It very well may have been a Xemex that was one of the first luxury timepieces I ever noticed as a young adult. I recall walking through a shopping mall here in Los Angeles as a teenager and seeing a store display with some Xemex watches in it and was immediately captivated. This was back in the late 1990s, and even if I could recall what store it was, I don’t think it exists any longer. The watches do, however, and my favorite Xemex designs have been unchanged for almost that long.


What initially struck me about the Xemex watches I saw was the modern take on a “designer tool.” Born of the Bauhaus generation industrial designs which focus on functionality but also play with traditional notion of what a common object needs to look like, Xemex designer Ruedi Kulling knows what a watch needs to look like. And in the Xemex design, he plays with those notions as much as possible (to his tastes) without breaking the fundamental “wristwatch form” of the object. Kulling, a German industrial designer born in 1935 clearly has a good connection to the old world of analog design combined with a contemporary appeal. This is good news for lovers of mechanical timepieces because it can be said that Kulling’s design aesthetic is really a product of the end of the “analog era” (as I call it).

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Over a decade ago, I bought my first Xemex watch which was a quartz-movement-based Xemex Offroad. I don’t wear it any longer today because the case is too small. I’d actually love for the brand to update the Offroad ( a funny name because it isn’t a sport watch or anything like that) with a larger case. This Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph watch is a very different type of Xemex given that it is larger, has a mechanical movement (as a great deal of their watches do), and is actually a much better product to be given a name like “Offroad,” to be honest. With that said, this is the Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph, and I like it quite a bit.

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Ruedi’s “less is more” design philosophy doesn’t mean that “nothing is more.” There are plenty of decorative elements in his design, and even a few interesting design choices which are more form-over-function. That gives the Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph character, and even though it has some ergonomic issues, I think it is overall a great design.

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Personally, there are a few reasons why I feel Ruedi’s watch designs work so well. First is the fact that he understands the importance of high-contrast dials. In other words, making sure that the hands and hour markers contrast with the face so that you can read the time easily. Second is that the hands need to be very easy to see, which of course involves high-contrast, as well as other design elements. I feel that watch design begins with a good set of hands, and because Xemex has so many good hand designs (thanks to Kulling), it therefore puts a very strong first foot forward when making a case for its various products.

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Finally, Xemex watch dials and cases, whether you like them or not, are highly distinctive. One of the most important “branding” elements in a watch is being distinctive and separating oneself from other products. Xemex does a very good job at that, meaning that these aren’t watches that look like anything else, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill (just exposure) to recognize a Xemex watch on someone’s wrist.

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Xemex offers a few versions of the XE 5000. There are four version on their website right now, but I’ve seen others over the years. This model is the Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph Silver reference 5500.03. What makes it unique is the dial which is applied with a perlage polish motif – that I happen to think is really cool. This is also one of, if not the, least expensive way to get this look in a quality watch.

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The Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph case is 44mm wide in brushed steel, and offers a great design and finishing for the money. I’ll start with my biggest gripe about the case and that is the crown. This is one of the very few totally form-over-function elements of the watch. If this were a quartz watch, it would not matter. As a design decision, Xemex created two prominent rectangular chronograph pushers, and an inset crown that is flush with the case when it is pushed in. This offers a very attractive visual look, but functionally it is a pain when it comes to operating the crown.

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A cutout under the case makes it easy to pull the crown out, but once it is out, turning it or winding the movement isn’t easy on the finger. So if this is something you do rarely then it doesn’t matter, but with a mechanical watch… chances are you’ll want to set the time and date somewhat regularly, and it is nice to know you can do so with ergonomic ease. That’s really my major complaint about the Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph.

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Otherwise, the case is cool with a hypermodern, almost minimalist aesthetic and interesting features like slightly articulating lugs which are attached to the case separately, and a fun, almost bulbous look. Sometimes, I see the case as a much more affordable way to get some of the aesthetic qualities of an Ikepod. On the wrist, the Xemex XE 5000 Chronograph is very comfortable and water resistant to 50 meters, being topped with a slightly domed sapphire crystal. Assuming you want to use the chronograph complication – then it is very ergonomic and user friendly.

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