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Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On

Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

For 2014, Eterna is new. How is an historic brand new? Well, Eterna is under new ownership and new leadership. While much of the brand is the same, the next few years will see a lot of differences – especially as their relationship with Porsche Design has recently ended. Many of those differences will start with a return to some of the brand’s major products of the 20th century. Enter the new Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT watch, a piece which has incredible promise in design, movement, and price. All it needs is a refined dial and I think Eterna has a serious hit on its hands.

aBlogtoWatch debuted the Eterna Royal KonTiki watch last year here, when it was first announced. The real story then was that it was Eterna’s official debut of their new Caliber 39 in-house made movement. The Caliber 39 is said to have “88 possible configurations,” from a simple three-hand watch to a chronograph – and so much more. The Royal KonTiki Manufacture is the first watch to feature the Caliber 39, here in a GMT style layout, known as the Caliber 3945A.

Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Eterna’s challenge in the coming years is one of mostly marketing. If they play their cards right, they will have an amazing product, both in design and value, that could embarrass the pricing of some of the competitors. How’s that? Let’s start with the fact that the Caliber 39 – a movement from the company that actually began ETA – in its GMT form, with some special features that no other movements have, is in a watch that, in is most expensive configuration, still comes in at under $6,000. Yes, that is the pricing of an entry-level Zenith or Jaeger-LeCoultre watch, but not one with this type of case and on such a bracelet.

One of the special features that Caliber 39 has is Eterna’s in-house developed Spherodrive system, which is a much more durable mainspring barrel system. The movement further operates at 28,800 bph (4Hz) and has a power reserve of 68 hours. That is much more impressive than the competition at this price for sure. Don’t forget that the Caliber 39 was designed as a base, so there will be many more configurations of it in the future.

Aside from the exhibition caseback window showing a movement that clearly doesn’t look like anything else, the only hint about the fact that the Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT has a special movement is the “Manufacture” part of the name. Eterna would be unwise not to really stress this element of their value proposition.


Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Let me talk about what I think needs to be improved on these watches before I talk glowingly about the case design. Eterna offers the Royal KonTiki Manufacture watch with either a black or silver dial. The dials aren’t bad, but in my opinion, they could be much better. The problem is a complex one because they were actually designed to be highly legible and to make the best use of space for the GMT hand. Thus, you have an inner 24-hour scale for the GMT hands, while the outer part of the dial is used for the time. There is also a window for the date.

I’ll admit that the logic behind the dial layout is sound, and it works. The only problem is that it falls short of being very attractive. Nothing on the dial is distinctive or bold enough. What it really needs is a sort of Genta-esque mix of flair and minimalism. The dial needs a bit more “white space,” so that the eye can naturally gravitate toward the areas of importance. What you instead have, is something that is too generic and has a sense of unrefined utilitarianism. It prevents the Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT from living up to its full potential.

Eterna Royal KonTiki Manufacture GMT Watch Hands-On Hands-On

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  • ZL

    Really exciting watch. You totally ripped the dial a new date window, but the criticism is on point. I just hope they don’t go back to those giant triangles on the dial, like on some older KonTikis, cause I  wasn’t a fan. Can’t wait to see what else they do though. KonTiki as a GMT watch, makes the most sense because of the name. But I think that the case has something distinctly automotive about it, know what I mean? In the future they could forgo any raft reference completely. Anyway, as you say, totally “the makings of a modern classic.”

  • Jimxxx

    So it’s a ‘case’ of a body like Baywatch and face like Crime watch…?

  • phb

    Very striking resemblance with the iwc ingenieur no?

  • I think having the 5 screws on the bezel is silly, I just don’t enjoy that. Other may have copied them on it, but others will be better known for it. At a glance, the watch should be called the Eterna Ingenieur.

  • Johnny Tank

    ZL Personally, I love the big triangles on the first Kontiki’s and on the Four Hands, and it does follow a theme on all the other Kontiki’s that also have these. The triangle of the GMT hand on this watch continues this theme. 

    I have found two pictures from Basel (sorry, I don’t know who to attribute them to) that could be the new Four Hands and the new Chrono that have the triangles. Although I personally like the bigger triangles, I love how they have incorporated them into the modern design.

  • Johnny Tank

    Thank you very much for your review, and the stunning pictures.

    Having just bought the Eterna Super Kontiki 1973 Heritage last weekend, I am now the proud owner of 7 Eterna’s, four of which are Kontiki’s. I love the brand and have been a fan for over 35 years. I am very excited about their recent expansion in marketing and the number of retailers, and with new watches coming out I no longer fear the demise of the brand. They most definitely deserve more exposure than they have been getting over the last decade.

  • efe_cege

    Your words exactly! Although i only own 6 eternas, also including the Super Kontiki Heritage.. Lol. I’ll just add to the critiscism about the dial, which in my opinion is valid (it’s only average and Eterna can do better and with more persoality), that i don’t like the word “Royal” in the name.

  • Not saying I don’t like (because I do), but how is this such a great value when the recently reviewed Bell & Ross GMT was taking heat for its price ($3600 or $3900 with a bracelet)? I know the B&R uses an ETA 2893-2 GMT movement the the Eterna uses the cool new caliber 39 movement. But if the B&R is overpriced (some saying it should have been a $2K watch), then how does that mean that in in-house caliber with the same function is a bargain in a watch that is 2 – 3 times what a 2893 based GMT watch? Value is a funny proposition I guess.
    Nice watch, price may be in line with its competitors, but that only means they are in highway robbery segment where the less successful robbers are considered fairly priced (???). Paying even 50% for an in-house caliber might make sense, but 2 – 3 times as much? (coughs and walks away). Thanks for the review. Love the caliber 39 – hate the price.

