Let's face it, to a lot of watch collectors, vintage watches are just cooler than modern ones. They have a style and charm that is not present in most modern watches. They also say something about the wearer. Anyone can go out and buy a new Daytona (well, actually most dealers won't sell you one, but you know what I mean). When someone is wearing a vintage watch, it tells others that this person put in some time and effort.
With that coolness comes a lot of difficulty, however. I've had some kind of small to major issue with every vintage watch that I've purchased. If you read my Heuer Autavia review, you'll know that it took quite a bit of effort to acquire that watch, and even more effort and expense to get it serviced and repaired.
That being said, if you read that review, you'll also know how much fun that a vintage racing chronograph can be.
So what should you do if you don't have a big budget, or feel comfortable taking the risk on a vintage racing chronograph? British brand Geckota Watches think that they have the answer. As part of their broad lineup, they offer a number of racing-inspired watches. With its smaller size, and mechanical movement, the W-02 Vintage Mechanical Racing Chronograph, is their best watch to fill the vintage itch. Available in panda and reverse-panda dials at only $369, it's a fraction of the cost of most vintage chronographs.
But does it give the experience of wearing real vintage? Keep reading to find out!
The W-02 gives a vintage feel as soon as you open the box. The double-domed acrylic crystal reflects light in a way that sapphire just can't.
The hands and pump-pushers look like something straight out of the late '60s, and the 37mm size is also appropriate for that era. It is most similar in style to the (also 37mm) Hamilton Chrono-matic. Note that Hamilton does currently sell a remake version of this watch. It is much bigger in size, and does not have the vintage feel of the Geckota though, plus it is more than five times the price.
The white dial W-02 ships with a blue leather rally strap. Also very "vintage racer" appropriate.
Upon initial inspection, the only thing that takes away from the vintage feel is the exhibition case-back...but I love it on this watch (more on that later)!
As mentioned, the W-02 has a 37mm case. The bezel is sloped, and has a rounded step up to the box crystal. The result, combined with the black ring around the bezel is that the width of the case can look smaller than other 37mm watches.
For me, it took some getting used to as I am a bigger guy and normally wear watches in the low 40mm range. The W-02 does have fairly long lugs (lug to lug distance is 47mm), so after some mental adjustment, it didn't feel so small anymore. The result of long lugs is a bit of a gap from the case to the strap, but it didn't bother me.
The lug width is 18mm, which might slightly limit your strap choices. Wider lugs might have looked too big on a 37mm case, so it was probably the right choice.
The case is fully polished, and has crisp edges to the sloped lugs and case. As mentioned, the case has two steps up to the boxed crystal. The first is a sloped, flat bevel, and the second is a rounded step.
The W-02 is 15mm thick, which sounds like a lot for a 37mm wide watch, but it is only 10mm without the crystal. Considering it is not a dress watch that needs to fit under a shirt cuff, I'd trade a few mm of thickness for the great look of the big dome! The flat sides of the case are only 3-4mm thick, so it looks visually thinner on the wrist than the numbers indicate.
The lugs have a sharp downward angle, so even wearers with very small wrists, should not have any issues with the lug to lug distance.
As mentioned, the Vintage Mechanical has an exhibition case-back (screw-down). It has flat sides to for removal.
The W-02 has a large crown with no crown guards which makes for easy setting and winding. The pump-style pushers were a great choice. They are easy to access, and are appropriate if going for a vintage style.
The edges of the crown are ridged, and the face has a matte finish around a central Geckota "G" logo. The pushers are completely polished.
Because the case-back is fairly thick, the crown and pushers didn't ever interfere with my wrist.
The W-02 Vintage Mechanical Racing Chronograph has the classic "Panda" white dial with black sub-dials. It is a bi-compax style, with running seconds at nine, and chronograph minutes at three.
The dial has a matte finish including the sub-dials which are not recessed. The edge of the dial has a downward slope that adds a three-dimensional quality. Keeping with the '60s style, each subdial has three sets of numbers.
Minimal text was used on the dial, which is a nice restraint. The Geckota name is at twelve, and the word "chronograph" at 6. I think it will be obvious to most that it's a chronograph, but having the extra line balances out the dial well (as did the Hamilton).
I might have chosen to replace "chronograph" with "mechanical" as a few people I talked to incorrectly assumed that it had a mecha-quartz inside. Either way, it's not something I notice with the watch on my wrist.
The watch does not have a chapter ring, and the dial pushes all the way to the edge of the case. Unlike many racing watches that feature a tachymeter scale, the W-02 has a black minutes scale around the perimeter. It features Arabic minute markers in increments of five, and smaller hash marks useful for timing shorter events.
The hour markers are applied metal (doubled at twelve), and catch the light nicely at the right angle. These are also similar to something you'd see on a '60s chronograph.
The hands and centers of the hour markers have small amounts of superluminova. Another way that this feels like a vintage watch is that the lume can be difficult to see.
Luckily, unless you are in total darkness, the polished hands tend to reflect light and can be seen over the bright dial. In total darkness, when your eyes have adjusted, the lume will pop out. Finally, I think that Geckota made the right choice not to add more lume. This would have required them to make the markers bigger, which would have thrown off the clean design in the daylight
The hour and minute hands of the W-02 are polished metal with a stripe of black paint and white lume in the centers.
