Cvstos is one of those Swiss watch brands that I’ve know about but never really got to know until recently. The brand has often been involved with the Franck Muller Group but, as I understand it, operates separately under independent ownership by Mr. Sassoun Sirmakes, or at least is run independently. With that said, the brand’s mostly tonneau-style shaped cases and overall wrist presence is similar to many of Franck Muller’s most popular items – albeit with a much more modern flair. In some ways, I’ve often dismissed Cvstos without giving the brand much of a chance, but seeing the watches hands-on, I’ve been able to appreciate a lot of the cool stuff that they do. Prices aren’t insane (relatively speaking), and the overall quality and finishing is pretty good. So let’s take a look at some of the watches in their Challenge Chrono II collection hands-on.
While Cvstos doesn’t produce their own movements, they produce parts of their own movements in-house. They also utilize a lot of exclusive movements and specialized parts thanks to the loving attention and particularity of brand designer Antonio Terranova. The watches are really his vision, and it is important to note that the Cvstos brand has an in-house designer. Surprisingly enough, many of these more boutique watch brands (and larger ones, even) rely on a variety of outsourced design help. Having an internal designer tends to yield not only better work overall, but more design consistency as well as more complete designs that involve the case, dial, and movement together.
The Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches in their various forms likely make up the majority of the timepieces that Cvstos produces. It should be noted that Mr. Terranova’s primary inspiration for design is boats – which is something he holds personally dear – but the Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches are inspired by a variety of areas including automotive and motorcycle design.
In this article, I go over a few recent Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches. The collection comes in a range of colors and materials, and even with varying dial designs. I’ll start with the two-color carbon-cased Cvstos Challenge Chrono II Carbon Honolulu. This comes in a black and red “mix” carbon tonneau-shaped case that is 41mm wide by 53.7mm tall (and 13.35mm thick). A nicely chosen domed AR-coated sapphire crystal completes the curvy shape of the watch while the complex indents and cuts on the case offer a modern approach to this classic look.
Water-resistant to 100 meters (thankfully that, and not less), the case uses titanium parts for the screws and crown. The rear of the case has a nice sapphire crystal exhibition window. Inside the watch is the Cvstos caliber 577 automatic chronograph movement. I believe that the base architecture of the movement is a Swiss Valjoux 7750, but it doesn’t appear that any of the parts are ETA since this looks to be a very cool and custom build. Functionally, the 577 movement includes the time, date, 12-hour chronograph, and also the welcome addition of a power reserve indicator. The addition of the latter complication is, in my opinion, rather nicely integrated into the overall dial layout making for a handsome symmetrical look.
Operating at 4Hz (28,800 bph), the movement has a power reserve of 42 hours and a rotor produced from mostly titanium with either a tungsten or palladium weight (depending on the watch). I am further amused by the application of the term “technology” on the rotor which seems to fill the extra space but is a bit spurious. Overall, the movement looks really sharp and certainly enhances the modern, high-end feel of the watches.
Tonneau-shaped (barrel-shaped) watches aren’t for everyone, but the right one can look cool. While Franck Muller is responsible for making the tonneau-style watch an important facet of the contemporary timepiece world, it is easily Richard Mille that made this case design relevant for modern sport watches. The overall shape lends itself well to unique designs that go beyond some of the traditional limits of simple round cases. Lugs, case, bezel, and even dial design seem more open to possibility, but so are the chances to screw up a good look. It takes a careful eye to make sure a tonneau-style sports watch is handsome versus simply overdone.