December 21, 2018
Mido released their first iteration of the Commander series back in 1959, and since then, the Commander has become the most recognizable collection for the brand in many part of the world (which doesn’t include North America). The 2018 addition of the Mido Commander Icône was something that certainly garnered my interest, and so I requested one for review since I’d not previously had wearing experience with this noteworthy historic watch design.
It’s hard to place this watch in a specific era. There is a definite retro feel, but the modern finishing and details are a surprising plus upon closer inspection. This strange blend of aesthetics is what I enjoy about the watch, and although not for everybody, I think it’s an interesting take by Mido. The tapered Milanese mesh bracelet and lugless case are clearly more mid-century than modern, but the size and color choices feel much more contemporary (vintage Commander watches were often smaller in case size diameter). So without further ado, let’s get down to the details.
Happily for me, the Mido Commander Icône was extremely comfortable to wear. As someone who has never owned a watch with a Milanese bracelet, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sizing the band required was simple enough, although it did take me a while to figure out how to release the clamp that holds the clasp in place. Again, fastening the watch to my wrist the first few times required some fiddling. However, I think this was more due to lack of familiarity with this kind of watch band. Note this is among the rare black-colored steel Milanese mesh metal bracelets available.
The lugless case and 11.5 mm height make this an easy watch to wear with a shirt, although perhaps it is not best suited for formal attire. I found myself donning my leather jacket and t-shirt more often than usual while wearing the Commander Icône. This felt much more fitting with the style of the watch. Case finishing is good enough. Swatch Group tends to offer a lot for the price which well describes this Mido Commander well. Perhaps some contrast finishing would have helped the case design capture a bit more visual interest. I certainly has the potential to.
Another smart design feature of the watch is the shape of the caseback. It sort of curves in a way that allows for maximum wrist mobility. You know when you lean on a table, and your watch bracelet seems to tighten from the bend of your wrist? That was certainly minimized do to the shape of the Mido Commander Icône, and the crown is well out of your way too.
For a watch that is definitely more “out there” in terms of design, you’d be surprised how easy it is to wear during your day-to-day from a fashion versatility perspective. Though this to be expected with many easy-to-read dials and a non-specific distinct look.
One thing that surprised me when I had the watch in person was the color of the PVD coating. In promo photos the case appears black, but in person it was more of a very dark grey. This coloration is more apparent on the polished case surfaces than on the brushed ones, but it is not unpleasant. Dark gray gives Commander a more fashionable versus stealthy or military look as it would in a deeper black color.
Orange details are given much more volume on the darkened backdrop of the sunburst brushed dial, and that is probably my favourite visual component of the overall design. The colour choices feel a lot more like something you would find on a 1970’s sport-watch, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Modernity is found in details like the raised markers, beveled chapter ring, and crispness of the dial printing. The indices have a raised dimensional detail where the lume is applied, and even under close scrutiny the fit and finish is rather pleasing.
Original vintage commander watches are interesting to view for comparison because the finishing on the dial elements was quite different. The new Commander models continue a great traditional but aren’t really meant to be retro-redo watches in our opinion. Going back to the watch design, the lugless case is still the more interesting aesthetic element when it comes to the Mido Commander series – especially in the larger Mido brand. The way the bracelet integrates into the case follows the lines of the overall design, and it will always look the most fitting to me.
As for the specifications of the Mido Commander Icône, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck – especially in regard to the movement performance and exclusivity.
Starting from the inside of the watch, you get a Chronometer COSC certified ETA C07.821, which Mido markets as the Caliber 80. It has a silicone balance spring for greater accuracy and anti-magnetic protection. With a fully charged mainspring, you’ll get 80 hours of power reserve. As is the case with many watches in the Mido range, you can view the Caliber 80 through a transparent caseback. At this time such movements from ETA in Swatch Group brands are the most affordable way to get mechanical movements equipped with silicon parts. This Mido Commander watch isn’t the only product with this movement – but it does represent how affordable silicon-based regulation systems can be when compared to alternatives from many other higher-end brands. On top of all that the movement is COSC Chronometer certified – a service worth at least a couple hundred dollars in value given its hard costs to the brands.
Water resistance is not a primary feature of the Commander Icône at only 50m, but I doubt you’d think sports or diving is what this watch was intended for based on looks alone. Though ironically it was originally a bit of a marine-themed product. The dial has large applied indices, a separate chapter ring for the seconds track, and a date window at three o’clock. The sunburst brushing and pad printing are well executed, and everything can be viewed through a sapphire crystal. The dial isn’t per se pretty, but it has a sort of handsome “you look like you mean business today” sort of vibe. This is a suit watch for someone who wants to look elegant but never traditional.
Made from stainless steel, the case has a 42mm diameter with a 24mm lug width. Small wrists can handle it easily given the lack of lugs. Everything asides from the bezel ring on the caseback is coated with a dark grey Anthracite PVD coating over the steel. The Milanese bracelet has an extra folding lock over the clasp. and we doubt you’d want to swap it out for anything else since the bracelet is part of this signature look.
Overall, the Mido Commander Icône delivers on quality for the price – but with an aesthetic which can be an acquired taste. Of any Mido collection available, I’d have to say that the Commander range is the only one that suits my personal taste, and I really enjoyed the Icônes version of Mido’s flagship model. The only thing I would have liked to change is to have the old applied logo on the dial. I know that would tip the scales of visual appeal more firmly towards the 70’s, but I really just prefer the older wordmark. The Mido Commander Icône retails for $1,695 USD and you can find out more at midowatches.com
>Model: Commander Icône M031.631.33.061.00
>Price: $1,695 USD
>Size: 42mm wide, 11.5mm thick, 24mm lugs
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Out and about on the weekends
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: “Hey, you like quirky retro stuff, right?”
>Best characteristic of watch: Comfortable to wear
>Worst characteristic of watch: Less versatile: I found it only suited me while wearing more casual attire.