The sub-dial hands are simple, white sticks with circular bases.
The center seconds hand features an open circle as a counter-balance. This adds an interesting visual touch to the watch. The hand also curves down at the tip to match the shape of the dial.
I would have liked to see slightly wider hands, but the current ones give a more elegant look.
Panda dial chronographs can be difficult to make legible. Polished hands tend to turn white in bright light, and dark in shadows which can make them blend into the dial or sub-dials depending on the ambient light.
Geckota got around this by adding both white, and black to the hands. This way, part of the hand is always visible no matter where it happens to sit on the dial when you check the time.
I also appreciate that the chronograph hands are painted white rather than polished. Against the black sub-dials, the chronograph measurements are always visible.
I think that we can all agree, acrylic was the only choice for a vintage-inspired chronograph! Sure, sapphire is less likely to scratch, but just look at the warmth and character it gives the watch.
The crystal has a sharp curve around the edge, and then changes to a smooth dome. As mentioned, it adds 5mm to the thickness of the watch, so the thickness gives the watch a nice character.
Plus, the proportions still look good on the wrist.
I was also reminded of another benefit of acrylic crystals pretty quickly after receiving the W-02: the ability to polish it. Somehow (probably playing with my son), I managed to put a small scuff on the edge of the crystal. Two minutes with some Polywatch, and it was back to new! Geckota actually sells it on their site too. I recommend picking up a tube when you order your W-02.
The white panda version of the W-02 ships with a dark blue handmade genuine leather rally strap (the black panda comes with a brown rally strap). It features light brown stitching, and has two keepers (one floating).
Straight out of the box, the leather is supple, so the strap is comfortable without requiring any break-in. The light brown inner liner is also quite soft on the skin.
The styling of the strap is perfect to match the racing watch, and the blue adds a hint of color (note, in most light it looks closer to black than these photos indicate).
The Buckle has a brushed finish, and is not signed. The strap is 18mm wide at the lugs, and narrows down to 14mm at the buckle.
I also got a smooth black leather strap with the W-02 that has quick-release spring bars.
The black really dresses up the W-02, and gives it a more serious look. This would allow the watch to be worn with dressier attire.
As the name implies, there is a mechanical chronograph movement beating inside the case. Specifically, the W-02 Vintage Mechanical Chronograph uses a Seagull ST19 hand wound movement.
You might be quick to dismiss a movement that is not Swiss or Japenese, but the Chinese ST19 has some serious credentials. You can learn more about its history here, but the short version is that Seagull purchased the design from Swiss movement maker Venus in the 1960s, and subsequently improved it.
So you're getting a Swiss-designed mechanical chronograph for under $400 new! Plus, since the design is actually from the 1960s, the experience is completely appropriate.
And did I mention it has a column wheel? Because of this, the stop/start mechanism is sharp and crisp compared to a cam-lever actuated chronograph like a 7750. And because the watch is new, there is none of the gummy/sticky feeling that vintage watches have if they haven't had fresh seals put in.
Interestingly, the reset button press is much softer than the stop/start. It's not a problem, just a quirk. This is my first experience with the ST19, so I'm not sure if that is common to all of them.
The ST19 has a horizontal clutch mechanism. What this means to you is that there is sometimes a small stutter of the seconds had when starting the chronograph as the gear teeth engage (vs. a vertical clutch which will have a smoother start). The benefit is that you can actually see the gears engage and watch the center seconds wheel start moving.
Which brings us to the case-back. It's true that an actual vintage watch would have a solid steel back on it, but I think that this small concession to modernity was well worth the trade.
While it is not engraved with the Geneva seal, the finishing on this watch looks quite good to the naked eye and is above and beyond anything from Japan or Switzerland in this price range. The visible bridges have a nice grained finish, and even have beveled and polished edges. all of the chronograph levers are mirror polished, and the wheels are gold in color.
The screws are also blue, although I'd imagine at this price it is a paint rather than actual heat treatment.
Since this watch is more affordably-priced, having the exhibition back will be especially fun for buyers for whom this might be a first mechanical watch. I learned a lot about how the chronograph mechanism works just by looking through the back. The result is something really fun to look at (and me taking the watch off every chance I get).
If you're looking to experience a 1960s vintage chronoraph without the difficulty and expense of buying one, the W-02 Mechanical Racing Chronograph is a great option. Of all of the watches I've encountered in person, or on the internet, it gives the closest impression to wearing one of these watches, while removing a digit or two from the price. Hell, it even has a 1960s movement design inside it!
Aside from that, it also makes a great watch to wear every day. The panda dial catches the eye, the case has crisp edges, and the domed crystal looks great! Plus you get to interact with your watch every morning to wind it and give it life.
My personal preference would be to bump up the case to about 39mm, but I appreciate that Geckota exercised restraint against the current trend of "upsizing" vintage remakes. I know that there are a lot of customers who were begging for something this size to come along, and for them, 37mm is perfect.
What do you think of the W-02? Is there a vintage-inspired chronograph that you prefer, or has Geckota nailed it with the panda-dialed racer? Let us know in the comments.