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ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch

ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch Watch Releases

It’s always exciting when the opportunity to review a brand with which I’m not so familiar pops up. It’s especially exciting when the products instantly appeal to me for reasons initially unknown. With the release of the ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze watch, ZRC introduces a material update to its core diver. It is a welcome addition to a range that, while pleasingly concise, keeps things simple when it comes to case variation.

ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch Watch Releases

The History of the ZRC GF300

Although a lack of variety could be presented as a drawback, the one solid thing it does do for a brand is provide it with an identity. And the identity of ZRC is, thanks to its unusual case shape, very strong. The angular case middle’s design draws heavily on the silhouette of the brand’s most famous model, the ZRC Grands Fonds 300m, launched originally in 1960. Founded in 1904 in Geneva, ZRC enjoyed moderate success in the early part of the 20th century, eventually being selected as the official timepiece for the French Navy from 1964-1982.

It was during this period that the ZRC Grands Fonds 300m made a name for itself and etched its story indelibly into the brand’s history books. Its popularity meant it was always ripe for an update and, in 2015, that’s exactly what we got. Fast forward to the modern day and ZRC have decided to create a version of that update in bronze, to tap in to the current trend (that seems to be bedding in for the long haul). This 40.5mm reimagining of that classic form is water resistant to 300 meters and perfectly legible in darkness, thanks to the Super-LumiNova applied to the indices, Arabic numerals, hour dots on the dial, hour dots on the bezel, and the hour, minute, and seconds hands. The vintage glass box sapphire crystal covers an unusual, striated dial.

ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch Watch Releases

Practical Innovations

The bezel itself deserves mention. The dot-only design is quite uncommon. By forsaking the more subliminally interpretable Arabic numerals in favor of this charmingly symmetrical design, ZRC may have sacrificed a little bit of legibility when it comes to the immediate interpretation of elapsed time, but the result is so nice (and neat) in daylight, I would be inclined to forgive the whimsy. Furthermore, the little rider tab decorated with three luminous dots at 12 o’clock actually houses a feature ZRC refers to as “ECS'”(Easy Clean System). One problem reported by the French divers who frequently wore these watches in salt water was that the crystallized salt could jam up the bezel. The ECS allows freshwater to be run through the click mechanism to free up any particulate that may have become lodged between the bezel and the case.

By locating the crown at 6 o’clock, the symmetry of the race is maintained. The extra end link needed to attach the strap to the case is not as visually jarring as I would have expected. It also makes it impossible for the watch to be strapped on the wrist before the crown is screwed down, ensuring water resistance.

ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch Watch Releases

Perhaps my favorite design decision made with the ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze watch was to fit the strap with a bronze buckle. Too often, bronze buckles are dropped in favor of steel alternatives due to the heavy oxidization one might expect a buckle to incur due to it being worn so close to the underside of the wrist. This total commitment to design congruity is appreciated. It would be very interesting to see if ZRC ever countenance the creation of a bronze bracelet in the same style as their version in stainless steel. The ZRC bracelets feature a special, expanding end-link that offers a creative solution to fitting the watch over a dive suit. It’s a huge part of the 1964’s character and would be super cool to see it in bronze.

ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze Watch Watch Releases

Conclusion

To say I am impressed by this watch would be an understatement. The offering from the brand is extremely limited, with just a handful of models available, but the aesthetics are so eye-catching and full of character, I think the owners have been wise (and refreshingly restrained) in not blowing up the core concept. The movement — an ETA 2824-2 Elaboré — is a standard but appropriate choice for a model of this nature. With a 28,800vph operating speed, self-winding rotor weight, and a power reserve of 38 hours, this industry tractor movement is an ideal choice for a robust daily diver. This particular piece is a limited edition, and will only be made 170 times. Price for the ZRC Grands Fonds Vintage 1964 Spirit Bronze is USD $3,390. Find out more at zrc1904.ch.

 

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  • DanW94

    Those huge hands would make Jerry Seinfeld terribly uncomfortable.

    • SuperStrapper

      **watch breaks lobster in half**

    • AghastinFL

      …and Big Ben jealous.

    • Nello Alexandri

      They are manly.

