As a brand, Tsovet has a laudable goal. What Tsovet and peer brands seek to do is to marry the world of design/fashion with that of horology. Inspired by professional timekeeping instruments of today and yesterday, watches like the SMT-LS47, SMT-FW44, and others produced by Tsovet are designs that the brands hope will appeal to urbanites seeking “cool” watches with enough mechanical street cred to satisfy serious timepiece collectors and enthusiasts. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is how well they succeed in that mission – a mission that seems to be relentless and ongoing.
As someone very familiar with high-end watches from specialty brands that have been making timepieces for a long time, I am not the target demographic for watches such as this, but I am someone who can appreciate the work that Tsovet has been doing. I also understand the inherent struggle the brand faces when it comes to mixing quality, design, and pricing. If the brand aims too downmarket then it will alienate lovers of quality seeking nice toys that people often associate with the term luxury. The low-end market often will not be able to appreciate anything about the watch aside from its basic looks.
If Tsovet aims too high in price and prestige then it easily risks being branded as fueled by hubris. “How dare this relative newcomer price itself among the elite of horology who have been making serious watches for generations?” It isn’t a superficial problem, and it is only that Tsovet and brands like it have to constantly juggle. That brings me to these two particular mechanical models produced by the brand with Swiss automatic movements and circa $1,000 prices. I should add that most of the watches the brand sells contain quartz movements.
The most high-end Tsovet ever went was back in 2012 with the limited-edition Tsovet SMT-GR44 that contained a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic movement for a rather stiff retail price of $4,750. When I was writing this review I saw one of them available in their website at a discount as part of holiday sale and according to Tsovet it sold quite quickly – it was an impressive sale from a price perspective… The issue a brand like Tsovet will always face is that they can’t encroach too much on the territory of the major luxury watch brands when it comes to pricing. Why?
The reason is simple. Most consumers they are aiming for want something interesting and attractive in a package they feel delivers the features they want. But they are also highly brand-conscious. If the consumer doesn’t feel that Tsovet (or any other brand) hasn’t “earned the right to charge a particular amount of money for a product,” then they will simply go to a brand they feel has. Therein lies the interesting conflict of trying to stay within a brand’s natural bounds, while also remaining vigilantly ambitious.
The Tsovet SMT-LS47 and SMT-FW44 are not the same watch, but they are cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Even though the cases are different sizes (47mm wide and 44mm wide, respectively), they have similar case designs and each contains a Swiss ETA 2824-2A automatic movement. You can view the movements through the exhibition window on the rear of the case. Yes, it is clear that the cases are much larger than the movements – but that isn’t a big deal. At least that means the date windows (cute and round) don’t cut-off any of the hour markers.
I should say right now that both of these watches are part of product families that have different versions, so check out Tsovet’s website for the full collection range. The Tsovet SMT-LS47 is a bit more the design I think of when considering the Tsovet brand. The bold, military/industrial style feels like an activity watch for urban trekkers. The dial has neat laser-cut numerals which add a welcome sense of depth. Stylish elements like the use of a “0” at 10 o’clock in order to maintain symmetry prove to wearers that this watch was designed by an aesthetically minded artist and is not just a mundane product design with no soul. It is those types of little quirks which give timepieces like this endearing character.
While the 47mm-wide PVD-coated black case is comfortable, it is going to wear on the larger side. Tsovet makes mechanical watches as small as 40mm wide, but for me their 44mm wide case is the sweet spot between being visually assertive and wearable. The cases are further water-resistant to 100 meters and over the dials are AR-coated sapphire crystal. Given the designer nature of the case and dial, visual attractiveness is high – especially if you are a fan of the core aesthetic. It’s like industrial minimalism – which I am sure has more than a few fans.
What Tsovet has in design sense the brand perhaps lacks in clear character. I’m not sure brands like this have put enough into telling audiences what they are all about. I am pretty sure they exist on an “our product speaks for itself” mentality about marketing. That’s partially right, but Tsovet owes it to its customers to explain a bit more about who produces the watches and why. Actually, the brand does sort of do that with their own magazine and social media content. With that said, I don’t really feel as though the overly artsy messaging is relatable to enough of the people who might otherwise connect with the brand. It’s like the products and the messaging don’t connect well, at least from my vantage point. Then again, I’m a particularly tough customer when it comes to evaluating watch brand marketing material.
The Tsovet SMT-FW44 has a 44mm-wide sandblasted steel case with a handsome tan-brown leather strap with a clean utilitarian dial and nice blue-colored aviator-style hands. This is a very attractive-to-wear and legible watch that I think will appeal to a lot of people who understand the appeal of nice watches, but spend most of their time focusing on non-horological gadgets. While I really like the overall colors of the Tsovet SMT-FW44 and the style of the hands, the face itself underwhelms me a bit. At least it does compared to the Tsovet SMT-LS47. Part of me wishes that Tsovet made the SMT-LS47 in a 44mm-wide case in addition to the 47mm wide case.
Tsovet has its own particular flavor of utility-inspired fashion watches with decent enough components to likely get a nod from snobby watch collectors. Even though anyone who likes the looks of these watches will enjoy the wearing experience, most of these watches will end up on the wrists of those people who are familiar with what a fine timepiece is, but don’t consider “watch collecting” as one of their regular passions. The hope, of course, is that enough of those people will find merit in a timepiece that costs about $1,000 to dedicate the funds to it as opposed to something less expensive, although perhaps not as nice. The Tsovet SMT-LS47 reference LS331710-45A has a retail price of $1,050 and the SMT-FW44 reference FW110113-40A has a retail price of $950. tsovet.com
>Model: SMT-LS47 (reference LS331710-45A) and SMT-FW44 (reference FW110113-40A)
>Price: US $1,050 and $950
>Size: 47mm wide and 44mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Sometimes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Design lovers with a weakness for refined urban-style tool watches meant just for them.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good looking, legible designs that borrow from a great heritage of functional watches and instruments in a package well-suited to those looking for a modestly priced Swiss-Made mechanical watch.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Easy for seasoned watch lovers to choose products from more established brands that have more marketing clout and awareness given the price. Designers will get the overall simplicity, others might not.