A Milestone Release for Nezumi
There is an entire sub-genre of chronograph watches that I wasn’t too familiar with until recently. And that is the vintage racing-inspired ones. Both independent and household names have been trying their hands at making these types of watches, and from the looks only, I tend to prefer what the newcomers come up with. One such brand is Nezumi, the Stockholm-based watchmaker whose creations are imbued with a deep sense of yesteryear horological delicacy. Their most recent—and significant—release is the Voiture chronograph mechanical. Being one of the few watch journalists who can actually pronounce the word “voiture” properly (I’m French, after all,) we’ll take a look at what makes this particular release so interesting, both from a design and mechanical perspective.
Perhaps my favorite part of writing about a watch and its specifications is the dimensions as they indicate right off the bat whether or not the timepiece and I would get along. The Voiture chronograph (VM1S.601) measures 40mm in diameter, 47mm lug-to-lug, 14.5mm thick and has a lug width of 20mm. When I read that the VM1S had a total thickness of 14.5mm (12.6mm + 1.9mm for the domed sapphire crystal,) I thought I was about to come across a mastodon. But fear not: the watch sits wonderfully flat on my wrist thanks in part to its wonderful case design. The lugs sit perfectly halfway between the bottom and the top of the case, reducing the physical and visual appearance of the watch head.
The actual thinness of the watch is quite impressive given that inside beats the manual-wound Sellita SW510. This particular caliber beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 58 hours of power reserve. That’s more than enough power reserve for the average user, however it’s a nice bonus to have. Having this movement means you have a full-fledged chronograph strapped to your wrist. In other words: you got a running seconds sub-register at the 9 o’clock, a 30-minute totalizer at the 3 and a 12-hour totalizer at the 6. These are all the functions you get from a much more expensive Omega Speedmaster.
The case and bracelet are made of stainless steel and the watch comes with one of the nicest jubilee bracelets I’ve seen from an independent brand. Although I'm not a fan of this type of clasp, Nezumi went for the 1960s and 1970s vibe which does work well with the VM1S. Other than that, the construction is solid and the safety latch and déployant clasp have a positive response. So do the chronograph pushers that have a distinct and crisp action. I particularly love the crown that is easy to operate although it is not large. Overall, and as we will see below, Nezumi designed a well-proportioned timepiece.
I’ve had an eye on Nezumi’s collections for a long while. I like the aesthetic of every single one of their models and in particular of the Voiture. Which means I’ve been looking at the meca-quartz brethren of the VM1S as I’ve gotten smitten with the unique dial layout. Perhaps the most striking element is the double arrow-shaped frame that runs across the middle of the dial and encircles two of the three sub-registers. It’s guiding our eyes towards important information—as I find it more useful to know how many minutes I am into timing something rather than looking at the seconds sweeping by.
I’m not a designer but I imagine it can’t be easy to design a chronograph. There are many types of information that need to be included and isolated at the same time. The tachymeter scale that runs across the brushed bezel insert, the three sub-registers, the hour, minute, and chronograph hands, as well as the minute track. The baton-style hour and minute hands visually match the applied and brushed hour markers, and the orange chronograph hand is matched by the painted markers every five minutes/seconds. (Typically, the color of the chronograph hand matches the one of the minute totalizer.)
I like how Nezumi did things differently.
Like many successful independent brands, Nezumi created a unique design DNA in the case and lug design. Say what you must about the lyre lugs that look like the ones on certain Omega’s, I think it’s absolutely appropriate to re-use certain design elements that have worked for brands that have come before. (I challenge you to find a watch that doesn’t borrow any design element that has been seen elsewhere.) One key element of the Voiture is indeed the lugs that turn inward toward the case. The outside of the lugs, however, is straight and looks like claws gripping on the wrist. (In a delicate way, of course.)
From a finish standpoint, Nezumi did an incredible job with the Voiture. The center portion of the lugs is polished and runs across the mid-case to the other side. The entire side and underside of the bezel is polished as well (I particularly like how the latter shoots up from the mid-case,) so is the ring separating the bezel from the domed sapphire crystal. Lastly, the middle links of the jubilee bracelet have been polished too. Everything else is adorned with a fine brushing that looks superb both on photos and in person.
The Heart of the Matter
The VM1S is a celebratory release for Nezumi. It marks the 10th anniversary of their founding and it is thus far their most complex model. As many independent brands do, they started with quartz models, then moved on to mechanical ones. What the brand did differently from many other ones, however, is the fact that each release looks very “Nezumi.” As mentioned above, there is a distinct DNA that runs across all of their collections. And Nezumi did not fall for starting a watch brand by releasing a soulless dress watch with a quartz movement. (The latter happens too often in my opinion.) Instead, Nezumi came right off the bat with unique designs and this explains why the brand has been so successful.
While I don’t own one of their models and that the VM1S is the first Nezumi I see in the metal, I can understand why the brand’s fans were excited by this release. Many loved the Voiture’s dimensions, design, and price, and naturally some of them secretly wished the brand would release a mechanical version of it. Releasing a mechanical version of a popular meca-quartz model without changing the design and (virtually) its dimensions is not something that you see everyday. To me this signals that Nezumi is confident in what it has to offer and is secure enough as a brand to move to the next step while continuing to offer more affordable models.
More than any of the above, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few design and engineering details that set the VM1S apart from the competition. First, it’s the superb finish on the case and in particular on the lugs. The latter are not just polished but they display a refined type of polishing. (Not sure if there is a name for that, sorry.) Just like the brushing has a satin finish that makes the watch look and feel more refined. It’s easy to get the finish wrong on a watch and difficult to get it right. The quality of the finishing is generally proportionate to the retail price of the timepiece. But I bet that the meca-quartz variant comes with an equally fine finish despite the fact that it cost 4.5 times less.
The Voiture mechanical is also a practical tool even though we rarely need a tachymeter scale nowadays. While watch enthusiasts often ask for the Omega-style concentric circle on the sub-registers—a mark of refinement which I too enjoy looking at—Nezumi did not go for these. Instead, the entire dial has a matte finish and the choice of the hands for all sub-registers is perfect: they look like reversed sign posts and are very legible. Opting for a simple texture (or no texture for that matter) on the sub-registers means the hands are easy to read. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that Nezumi added the half-hour markers on the 12-hour sub-register.
The Voiture mechanical is a stunning looking watch that works well and feels nice. Not only does it look handsome, but it also feels like a proper tool watch. As mentioned earlier, the pushers and crown have a crisp action and are easy to operate. The choice of hands makes each function—keeping time and timing events—practical. There is nothing gimmicky about the VM1S and the way it operates, and it's’ the type of watch that makes me want to use it. The whole time I had it at home I was desperately looking for something to time—a dog walk, grilling a steak, or how long it takes me to get ready in the morning or to go to my local coffee shop to write this review.
The Voiture is not perfect and no watch being perfect, I feel that you get a lot for the $1,695 you will need to spend to acquire one of these. Making mechanical chronographs is no easy feat and brands typically charge double for such a watch than they do for a three-hand + date model. I’m no movement expert, however it is my understanding that reliable mechanical chronograph movements are not easy to come by and are not cheap.
On a final note: there are plenty of VM1S available on the Nezumi website so go take a look. The Voiture comes in three dial configurations: black on white, white on black, and blue on blue as presented here.
Thanks for reading.