While Vaer is best known for its various three-handed watches, the Los Angeles-based independent brand also offers a range of meca-quartz chronographs in the form of its American-assembled R1 collection. The series was originally introduced a few years ago with a cushion-cased racing chronograph, which ultimately proved to be a best-seller for the brand, and Vaer has expanded the R1 collection for its latest release of 2024. The new Vaer R1 models span three different styles that include the R1 Rally, R1 Tactical, and R1 Ocean Racer (the latter of which is featured here), and each one offers its own distinct take on the brand’s highly popular meca-quartz chronograph.

Among the trio of new USA-assembled Vaer R1 Chronographs, the R1 Ocean Racer is the only one that is available in multiple sizes, and just like the original R1 Racing Chronograph, the new R1 Ocean Racer series is offered with either a 38mm or 42mm case. Similarly, the Ocean Racer is available with the option of either a black or off-white/cream dial, and both versions feature colorful accents within their trio of chronograph registers. Aside from the additional pair of pushers that flank the crown at 3 o’clock, the overall shape of the Vaer R1 Ocean Racer’s stainless steel case is very similar to what can be found among the rest of the brand’s divers. This includes a unidirectional rotating bezel, along with a twisting lug profile that is finished with largely brushed surfaces and wide high-polished bevels running down either side of the watch.

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Meanwhile, the R1 Rally and R1 Tactical models both feature stainless steel cases with fixed bezels that build upon the core platform of the brand’s 40mm field watch. Similar to the R1 Ocean Racer, the Vaer R1 Rally Chronograph is available with the option of either a black or off-white dial (both have colorful accents within their rectangular registers), while the R1 Tactical is exclusively fitted with a black dial that has green accented registers. Both the R1 Rally and R1 Tactical feature tachymeter scales printed along the periphery of their dials. From an overall design standpoint, the Vaer R1 Tactical Chronograph is largely the same watch as the R1 Rally, although it features a noticeably more subdued overall aesthetic between its military-themed dial colors and the matte black PVD finish on its case.

The smaller of the two Vaer R1 Ocean Racer watches is the version that is featured here. Its twisted lug case measures 38mm in diameter by 12mm thick, with 20mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug profile of 46mm. Protecting the dial is a double-domed sapphire crystal (with anti-reflective treatment), and this is surrounded by a 120-click unidirectional rotating bezel with a coin-edge rim and a black aluminum insert. Despite being based upon the brand’s diver-style case, the R1 Ocean Racer Chronograph’s bezel features a 12-hour scale, and I personally find this to be a particularly useful feature (especially on chronographs that do not have hours totalizers), as it offers the flexibility of either displaying a secondary timezone or being used to track elapsed hours for events that are longer than the 60-minute duration that can be measured by the chronograph.

While the R1 Ocean Racer features a different case than what can be found on the R1 Rally and R1 Tactical models, all three of the new Vaer R1 Chronographs feature solid screw-down casebacks, along with signed screw-down crowns at the 3 o’clock location. These help support the 100 meters of water resistance that can be found across Vaer’s R1 Chronograph collection. Although the shrouds for the pushers feature grooves that might imply some type of screw-down design, the pushers are actually of a traditional pump-style structure to allow users to easily access the chronograph. The grooves on the pusher shrouds visually complement the crown, and since I personally find that screw-down pushers simply make the chronograph too inaccessible, I’m entirely in favor of Vaer not using screw-down pushers on its various R1 Chronograph watches.

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The dial of the Vaer R1 Ocean Racer Chronograph features applied hour markers with recessed registers, and on the black dial version featured here, the minute track is finished in a contrasting off-white/cream color for an added dash of vintage flair. Colorful accents appear throughout the sub-dials, and the colors are intentionally placed to help with legibility. For example, the 24-hour display at the 3 o’clock location offers a split-color design in red and blue to offer an approximation of daylight versus night hours, while the minutes totalizer at 9 o’clock has three red-colored segments that span 10-minute intervals to help aid readings of elapsed time. Additionally, BGW9 Super-LumiNova is applied to the timekeeping hands and hour markers. While the vast majority of the lume emits the typical BGW9 aqua-blue glow, small green-glowing dots appear within the minute track at the 2, 4, 8, and 10 o’clock locations.

Powering all of Vaer’s R1 Chronograph watches is the Seiko Epson VK-63 meca-quartz movement, which is the variation of this popular caliber series that features three registers consisting of a 60-minute totalizer, running seconds indicator, and a 24-hour display. Seiko’s meca-quartz movements are rapidly becoming the go-to option for brands that want to make affordable chronograph watches, as they offer the precision and reliability of quartz paired with a smooth sweeping seconds hand and the instant reset of a mechanical chronograph. Since the Seiko VK63 is naturally a calendar-equipped movement and the Vaer R1 Chronograph models do not have date windows, you do get the inevitable “ghost position” when you pull out the crown to set the time. However, given that the R1 series offers the autonomy of quartz, your interaction with the crown is exclusively limited to time changes, which makes the vestigial crown position far less irksome than when it appears on a mechanical no-date watch.

As usual, Vaer includes two different strap options with its new R1 Chronograph watches, and the brand also offers an assortment of other straps and bracelets that can be added for additional premiums. The standard two options are the same black tropic rubber and khaki nylon two-piece straps (with integrated quick-release spring bars) that are included with the Vaer DS4 Meridian solar dive watch, and the rubber strap will be included with the watch, regardless of the other option that you choose. The various premium straps/bracelets include an FKM rubber waffle strap, a Horween leather strap, Vaer’s standard stainless steel bracelet, and the top-of-the-line option is the brand’s new premium bracelet that includes a more refined clasp with an integrated on-the-fly extension system. The Horween leather strap and standard bracelet are staples within the brand’s catalog, and you can see them in my review of the Vaer C3 Korean field watch. However, the premium bracelet represents an entirely new option for Vaer’s watches.

Similar to Vaer’s standard bracelet (which is already quite a solid option), the brand’s new premium bracelet features completely solid components, single-sided screws for the removable links, and integrated quick-release spring bars to facilitate tool-free strap changes. However, the clasp fitted to the new premium bracelet is an entirely more refined creation compared to what can be found on the brand’s standard bracelet offering. In addition to operating with a double push-button release, the clasp includes the NodeX extension system, which allows for five positions of on-the-fly incremental adjustment. Lastly, rather than having an entirely brushed finish like the standard bracelet’s clasp, the upgraded clasp on Vaer’s new premium bracelet has high-polished strips running down its sides, which complement the polished bevels on the case of the R1 Ocean Racer Chronograph.

Despite their differences, all of the new American-assembled Vaer R1 Chronograph models cost the exact same and have an official retail price of $399 USD, which gets you the model of your choice paired with the two standard straps. Prices can increase from there depending on whether or not you want to swap out the secondary nylon strap for one of the more premium options, and you are looking at $429 USD with the addition of the FKM waffle strap, $469 USD on the standard bracelet, $499 USD when paired with the Horween leather strap, and the collection tops out at $549 USD should you opt for the top-of-the-line version that is fitted with the brand’s new premium bracelet. The increasing popularity of meca-quartz chronographs has made this segment of the market quite competitive in recent years, although Vaer consistently delivers strong value for the money, and the new Vaer R1 Ocean Racer represents a highly compelling addition to the brand’s growing R1 Chronograph collection. For more information on the Vaer R1 Chronograph collection, please visit the brand’s website

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