Roue Watch Company is a new startup that challenges the value equation of the big brands. It was founded on the basis of distinctive design, quality manufacturing, and everyday luxury. In a world where top brands sell for many thousands of dollars, Roue offers a well-designed watch collection for between $160 and $230, with Japanese-made quartz movements, stainless steel cases, and sapphire crystals. The watches are water resistant to 50m and come with a two-year warranty. “It was founded on the belief that premium quality and refined style shouldn’t be exclusive to the rich,” says creator Alex Iervolino.

The design of the watch is quite distinctive and well thought out, with very specific references in mind. Alex was influenced by iconic watches of the past that we all know and love, including the 1960s and 1970s Omega Seamaster and Speedmaster Moonwatch; the Heuer Montreal, Carrera, Regatta and Autavia models; the Porsche Design Orfina and various Lemanias. “I have always admired vintage watches, and I thought that many of these beautiful designs could be recycled in some way,” says Alex. “My idea was to take great past-era designs and wrap them in a modern, universal case design. I love the 1960s and ’70s motorsport influence on watches,” he says. But the influence doesn’t stop there. “I am also a great enthusiast and a collector of designers such as Dieter Rams (the German industrial designer of Braun fame), Hartmut Esslinger (the industrial designer of Sony-Wega fame and the first Apple products), and Richard Sapper (a designer known for his combination of technical innovation, simplicity of form, and element of wit).”

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The result of these design influences is the Roue (French for “wheel”), a sleek, modern timepiece created with a return to fundamental design principles in mind. Roue sees the design as a modern classic. The case is distinctive in shape, a sleek, tapered rounded cushion shape that is elegantly elongated toward the strap attachments and sandblasted to create a matte look. It is 41.5mm wide in all models, and case thicknesses range from 9.8mm to 10.9mm for the chronograph. Each watch comes with two straps. Depending on the model, some are leather and silicone, some leather and nylon, and some silicone and nylon.

The crown and pushers are very subtle – no big onion crowns here – and perfectly match the minimalist design. “The fact that I made the whole brand using a similar case format is an inspiration I got from the original Swatch concept from the 1980s – same form, multiple messages,” says Alex. “Actually I like to describe the brand as a kind of a Swatch made of 316L stainless steel and sapphire crystal.”

The dials are clean, simple and highly legible, with the sub-dials in contrasting colors, a look we are used to seeing in the top sports watches of today. There is a clear 60-second track and Arabic numerals in a simple, contemporary font, and baton-style hands. The elegant, needle-style seconds hand on the time-only model is orange for high legibility. The wheel-shaped logo mimics the case shape in a way, as well as the modern aesthetic of the watch. The functions are clean and basic. This is important because there is a tendency for the makers of quartz watches to go completely multi-function – because they can, without the expense it would create in a mechanical watch – which just clutters the dial and makes the watch impossible to read at a glance. Roue has wisely resisted that, and one result is that these watches have the clean look of mechanical watches. “It’s impossible to deny the influence of Esslinger, Sapper, and Rams on my designs,” says Alex. “There is no brightness, no excessive ornamentation. The watch is meant to be clean, but not boring and that’s how you would describe the designs of the very best minimalists.”

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Sometimes it takes an astute outsider (and collector in his own right) to design a watch that speaks to the Zeitgeist of current watch collectors. After working 20 years in finance, the 45-year-old Roue creator “decided to do something totally different. I always loved aesthetics, and that is why I created Roue,” he says. He also runs an Instagram page called MOTOR_WATCH where he features classic European cars and vintage watches. “My father was a long time collector, so the classic car universe has been in my life since I was born,” he says. “I am creating watches with the same design sensibility, targeted to people who are interested in good design and style.”

There are four models in the Roue line: a chronograph, inspired by 1970s motorsports; a subsidiary seconds, inspired by 1960s motorsports; a 3-hand model inspired by German design from the 1980s; and a calendar function model, based on sporty minimalist designs from the 1990s. Considering all available variations, there are 12 different styles to choose from. Prices range from $160 to $230. Cases are sandblasted 316L stainless steel and all use quartz movements, made by either Miyota or Seiko. Each comes with two unique straps, which are interchangeable and the watches can be purchased at Roue’s official site.

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