When you think about the Italian fashion house Armani, you probably think of men’s suits. Maybe you have more specific reference points, like American Gigolo’s Julian Kay or American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Armani reinvented the men’s suit in the 1980s and ushered in the era of the Power Suit. As do many luxury brands, Armani has more affordable sub-brands that allow it to offer its name to a wider clientele. In the case of Armani’s Emporio Armani, the latter has something the former does not: a line of watches. That’s not uncommon either, nor is the fact that the line is produced by Fossil Group. This is something Fossil Group does very well and very frequently; perhaps its most notable success in making watches is its partnership with Michael Kors (albeit with mostly women’s watches in that instance). In this review, I take a look at the discontinued Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic reference ARS8651, a watch that was among the entry-level for the brand’s still uncommon higher-end Swiss Made watches and serves as a great example of what the brand can do.


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Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic: Concept

Emporio Armani watches are mostly quite accessible — historically being available in a department store environment for aspirational suburbanites who may know next to nothing about high Italian fashion. Not that most Emporio Armani watches have anything wrong with them — for the money they feature some compelling designs — but the brand hasn’t really been on the radar of serious watch enthusiasts. There was a moment, though, when it seemed like that might change. Several years ago, Emporio Armani quietly introduced the Emporio Armani Swiss Made collection. These timepieces were not only more high-end, but also as I understand it, designed and produced separately from other Emporio Armani collection timepieces.

In fact, the Emporio Armani Swiss Made watches were designed and developed at Fossil’s Antima Center in Biel, Switzerland, down the street from where Rolex makes its movements and near where much of the Swatch Group is headquartered. The Esedra was designed as an elegant casual dress watch for younger men. It began life as a quartz watch but the Esedra Automatic was later added to the line in order to appeal to audiences seeking a high-value mechanical watch tied to a lifestyle brand they preferred. For a lot of customers, getting a mechanical business watch implies a new level of personal importance compared to wearing a quartz watch in the same context. So, the value of a mechanical Esedra made decent sense.

The Esedra was simple but with the right edginess to it. What I think the designers did well was combine classic utility and simplicity with a contemporary quasi-jewelry feel (for men that is). Decidedly larger than most traditional dressier watches the Esedra on the bracelet with a mechanical movement was a niche appeal product but one that I think might have made a lot of younger watch lovers quite happy.

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Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic: Story

Modern watches like the Emporio Armani Esedra typically don’t have much of a story or historic analog. This was a new watch borne of marketing needs as opposed to being influenced by something from the past. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but compared to watches with a legacy of design and purpose, the initial personality of the Esedra might appear hollow. A good example was that the name of the product line — “Esedra” — wasn’t even mentioned on Emporio Armani’s own website while the Esedra was in production. In fact, their entire system for discussing their own watches was and is pretty poor. If you found this Esedra Automatic on the Emporio Armani website and wanted to research it a bit, EA gave you no information to help you do that. Luckily, the Fossil Group seemed to know what it was doing when it came to the actual watch.

What I can say about the Esedra Automatic is that it was best for men who wanted to emphasize they do indeed like good tool watches (it is comfortable and legible), but they also like a little bit of modern style and decorative personality in their wardrobe. I think it said that the wearer likes design, is perhaps picky in the right ways, and of course is also interested in impressing onlookers.

Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic: Design

I immediately liked the Emporio Armani Esedra watch when I first saw it, even though I knew I was aged out of its primary demographic. This is the type of timepiece a TAG Heuer used to be and perhaps a Montblanc watch should have been at the time (but has since far exceeded). It is a “fancy” watch for a mature teenager up to a professional starting to make real steps in their career that won’t break the bank. With a full steel case and bracelet, along with a Swiss automatic movement, the sub $1,000 price feels both fair and reasonable.

Being part of the Emporio Armani Swiss Made collection, you can see how the Esedra not only has nice finishing but also an original case and bracelet design. The 43mm wide steel case is just 10mm thick but wears prodigiously with its 22mm wide bracelet. I like how the links feel organic, especially those of the case itself. The best part of the case design is how the lines of the lugs converge into the crown guard, and then how the crown — with its black cabochon — smoothly integrates with the lines of the case. This is well done and helps prevent the Esedra from looking like just another polished round steel watch.

On the back of the watch is an exhibition window showing the decorated movement. I like how the case back is attached using screws. This is usually not as good for overall water resistance, but it does look handsome with the countersunk screws. Attached to the case is a three-link bracelet which is original to the Esedra. The bracelet has a sort of crease down the middle through the center link, and the links create the look of a repeating chevron design. It’s not radically different, but it is distinctive enough to positively stand out. The outer links of the bracelet are brushed which match the finishing on the tops of the case lugs. The center links are polished and the bracelet closes securely with a nicely designed butterfly-style deployant clasp.

