July 13, 2009
by Ariel Adams
For those of you who have never been interested in a Swiss Mondaine watch, this Railway Sport Chrono II watch might change your mind. The best way to know the watch is by the reference number which is A690.30338.11SBM, but that is no fun to say. So I will stick with Sport Chrono II. Let’s survey the features of this watch first and notice a correction below that I misstated in the review video.
In addition to the time, the quartz Ronda 5040.B movement has some cool features. First is the big date complication that places the date on two discs (one that is 0-3, and the other that is 0-9). This is placed at 12 o’clock. Then you have the chronograph that sort of has two modes. The chronograph will measure times with 1/1o of a second accuracy, up until about 30 minutes of timing. If what you are timing is longer than 30 minutes, then you no longer get 1/10 of a second accuracy (only to the second accuracy), but you can measure up to 10 hours. So once again, shorter time measuring with the chronograph allows you to achieve 1/10 of a second accuracy. Measuring longer periods of time is up to the second accuracy, but you can measure up to 10 hours. In the video, I neglected to mention that you could measure up to 10 hours, and instead focused on the shorter timing capabilities of the watch up to 30 minutes.
To measure 1/10 of a second accuracy, you simply need start the chronograph and pay attention to the subdial at 6 o’clock. For the first 30 seconds it will spin quickly, and then stop. No worries when it stops, because when you stop the chronograph, the hand will move to one of the positions (1-10). Read that number and you get the fractional measurement. For example, if the large red seconds hand is at “15” seconds on the main dial, and the dial at 6 o’clock is pointing at “4,” you’ve just measured 15.4 seconds. Cool right? Now if you measure times longer than 30 minutes, the subdial at 6 o’clock that once told you the fractional part of the seconds, is not used to measure the hours (up to 10). Make sense? It is just that simple, and I think it clever that the Ronda movement have this dual role for the subdial at 6 o’clock.
Reading the chronograph is pretty easy as well because Mondaine kept the chronograph used hands all red, while the time hands are all black. The seconds for the watch is at the subsidiary dial at 3 o’clock. You know how most Mondaine watches to have a seconds hand with a large red tip? Here they sort of did the opposite with the chronograph seconds hand. They moved the red orb that would normally be the tip to the end of the hand making it the counterweight. This makes more sense, and I like how they kept the “spirit” of the original Swiss Railways watch in this timepiece. Another “improvement” over other Mondaine watches is the addition of tritium gas tubes in the hour and minute hand. These tubes light up in the dark with out needing to be “charged” with light. Mondaine is sort of connected to Luminox, which prides themselves on basically always using tritium gas tubes. Having the gas tubes in the hands adds another layer of smart functionality to the watch that is very nice to have. While it would have been interesting to have each of the hour markers use tritium gas tubes as well (as there is clearly space) it is not a detriment that they are simple applied black markers.
This is actually another very well done aspect of the watch – the chapter ring that is “cut” by the hour markers. The result is a hip looking three dimensional look right away when looking at the rich deep dial. Smaller minute markers on the chapter ring create a high level of legibility when reading the time. The dial of the watch is in a metallic silver tone with a slight brushed sun ray finish. Then you have the three symmetrical subdials with broad hands and textured and decorated interiors. This is probably the most “designer” influence aspect of the watch with each subdial enjoying a different, but attractive style. I really like how this is done and feels like a perfect middle ground between fashionable and functional. The crystal on the watch is sapphire just ever so slightly domed and AR coated.
Basic screws are inserted into the IP black bezel. The bezel could have been finished a tiny bit better, but is totally still good looking and solid feeling. I would have liked for the bezel to be PVD as opposed to IP (ion plated), but it is not a big deal. Plus, it would have been interesting for Mondaine to use hex screws or otherwise, but the look is still really nice with most everyone liking the look. The deep black bezel matches the hands and hour indicators of the watch well. The thick steel case (about 42-43mm wide) is of the best I’ve felt from Mondaine. It is a newer look for them, and I think their designers are enjoying the more masculine styling. The watch also fits very comfortably and securely on your wrist as the lugs are angled downwards. The case is also done in a brushed finish all around that gives it a nice utility look and helps with Mondaine’s modern design feel. Adding a splash of color to the case along with the black bezel is rich red inlay in the crown that reveals a handsome “M” for Mondaine in Steel. The case has a screw down caseback as is water resistant to 100 meters, even without a screw-down crown.
Equally nice to the watch case and dial is the thick steel bracelet. At 22mm wide it actually looks wider than it is having a five link design. The links are held in with really thick pins, and the watch was really easy to size. The bracelet also features a welcome micro adjust feature on the deployment – which is a total must for having a precise fit. The deployment clasp is particularly handsome with a nice double locking clasp with a engraved Mondaine signature. The action of the clasps reminds me of Tag Heuer bracelets – being as well refined with a smooth silent action that has no movement “ambiguities.” The bracelet of this watch would be acceptable on a watch costing two or three times as much, if not more. Though on a $1000 plus watch the bracelet should have screws instead of pins. There is a very minor oddity in terms of how the end-links of the bracelet attach to the case. The end-links are a bit longer than the lugs on the case. Meaning that they stick out a bit when attached and you can see an exposed link hole on each side. Wear the watch, and it feel natural. In fact, I promise that if I didn’t point it out, at least 85% of you would never notice it was there for the lifetime of your Mondaine Sport Chrono II watch. I wouldn’t know exactly how to fix this. The lugs can’t be extended without looking funny, and a totally new bracelet would need to be fashions in order to have shorter end-links. Think of it as part of the character that this watch has that makes it that much more interesting to own.
No man, woman, or child that I showed this new Mondaine watch too did not like it. The typical reaction was either, “now that is a nice watch,” or, “oh, I really like that.” This is exactly how I feel. The first things that I thought about the timepiece was exactly what I first wrote in this review. “I’ve never seen a Mondaine watch like that.” This is still true and just as I was instantly drawn to the watch from the beginning, I am still drawn to it now – with it being of the favorite quartz movement based watches in my collection. Retail price for this Mondaine Ref. A690.30338.11SBM watch is $595, and a bit less via online stores. It should be stated that there are different versions of the watch – with leather straps, and black faces. Some have different functionality as well (such as an alarm), though this is still my favorite. I certainly recommend it for the price, functionality, and easy to love style. For those reasons it gets my aBlogtoRead.com Seal of Approval award.[phpbay]mondaine sport, num, “”, “”[/phpbay]