October 21, 2019
by Ariel Adams
More than a decade ago, I was the first person to cover Dietrich watches with a very interesting multi-strap timepiece Mr. Emmanuel Dietrich produced for skiing. A few timepiece designs later, I can easily say that Dietrich is one of today’s living masters of watch originality. He isn’t the only good watch designer working today, but in my opinion, he deserves a role in the pantheon of the greats. Today’s review is a longer-term look at the Dietrich Time Companion (TC) watch (originally reviewed on aBlogtoWatch here) — seen here primarily as the Dietrich TC-PVD-BLUE. As the name implies, this is a TC watch with a black PVD-coated case and a blue-colored dial.
The Time Companion is yet another good answer to the question, “What might a Royal Oak of today look like?” Popular Gerald Genta timepiece designs, such as the Royal Oak or the Nautilus from the 1970s, are so successful because they are more men’s jewelery bracelets than strict timepieces. Genta was the first to solidify the value of creating men’s watch cases and bracelets that visually integrate to form one cohesive composition, as opposed to a watch case matched with the strap.
The recent popularity in high-luxury men’s jewelry bracelet-style watches has sparked an enormous number of new ideas and products. Some of pretty shameless copies of Genta designs, which others, such as the Dietrich Time Companion, intentionally strive to embark on new creative directions. The TC begins with Dietrich’s love of organic forms — especially as applied to industrial design. He is a master of incorporating organic curves and lines with those elements needed for utilitarian purpose. He also attempts to do all these things in an original way, while also making sure the TC watches fit into an established theme that consumers understand. Getting this all right is hard to do.
To make the challenge even more daunting for Dietrich, cost was always an issue. The price for the Dietrich TC actually went up from when it was originally announced a few years ago because of production costs. Currently, it has a roughly $2,000 USD price, and I think it’s a lot of watch for the money. Dietrich (I believe) originally wanted an even more aggressive price point given his deep desire to present consumers with absolute value.
The TC is a very nicely designed watch with some quirks, given its relatively young age. The hardest part for Dietrich to get right was the bracelet. Using a hexagonal-style link, the bracelet is a brilliant idea that probably still needs a few generations of iterative design because it is truly world class. The bracelet already has a lot of great features, such as the comfort-rounded bottom parts of the links that are nicely integrated with the case. The original prototype TC watch I reviewed used tension bars for the bracelet links to attach together but since then, Dietrich apparently opted for screws in the bracelet. The bracelet closing system is a simple butterfly-style deployant clasp, and it allows for a nice flush wearing experience under your wrist. I do, however, think that the bracelet would look a bit more elegant if it were 20-30% thinner (not narrower), but Dietrich does get it right in that the bracelet tapers a bit from where it connects to the case to the deployant.
With the crown, the steel TC case is 46.2mm-wide, and without it, the case is 43.8mm-wide and just 9.3mm-thick. It actually wears a bit smaller, given how the lugs get narrow as compared to the flared sides of the case. Here we see Dietrich again trying to play with the hexagon-shape theme. With the bespoke sapphire crystal and full steel case and bracelet, the watch weighs in at about 166 grams and has 50 meters of water resistance with a screw-down crown.
Dietrich designed incredibly cool hands and hour markers for the TC, which are great examples of how he uses an organic design ethos. The hands are very much are like his own vision of what Gerald Genta might have approved. In fact, throughout the design of the TC watch, I sometimes wonder if Emmanuel Dietrich kept asking himself, “would this be good enough to make Mr. Genta happy?” As silly as that might sound, it is as good an approach to watch design as anything I can think of.
Dial design for the TC watch is good, but perhaps not perfectly refined quite yet. I never have any issues reading the time, but the upper part of the dial where the Dietrich logo is printed and the lower part of the dial, which says “TC,” seem to cut off parts of the face I’d rather be looking at. Dietrich managed to create a compelling and legible dial that doesn’t look like anything else out there (and he did it very well). I say all of this to suggest that, moving forward, the TC watch should undergo more iterative design improvements, and that I am excited to see how the TC watch dial can be rendered in different ways.
Inside the watch is a Swiss Made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement that operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. In the future, I think the TC watch will deserve a more prestigious movement, but at this price point, and with everything else included in this timepiece, I feel that the 2824 is a perfect movement to have in this watch. It features the time along with the date in a window at 3 o’clock that has been integrated into the watch dial as cleanly as possible.
You can currently order the Dietrich Time Companion (TC) watch with a natural or PVD black steel case and at least three dial colors, including black, anthracite, and blue. Each is a solid choice, but this black case with blue dial version has one of the most interesting personalities of any watch in the current TC collection. Wearing it over a long period of time has allowed me to appreciate that Dietrich didn’t just design a comfortable and well-priced alternative to the world of Royal Oaks out there. He also happened to design a burgeoning icon that, with love and more refinement, will grow into a seriously competitive high-prestige timepiece. What is the most fun (for watch collector nerds like me) is to wear the Time Companion on my wrist in a room of much more expensive timepieces and see that the Dietrich has a lot of the others beat when it comes to design freshness, comfort, fun, and sheer lifestyle practicality. Prices for the Dietrich Time Companion (TC) watches start at 1,820 Swiss Francs, and for this reference TC-PVD-Blue, the price is 1,980 Swiss Francs. See more at the Dietrich website here.
>Model: Time Companion / TC (reference TC – PVD – Blue as tested)
>Price: 1,820 – 1,980 Swiss Francs
>Size: 43.8mm-wide, 9.3mm-thick, and about 42mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: In a design-lover crowd where quality composition, as opposed to strict high prices, are what people value.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone with a modern sense of aesthetics looking for a casual-wear urban timepiece that fits well in a lot of environments and isn’t at all generic.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautiful cohesive design that includes original bracelet, case, dial, hands, and hour markers. Lots of designs and intelligence in the watch makes for a comfortable and attractive wearing experience. Good value for the money.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Excellent detailing and design, but complexity of the overall composition puts a serious challenge on what a brand can offer at this price point. Dial design not for everyone. Bracelet can be challenging to size.