October 17, 2011
by Ariel Adams
Maybe one of the most interesting Mondaine watches I have worn lately – this “Night Vision” version of their famous Swiss Railways watch comes with tritium gas tubes as well as a big date indicator. Still, it retains that classic look one seeks when wearing a watch like this.
You really need to travel in Switzerland a bit (at least by train) to fully understand that this indeed is the look of the clocks in the train stations around Switzerland. The national railway logo in red and white accompanied by SBB CFF FFS is right there on the dial as well. I still have no idea what those nine letters stand for by the way. They seem a bit excessive if you ask me. Oh well, that is Swiss tradition for you.
I would never consider a standard Mondaine watch a sport watch. It is much more a simple casual watch in my opinion. Though Mondaine brands this one as a sport piece. It’s full name is the Mondaine Men’s Night Vision Tritium Sport (ref. A669.30308.14SBB). Is the sport name because of the tritium gas tubes? Sort of, but I don’t think that should automatically make it, or any other watch that you can see in the dark more easily a sport watch. Tritium gas tubes are small tubes filled with a mild (and safe) radioactive compound that glows naturally for about 20-25 years. These tubes are placed in the watch hour and minute hands, as well as near each hour marker. This allows for rather easy viewing of the time in the dark.
Aside from the tubes in the hands, you really can’t see the other tubes unless you are in the dark. They are integrated into the flange ring and seen through the 12 little angular holes. The standard applied hour markers in white are what are more visible in normal light. What I believe Mondaine was going for here was to retain the core look of the watch but also add the functionality of the gas tubes.
The watch comes in both black and white dial versions. The white dialed version has black hands and hour indicators. Both are highly legible. On the dial is also the big-date indicator which is part of the Swiss quartz movement (from Ronda I believe). The dial is covered with a domed mineral crystal – which is acceptable for the price. The crystal is very clear with almost no dial distortion.
On the wrist this model is 41mm wide in a brushed steel case. I love the inset red lacquer in the crown where the “M” logo is. That is a nice stylized touch. The watch case is water resistant to 30 meters. A bit low for a watch with “sport” in the name. Adding a screw down crown could easily have increase that to 50-100 meters I believe. The watch actually wears smaller than 41mm because the widest part of the case is in the middle. You’ll notice that the bezel rounds in a bit, helping to create the illusion that the watch wears smaller than it is.
Attached to the case is a nice rugged feeling leather strap in black with white contrast stitching. There is a Mondaine signed buckle on it. Wearing comfort for the watch is what you’d come to expect from this watch size and shape. It will become increasingly comfortable as the strap rounds to your particular wrist. For a convenient and slightly avant garde conservative watch with some added functionality, the Mondaine Big Date NIght Vision Swiss Railways watch is an easy choice. Price is $325.