  • SuperStrapper

    Bronze never looks like this, not sure what filter they are using in these renders.
    I can never decide if I like this watch or not, I keep going back and forth on it. I have a friend with the steel version, I’ve even tried it one.
    A unique race to be sure 😉

    Just pulling your leg Rob.

    • egznyc

      I agree it doesn’t look bronze-colored on my device. Maybe it’s aluminum bronze?

      • Berndt Norten

        Bronze doesn’t age well.

        • egznyc

          I’m certain it ages better than I do. (Now why are so many folks down on bronze? As Rod Stewart crooned, you wear it well – or at least the metal wears well.)

      • I thought the same. If I get it on the wrist I’m take some pictures in natural light, because it does have a more yellowy hue than all the bronze watches in my collection currently.

  • Joe

    I like the idea of owning a bronze watch but how practical is it for a divewatch?
    Would you get build-up of oxidised material around the crown so that it would become hard to turn or screw down?

    Even though I know the crown is at 6, I still look at the watch and think “where’s the crown?” 🙂

  • Joe

    How does the ECS work?
    Do you just point a high-pressure hose at what looks like a hole?

    • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

      Yes, just make sure you use a 4000 PSI hot water line. Wear protective eyewear & gloves. ; )

  • Richard Baptist

    Love the brand. I agree on the bronze, I was looking on their site yesterday it’s already sold out. I already have two models. I suspect the bronze will be a rare bird. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3f6f5853ec33a4ba939afa97609f2e7c4802f8f64a2944aa9687372220c5f503.jpg

    • egznyc

      Those two look like they’re at least fraternal twins.

      • Richard Baptist

        yep. One stainless on their bracelet and one brushed on a strap. Planned to sell one but I like them both. Keeping both for now.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Just no, Nee, Non, Nein, Nie, ??. ???, geen, ???. I don’t know how many ways I can put it.
    Clunk™

    • WatchLVER

      why spend the money on this watch when you can buy the Tudor GMT Pepsi for the same amount. You’re absolutely right…this watch is clunk and a bunch of junk.

  • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

    PBJ has given up the idea of ever owning a bronze watch. Just don’t want to wear anything that corrodes.
    The thought of the bronze buckle against my wrist is not appealing. I am assuming that the case back is SS.
    The six o’clock crown does not work for me. It just looks wrong. The extra link on the strap does not help either.
    Not sure what the crystal is made of, perhaps I missed it.
    I do like the movement. The dial is interesting…. is it distressed?? What is the bezel insert made of?

    I prefer to have all of the watch specs listed in one area, and not have to hunt for them. Just a nerd thing I guess.

    The watch is not for me, but I wish ZRC good luck.

    • egznyc

      You’re right – more basic information would certainly help.

  • BJ314

    I like it a lot. But, bronze is a losing proposition.

  • BNABOD

    What’s the lug to lug ??? How thick is it???
    Looks great but maybe I am more attached to the idea of the watch rather than the watch itself. I don’t do bronze but if I were I think this could be a good option but would like to see another movement w better PR. 38 hours in 2019 is seriously anemic

  • Swiss_Cheese

    I don’t get the trend of the ‘pre-worn’ looking watches. If I’m playing retail I don’t want something that looks like it’s been worn by 10 other people, if I do want that look, there is a preowned market where prices are generally cheaper.

    I hate to think of the next step in this: in the true style of the 1960’s, movements that lose 5 hours per day for that true “Vintage™” feel, or pre rusted bezels and warped spring bars.

    I’m all for vintage, but if I want vintage, I’ll buy vintage.

  • Polerouter

    I hope the bronze trend disappears as quickly as possible, and the “pre-worn” look is stupid, but the base ZRC grands fonds design is still far better that a thousand bad Submariner lookalikes.

    • Gokart Mozart

      Is a modern Submariner a bad Submariner lookalike?

  • Sheez Gagoo

    This kind of steampunk junk is seriously overpriced.

  • Larry Holmack

    If all dive watches looked like this one….I wouldn’t own a single one. Sorry…I don’t like this one at all.

  • I think my favourite is the standard SS GF300 (I think the big triangular dial logo is sorely missed when not used). The bracelets they make are supreme also.

  • Gokart Mozart

    I quite like it but in steel. Not too keen on the 4k sticker though.

    At least it looks different. (different in this case does not equal bad)

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