Dirty Dozen Dons Bronze — Hands-On With The Vertex Bronze 75
With the year that we’ve had, it has been somewhat overlooked that 2020 marks 75 years since the end of the Second World War. While of course we should pay remembrance to our veterans and fallen heroes every year, 75 years is an important milestone. Soon there will be a time that every man, woman and child who experienced World War II first hand will no longer be with us. We should savor any opportunity to pay thanks and respect.
My grandfather served as an RAF navigator on a Lancaster bomber, operating in 93 successful missions. I was always fascinated to hear about the camaraderie of his squadron but also the sacrifices made. The latest watch by Vertex pays tribute to all who served during this time, so in some way, I feel proud this includes my family. Vertex refers to it as the “Bronze 75”, but the underlying construction closely relates to its M series.
The most notable model in the M series is the M100 that modernized one of the original “Dirty Dozen” watches. I’ll try not to delve too much into the history of the “Dirty Dozen”, but I would recommend checking out this article by Rob Nudds, who gave a history lesson in watches of the British Army. Simply put, the military specifications in the ’40s requested sturdy cases, strict regulation, legible dials, and waterproofness. That is what was delivered, and the revived Vertex brand still offers in the form of the M100.
Bronze is now far more prevalent amongst brands than in the early 2010s.
As the name suggests, the Vertex Bronze 75 has a case made from that oxidizing metal alloy. Therefore, this new Vertex deviates slightly from the specs of the Dirty Dozen. Bronze may be far more prevalent among brands than it was in the early 2010s, and the days of collectors clambering for the Panerai Submersible Bronzo seem like a distant memory, but, as I have found, there is still a demand for the super-aging alloy.
The Bronze 75
For a long time, bronze was a metal I swore off. Now, I always encourage watch collectors to have an open mind and not to dismiss a style or function simply because they have had limited exposure to it. Here I am, ignoring my advice about bronze for the same reasons. To understand why, perhaps you need to know a little more about me.
I have a mild case of OCD (“Obsessive Cleaning Disorder” in this context) when it comes to timepieces. This OCD reveals itself as a need to polish the case, glass, and bracelet almost religiously. Usually, with a super-soft microfiber cloth that I am ashamed to say is part of my everyday carry (or EDC). Typically, this would be before I strap the watch on and in intervals throughout the day. I’m not too fond of the look of smudges, dust, or lint that naturally attract to the surface of a watch.
Bronze 75 on the wrist
You can imagine then how refreshing it was to have the Vertex Bronze 75 for an extended stay. I took one look at the case and concluded that a cloth was no match for the elements. Maybe sometimes I gave the raised boxy sapphire crystal a quick wipe, but the bronze case was free to fester. Surprising as it may sound, I often look forward to returning a watch that’s in for review, if only to give my collection some wrist time. But, after a while, I began to miss reaching into the watch box for the Vertex, just for the sake of providing the cleaning cloth a rest.
The bronze case smells like old coins.
I may have become a convert to bronze cases, but there are still some lingering caveats. Bronze cases have a metallic whiff, which is noticeable. It’s not a particularly bad smell. It actually smells like old coins, but there were times my wife would mention it when we were cuddling on the couch. My other gripe about wearing the Bronze 75 focuses on the strap. Sure, you can easily change it — especially with the quick release on the vintage brown leather strap. But seeing as Vertex premiere the Bronze 75 on the brown leather, I feel the need to speak up on a trend I am not too keen on in watch straps.
Why do straps have to be so thick?
The brown leather strap is incredibly thick, especially towards the spring bar attachments. In itself, this is not necessarily the problem, but it has an impact on the wearing comfort. The logic is to maintain a sense of continuity with flowing lines from the lugs to the clasp. But at the disadvantage of not molding to the contours of the wrist immediately. Perhaps over time, and wearing the watch frequently, that strap may begin to take shape.
What I did experience was a strap that pinched at the side of my wrists. And even on the limit of tightness on the bronze pin buckle settings, the watch hovered above my 18cm wrists. As courteous as it is for Vertex to provide a stainless-steel case-back to reduce the contact of bronze to the skin, it may not have been necessary.
I say that in jest, but really, I did have trouble wearing the watch on this strap. The other effect it had would be to swing to either side of my wrist instead of sitting centrally. This swinging motion sometimes winds the crown in the first position as it shifts on the wrist — pretty much making it a semi-automatic.
Sure, it’s an easy fix, and the 20mm lug width opens up a lot of strap options. But even looking back at my shots, I feel it even looks disproportionate to the 11mm case thickness. Vertex is not alone in this, and we have seen its compatriots at Bremont affixing similarly hefty straps to its watches. But I struggle to understand the benefits. When laying the watch flat, the leather band also bows outwards, resembling the McDonald’s “M” logo. Other straps are supplied with the Vertex including a bespoke NATO by Zulu Alpha straps and a replica of the A.F.0210. strap, which is the forebear to the NATO.
The bronze case is the main difference from previous M100 watches from Vertex. There are, however, some enticing details on the dial. The hands have a gold-tone against the matte dial that veers from black to grey to brown in certain lighting conditions. With a radially engraved sub-dial, the subsidiary seconds also receive their light show. Prominent dual red dots on the 12 o’clock marker indicate the orientation of the dial in low light conditions. Also, in low lighting is when the raised Super-LumiNova numerals come to life. The luminescent qualities of the digits are pretty insane. But it does take a bit of work to get them to full brightness.
The watch is limited to 150 pieces and comes in a genuine Peli Case.
Powering the Bronze 75 is a high-tier version of the manual winding ETA 7001 movement without hacking seconds. Even though the unsigned crown does not screw down, water resistance is guaranteed up 100 meters. The watch is limited to 150 pieces and comes in a genuine Peli Case with laser-etched foam padding. The Vertex Bronze 75 is £2,700 including VAT. If you are interested in the watch or any watches in the series, then I highly recommend contacting Vertex via the website here.