I was hunting down the Nivada Grenchen Wanderer for a few years. And, as life usually goes, it came at a time and place I least expected. It literally found me. 

I think it was mostly the unusual off-proportion bezel/dial design and the mechanical alarm complication that sparked my attention. Interestingly enough, it looks like a standard three-hander with quite a generic dial, but the extra hand and crazy bezel magnetized me. If I tried hard to formulate the magic spell that the watch has upon me, I would call it a strange mix of carefully contrasting design codes.


Nivada Wanderer surprise

Where to start? If it was only a clean dial, I would call it a day and forget the watch. But the bezel shouts “Hello, do you see me?“, and lets me believe that it thinks it‘s a divers‘ watch. In the next moment, I see how thin the bezel is and what an artistic/aristocratic font it employs. Then I notice an extra arrow hand. I switch back to the bezel with the idea that it might be a GMT watch. The next second I see the pusher at two o’clock and I feel that I am are ready for a mental institution. What do you see?

Alarm watch on steroids

I can hardly find a better description than that the Nivada Wanderer is an alarm watch on steroids. It’s an SUV among all the classy alarm watches. As the Wanderer name suggests, not only can it take on your next trip, but it can easily handle your cuffs and an evening at the theater. I have a bit of an obsession with mechanical alarm watches and have seen hundreds of them in the encyclopedia of Alarm Watches. Not counting the exceptions with a unique control mechanism or technological twist, the majority of alarm watches are pretty generic and the watches are more or less the same.


Magic bezel

The Nivada Wanderer is a bit different. The mounting of a 12-hour bezel to read a second-time zone was a great idea, but reducing its width was a masterstroke. It’s steel, quite high, and operates comfortably, but half of the width from the frontal view gives the watch a new edge.

Our eyes are used to heavy, functional rings. This modest bezel opens the dial up to a new interpretation. At least it allows the dial to be more spacious and the overall wrist feeling confirms that. The Nivada Wanderer is only 36mm in diameter, but it feels more present than any 36mm watch I’ve ever worn before.


In comparison to the legendary Vulcain Cricket, the Nivada Wanderer looks more self-confident and “outdoor-friendly“. True to its name, the Wanderer encourages you to take action and not to be worried in case it slips out from under your sleeve.

That hardier housing is to its credit. But its mechanical pedigree has Vulcain to thank for their refinement. Vulcain’s twin-barrel movement is a perfect piece of work and was only licensed to a few brands. One of them was Nivada Grenchen.

Waiting for the Wanderer

If you‘ve ever wanted a mechanical alarm watch, but Vulcain seemed too small or too boring, you can hardly make a better choice than the Wanderer. But get ready and prepare to be patient. I remember like it was yesterday when a Nivada Wanderer slipped through my fingers two years ago. It was listed at the respectable Dorotheum auction house in NOS condition with an original strap and all the tags. It passed unnoticed twice, if I am not mistaken. I only found it three months later and ended up in an insane bidding war that I thankfully lost. I was as frustrated as you can be to realize I could have had the same watch not for €1,500, but for €500 instead.


In the years that followed, my auction robots scored just two hits. Unfortunately, both Wanderers were heavily overpriced with worn-out dials. They looked tired, chewed, and dirty. A few months ago, out of nowhere, I clicked on an automatic email that landed in my inbox. The keyword was not even Wanderer, just Nivada. I get them daily and I don’t look at all of them. Luckily enough I did this time and I scored a great deal.

I learned something. If you go to the trouble of setting-up automatic online alerts for when your desired watches become available, have the self-respect to look through all the emails coming in, and never skip one.


More balance

The Nivada Wanderer is a great example of a watch where a few millimeters make a big difference. The Vulcain Cricket is a beautiful watch, but it looks much smaller and more fragile than the Nivada Wanderer. The higher case hides the alarm pusher more and almost looks like a monopusher chronograph. I very much appreciate the crown, which is not dress-like but looks exactly like a baby chronograph crown similar in style to the legendary CSAD chronograph. It’s signed and has perfect grip. The crown and bezel send a clear message that the Wanderer wants to be a tool watch. At the end of the day, not only businessmen have meetings and deadlines, right?

Amusing lugs

So far we have a pretty good case for an alarm watch with a sleek, but robust bezel and quite a big crown. The lugs are another fine detail that adds to the strong and unique contradictory character. While I would expect wider and shorter lugs, Nivada opted for thinner, longer legs. They fit the clean silver sunburst dial with twelve thin indexes that might strike you as boring. Nivada even resisted the temptation to jazz-up the watch display and kept the tip of the arrow alarm hand in matching black.


The verdict?

The longer I look at the Wanderer, the more I like it. Honestly? I am probably too excited and can’t get enough of what this watch looks like on the wrist and how it wears. I think that the Wanderer hits the sweet spot that plays with my taste. It’s simple and sophisticated at the same time. It’s perfectly sized — rich and creative in details. The Wanderer is one of the few watches in my collection where every single line or angle seems unique. The Vulcain caliber 120 is top class and works and rings exactly as described here. Oh, and did I mention there are a few more dial versions, including one with a white bezel and a red alarm hand? Happy hunting!