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Welcome, one and all, to the first round proper of March Mania 2021, here on Fratello. Are you a watch maniac like we are? If so, you’re sure to love our month-long feature. 96 watches reviewed last year line up for a battle royale (super-size Coke, please) like nothing that’s gone before. We need your votes. We want your comments. Help us decide the champion and share in its glory! Let the games commence…

In this first round proper, your task is a bit different from your task in the preliminaries. Below you will find the eight remaining timepieces of each of our Fratello competitors in four head-to-head contests of two timepieces. The seedings in the preliminaries dictate the match-ups. So it’s number 1 vs. number 8, number 2 vs. number 7, number 3 vs. number 6, and number 4 vs. number 5. Vote for your favorite in each of the matchups.

The remaining eight watches per competitor represent your favorite watches that we covered here on Fratello throughout 2020. Why not refresh your memory by clicking the links and reading those eruditely penned odes to wrist-wear? Once you’ve made your selection, vote using the poll form below. Every vote counts because only the top four will make it through to the next round.

Login to your Fratello account and drop us a comment. Who did you vote for and why? What’s your prediction for the later rounds? Will the Omega Speedmaster 321 triumph once again… Who knows? You decide!

(1) Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Vs. Grand Seiko SBGN005 (8)

Overseas Perpetual Calendar Blue

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

The Vacheron Constantin Overseas was the victor of my preliminary round. It’s a watch that’s no joke, but I feel I could’ve chosen any iteration of the Overseas, and it would have come out on top. Perhaps the steel version with blue dial may have even received a larger chunk of the pie — such is the popularity of the Overseas now in its third generation. The reference 222 of the ’70s was designed by Jorg Hysek, but this was before it was labeled as the “Overseas” collection. Clearly, the Overseas took inspiration from the 222, but 1996 is when the collection truly began.

Still, though, the changes for 2016 were remarkable, such as the repeating Maltese Cross and facets on the bezel. But also the quick-change bracelet mechanism and supplying all watches with rubber and leather alternatives. The Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin showcases all these features with a sultry blue dial and hedonistic but beautiful pink gold case.

Grand Seiko SBGN005

I have been asked why I featured the SBGN005 Grand Seiko rather than the technically superior SBGN001 in my preliminary round. The SBGN001’s 9F quartz GMT movement has an accuracy deviation rated at +5 seconds per year. That’s an improvement over the SBGN005’s +10 seconds per year. Why did Grand Seiko split the collection into two versions of the movement? I’m not sure, but at least GS made that clear with a five-pointed star on the dial of the SBGN001. Even so, +10 seconds deviation under normal circumstances is plenty enough for me. Plus, I prefer the purer blue dial and stainless steel case and bracelet over the titanium of the SBGN001.

March Mania: First Round Proper — Round SEVEN — (1) V (8)

 

(2) Rolex Milgauss 116400GV Vs. Seiko Diver SKX009 (7)

Rolex Milgauss March Madness

Rolex Milgauss 116400GV

Coming in second was the Rolex, but not one of the common models, such as the Submariner, GMT-Master II, or Datejust — no, I chose the Milgauss. It is the outlying Rolex that’s never been too comfortable in the stable. It’s one of the Rolex pieces that always reminds me of The Clash song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go.” At least on pure speculation, the Milgauss is beaten on anti-magnetic capabilities by two other watches in my preliminary round. The Omega “Spectre” has a tolerance of at least 15,000 gauss, and the Oris Calibre 400 can take 2,250 gauss. As the name suggests, the 1,000 gauss of the Milgauss is lagging behind its competitors. As I said, that’s pure speculation as the Faraday cage in conjunction with the Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring does more than enough to withstand greater magnetic forces. Yet, still, the collection is lumbered with the name its performance potentially surpasses.

seiko skx009

Seiko Diver SKX009

My first automatic watch made it to the first round proper. I find this hard to believe as I was not too fond of it. Not the design; I thought this was quite cool. But the accuracy was dreadful, the bracelet could turn inside out, and there was no hacking seconds or hand-winding. All it did was remind me that I could not yet afford more performance-orientated timepieces from Rolex, Omega, and Breitling. When that time did come, and I could add those brands to my collection, I could not bring myself to sell the Seiko SKX009. Instead, I donated it to the charity shop where my mother worked. The customer who bought it was delighted to find it sitting in the window and paid a decent amount for it. I am happy the money went towards a good cause and now look back on it quite fondly of the watch that makes me appreciate higher-end horology.

March Mania: First Round Proper — Round SEVEN — (2) V (7)

 

(3) Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph ref. Q1538530 Vs. Vertex Bronze 75 (6)

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph ref. Q1538530

I just recently purchased the Longines Heritage Classic with sector dial. Since then, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to watches with sector dials. I am glad then the Master Control Chronograph made it through to the first round proper, clearly having resonated with our readers. Unlike the other Master Control models released around the same time, the chronograph version does not feature the date window. This omission of the date aperture owes to the JLC Master Control Chronograph’s clinical design, which feels very precise and very Jaeger-LeCoultre in its stylish yet straitlaced appearance. I just wish it was not discontinued.

Vertex Bronze 75

At the other end of the spectrum is the Vertex Bronze 75. This was a piece that flew under the radar yet really grabbed my attention with the bronze case. Years ago, I dismissed bronze as a fad, but we are seeing a wide range of manufacturers employ the alloy these days. For some brands (such as Montblanc), I still don’t think it suits the watches. But for Vertex, it makes sense and plays into the vintage style and storied history of the brand stretching from the early 20th Century. The movement is a top-grade ETA 7001 and is paired with a choice of straps. The thick leather strap is my least favorite, but it can be easily rectified if that’s my only gripe.

March Mania: First Round Proper — Round SEVEN — (3) V (6)

 

(4) Omega Seamaster 300 “Spectre” Vs. Blancpain Air Command (5)

Omega Seamaster 300 “Spectre”

I had the Omega Seamster 300 “Spectre” pegged as the star of my preliminary choices. It has the style, familiarity, and connection to James Bond that is hard to beat. Yet, it ends up in the mid-field of my group. Slightly surprised, but it goes to show the choices are closely matched and hotly contested even in the early stages. This was my winner in the Bond Showdown mini-series and has received rising demand in the pre-owned market. I’m providing an up-close view in the shot above to highlight the dial’s detail, including the recessed markers and grainy dial texture.

Blancpain Air Command

Blancpain Air Command

The Air Command is my favorite Blancpain in existence. That also applies to the vintage models and even the rare military reference that this piece pays homage to. The Fifty Fathoms has a great history and certainly inspired a host of dive watches following its inception. But I have been distinctly disappointed with the modern Fifty Fathoms’ fit and finish. The bezel felt loose and not at the quality of Tudor, let alone Rolex. The Air Command was different, though — it looked vintage and felt not only modern but extremely high-end to the point the retail price seemed appropriate.

March Mania: First Round Proper — Round SEVEN — (4) V (5)

 

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Win the Hamilton Intra-Matic Chrono by participating!

So now it’s over to you! We want your votes but we also want to hear your thoughts. Better still, by sharing them with us, you’ll put yourself in the running to win either a LIC leather watch strap or (drum roll, please), the HAMILTON INTRA-MATIC AUTO CHRONO. Yes, that’s right, as Karina detailed in her post yesterday, we will be giving away one of Hamilton’s most popular models for one lucky commenter. How do you win? Comment on the March Mania tournament as often as you can, engaging with other readers, helping to create a happy community atmosphere. The best contribution will be handsomely rewarded, so what are you waiting for? Let your voice be heard!