Emporio Armani produces versions of the Esedra on a strap versus a bracelet, but with such a nice-looking bracelet I find it hard to pass up the more cohesive look the watch has with the case and bracelet together. On the dial of the watch, you have a simple time with date layout, with good attention to preserving symmetry. The window for the date is placed at 6 o’clock and the length of the hands is actually more or less correct. Often times watches such as this from other brands have too-short hands, but in this case, given the pedigree of the Esedra’s designers, the dial functions beautifully as a time-teller.

The dial itself is simple but effective in design. Emporio Armani wanted to offer a slight nod to traditional watches so they used leaf-style hands and Breguet-style numerals for some of the hour markers. Using traditional timepiece design elements such as this on an otherwise contemporary case design is often rather successful in marrying a bit of class to an otherwise functional object.

Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic: Watch

To create contrast but keep a light color theme, the Esedra dial on the reference ARS8651 uses rose gold-toned hands (with luminant painted in the middle) and hour markers against the silvered dial. The effect works well, and I do really like the legibility of this dressy dial. Depth is also created because the hour markers are lightly raised and there is also a slightly raised center on the stamped dial which has a repeating triangle pattern. Again, it isn’t anything revolutionary but it does its job in offering a decorative and elegant theme to what is a causal sports-style case and bracelet. This is supposed to be a dress watch for men who want to suggest they like to be active.

The 43mm wide case is well-made but only water resistant to 50 meters. That satisfies the majority of needs, but I think what prevents the Esedra from having 100 meters of water resistance is the lack of a screw-down crown and perhaps the way in which the caseback is attached. For urban and office duty, the Emporio Armani Esedra could be called upon readily as 50 meters of water resistance is plenty. Over the dial is a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal.

Inside the watch is an STP 1-11 automatic movement, which makes sense since STP is owned by the Fossil Group (you can read about the aBlogtoWatch visit to STP). In a sense, you might be able to call the watch in-house. At the least, it is an in-group movement. The STP 1-11 automatic operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. The movement has some light decoration on it which is a nice added touch given that you can view it through the rear of the case.

There isn’t too much to say about the bracelet from a technical perspective, though I did find the inclusion of half-links to be useful since getting a proper fit is crucial with any timepiece that uses a bracelet. Some bracelets with larger links don’t offer smaller links or the ability to more precisely size a bracelet; that puts a good fit up to luck and the wearer’s anatomy. While it might take some trial and error, having a half link allows you to more precisely fit a watch. I actually sized and then later resized the bracelet on the Esedra because I initially made it too tight. Without the ability to precision size it I could have regrettably been left in a situation with a timepiece I visually liked that didn’t fit well on me, thus dooming it to remain forever neglected at the back of the watch box.

Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic: Practicality

Styled somewhere between a dress watch and a casual sports watch, the Emporio Armani Esedra was naturally versatile from a fashion perspective. Light-colored dials are inherently a bit more noticeable and also considered a bit more traditional in design so this could have appealed to those buyers who wanted to appear tastefully well-dressed yet somewhat conservative.

Watch collectors may find less to enjoy about the Esedra not because it isn’t a good watch, but rather because it is designed for people who own one timepiece or a very small collection. By trying to be a watch for many occasions, the Esedra arguably also has a very simple personality. Collectors who choose watches specifically for their stories won’t have too much to say about this good-looking but only somewhat charismatic timepiece. I can certainly say that I like the Esedra most for its ability to be a handsome and comfortable timepiece that doesn’t sacrifice utility, not because of any distinctive design or technical element.

Not everyone wants a complicated watch with a complicated story. If you just needed a good-looking timepiece to wear to work and to boost your look on dates, then the Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic ARS8651 would have been more than sufficient. Better yet, a watch snob wouldn’t have too much to complain about: It’s well-made, well-designed, and well-specced for the money. That also means it is the type of watch a watch lover might purchase as a gift for someone in their life who doesn’t wear too many watches.

Interestingly enough, in the intervening years since I had the chance to partake of the Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic, the brand seems to have abandoned any further efforts to develop its Swiss Made line. At present, just one watch is branded as such, and it bears a remarkable resemblance to this one. While the price for the Emporio Armani Esedra Automatic reference ARS8651 watch was $945 USD, the current model is listed at $645 USD. For more information on Emporio Armani watches, please visit the brand’s website. 

Necessary Data
>Brand: Emporio Armani
>Model: Esedra Reference ARS8651
>Price: $945 USD
>Size: 43mm wide, 10mm thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Most happily as a 27-year-old or younger self starting out as a professional.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Young man just getting into watches seeking something suitable for daily wear that will look good in a variety of situations.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good all-around sporty/formal watch with good finishing and handsome design. Well-proportioned, legible dial.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Official website offers little information about the watch, though this isn’t related to the product itself. Some will find the case too large, though this is designed to be a bigger timepiece.

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