Hands-On With The Sofia II From Axia Time — High Style With Some Substance
Axia Time is a new watch brand on my radar. What started as a watch company specializing in university-branded commemorative watches has now also developed several lines of watches that proudly display its own branding and nothing else. Founder John Kanaras first found himself unimpressed by the standard of commemorative watches in the late 1980s. He received one such watch when he was twice victorious as part of the University of Pennsylvania Lacrosse team.
Browsing the brand’s catalog, with the University and Axia Time series sharing model templates, it is easy to see how most of these can act as a blank canvas. The one model that catches the eye, with lots of personality and looking like a fully developed design, is the Sofia II. The name comes from the Greek word for wisdom, and the folks at Axia Time have chosen it to symbolize a re-examining of everything they do. Given the specs and renders, I can certainly get on board with that name, but do those initial impressions carry through to the final product?
Drawn in by the dial
With the watch in hand or viewing images online, the hour numerals in the outer track immediately draw my gaze. Stretched in some places and fattened in others, the radially oriented numerals are well-proportioned and contrast significantly against the dark-colored dials. A ring of minute markers sits just inside the boundary between the outer and inner dial sections. This combination of large and small dots helps the flow of the dial design. Especially when echoed further in the sub-seconds dial, but, unfortunately, they aren’t quite so successful when considering function. As minute markers, they are serviceable when reading the time. However, setting the time involves placing the minute hand over the marker in question and hoping to center it between the two adjacent markers.
Another aspect that I really like is how the steps within the dial are punctuated not only by the minute markers but also by a subtle change in texture. The circular brushing is finer in the outer segment than inside, while the sub-seconds dial has concentric grooves. Inside is the date disc, which is custom printed to color-match the dial and uses the same typeface. The combination of heavily stylized numerals and sequence of ever-decreasing circles does bring to mind the Slim D’Hermès. That’s no bad thing, and it would be unfair to refer to the Sofia II as a direct homage.
Like chalk and cheese
The three hands are large and conventional in style, and readability in both day and night is good with Super-LumiNova X1 also applied to the numerals and dial dots. The sapphire crystal is treated to 16 (yes, sixteen!) layers of anti-reflective coating. Whether or not every one of those layers is needed is tough for me to say, but the outcome is effective. On the two watches loaned to me, however, I’ve seen a disappointing level of finishing to the hands and applied dial logo. Axia Time notes that the hour and minute hands are diamond-cut, but some edges appear roughly cut or flecked with dust. Neither is ideal.
Whereas the dial is primarily a success in design but slightly lacking in execution in some areas, the case is almost the opposite. Quality of design is largely subjective, but the fun yet elegant dial deserves a more interesting case. The one dash of flair — a twist of the polished and brushed titanium towards the lugs — is well executed. The edges are crisp, as are the transitions between different finishes. The case is even treated to surface hardening up to 1,000 Vickers. However, when viewed against the character and harmony of the dial, the case seems run-of-the-mill.
Flip the watch over, and you’ll again see excellent execution. There’s a great balance between the movement’s exhibition window, the case, and the ring for a potential personalized engraving. The titanium surfaces of the case back are all brushed, which feels at odds with the largely polished top side. You’d be forgiven for thinking these could be two different watches.
A quality Swiss movement
Inside the Sofia II is the Sellita SW360 in Elaboré grade. This Swiss automatic caliber is a clone of the ETA 2895, which features small seconds and a date window at 6 o’clock. It also provides hacking and hand-winding, a 42-hour power reserve, and a beat rate of 28,800vph. Sellita expects accuracy within ±15 seconds per day. One of the benefits of the SW3xx series over the SW2xx series from Sellita is its slimness. Being 1mm thinner means that a watch that makes this selection can also benefit from that slimmer profile.
The Sofia II sits somewhere between a dressy and sporty piece, and Axia has sized it accordingly. The diameter of 40.5mm and lug-to-lug length of just under 48mm is a good fit on my 17.75cm (7″) wrist. It perhaps looks even larger than that due to the all-dial design and large polished lug facets. The combination of titanium, a thickness of 10.5mm, and lug tips sitting slightly lower than the case back all help the watch to sit securely and wear comfortably. But this leads to another dichotomy.
As standard, the watch comes fitted with a genuine alligator strap, which plays to the formal aspects of the watch and polished case surfaces. However, the 22mm lug spacing is wider than you might expect given the watch’s diameter. Such a ratio typically points towards a sportier look and feel. Axia Time also sent over an orange rubber strap. While not included in the package, it feels a better match for the overall aesthetic and is how I would choose to wear this piece.
Wrapping up the Axia Time Sofia II
As you might have gathered, I’m left with very mixed emotions about the Sofia II. Certain design elements are undoubtedly successful, and the quality in some areas is also notable. However, each element of the watch that triumphs in one way seems to fall agonizingly short in another. My expectations may cloud part of my judgment given the elegant dial design touches. Still, I’m left ruing what might have been rather than applauding what Axia Time got right. And to be fair, the brand still got plenty right.
Axia derives its name from the Greek word for value. Priced at US$795, there are probably enough flashes of quality to justify that name. The dial is full of character, and the finishing of the hardened titanium case is excellent. The optional complimentary engraving surrounding the Swiss automatic movement is another nice touch. It in no way degrades the watch if left blank. However, if the brand addressed the nagging flaws in finishing or (entirely subjective) missteps, it could easily represent excellent value with a higher price tag. You can find more about the Sofia II on the Axia Time website.
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