms wide open, IF done well! And that is exactly the case with the RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

It is a bold looking watch, and although it does not incorporate parts of the Statue of Liberty or the Titanic nor does it depict a Nintendo-legend, there’s a lot to love! This watch is space-age-inspired, as it commemorates the 40th anniversary of the launch of the NASA Skylab, and as you’d by now expect, it incorporates material from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. A cool story to tell to your buddies, although do take into consideration that the percentage of actual fragments in the case is probably a single digit.

Overall appearance and Features

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

To be honest, this is about the most wearable RJ-Romain Jerome you can get. It is comfortable, modestly sized – compared to other watches in the collection – and has a cool feel and a contemporary design. And, as an attention-grabbing brand, this is by far the watch that has attracted the most attention when wearing it, even from non-watch nerds! Everybody wanted to learn more about it, what it is, why it looks so special, and (the age-old question!) how much it costs! People tend to react to that last question with a resounding “What?!?!” or “How much?!?!” but explaining to them why it costs that much is all part of the fun as far as I am concerned.

Besides the architectural prowess of the watch, the combination of full black case and skeletonized movement with gold hands and bezel helps out too. The contrast is striking to say the least, and at this modest size of 44mm, it remains a very wearable watch.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

In terms of actual features, it is a time only watch, but of course, there is much more to it than that. The biggest feature is the fully visible movement, or rather, the lack of it. The absence of solid bridges and plates is a sight to behold. The straight lines and structure of the gears, barrel, escapement and hands is very appealing. Thankfully, the movement still has sufficient “presence” to stand out, and not show one’s hairy mitt underneath!

Case and strap

The black and gold case of the RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red is a striking one. The color scheme of the watch is bold, and not to everyone’s taste for sure. To be honest, this is not a watch for the “under-the-radar” kinda guy. For those who know a thing or two about the Geneva based brand, the case is constructed with the trademark claws holding down the bezel. The steel case and claws, coated with black PVD contrast extremely well with the gold parts.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

The 44mm wide case wears very comfortably, which is down to the short, sculpted lugs and its relatively light weight. The term light weight seems a bit of a contradiction, but since this is a very minimalist movement, it does save quite a few grams! As with most RJ-Romain Jerome collections, they have given the Skylab 44 its own unique “touch”. To add material from the Apollo 11, and a movement design inspired by the linear build of the NASA Skylab is by now a familiar brand concept. Does it make it a better product? Well, that remains debatable. To be honest, I consider the incorporation of material from the Statue of Liberty in the RJ-Romain Jerome Liberty-DNA to be more interesting, even though this is probably also a very limited amount, as that watch shares a clear visual link to the icon of the New York skyline.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

The screw down crown is also finished in black PVD, and grips nicely. Actually, using it offers up a nice view of the workings of the gears of the movement. Unscrewing it allows you to wind the watch, and see everything turn to tighten the barrel spring. Pulling it out allows you to adjust the hour and minute hand, which are rather large due to the anchor shape. Legibility with these hands is not a problem during the day, but at night it might become a bit more of an issue, as the luminous tips are there, but are not overly large.

The RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red comes attached to a black alligator leather strap, with a rubberized lining and a black PVD coated pin buckle. The strap is sturdy, and preformed to hug the wrist. The strap slims down from the case to the buckle, with curved and strengthened ends that also hug the case tightly. All in all, the watch is very well built and feels very comfortable. It straps on and off easily, doesn’t slide about and doesn’t snag on your shirt or blazer too much.

Dial and hands

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

It’s simple, and plainly obvious; there is no actual dial. Reading the time with precision is a bit tricky, but taking the construction of case and bezel into consideration you can pinpoint it close enough after some experience. The lack of any dedicated hour markers might be considered a drawback of the RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red but is in tune with the skeletonized movement. You can make use of various other elements surrounding the movement and case to pinpoint the exact time a little more accurately. But, on the other hand, how necessary is this really? We all have a vague idea about the time built into our brain and body, and “time” is pretty much all around us. Smartphones, laptops, TV’s, radio, clock towers, airports, etc. we are never truly without time, are we?

To get back to the dial and hands of the Skylab 44 Red, the familiar RJ-Romain Jerome anchor-shaped hands are done in red gold, matching the bezel. The contrast with the blackened movement underneath is striking, so in terms of legibility it is good enough! There is even a small triangle of luminous material on the tips of the hour and minute hands, for that illuminating touch at night. The small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock has a similar contrast, with a small red gold hand.

