This is just an assumption, but I imagine that most watch people know of the “Holy Trinity” brands. Even if you are not into watches, you may have heard of Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and Patek Philippe. They’re popular brands talked about in rap songs and movies. Similarly, you may know of watches called the Royal Oak, the 222, or another one that sounds straight out of a Jules Verne novel, the Nautilus. To keep things simple, Retter, a new brand from the United States, mashed up the best parts of these models into one watch. This is the Retter 22. 

I honestly didn’t know what “luxury sports watch” and “affordable luxury” meant until I saw the 22 in the metal. What I mean is that I didn’t grasp either concept. I know that the Submariner turned into a luxury sports watch, and I also know that a Royal Oak is luxurious. But what truly qualifies as a luxury sports watch? Is the 15202 luxurious and sporty? And can the Corniche Heritage 40 be categorized as “affordable luxury”? Let’s find out by looking at the Retter 22, its specs, and how they compare to the design. 

Retter 22

What is affordable luxury?

I might be fighting windmills here, but I thought we should start by addressing the horological elephant in the room — what Retter describes as “affordable luxury” (sorry for the numerous quotation marks). For this article — and to keep things moderately short — let’s settle on one possible definition. Luxury is something that costs a lot of money and that most people can’t afford to acquire. A Ferrari is luxurious. A yacht is luxurious, and so is a Vacheron Constantin 222. These things are luxurious because they are made of precious metals or with unique technology. They are generally made by hand, and there are only a few of them in the world. 

A Seiko SKX007 is not made of precious metals, nor does it use unique technology. It’s definitely not made entirely by hand, and there are millions of them in the world. So, according to this definition, an SKX007 is the opposite of luxury. I know, we can define luxury in many ways, and each way can be very personal. I’m just trying to draw a line between the Retter and the watches it draws inspiration from (keep reading!). I like the idea of affordable luxury, as in getting a good-looking watch for a reasonable price if it’s particularly well-made. I couldn’t care less for cheap knock-offs and replicas, and I’d also include 1:1 homages on that list. 

Retter 22

The Model 22 Design

Retter’s founders were upfront with me and on their website about where they got their inspiration from. As you have already guessed, the design of the bracelet and case was inspired by the Vacheron Constantin 222. They even named the model after it, sort of. The diamond-shaped middle links and H-shaped outer links scream Vacheron. However, Retter threw in a twist with the end links in that the pattern is altered by the insertion of vertical, arrow-shaped elements. This makes the bracelet of the 22 a little different and interesting to look at (well, we can agree it’s a little different, at least).

The design of the dial and bezel are more reminiscent of Gerald Genta’s Royal Oak and Nautilus iconic models. And not so much at the same time. While the Royal Oak has an octagonal bezel (eight sides), the 22 has a tetradecagonal one (14 sides). The hands of the 22 are more geometric than those found in Genta’s creations. I particularly like how the hands of the Retter 22 echo the shape of the applied hour markers. 

Retter 22

A key difference between the 22 and the Royal Oak and Nautilus, among a few other things, is the execution of the date window. Retter opted for a rarely seen Sellita SW400 movement, a bigger version of the SW200 that comes with an enlarged date disc; it’s almost “Glashütte Original big”. Although not revolutionary, I appreciate the fact that the brand went the extra step by choosing a well-sized movement. If Retter had gone with the SW200, it would have required inserting a retaining ring between the movement and case. No, we don’t see the movement, but yes, it’s cool that the designers made the effort. Additionally, the date would have been much smaller. 

Retter 22

Specifications, price, and availability 

I’m sure you have been curious to know the dimensions of the watch. Here they are — 40mm in diameter, 46mm lug-to-lug (49mm including the fixed end links), and 12mm in height. The lug width is 21mm. While the photos show the Retter 22 on the integrated bracelet, the brand will also offer the option of a hypoallergenic rubber strap (complimentary for the first 250 orders). Furthermore, the bracelet is equipped with a butterfly deployment clasp. Again, this is nothing outlandish, but it goes well with this style of bracelet. 

As mentioned already, the 22 comes with a Swiss-made Sellita SW400 movement. Retter regulates the movement in-house, and the two models we were loaned ran within COSC specifications (if you are a precision nerd like I am, you’ll appreciate that). The crystal is of the sapphire type and has several layers of internal anti-reflective coating, giving a clear view of the generously lumed markers and hands. Last but not least, the 22 comes with a screw-down crown and case back, offering 200 meters of water resistance. As of writing this article, the 22 can only be bought on Retter’s website. Pre-orders open today, August 1st, 2022. The watch will retail for US$895 (approximately €876). The 22 comes in two dial colors — Lapis Blue (with a sunburst effect) and Frost White (with a matte finish)  

Final thoughts

I’ve never experienced a Royal Oak or a 222 in the metal. I’ve just heard a lot about them, like many of you. If I were to compare what one can get for the same amount of money as the aforementioned models, I’d assume I’m in for a treat. Or, am I? I’m not trying to shoot myself in the foot here, but what is luxury, actually?  Yes, I suggested a definition at the beginning of this article. I had to get things moving. But now that we are at the end of this review, I ask myself, is the Retter 22 luxury that I can afford, therefore making it affordable luxury?

To me, it is. 

Retter 22

Let’s face it, though: that is entirely subjective. Writing about watches for the past few years, I’ve created my own baseline for what is “nice” and what isn’t. I’ve handled €500 watches that I felt were luxurious with great fit, finish, and attention to detail. I’ve also handled €3,000 watches that were immediately forgettable. You could have handled the same watches and thought the opposite. And that’s fine. My job is neither to determine what is “affordable luxury” to you nor is it to tell you what to buy. My job — my passion — is to let you know of new models being released by independent brands. 

Now that you have been presented with the facts (and a little bit of my bias), what do you think of the Retter 22? I would love to hear your comments below.

For more information on the Retter 22, visit the brand’s official website.