If you aren’t English, there is a good chance you haven’t heard of Rotary Watches. I happen not to be English, but being in the watch industry, I am the exception, having visited the headquarters of Rotary Watches in London a few years ago to hear about its story. Several decades ago, Rotary Watches donned the wrists of many British people with their practical pricing and Continental approach to design. Today, Rotary Watches still exists, being run out of England (not under English ownership, as I understand) and with a similar approach to value. 2020 is apparently the brand’s 125th anniversary, as the company began in 1895.
To commemorate the occasion, Rotary has released a few limited-edition watches that are as decent to look at as they are to wear on the wrist. The sportiest of them (as of early 2020) is this Rotary Limited-Edition Heritage Titanium Automatic reference GS05249/04. While I generally like this watch, I find the name to be a bit misleading in using the term “Heritage.” Certainly the term isn’t a promise, but it does seem to imply that this is a remake of a historic timepiece — which isn’t exactly true, to my understanding. Rather, Rotary made a modern watch with a dial that takes inspiration from vintage military designs.” I do believe that, in the past, Rotary was a supplier of watches to the British military.
At a glance, the dial design looks like that of a Rolex Submariner, but it has enough differences to make it unique — and it’s done well with applied hour markers that have metal edges and green-toned Super-LumiNova painted in the interiors. The dial has mostly the same hour markers, save for the upside-down triangle for 12 o’clock. The hands look Submariner-esque on purpose, but instead of the Mercedes-style hour hand, Rotary has its “ox” hour hand, and the minute hand is tapered and “sword-style.” Overall, the hands and hour markers are a great highlight of the Heritage Titanium Automatic watch. The dial itself is mostly matte with good legibility and an elegance that allows it to move from sporty to dressier occasions with relative ease. To watch enthusiasts, the “Limited Edition” label on the dial where something like “Swiss Made” might be feels a bit cheesy. I’m not sure anyone other than wristwatch novices want to see “limited edition” on a dial — but I could be wrong.
Also on the dial is a neatly inserted day/date window that has a proper frame though date and day of the week information might be too small for all but the best of eyes. As part of keeping costs reasonable, the watch contains a slightly decorated and visible (through the caseback window) Japanese Miyota 8000 series automatic movement. The movement operates at 3Hz with about 2 days of power reserve and is certainly on the entry-level side for a mechanical movement. Rotary did choose a nicer grade of 8000 series movement and, in the larger case, the movement isn’t loud as it is in some other watches. That said, given how nice-looking this watch is overall, it would have been nice to see Rotary up the ante with the mechanism inside the Heritage Titanium Automatic just a little bit more. As this is a limited edition, it seems like the brand can simply produce a slightly modified version in the future with other movements. I’m not saying that Rotary will do that, but it certainly has the option of making the GS0549/04 part of a series, as opposed to a stand-alone product.
Speaking of not being heritage-inspired, the Heritage Titanium Automatic case (as the name implies) sports a 42mm-wide titanium case. Neither a 42mm-wide size nor a titanium case material would apply to most any “heritage” watches (especially a timepiece inspired by mid-20th century military watches). A few years ago, being able to get a grade 2 titanium watch at this price point would have been a lot more impressive. These days, titanium is a relatively available watch case material, even though it is still uncommon at these price points. The titanium case — as the material promises — is a welcome light weight and is produced with an industrial-chic sandblasted finishing.
From a durability perspective, the Heritage Titanium Automatic case is water resistant to 100 meters and has a flat sapphire crystal over the dial. A bit more AR-coating would have helped almost entirely eliminate glare, but, overall, this isn’t a watch that attracts too much glare (mainly because of the flat crystal and mostly un-reflective dial). Attached to the case is a khaki green fabric strap with a leather lining. The strap uses curved end-bars that help upgrade the look of the watch, for sure. Fabric straps are trendy these days — and I will admit that in pictures they look great. In my experience, however, the straps don’t last too long (1-2 years), so anyone purchasing this Rotary watch might want to consider what their next strap will be? I, for one, think the watch would look very nice on a green or black leather strap or an assortment of NATO-style straps.
While not perfect, the Heritage Titanium Automatic limited edition watch proves that Rotary today can put together a very competent timepiece. It is, no doubt, a challenge to consider what types of products to develop in today’s rapidly changing and crowded traditional wristwatch market. What I like most about the Rotary Heritage Titanium Automatic is that it manages to look both distinctive and familiar at the same time, while offering a fair price and modern wearing experience. Price for the Rotary Limited Edition Heritage Titanium Automatic is GS05249/04 is $489 USD. Learn more at the Rotary website here.
>Model: Limited Edition Heritage Titanium Automatic is GS05249/04
>Price: $489 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, 12.1mm-thick, and approx. 47mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a low-priced and classic looking comfortable daily wear sports watch that is otherwise quite modern.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who likes the design, or for whom Rotary watches have some nostalgic value.
>Best characteristic of watch: Nice looking, legible dial that manages to be both original and with a welcome, familiar-feeling design. Good size and lightweight case make it very wearable.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Name of watch is a bit too misleading for my tastes. Less of a value-proposition for well-established timepiece collectors, as opposed to new ones, unless you grew up with Rotary watches in your life.