If you ask anyone even moderately familiar with wearable timepieces from where they’d expect a well-built watch, they’ll probably tell you one of two places: Switzerland or – perhaps more begrudgingly – Japan. And that makes perfectly logical sense. For all intents and purposes, Switzerland is the birthplace of the modern watchmaking trade, thanks in large part to American soldiers’ exposure to and reliance upon wearable timepieces during WWI. Japan, since about the same time, became a major hub of both industry and technology, so it seems only natural that craftsmen from the island nation would make the foray into building portable timekeepers. Chances are, one of the last place you’d think of when considering purchasing a solidly made watch is a seaside town in Southern California. But you might want to think again.
Newport Beach is a city perhaps most famous for, candidly speaking, its rather well-tanned and well-off residents and for exemplifying what the rest of the world envisions as “California beach culture.” What people may not be aware of is that it’s also the city that Tsovet, an independent watchmaking brand, calls home. And, although they are surrounded on all sides by what most might consider distractions, the craftsmen behind the brand draw much of their inspiration from adventure, truth, and the historical roots of their trade, diligently imbuing it into their products. We’ve taken a look at one such product, the Tsovet SVT-FW44 watch, breaking it down in the following review.
There’s no mistaking from where the SVT-FW44’s sleek facade was culled. Soup to nuts, this timekeeper is the spitting image of a classic field watch. In fact, that’s for what the FW in its name stands. The most notable difference in appearance, however, between this watch and its more commonplace counterparts is that, on the FW44, Tsovet has forgone the usual Arabic numerals in favor of thick demarcation lines which indicate the hours – with dual markings at the 12 o’clock position – which are labeled in accordance with their corresponding minute. For instance, ‘1’ is labeled as ’05,’ ‘6’ is labeled ’30,’ so on and so forth. Paired with the thick luminescent hour and minute hand, the end result is an appearance that is simple, stylish, and refined, yet still harkens back to the place from whence it came: the battlefield, where every minute counts.
But that’s the extent of it. There are no extraneous dials, no date window, no minute repeater, etc. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if you know what to expect. This watch isn’t intended as a high-tech survival gadget fitted with GPS, a wire garrote, or a geiger counter to measure local radiation. It shouldn’t be expected to have such things. A field watch is not a device for an international spy. It is a pared-down timekeeping device that is tastefully basic. And we like it that way.
Do not mistake the SVT-SW44’s urbane visage as something delicate and fragile, as it is in all aspects a workhorse meant to be worn day-in and day-out, like its historic predecessors. And that is thanks, in large part, to the quality of materials which Tsovet has included in the watch’s composition. The 44mm case with its matching bezel is imposing not for its diameter, but for its depth – a whopping 12.6 mm. And while you might find others with comparable silhouettes, like an oversized Timex, the FW44 looks and feels a lot more sturdy, likely the result of its construction of matte black finished 316L stainless steel – a low-carbon, corrosion-resistant, highly durable alloy. And the viewing window is fitted with a hardened mineral crystal – a less-costly yet still highly scratch-resistant heat tempered alternative to sapphire.
But the toughness of this watch isn’t relegated just to its body. The hardware, both the oversized crown and the buckle, are made from the same tough 316L matte black stainless steel – only adding to the substantiality of the timepiece. And, in lieu of a more traditional nylon band, Tsovet has opted to equip this watch with a sizable 5mm stitched leather band to match. The resulting weight of all these components, a whopping 3.7 ounces, is certainly on the heavier side of the spectrum, but it isn’t unexpected or unwarranted based on what is delivered: unadulterated grit.
This watch’s simple 3-hand design is driven by a Swiss-made Ronda 513.1 quartz – a reliable 1.5v powered movement with a battery lifespan of about 45 months of constant operation. It may not have all the bells and whistles of your run-of-the-mill digital watch or mechanical chronograph, but it is absolutely reliable in its functionality and 3.75 years is a thankfully long time between battery replacements. The largest benefit to the limited functionality is that setting up the FW44 is a simple affair. The crown – the protruding knob on the right side of the case – has three functional positions: fully extended, the time can be set by rotating the crown to the appropriate hour and minute; pushed in, the operation of the watch resumes; and screwed in, making the joint between the crown and the case moisture resistant. If you want something that has a stopwatch, date window, minute splitter, or any other of a dozen different complications, this might not be the watch for you – but it certainly meets all the criteria for long-term reliability and functionality.
This watch is an uncomplicated and hefty chunk of machinery, but that’s exactly what we’d expect from a timepiece borne of battlefield heritage. While a little on the heavy end, it is in no way too cumbersome for daily use. In fact, its heft is more of a subconscious reminder of the handsome timepiece strapped to your wrist than a hinderance of any kind. The bare-bones styling pairs perfectly with the appropriately limited accoutrements of the Swiss movement within and lends this watch the all-too-rare feeling of something you could actually wear every single day – whether you’re suited up for a black tie dinner or you’re doing a full vehicle teardown in your garage. Simple yet substantial, robust yet refined; the Tsovet SVT-FW44 is both a worthwhile tribute to its historical roots and an exceptional option for everyday wear.
© Photography by HiConsumption