Before receiving a pair of Trasers in the mail, I had very little knowledge of the brand. Their arrival served as a stark reminder that there are still so many brands that exist just beyond each collectors’ horizon. And it is truly one of the best things about working with watches for a living that these brands often present themselves rather than having to be sought out. Included in the package were two very different models: a Traser P59 Essential S Black (reference 108212), and a Traser P96 OdP Evolution Chrono Petrol (reference 109050). If packaging tells a story (which it certainly does in this day and age), then the boxes these watches came in told no lies. Here we have a brand that places functionality right at the top of its list in nice, big, bold letters. Make no mistake, these are not luxury watches; they are designed to be used and take a beating in the process.
So let’s start with the similarities: While there are many options for both models (with leather straps and mesh bracelets available), I chose the versions on fabric NATO straps. The P59 was delivered on a plain black strap with black hardware, while the P96 came on a fetching striped strap, which alternated between petrol blue and ice gray. Both straps were comfortable and were held in place by slim keepers that were happy to stay put once fastened.
Since these watches are quartz-powered, their movements add negligible weight. Although the P96 is considerably bigger than the P59 (44mm-wide in comparison to the dinky 37mm piece I requested), its glass-fiber-reinforced polymer case (not too dissimilar to Breitlight) means they weigh about the same. There was no doubting the ease-of-use of these pieces, which are ready to strap on and go straight out of the box. The time and date are easy to read and set on the P59, and the Chronograph function of the P96 (with a 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, and a 12-hour register at 6) has a nice rapid reset feature that is cool to play with.
None of that surprised me. From what little I knew of Traser before I conducted this review, I expected tough, no-frills watches, designed for the outdoors. I wasn’t expecting to be particularly impressed with any element, but a couple of things did stand out to me. Firstly, the material of the P96 is, while not in any way luxurious, comfortable to wear and cool to look at. It also makes for a pretty neat rotating bezel — it doesn’t bind or jam up at all, and while it lacks the godly click of, say, a Rolex Submariner, it has a very good level of performance for the price).
Secondly, the lume, on both models was outstanding. Yes, the brand makes a huge deal out of this, and yes, it is tritium and so should be expected to put on a dazzling light show, but the performance of it in real life is very impressive.
I’ve not worn many tritium lume watches in the past, and one of the things that really grabs me about them is how they seem not to be glowing at all in daylight (whereas Super-LumiNova can sometimes be seen to be humming during the day), but then suddenly blaze into life the second the surrounding light disappears. This enhances their legibility in both day and night as the complete neutrality in daylight is less distracting than a greenish or blueish hue desperately trying not to be noticed.
I wore both models alternately for a week, heading out on long walks with both in tow. I found myself quite enjoying the simplicity of the P59 and enjoyed wearing it in the evening after returning home, while the P96, which was a much better trek companion, came off the wrist as soon as I completed my activity. The truth is, when not being used as the pure tool it is designed to be, it is, for an experienced collector at least, a bit between things.
And I think that zeroes in on the main problem I had with both models. As undeniably fit for their intended purpose as they are, I struggle to envisage the end customer profile. And that comes down to price. The A Traser P59 Essential S Black (reference 108212) retails for CHF 225, and the Traser P96 OdP Evolution Chrono Petrol (reference 109050) retails for CHF 495, and, once again, I think that places them in a tricky no man’s land.
The optimist would say these are excellent watches for someone who wants a cheap watch to knock around in, while the Omega, the Blancpain, or the IWC has a rest away from the action. And that’s fair enough, but if that’s all you want, why not a Casio G Shock, or even something simpler like the old faithful Casio F-91w? In addition to a much lower price point, the name recognition, versatility, and collectibility of a Casio trump those of these Trasers. Where I think they might find their groove would be with hunters or servicemen or women looking for a truly functional watch that looks aesthetically at home with the rest of their gear. To learn more about this Swiss brand, please visit traser.com.
>Model: P59 Essential S Black and P96 OdP Evolution Chrono Petrol
>Prices: CHF 225 and CHF 495 respectively
>Sizes: 37mm and 44mm, respectively
>When reviewer would personally wear them: During trench warfare, if I somehow passed the medical.
>Friend we’d recommend them to first: Someone who likes camping (or trench warfare).
>Best characteristic of these watches: The tritium lume lives up to the hype.
>Worst characteristic of these watches: Product positioning. Seriously, for the job they are designed to do, these are more than capable. But the release of the update Casio Mudmaster with Quad Sensor and Bluetooth tech for $350 has created an extremely competitive price point.