With everything exposed, each casual glance at the RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red is a visually impactful moment throughout the day. The manner in which all parts are exposed, including the barrel spring, is a delight to see. The barrel is wound through the crown, which allows you see the spring tighten with every turn. Another nice feature of the minimal movement is the exposed balance wheel, which tells you if the watch is running or not. The small seconds also does this, but the back-and-forth motion of the balance wheel is the more romantic part to us nerds, isn’t it? Surprisingly, when in a quiet room, you can really hear the pallet fork tick back and forth. If you listen to this for too long, be careful, as it might turn you a bit mental (only joking of course, or am I?) but the vibrations resonate freely through the case, and are therefore amplified.

Movement

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

I’ve said a lot about the movement so far, but not its origin. The movement is done by Concepto, and is a reworked version of their Calibre Squelette 3027, and a proprietary development for RJ-Romain Jerome. The handwound movement is built up of rectangular shaped bridges and plates, with hand finished fine straight brushing and chamfered edges. The layout of the movement is intriguing, and it provides a striking contrast against the round case. The angular bridges are held in place with polished screws at various locations, but sadly they are not spread around to be used as hour markers.

The movement measures 14 and ¼ lines, or 32,60mm across and is 5,8mm thick. It holds 21 jewels and stores up to 48 hours of power in the single barrel at 12 o’clock. This manually wound movement displays hours, minutes and also features a seconds hand on a subdial at 9. A nice little touch is the small lip on one of the plates at 3 o’clock that is engraved with the stylized RJ logo. It is a subtle placement on such a bold looking watch, but I think the brand is probably more recognizable by their watches than by their logo or name.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

The RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 collection comes in 5 different versions in total, ranging from a full steel version, and various combinations of PVD coated and/or red gold parts. Each version has the same appeal, although the Skylab 44 Red is the most visually impactful, as I said before.

Conclusion

The RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red is a very well built watch, with only minor drawbacks. The concept is well executed, unusual but very cool! The linear approach to movement building is a welcome step away from classical skeletonized watches, much in the sense of the architectural watches by Armin Strom for instance. It incorporates a classical elegance with a contemporary look and feel. Of course, this watch is not for everyone, but if you’re honest about it, there isn’t one watch around that is truly “for everyone”. Where one is absolutely smitten with a Rolex, others, including me, might lean more towards the out-of-the-box watchmakers. There’s nothing wrong with either one of these philosophies and products; as in the end, it all boils down to a matter of personal taste and preferences.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

RJ-Romain Jerome makes a statement through each and every watch. It is a brand that never gets boring, even if they do bring out a Skylab 44 after the Skylab 48, which is slightly larger as the name conveniently suggests. The biggest upside to the smaller diameter is that it packs the same punch on your wrist in terms of presence, but has less free space surrounding the actual movement. The diameter of the entire movement is larger in the 48mm case, as everything grows a little, but the running gear is still in the same place. This gives an even clearer view of your wrist underneath and that is not always a good thing. For more information: RomainJerome.ch.

RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

Pros

  • A highly original execution of a skeletonized watch
  • One of the most all-round wearable RJ-Romain Jerome watches to date
  • Striking contrast between black and gold parts
  • Doesn’t fly under the radar…

Cons

  • Luminous tips are not really helping in darker circumstances
  • No hour markers make for less accurate reading of time
  • Not cheap
  • Doesn’t fly under the radar…

Specifications – RJ-Romain Jerome Skylab 44 Red

  • Case: 44mm wide – stainless steel – black PVD coated – red gold bezel – hollowed out lugs – black PVD screw down crown – trademark black PVD RJ-Romain Jerome “claws”
  • Movement: Concepto Calibre Squelette 3027 – manually wound – 32,60mm across – fully skeletonized – 48 hours of power reserve – exposed escapement at 6 o’clock
  • Strap: black alligator leather – pre-formed – curved lug ends – slimming from case to buckle – black PVD coated steel buckle – rubberized lining
  • Price: Skylab 44 Red retails at $19,950 – but the Skylab 44 collection starts at $16,950
  • Production / limitation: All variations limited to 99 pieces each

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