Although there are still legions of new watches released every year designed to look aged right out of the box, very few of these releases ever actually capture the look and feel of true patina. This is especially true for tropical dials, where the application of even, pale khaki-tone Super-LumiNova simply fails to evoke the nuance, depth, and rich color that can come from decades of aging under extreme conditions. Nivada Grenchen, on the other hand, has dedicated its latest release to fully encapsulating the tropical vintage watch experience. Combining a multi-stage dial aging process with classically handsome retro sports watch lines and impressive modern construction, the new Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical may well be a new gold standard for “fauxtina” in watchmaking as well as a compelling vintage watch alternative for the average collector.
Measuring 38mm wide and 12mm thick, the Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical’s stainless steel case offers a slightly upsized interpretation of one of its classic ‘50s sports watch offerings. The overall shape here is simple but attractive, with a narrow, horizontally brushed mid-case coupled to a moderate, sloping polished smooth bezel. Nivada Grenchen’s unique lugs give this standard silhouette its own character. The knife-like “clipped point” polished chamfering gives off a somewhat similar impression to classic lyre lugs but with a simpler, less ornate presentation and a more utilitarian feel. Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity for the brand to show off an impressively crisp transition between brushed and polished surfaces for this price point. A small, signed screw-down onion crown at 3 o’clock adds another touch of midcentury softness to the mix here, while also helping the Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical to reach a field-ready 100 meters of water resistance. For the caseback, Nivada Grenchen pays tribute to its work with the U.S. Navy Deep Freeze 1 South Pole expedition in 1955 and 1956 with a gold ion-plated caseback medallion, showcasing a research station amid a rugged Antarctic ice field.
Naturally, the Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical’s dial takes center stage. The overall dial layout here is early Explorer-esque and classically simple, with a mix of applied rectangular indices and rounded Arabic numerals paired with an old-school sporting lollipop and Roman sword handset. Nivada Grenchen’s decision to go with a period-correct printed logo at 12 o’clock and a similarly era-appropriate Super Antarctic script emblem at 6 o’clock keep the layout feeling balanced and appropriately retro on the wrist. Look past the surface level, however, and the Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical truly becomes special. As a start, the dial surface itself is a rich, warm medium walnut brown, with minute highlights and shadows across its finely grained matte surface. On top of this, there’s the lume itself. While plenty of brands add a sandy tan dye to standard Super-LumiNova and call it a day, this luminous paint is darker, more textured, and even shows the mottled, speckled discoloration often found in older radium-equipped dials. Even the dial hardware (with the notable, deliberate exception of the needle seconds hand) shows convincing, extensive signs of aging, right down to light pitting and oxidation on the metal of the handset. Taken as a whole, it’s a captivatingly nuanced and detail-intensive recreation of a decades-old tropically aged dial and one of very few “fauxtina” watches where I could genuinely believe this was a ‘50s-era vintage model if not for the pristine case and strap. In order to achieve this sort of complex, accurate visual aging, Nivada Grenchen treats each dial with a weak chemical oxidizing agent, followed by an extensive ultraviolet baking routine to simulate the effects of many years of harsh sun and moisture exposure. The end results are more or less unheard of at this price point and should prove very compelling to vintage enthusiasts looking for the reliability of a modern watch without sacrificing aesthetics.
Inside the Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical beats the Soprod P024 automatic movement. The P024 has become an increasingly common Swiss alternative to the ubiquitous ETA and Sellita movement options in recent years and offers broadly similar performance to the mainstay ETA 2824 platform. However, its 38-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate is underwhelming in the modern era, even when compared with major entry-level competitors. With that said, the P024 proved solidly accurate over the course of our testing period, averaging out to just under +6 seconds per day. If there is a weak link in the Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical’s presentation, it’s the watch’s strap. While it is optionally available with a stainless steel beads-of-rice bracelet, our test sample came with the standard leather rally strap. Featuring a heavily wrinkled pigskin-style texture in medium saddle brown, this strap is soft and comfortable but feels somewhat at odds with the rest of the watch’s design. A suede strap may have been a better option here, to further emphasize the texture and aging of the dial. With that said, a 20mm lug width should mean that this watch will potentially pair with a broad range of third-party straps.
For dedicated vintage enthusiasts, it can be a struggle to find modern production watches that offer the same sort of patina, character, and charm that decades-old tropically aged timepieces have. With the new Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical, however, Nivada Grenchen has created one of the most compelling, authentic modern recreations of the vintage watch-wearing experience on the current market, complete with solid modern build quality, a reliable movement, and a respectably modest price point. The Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical is available now through the brand’s e-commerce platform. MSRP for this watch as tested stands at $750 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.
>Brand: Nivada Grenchen
>Model: Super Antarctic 3-6-9 Tropical
>Price: $750 USD as tested/$950 USD on bracelet
>Size: 38mm wide, 12mm thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a more reliable alternative to a vintage sports watch; or as an eye-catching daily wear.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Budget-minded vintage watch fans wanting the “tropical” look without paying a premium.
>Best characteristic of watch: Stellar tropical dial finishing; attractive proportions; excellent quality for the price.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Rally-style strap feels slightly mismatched here; dial aging treatment makes the lume weaker than expected.