July 18, 2018
by Bilal Khan
After spending a few weeks with the Mido Commander Big Date, it’s really hard for me to think of a versatile mechanical dress watch that provides better value for less than $1,000. Being under the Swatch Group allows Mido to keep production costs in a place unachievable almost anywhere else and quality control standards consistent. Hugely popular in parts of South America, China, and especially Mexico, Mido really should be on the list of brands for anyone looking for that elusive three-figure to low four-figure entry level luxury watch.
What a lot of people wouldn’t immediately know about Mido is that they are the fourth biggest Swiss certified chronometer movement producer in the world. Translated, this means they move a ton of watches every year. Mido just celebrated their 100th anniversary and after seeing how ubiquitous and celebrated the brand is in their biggest market of Mexico, I’m going to lay off the watch-writer trope of accusing the brand of lacking a “brand identity.” They do have a brand identity, but it’s not really one that can be easily marketed on a billboard or ad. Mido operates with a philosophy that heavily relies on consistency and the idea that high quality and classic design should be accessible as opposed to exclusionary. Even if every Mido isn’t for me, I can get behind that philosophy.
Several people who generally liked the Mido Commander Icone had a similar refrain: the day-date aperture is just too old-fashioned and not really keeping with the times. Getting rid of it and adding a big date complication at 6 o’clock transforms the identity of the watch, adds some much-needed symmetry to the dial, and results in a watch that joins the Multifort Escape and Ocean Star as Mido watches that are impressive value propositions.
Now, let’s take a look at the different aspects of the Mido Commander Big Date and why exactly I think it’s such a solid option at this price point.
To me, the Commander Big Date is all about the, well, big date window at 6 o’clock. I think it completely changes the identity of the watch from the previous editions that had a day-date aperture at 3 o’clock. I think the joint day-date window at 3 o’clock is a dated look and I can’t imagine a younger (and by that I mean under 40) person not feeling like their grandfather sporting one.
It’s funny how often I am in the camp of “get rid of the date window and it’s perfect” on a watch, but the big-date display totally turns that premise on its head and becomes the defining aesthetic characteristic that makes me love a watch. Of course, it wouldn’t fit everywhere like on most sports watches. Imagine a Submariner with a big-date display – it would look absolutely ridiculous and stupid.
Mido kept text on the dial at a minimum, which was absolutely critical in making this dial work cohesively. The clean dial above the big-date window makes for a totally symmetrical dial which is why I think a lot of people are drawn to this complication at 6 o’clock. People are naturally drawn to symmetry and watch dials are no exception with Mido following design rules closely and successfully.
The other aspect of the dial that succeeds in the Mido Commander Big Date is the layered dimensionality that avoids the feeling of flatness that befalls so many dress watches. The framing of the big-date window, as well as the applied hour markers and inclined/sloping chapter ring all add up to a handsomely architectural feeling on the dial.
The baton hands also look great, and I find myself not having many complaints about them. However, this does lead me into what may be my biggest complaint about the watch: some legibility issues. While not nearly as troublesome as I’ve seen on some watches, I really implore Mido to apply anti-reflective coating on the dial here. In very sunny environments, I had considerable trouble reading the time and it’s something that can be easily fixed. So yeah, do that, Mido.
I know a lot of people will say that 42mm is too big for this watch, but I’m really happy with it. Personally, something like 40mm (or smaller) would be a no-go for a watch of this style. The dial needs a decent amount of space to pull off the big-date window without feeling cramped and I don’t think anything could ruin this watch more than a comically oversized big-date window (ironic sounding, I know). The thickness of the case measures in at 11.97mm, which I had no complaints about. Obviously, the thinner the better but just under 12mm will please most people and fit under a sleeve.
Done in 316L steel, the case of the Mido Commander Big Date retains the very Mido round watch face, although not with an integrated bracelet here. Speaking of, the Commander Big Date comes on a strap or bracelet option and I highly recommend the very well-done bracelet. The bracelet is clearly a big part of the watch’s design and I frankly find that it looks…incomplete without the bracelet. I’ve seen much flimsier steel bracelets on watches that cost several times as much as this, so I’m going to leave it there. The bracelet won’t let anyone down in this segment.
The discussion of the movement brings us back to the Caliber 80 movement, used here as an updated and modified C07.651 caliber. Viewable from the exhibition caseback, this staple movement of the Swatch group is a slightly newer version of the previous caliber 80 derived movement, now featuring a new “Elinchron II” balance spring. What this newly enhanced movement provides is better accuracy and shock resistance.
This 80-hour power reserve ETA movement is similar to those seen in watches from Tissot, Rado, and other Swatch group brands. Making the sacrifice of some accuracy and a smoothly sweeping seconds hand, the Swatch group has (likely correctly) made the determination that a healthy power reserve is what most consumers will prefer to what is negligible loss in accuracy or something as frivolous as a smooth seconds hand.
Some months back I wrote a list of 10 Affordable Watches That Get a Nod From Snobs in 2018 and while a Mido watch didn’t make that list, I’d certainly put this watch (along with the Ocean Star and Multifort) on a list of contenders. The massive backing of the Swatch Group has allowed high quality that doesn’t come at a cost that gets passed down to consumers, and that is hard to overlook when gauging if a watch is a worthy buy or not. The Mido Commander Big Date is not going to wow you with any single aspect, but at a price of $950 (check it out here) it checks all the boxes. There’s a place in the watch world for subtle competence and Mido certainly embodies this philosophy. midowatches.com
>Model: Commander Big Date
>Price: $950 USD
>Size: 42mm wide, 11.97mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, but not any non-Big Date models.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone seeking a versatile, mechanical Swiss watch under $1,000. Most people seeking a safe first watch, as well.
>Best characteristic of watch: Build quality is better than watches that cost significantly more.
>Worst characteristic of watch: It’s not going to knock your socks off in style, design, or attitude.