The Dodane Type 23 has opened my eyes: The world of watchmaking is vaster than the billboards and glossy magazine articles might have us believe. When you think about visiting a fair like Baselworld, the big names instantly pop into your mind: Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Patek… But there is another treat in store – the joy of unearthing a brand you know little about and getting the chance to learn more.
Dodane is a French company based in Châtillon le Duc. The family-owned brand, founded in 1857, is currently in the hands of the fifth generation and is remaining true to its long involvement with aviation with its wave of new releases. The Dodane Type 23 is a model designed with practical use in mind and is the civilian variant of a model used by the French air force.
Baselworld 2015 sees the launch of five new models from Dodane. Although similar in silhouette (the cases measure 42.5mm in width), each one offers a distinctive style, inferring the trends and quirks of other, more mainstream brands. This is not to detract from the finished product. If, for example, you are a fan of the Panerai Radiomir font and the Breitling Aerospace display, you might find a pleasant balance has been struck by the Dodane Quartz Chronograph.
Given their obvious differences, it may seem a little confusing that these five models, each categorized as a Dodane Type 23, share the same range title. What it seems Dodane have done that is different from some other brands, is to group watches based on target audience and general aesthetic, rather than sticking to rigid list of complications or styles. But one thing that binds them together is a dash of internal quality. The mechanical variants feature a Dubois Dupraz 2030 movement. The Dubois Dupraz is a very reliable chronograph unit and has been used by classics such as the old Breitling Navitimer. For the Quartz models, an ETA 988.333 is used.
The first of the five to look at is the Dodane Type 23 GMT Noire, pictured here in PVD and priced at €5,770. Although this watch looks like a chronograph, because of the pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, they are actually for the rotation of the GMT ring that surrounds the dial. The 2 o’clock pusher advances the ring one hour forwards and the 4 o’clock pusher one hour back. This is a simple way to adjust the time zone and a clever way to maintain the Dodane Type 23 aesthetic while exploring different functionalities. This watch uses the Dubois Dupraz calibre 312. In addition to the GMT function, the watch features a countdown rotating bezel, central hour, minute and seconds hands, a sub-dial at 6 o’clock indicating the date by way of a hand, and an orange-tipped GMT hand (in the stylized shape of a plane) indicating second time zone.
Aesthetically, I think this works well. The simplistic color scheme is rugged and to the point. The subtle flashes of orange enliven what would otherwise be a somewhat muted timepiece. Legibility is excellent and although it is unclear how much of the dial markers are luminous, the hands are substantial filled with luminous paint so as to be functional in low light conditions.
But if you are looking for a watch that copes well in poor light, perhaps the Dodane Type 23 Chronograph Yellow Dial Low-Light Level watch is for you. This PVD-coated chronograph features a minute counter at 9 o’clock and a running seconds hand at 3. The countdown rotating bezel is the same as it is on the Dodane Type 23 GMT Noire in style and color scheme, but the dial markings on the Dodane Type 23 Low-Light are in neon yellow. This kind of paint is ‘excited by black light’ and operates best with the kind of lighting used by pilots. The paint does not retain luminous charge, but does benefit from not having to have been charged for any length of time when exposed to the correct kind of light. This is a bold, bold look for a serious mechanical chronograph. It instantly conjurers images of a flashy Swatch Chrono, but is just about able to remain credible due to its uncompromising size and masculine case shape. At €4,530 it’s a fair chunk of watch for your money. It is by far the most in-your-face of the five, but it is not my personal favorite.
The pick of the bunch for me is the Dodane Type 23 Flyback Chronograph. This watch may not set the world alight with crazy styling, but its internal hardware is enough to get true watchmakers going. It is a handsome sports watch with the same layout as its fluorescent brother. One major difference, though, is the presence of a Flyback complication which enables the chronograph to be stopped and reset with a single push of a button, which is particularly useful for timing very small increments accurately. Priced at €5,100 the only thing that might improve the aesthetic in my mind would be the addition of a NATO strap. If you’re wondering what that might look like on this case, you needn’t wonder for long…
This is the Dodane Type 23 Quartz Chronograph, which I referenced earlier as a hotchpotch of Panerai/Breitling styling. And you know what? It looks great. This is a supremely legible, highly functional aviation watch. It’s a quartz so will be super reliable in terms of timekeeping and maintenance. The simple two-handed design is clean and crisp. Although I probably still prefer the Dodane Type 23 Chronograph, I may be more inclined to buy this one because it offers something different at a price point I can get my head around: The Dodane Type 23 Quartz Chronograph retails at €3,550 in PVD.
Lastly, let us turn the spotlight on the Dodane Type 23 Power Reserve model. This watch possess one of my favourite complications. Power Reserve indicators are simple, low maintenance, visually engaging and useful. In this instance, the power reserve changes the whole look of the dial. This departure from the norm is exacerbated by the GMT bezel. None of the other watches have any variation in that area, so this one sticks out because of it. It’s not to my taste, but fans of high-polish sports watches with busy, active dials need look no further within this range. The Dodane Type 23 Power Reserve is priced at €7,250, making it the most expensive in the range.
Five new watches from Dodane certainly bolster the Dodane Type 23 range. The prices of these featured five range from €3,550 all the way up to €7,250. There are loads of variations too, with most of the watches coming in a choice of steel or PVD and at a significant cost difference. It’s definitely worth checking out the Dodane website in the coming weeks to see the models launched at Baselworld 2015 in greater detail. Dodane1857.com
Keep up with our pre-, post-, and live Baselworld 2015 coverage here.