  • ZL

    Johnny Tank ZL A matter of personal taste, of course. For me, if the new Royal dial here is more modern and mature but lacking flare (and I agree that it is), then I find that the big ones are too much flare for me personally. I totally acknowledge, however, that there is a certain charm to those triangles and they’ve got their own thing going on. 

    I can imagine a dial design with maybe a single triangle (at 6 o’clock perhaps?). That would recall the heritage and add a more distinctive element, but maintain the modernity and maturity of this model – and maybe satisfy fans. Just a thought; I think we agree that they’re great watches and a great brand 🙂

    I think everything, including the triangles, on the is quite awesome too, btw.

  • trj66

    phb …and Linde Werdelin…

  • LapYoda

    MarkCarson I agree with you that the price is nuts, but Eterna is probably saying that they are a value proposition compared to the IWC Ingenieur 3244 Dual Time, which is about $10,000.  It’s still crazy expensive for a brand that, while steeped in history, doesn’t command the same respect or recognition as the watches it’s priced against.

  • danbouchard

    LapYoda MarkCarson Agreed. However I think Eterna is engaging in a little self-masturbatory ego inflation by comparing themselves with IWC. I think at this point they should be around Ball territory. 2K range.

  • Spaceguitar

    That BRACELET! Sorry, a little distracted from the dial right now 🙂

  • LapYoda

    danbouchard LapYoda MarkCarson They probably get a little boost from the manufacture movement, which would allow them to reasonably price over 2K and thus above Ball.  For an in-house GMT movement watch, a 3-4K price would comfortably pit them against FC/Alpina and Grand Seiko and be considered a “good value” (whatever that means in the watch world).  But they are going straight for Omega and Rolex territory, and I don’t think they can command that sort of price… yet.

  • Fraser Petrick

    I have two wish lists. One is for watches I might – if my good wife doesn’t find out – be able to afford. The other is for that when-I-win-the-lottery moment
    The Eterna at almost $6k is a tad much for this protestant; otherwise…
    Handsome watch, especially the silver faced.

  • MisterDeal

    That dial is beautiful! Thank you for sharing! It seems like this watch + Eterna are moving in the right direction and will get there.

  • aleximd2000

    MarkCarson Totally agree
    they are going nutts after in house price movts!
    What concerns me most in these watches is the case design which is a clone after IWC inge 
    Look at the lugs and the bracelet. otherwise the bezel is pretty nice and the dial is quite readable.
    My opinion is that Eterna is a quite serious company and they have to make themselves more known for the open people and after that to raise their prices little by little so we the afficionados will not notice .

  • spiceballs

    Johnny Tank ZL  That dial and hands are nice, altho’ I prefer the GMT hand (and a date window at 6?) as on the reviewed watch.

  • spiceballs

    From my perspective pretty good altho’ I have to agree that their pricing seems a little optimistic.  Great to see more movement challenges to ETA & co.  One thing I do not like is their grooved dial/case surround which is just going to collect  – – ummm, crap.  Distinctive maybe but not a smart idea in my book.

  • somethingnottaken

    danbouchard LapYoda MarkCarson Or even Frederique-Constant & Nomos territory, in the $3K – 4K range.

  • Frauss

    SuperStrapper Ingeniki?

  • Chefcook

    Perfect! Eterna is now producing an IWC 3227 and even adding GMT functionality. Who needs IWC’s original when you can have a lookalike!?

  • AnnaNuehm

    While there are undeniably similarities to the Engineer, Eterna has sold a Royal KonTiki quite similar to the new one in the 1970s (with six grooves around the bezel instead of five, though).

  • efe_cege

    A better picture here. It was apparently the flattest quartz when it launched in 1976, the same year as Genta’s designed IWC ingénieur, which had the 5 screws in the bezel, but no grooves.

  • efe_cage – I like your image you posted. Great watch! Wish I can afford one this coming Christmas! 🙂

  • Eduardo Bassani

    I would start this watch with a simple ETA, charging accordingly, between 1k and 2k.

    And then, after gathering all the attention and sales, move to a in-house, just like Tudor did with the Black Bay. Then it could be a real winner.

    Starting charging Omega and Rolex prices doesnt seem a good idea for a brand like Eterna, even for a in-house.

  • Sergei

    Today on ebay.
    $1675 Eterna Royal KonTiki GMT Automatic Mens Watch 7740.43.41.1289.
    Eterna KonTiki diver with original price tag $9.500 today in new condition $1875.
    And no one is buying. Need I say more?

  • Brian King

    Just discovered your review of this piece and quickly bought one for my collection before the
    discounts disappear. I have Glassutes, Perregaux, Panerais, etc in my collection, but my new, transplanted heart is Eterna who have, in recent years, seem to have rediscovered their mojo; born in 1948, the year of my own birth. I love my Madison with silver dial and dark brown leather strap, Legacy 1948 GMT with dark blue dial and matching strap and my new Royal KonTIki 1948. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the Royal KonTiki with a rubber strap, but gazing at it on my wrist at this moment, with the occasional flip to the stunning exhibition back, I have no regrets. Living in Sydney with it’s extremely hot summers, the lightweight rubber strap works for me.

    Central Coast of New South Wales, just north of Sydney

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