As a big watch nerd, I love sharing cool watches with you guys in hopes that my obsession, as unseemly as it is, will be passed from writer to reader like an STD. This time I was lucky enough to be able to handle the new Ernst Benz Officer ChronoLunar, a huge “officer-style” chronograph with day-date-lunar cycle registers and a 24-hour dial.
To be clear, this watch uses the Valjoux 7751 movement found in any number of similarly-featured watches. This includes a number of Omegas, Zenos, Glycines, and, most interestingly, custom watch projects. Think of the movement like an CPU and ETA and Valjoux as Intel and AMD. Many manufacturers use the same movements in multiple watches and the wild fluctuations in price – from a thousand or so to nearly $10 grand, are entirely based on case-type, finish, and (sadly) marketing. In the world of high-end watches, think of Ernst Benz as a boutique manufacturer like Alienware or Falcon Northwest.
What Ernst Benz does best is big watches. This monster is 47mm in width and has a black and white, surprisingly readable face. The watch is almost too big for my wrist, but if you’re looking for something to signal spotter planes with, you could do worse than this shining monster.
The company has fitted all of the complications – the features – in with the face style quite nicely. The big, Gothic hands are quite readable and the lume is excellent and usable at night. The sub-register hands – the 24-hour dial, etc – are unlumed, which makes the watch fairly useless as a date calculator in the pitch dark, but that can be forgiven given the complexity of the dial.
What, exactly, can this thing do? Well, the two pushers on the sides start and stop a chronograph with sweep second, 30 minute, and 12 hour counters. The thin hand with the red tip notes the day of the month while a small window at twelve o’clock notes the month and day of week. The register at nine o’clock shows 24-hour time – AM/PM, essentially – and a running seconds.
In terms of durability I’d only worry about scratching the stainless steel case. The rest of the watch is sufficiently protected and the case is water resistant to 5 ATM or 50 meters. It’s obviously more of a “dress” watch – although it’s huge for a dress watch – so you probably don’t want to go mountain biking in it.
The watch is almost comically large on a thin alligator strap but that doesn’t stop it from being a real looker. Ernst Benz specializes in these sorts of pieces and for them to make timepieces any smaller would be anathema to their designers.
The watch was designed in Michigan by Leonid Khankin and assembled in Switzerland.
Here comes the bad news: expect this model watch to hit about $6,500 in stores, which isn’t that much for this type of watch but is still far out of the range of most calm, rational people. However, if you’re looking for an example of the Valjoux 7751 that looks great on the wrist, this one deserves a chance.
You can find similar pieces online and on eBay for a few thousand, as well, if you’re looking for the style and features but not the high price. Either way, it’s a fascinating artifact of the mechanical age and, if watch collectors Andy Rubin and Tony Fadell are to be believe, an obsession worth pursuing.