Hands-On: The Celegin Draken — One Of The Best Microbrand Pilot’s Watches Of 2021
I have always had a soft spot for both independents and microbrands. The microbrand genre is an ever-evolving one, spanning everything from budget-friendly $150 Submariner-ish divers up to meticulously crafted watches over $3000. But one thing marks this refreshing part of the #watchfam, and that is personality. Going hands-on with the Celegin Draken merely confirms my theory, with its suave personality winning me over.
Some microbrands are a love-or-hate affair, but shining through each design is the sheer enthusiasm of the founders. My first new mechanical wristwatch was from a budget microbrand, and this accessibility is key to each success story. Leonard Celegin is the founder of the eponymous brand Celegin, and the Draken is his strong and rather mature-looking debut watch. It is inspired by an iconic Swedish delta-wing jet fighter from SAAB.
A mature design with a German touch
No doubt about it: the Draken is recognizable. If you are a connoisseur of European pilot’s watches from small brands like Laco, Hanhart, and particularly Sinn, you will recognize the angular muscularity of the Celegin’s design. Leonard Celegin himself is a Sinn collector, and it shows in the details and visual language of the Draken. The first impression is one of surprise, stemming from the general maturity and understated design. The Draken is a pared-back, refined vision of a pilot’s watch with a touch of contemporary Sinn. This is a sincere compliment, as it’s a #watchfam favorite for a reason. But, the Celegin Draken has its very own and resolutely cool vibe, coming across as a refined tool, if you like. I own a Sinn 104 myself, and while it is near perfect with its 41mm bezel and 39mm case, it wears small for some and is scratch-prone due to its completely polished design.
The small differences that come from experience
The case sides of the Draken are what first got to me. The vertically brushed and clean-cut case sides have distinct striations, with a sharp top chamfer following the trapezoidal lugs. The polished bevel accentuates the shape and catches the light, and the brushing contrasts well with the polished signed crown. The crown is extremely easy to grip, and here we go again — the Draken giving me the feeling that this is Celegin’s fourth or fifth release, most definitely not the first! This says a lot for Leonard Celegin’s eye for detail.
Size-wise, it is close to 42.5mm at the bezel, with the case back coming in around 40mm. This makes the Draken a versatile size. The 22mm lugs allow for plenty of strap choices, including the tough, leather-backed fabric strap in blue that fits the contemporary image of the watch. The strap does seem a bit unwieldy at first. After a few decisive pre-wear folding exercises, however, it begins to show its colors. The blue is generously partnered with another quick-swappable sand-colored version. They seem like the type of straps that, after a week, start to show real “forever buddy” potential.
Blue and black just keep me coming back
Sorry for that pathetic rhyming attempt, but the dial and bezel do a great job of catching your attention with their dark indigo aesthetic. The bezel is a suave dark blue, giving the impression that the dial itself is on the blue spectrum. In fact, the dial is actually matte black. Kudos again for this studied choice, lending an elegant air to this tool of a watch. Both the bezel and Arabic numerals are viscerally legible at night. They are white and crisp, turning turquoise at nightfall, thanks to a liberal coating of BGW9.
The strong aeronautical vibe is underlined by the Easter egg above six o’clock. Did you spot it? The menacing silhouette of the Draken fighter is stealthily applied in a gloss black lacquer. Only visible in certain lights, it is a great contrast to the traditional sweep of the Celegin logo at 12 o’clock. The purity of the monochrome is exemplified by the crisp white syringe hands. They are matte black at their base and paired with a sharp arrow-tipped seconds hand. Even the discreet date window works with the balanced and functional aesthetic of the dial. Scandinavianism is present with the Automatisk script at 6 o’clock, and a cheeky off-center Sverige denoting its heritage.
How does Celegin do it for the price?
This is a question I don’t have the answer to, but the value aspect is simply superb at less than €550. This includes an AR-treated sapphire crystal, a screw-down crown, and a Swiss SW300 Sellita caliber. This is a solid ETA alternative present in most Hanhart and Sinn offerings at more than three times the price. I’ve put this down to Leonard’s bargaining skills, but it does present a tempting picture. With its case being decisively post-microbrand in execution, the Celegin Draken is simply very good. Leonard Celegin knows his ergonomics, and the 49mm total length works well thanks to the studied shape of the broad, trapezoidal lugs.
There are still a few left
The first run of 100 watches has not been widely marketed, so should you want to secure the debut Draken, it’s not too late. You’ll find it on the Celegin website for a very respectable SEK 5490, equivalent to €535. Check it out on the Celegin home page here.
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