More than a year after it originally debuted, the Dietrich Time Companion TC-1 watch still hasn’t shipped out. Nevertheless, the watch’s early fans continue to patiently wait. Emmanuel Dietrich, the founder of the brand, admits that these delays are due to quality issues. The man has an admirable vision for what a truly affordable, luxury watch should look like, and he’s sticking to it. My understanding of the delay is that one major problem that held up production for so long was finding a way to properly keep the links in the bracelet securely together. The Time Companion (a name I don’t find particularly elegant) watch collection is meant to be a Royal Oak or Nautilus for a new generation that does not appreciate the price range of traditional Swiss giants. Unfortunately, however, producing the TC-1 family, which currently has six models in a natural steel or a PVD-coated black steel case, is proving to be quite expensive.
In many ways, the Time Companion TC-1 is a breakout model for the still young Dietrich brand. The brand’s first real hit was the O.Time, which was originally called the “Organic Time.” I reviewed the Dietrich O.Time TC-3 watch three years ago here. Before that, I was actually the first person to ever cover the Dietrich brand online six years ago. The O.Time watch was an “establishment defying” European watch with a Japanese movement at a price point of about $1,300. It was intended to be a more risqué and intellectual version of the SevenFriday brand but with the same movement. I still like the OT-3 watch, especially because of how comfortable it is, but I don’t find myself wearing it frequently.
Assuming I ever get my hands on a production version of the Time Companion TC-1, I think the story will be different (this is a pre-production prototype). Dietrich produces a genuinely compelling alternative to the iconic steel sport lifestyle watches, and the price actually seems fair. The hexagonal shape of the case is fresh and will likely age well. Countersunk bezel screws are a nice touch, and the mostly brushed surfaces on the top of the watch are contrasted with polished finishing on the underside of the watch, mostly on the steel bracelet.
In fact, the bracelet might even be the highlight of the watch. Of course, in no way is this bracelet comparable to something from the big, old houses like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. After all, those companies have venerable jewelry specialists construct very complicated, expensive bracelets. Still, Dietrich does hold its own, with a fun design and solid foundation. The most clever part of the bracelet design is the links, as they’re meant to be modified versions of the hex-style shape of the case. Essentially, the bracelet is a twist on the classic three-link design, but the machining and placement of the holes for the bars appears to be more complex with this bracelet. It also isn’t as pliable or thin as some other bracelets on watches at a similar price range. It’s even better than some bracelets on watches that cost up to 15 times (or more) the price of the Time Companion TC-1.
The bracelet has a simple butterfly style-clasp which works well enough. If this watch continues to be produced for a long time, I think it would be nice if Dietrich added incremental improvements to the bracelet, such as a more neatly and thinly folding deployant. As of now, though, the thicker bracelet means that it might be a bit more challenging to size correctly for your wrist. You could be lucky, and the watch might fit perfectly on your wrist. Alternatively, you could find that no matter how many links you remove or add, the bracelet just doesn’t feel right. This seemingly minor detail is important since I (and probably many others) avoid wearing uncomfortable watches. I didn’t have any issue with the comfort of the Time Companion TC-1, but I can see how someone else might. Again, this might seem like a small issue, but I have very high standards for this watch because it is set against some very stiff competition.
The Time Companion TC-1’s steel case is 43.8mm wide at its widest point (not including the crown) but only 42mm long, which means it can be comfortably worn on smaller wrists. The case is also 9.3mm thick and weighs 166 grams with the bracelet. It’s water-resistant to 50m, and covering the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal.
Dietrich offers the Time Companion TC-1 case in natural steel (like this TC-1 SS Blue) or in PVD-coated black. I think the standard steel model helps illustrate the contours of the case a lot better. With that said, the black case is a bit more youthful and masculine looking, which probably means there is healthy market for it. Dietrich offers the Time Companion TC-1 watches in a relatively conservative set of dial colors: blue, black, and gray. The hour markers and hands are painted in white colored Super-LumiNova, which glows green in the dark.
Equally interesting is the dial of the Time Companion TC-1. The iconic “sausage on a stick” Gerald Genta hands have been modernized by Dietrich in a satisfying and original manner. They retain their classic Genta look, but they possess a greater knife-life aggression. I even like how Dietrich designed the date window, though I think that the dial might look better without the date window display.
While I admire the overall dial of the Time Companion TC-1, I do think that it could be further refined to look a little bit more elegant. One specific element, for instance, is the top and bottom “abutments,” which have the brand and model name printed on them—they seem to meaninglessly eat into the hour markers. On the other hand, the dial might not be as visually interesting without them. It will likely take a few generations of the Time Companion TC-1 to get the dial right, and I truly hope the watch is produced for that long.
Powering the Dietrich Time Companion TC-1 is a simple but effective Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. It’s nothing special but it’s also nothing to scoff at. This 4Hz (28,800 bph), 42-hour power reserve automatic movement is exactly what I would expect at this price point in a watch with these complications, so I’m perfectly happy with it.
The overall quality and attention to detail is very high. Emmanuel Dietrich is a very dedicated designer who is not interested in the smoke and mirrors that is so unfortunately widespread in the luxury watch industry. The man wants to produce original, relevant watches at justifiable prices. It’s wearable, expressive art for men—just the type of items that make for some of the best retail therapy. Alas, if only the Time Companion TC-1 was here already. The Dietrich website gives the promise of a delivery “beginning June, 2018,” so hopefully it comes soon. JUNE 2018 UPDATE: Dietrich has reported that the TC-1 watches are in stock and now delivering.
Retail price for the Dietrich Time Companion TC-1 is 1,800 CHF in natural steel (as reviewed here with the reference TC-1 SS Blue) or 2,000 CHF in the PVD-coated black case. dietrich.luxury
>Model: Time Companion TC-1 (reference TC-1 SS Blue as reviewed)
>Price: 1,800 – 2,000 Swiss Francs
>Size: 43.8mm wide, 42mm long, 19.3mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, when wanting a modern and smart-looking sports lifestyle watch.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Admirer of steel Nautius and Royal Oak watches who wants something more contemporary for far less money.
>Best characteristic of watch: Manages to capture the theme of the watches that inspired it without copying them in any way. An original and elegant design demonstrates the quality of the Dietrich brand’s refined aesthetic.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Dietrich’s difficulty in getting the bracelet to wear comfortably. To truly ramp up its popularity, Dietrich will need to first win over a legion of early supporters. Production delays caused major setbacks in the initial product launch.