Atlas A5 Auto
Everyday Sports Watch Made Right.
I remember the first time I saw a picture of Ian Fleming wearing a 36mm Rolex Explorer 1 and thinking how cool this particular watch looked on his particular wrist. The reason why it looked so good is because—as I came to realize later—it was the perfect size for him. We’ve all heard the stories of how brands went from making smaller watches to bigger ones, then even bigger watches to eventually returning to medium-sized timepieces to, at last, smaller ones again. It’s a huge cycle which brands have gone through in the past century and I for one am glad it’s back to where it started. At least, more or less. I say this because in the past two years, more and more brands—big, small, micro and independent—make everyday watches with diameters around 36mm. The Goldie Locks size for many watch enthusiasts and collectors. (Like yours truly.)
This brings us to Vaer and the Atlas A5 Automatic. Vaer is a relatively young brand based in the United States (Los Angeles, California to be exact) and best known for making attainable, well-made, and adequately sized wristwatches. And the brand offers a wide catalog of field watches, divers, GMTs, and models designed to be worn everyday, anywhere. When I first heard of the A5 I knew I had to get my hands on it because I have an obsession with small daily wearers. And although I’m a bit late in writing this review, I hope it will nevertheless make you more curious about the brand, this model, and its quartz-powered sibling that costs too little. Indeed, the Automatic version I’m reviewing here is currently sold out, but the quartz version isn’t. I’ll leave all helpful links at the end of this review.
Let’s get the cat right out of the bag and talk about dimensions. The Atlas A5 measures 36 mm in diameter, 43mm lug-to-lug, 10.4mm thick and has a 20mm lug width. The first point of interest here is the short lug-to-lug distance and the lug width which, both combined, make the A5 wear perfectly on my 6.25”/16cm wrist. In the past, I tried watches that had a 36mm diameter but an 18mm lug width and this tiny detail made a big difference in how the watch sat on my wrist. I also tried on watches with the same diameter but with 48mm L2L which made the watch occupy too much wrist space in a way that it felt odd. I’m no watch designer but I do know that getting the proportions of a watch right isn’t easy. Add or subtract 1 or 2mm in the wrong place and the whole thing just doesn’t work.
Despite its petite dimensions, the Atlas A5 comes with an appropriate 100 meters of water resistance thanks to a screw-down crown and case-back. That’s enough water resistance for most activities that we humans engage in 99% of the time. (I mean, realistically, not according to social media.) Being an everyday timepiece, the A5 comes with a domed sapphire crystal complete with inner anti-reflective coating, a reliable Miyota 9015 caliber which beats at 28,800 BPH and has 42 hours of power reserve, and decent applications of SuperLuminova which glows ice blue. What’s more is that the A5 presented here comes on a beads-of-rice bracelet with quick-release spring bars and a double-pusher déployant clasp fitted with a safety latch.
When we say “everyday watch” we ought to talk about the elements of the design that make the A5 Atlas versatile. Because yes, being able to wear it everyday means being able to look the part in most situations we find ourselves in. At least, that’s my definition of what an everyday timepiece should be. So, what do we have here? Well, for starters, the dial is very legible despite being small, though here I must say Vaer did a great job maximizing the dial opening of a 36mm watch. (I’m bothering to mention this because this isn’t always the case.) All hour markers, with the exception of the inverted triangle at the 12 o’clock, have a trapezoidal shape which I find to be both elegant and easy to see. The markers, by the way, are applied which means the dial of the A5 has relative three dimensionality.
The markers are paired with fully polished pencil-style hour and minute hands and a white seconds hand. I find that the design of the hands match that of the applied hour markers which contributes to making the watch legible and elegant. The dial also comes with a rich black color and a subtle matte finish which aids with legibility as it means it absorbs light instead of reflecting it. (Which was perhaps necessary given the fully polished treatment on the hands.) Furthermore, a discrete framed date window can be found at the six o’clock and comes with a color-matched date disc. All in all, the Vaer Atlas A5 comes with a discreet appearance which is exactly what I wish to have for an everyday timepiece—whilst being legible and functional.
The case is also well-done as it has slab-sided flanks which have received a satin-brushed finish, thin lugs, and a fully polished fixed bezel that reflects light in the right way, something accentuated by the thin polished chamfer that runs from the bottom of the lugs to the base of the bezel. Furthermore, the bracelet is also well-made and showcases the same dual finish: brushed and rounded outer links and polished center links. The links are held together with screws and the milled clasp is easy to operate. An additional note should be made about the end links which perfectly match the design of the lugs. Again, something that is not always a given especially at this price point.
Wait, what’s the price? $639 USD which ain’t bad at all for an original design, well-proportioned watch that is also well-spec’d, in addition to being assembled in the United States.
The Heart of the Matter
But, the price is not what is at the heart of the matter here. It is the overall package and relevance of this type of watch which should be front and center. Typically, we turn to old and well established brands to find smaller, robust, and well-proportioned timepieces we can use on the daily. Though it should be said that more and more micro and independent brands have taken on the challenge of venturing in this tiny segment of the watch market. Generally speaking, and based on my own experience, there aren’t many everyday watches at this price point coming from the independent watch market and so the A5 Atlas does stand out for that reason. That and its good looks and specs.
It stood out so much, actually, that it sold out quickly. And yes, you should know that it does exist in a quartz version and in other dial colors.
The other point I would like to make here is the fact that the Atlas A5 has somewhat of a dual personality. As mentioned in the introduction, Vaer makes many sport watches and they got started by making legible, affordable, water-resistant field watches so that they (the founders) would know at which time to stop surfing to make it back to the office on time. (Which is probably something they no longer need to worry about.) Therefore, Vaer has a track-record for making sports watches which explains—at least to me—why the A5 has a unique sporty appearance for an everyday timepiece. Note that Vaer includes a rubber strap for those times when the bracelet is not appropriate for your activity.)
The Vaer Atlas A5 Automatic is not the most affordable everyday watch we can find today on the micro/independent market. And it wasn’t created to be that. Instead, the A5 was invented to provide a solid alternative to the watches we all wish we could own if it were not for the fact that we can’t afford them unless we were to all become realtors or heirs to tech investors. (That goes without saying that many of said watches are actually not available to purchase.) So the fact that we can’t buy an Explorer 1 or an AquaTerra (because you know these are the models I was referring to) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to own a watch we can afford and enjoy wearing in our daily adventures. So, if you like what you saw today, I recommend taking a look at Vaer’s website here.
Thanks for reading.