Yup, this watch is called the “50s President’s Watch.” While that sounds a bit funny, let me explain. In 1953 Vulcain gave a Cricket Alarm watch to President Harry Truman. Since then they have given watches to all the US Presidents (yea, I know the issues about gifting things to the president, but there is some way around it… sorta). In honor of this tradition Vulcain created the 50s President’s Watch, which has a retro design hearkening back to the originals.
The design is slick and actually feels very retro in your hand. Not in a “this watch is old” kinda watch, but more like “this watch has some charmingly retro design aspects to it.” The bigger size (in context) gives the watch a sort of “larger than life” feel where traditional design elements are seemingly exaggerated. I almost want to call it a retro cartoon watch, but I don’t think that will convey the feel the watch gives. It is a high-quality piece with a cool movement.
In the late 1940s Vulcain released their first Cricket Alarm watch movement. The mechanical caliber offered an alarm complication that was good. Good enough to wake you up. I have heard a lot of alarms complications in both quartz and mechanical watches. Most (not all) are crap. You can barely hear them, and many are a pain to use. Over the years Vulcain has refined the Cricket caliber, and it is among the best mechanical alarms on the market. Just a few years ago they released an automatic version of the Cricket. Just such a movement is contained inside of all the 50s President’s Watches. It is the Vulcain Cricket Calibre V-21.
The good looking movement is a larger caliber with two barrels. Once I believe is used for the alarm. Winding the crown one way winds the barrel for the time and winding it the other way winds the alarm barrel. The alarm is set with the crown and activated with the pusher above the crown. The dial has a dedicated alarm hand. The alarm is loud and sounds like a crazy mechanical toy going off. It lasts for a full 20 seconds which is longer than it sounds.
Apparently designing the Cricket caliber to be an automatic was a challenge. I believe that has a lot to do with the alarm function, but Vulcain did it very successfully. One things about the movement that I don’t quite understand is its relative slow rate of 18,000 bph. It has a power reserve of 42 hours.
The 50s President’s Watch is 42mm wide but feels larger. It comes with a steel or 18k rose gold case and there are currently five models. I love the retro looking domed dials and sunburst polished faces. For a traditional styled watch this piece is still quite masculine. The hands and applied hour markers are strong looking and the neat integration between the alligator strap and the case is appreciated. There is an additional sense of strength in the texture engraved into the side of the crown. Like an old acrylic crystal, the sapphire is domed. To match the style of the Vulcain “V” logo, there is a metal section through the sapphire display caseback of the same shape.
Water resistance for the case is 50 meters. Acceptable in a watch like this as the alarm noise actually needs to travel from the movement through the case. Trust me, water resistance and watches that are meant to emit sound do not play well together for the most part. I am quite impressed with how Vulcain mixes these two needs.
The down side to mechanical alarms are two-fold. First, you need to wind them back up each time the alarm goes off. Second, you cannot set them precisely to the minute. As you can see, you more or less try to line the hand up as close as possible to when you wan it to go off, but it isn’t perfect. Sadly… so sadly, there no snooze function. However for most little daily things you need reminders for, alarms like this work just fine and Vulcain makes among the best of them. Price for the steel models is 8,370 Swiss Francs while the 18k rose gold pieces are 22,680 Swiss Francs.