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Vulcain Grand Prix 39mm

Drawing a Subtle Attention to Your Wrist

You know how trends, any kind of trends, bring us grouped styles of things all at once? Whether looking at fashion which recycles itself every two decades, psychological revolutions which mark an entire generation and not another, and even the rise and fall of technology—which then rises even higher and falls more heavily. Same is true of horology as it is 100% a human-made phenomenon. One such trend is to revive bygone brands which collapsed during the Quartz Revolution (I don’t like to say “Quartz Crisis”), and to re-edit their most iconic collections. Most of the time this process is thoughtfully done as we will see here today. Some other times, not so much. One could say that a brand revival is well done when it both pays homage to the past whilst embracing contemporary technologies and design trends. 

Vulcain was founded in 1858 and is most famous for creating the first wristwatch with a built-in alarm complication in 1947. It was revived in 2002 and has, from my humble perspective, only truly gotten back in the spotlight in the past three years or so. It did so by way of relaunching the original Cricket watch which was famously worn by a few U.S. Presidents. Today we’re taking a look at the Grand Prix which is the revival of a model from the 1960s which itself pays homage to a prize Vulcain won at the 1929 Barcelona World's Fair for its watch manufacture. (In other words, the model name has nothing to do with car racing.) The Grand Prix is a sporty elegant everyday watch, a style which was very common in the 1960s. 


I would normally not sign-up to review a 39mm time-only dress watch as I would feel that it just looks oddly large on the wrist (in relation to the little information there is to read on the dial.) But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review my very first modern Vulcain as, from the press shots, I could tell it came with a rather short lug-to-lug. Indeed, the Vulcain Grand Prix measures 39mm in diameter (that’s at the bezel, the case is 38mm,) it comes with a lug-to-lug of 44.5mm, a total thickness of 12.2mm, and a lug width of 20mm. On my 6.50”/16.5cm wrist, it wears great. I wouldn’t say compact per se, but good, as in “well-proportioned” for a modern, smart casual type of watch. It has a rather thin profile and a significant part of the thickness comes from the double-domed sapphire crystal. 

The fully polished case comes with a screw-down case-back and a push/pull crown endowing it with 50 meters of water resistance (which is what you find on many Omega Speedmasters.) Inside we find a Swiss made automatic Landeron L24 which beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 40 hours of power reserve. (I’ve heard rumors that a Landeron movement built today is not akin to a Landeron movement built a few decades ago; it seems that the manufacture has also been revived, , but please correct me if I’m wrong.) Regardless of who or when the movement was made, it’s been ticking with a healthy beat and I was delighted by the smooth winding action of the crown each time I found it necessary to do so. 

Being an elegant sporty everyday watch, the Vulcain Grand Prix does not come with lume but instead showcases a perfectly balanced and gorgeous dial which I will return to shortly. This model comes in three colors—Silver, Champagne, and Black—and can ve gad on a variety of straps. The model I borrowed for this review was shipped on a soft, black leather strap which tapers from 20mm at the lugs to 16mm at the buckle. Note the machined buckle with its dual finish and perfectly embossed logo, the latter which we also find on the crown. 


From a design perspective, the Vulcain Grand Prix delicately (subtly?) flies under the radar. If I were to be an elegant human watch collector, I would opt for this model instead of a Rolex 1908, a JLC Ultra Thin, or an A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin any day of the months, as I found these types of watches to be too shiny for my personal taste. I also have a personal psychological issue spending as much on a watch as it would cost to spend a nice summer vacation in the South of France. Speaking of which, the Grand Prix retails for $1,300 USD which is perhaps a little higher than what you would prefer, however it remains reasonable for a Swiss Made timepiece that comes with a spectacular finish as we will see below. And as subjective as this might sound, the watch + bracelet had a “new watch smell” which I found quite delightful. 

There are two subtle stars of the show here working in perfect unison. First, the sunburst silver dial which is paired with a magnificent set of fully polished hands and applied hour markers. The hour and minute hands have a subtle “pencil” shape where the tips are triangular and the lower sections of the stems are thinner. The seconds hand is in the shape of a needle and, along with the minute hand, has a curved end. Note how each hand perfectly reaches its respective markers, a small and neat detail being that both the minute and seconds hands reach the minute track, but that the latter is a tad longer. This is the kind of design details that may go unnoticed but which make a big difference when reading the time or simply admiring the good looks of the Grand Prix. 

There is always one design detail which catches my attention whenever I look at a new watch. Here I would say it’s the hour markers. Thin, fully polished, and applied, they look absolutely gorgeous, and I appreciate the fact that they are doubled at the cardinal points. (This is not as useful here as it would be on a tool watch, however it gently breaks the otherwise perfect dial symmetry.) And going back to the point I made above, the second star of the show here is the impeccably polished case and how well it matches with its simple profile and, in particular, the thin mid-case section. It’s the type of finishing that we like to refer to as being “mirror-like” as it does reflect anything it catches. You really have to see this watch in the metal to appreciate the polishing. 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Vulcain recreated a classic watch adapted for the contemporary wrist and made with modern technologies. Did I wish it would be smaller? Yes, of course. You know me, come on? However, and as mentioned earlier in this review, the short lug-to-lug and—as I can now add—the simple case design, aid in making it wear comfortably and look quite amazingly good on my French wrist. Vulcain describes the watch as “Sober and elegant, the Vulcain Grand Prix on your wrist signals Kennedy more than Kardashian. This watch whispers when others shout; it expresses discreet luxury.” Yes, that’s true, and I would further say that it reminds me of John Hamm’s Don Draper character in Mad Men

By the latter comparison I simply want to refer to a style of watches that elegant business men wore in the 1960s, not to the ultra misogynistic and cutthroat ambiance of the PR agencies Mr. Draper worked at. (I still don’t understand why anyone in 2024 would want to emulate the Don Draper look.) But, in any case, if I were to attend a wedding tomorrow or the Met Gala which took place a few days back (by the way, I didn’t get an invitation,) I would absolutely sport a Vulcain Grand Prix as it does come with a sporty and subtle elegance which I like as it—once again—flies under the radar. (The flex radar perhaps?) 


I’ve wanted to review a Vulcain for a while and I’m glad I got to finally do it. At the end of the day, the Grand Prix is an elegant and well-made timepiece which is endowed with a beautifully boring simplicity which is totally up my alley. No precious metals, no COSC or METAS certified calibers, no jewels-set applied markers or a $10,000 “Canopus-Gold” buckle. (Really, Omega?) This model shows that elegant, well-made watches don’t have to cost too much, and that if one is willing to dish out $1,300 USD, one can acquire a well thought-out revival of a timeless watch design. 

If you would like to know more about Vulcain, I recommend visiting this link. To know more about the Grand Prix, please take a look at that link

Thanks for reading.


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