Ivan Chua, a Singapore-based designer has launched his second watch collection via crowdfunding. It follows his Retro Eclipse collection from 2017. That watch series had a simple, elegant dress aesthetic with inspiration from Chinese mythology (featuring an etching of the Heavenly Hound that devours the Moon on the caseback). The new Empire series goes in a different direction with a flashier, Art Deco theme and an intricately finished dial. After the hand-wound models were successfully funded on Kickstarter last month, it is now time for the Automatic versions to be offered through an Indiegogo campaign.
The Vario Empire Automatic collection consists of five variants that differ by colour, but these differences are significant and really distinguish the models. Every part of the watch was designed from scratch, including the case, hands, dial and crown (movements are Japanese – more on that later). Chua emphasizes that none of these parts is off-the-shelf, providing a finished product that’s fresh and unique.
The 316L stainless steel case is 38mm in diameter and 11.5mm in height, although the watches funded on Kickstarter were 11mm in height due to a different movement (manual vs automatic). The 1930s Art Deco theme is already evident with a rounded, polished bezel forming a step above the round middle case section that’s a bit wider. The top of the case and horn lugs are also polished, with a brushed finish on the sides. A classic onion crown finishes the retro theme. There’s a sapphire crystal over the dial with an interior anti-reflective coating and a solid steel caseback. Differences between the Kickstarter and Indiegogo versions can also be seen here as the prior models had an exhibition caseback. All models are water-resistant to 50 metres.
The dials are the real standout with multiple levels and design elements. The central portion has a stamped “guilloché” pattern surrounded by a raised ring with twelve applied Arabic numerals (with a 1930s font). Surrounding the ring at the outermost perimeter is a chapter ring, back down to the level of the centre section with raised dots marking the seconds. The hour and minute hands are skeletonized with a solid, narrow lollipop seconds hand.
There are five colour variants available – silver dial with heated blue hands, gunmetal tuxedo dial with silver hands, white dial with heated blue hands, white tuxedo dial with silver hands and black tuxedo dial with silver hands. Buyers have a choice of Italian leather straps with a slight bi-colour effect (20mm taper to 16mm) or Harris Tweed straps (20mm taper to 18mm).
The movement from the earlier Kickstarter campaign was a hand-wound Miyota. The present Vario Empire Automatic models now live on Indiegogo have an automatic Seiko NH38A with 24 jewels and 21,600vph, without date (and also without ghost position). A proven workhorse, easily serviced and affordable.
Prices for the Vario Empire Automatics are USD 250 for Super Early Birds and USD 278 for Early Birds. Multiple watches can be purchased at an Indiegogo discount as well. All models come with a one-year international warranty and 14-day return window. Production is planned for June with deliveries in late September. For more information and to place an order, visit the Vario Empire Indiegogo page here.
The Vario Empire hand-wound models are now available directly from the brand’s website, at prices ranging from EUR 316 to EUR 334 (depending on the dial). More details at vario.sg.