Synchron Military Watch Review, Black Edition - Homage, or Something More?
Despite the fact that the Military is the first watch released by the modern Synchron brand, this watch had quite a bit of controversy surrounding its release and history. The CliffsNotes version of the story is that in the 1970s, under the ownership of Synchron S.A., Doxa created a limited run of watches called the Doxa Army. Collectors estimate that between 20 and 100 were created and that far fewer are known to still exist. Doxa later moved on to a string of new owners and went through a period of decline followed by a resurgence. The Synchron company also went away, to be re-formed as a new company in the 1990s.
Fast-forwarding to 2021, the current resurrection of the Synchron company released an homage to the original Synchron-made Doxa Army called the Synchron Military. If that is not confusing enough, Synchron is now owned by Rick Marai, who previously handled US distribution for the Doxa brand through said Synchron company, and is largely attributed with re-establishing the brand.
Almost immediately after the Synchron Military was released, the Doxa brand posted an image of its original Army on Instagram, hinting at a future re-release, and firing shots at Synchron. Watch collectors debated whether this watch being created under the name of the brand that created the original made it something special, or if it was just another knock-off. Since Synchron calls it an homage on its own website, we'll go with that for now.
I had been wanting to get my hands on a Doxa watch for a long time, so the Synchron really piqued my interest when it was first released. It has a very similar case design to one of my favorite Doxa models, the SUB 300T, but adds the fun of a really funky dial and handset. At its release price of $990, it was also roughly half the price of the SUB.
Needless to say, the watch generated a lot of buzz when it was released. Only 500 were made (250 in stainless steel and 250 in PVD), and they sold out quickly. Luckily (for me anyway), there were some issues that delayed its delivery, and a few buyers canceled their orders. Unfortunately, the pre-order period had passed, and the price increased to $1,290. I had to make a quick decision and decided to go for it. Thus I ended up with the last available Synchron Military, the PVD version pictured here.
With a back story like that, this is a watch for the most hardcore of watch nerds. Start a brand that only very serious watch collectors have even heard of. Then take one of its rarest and least-known models. Then make an homage watch of THAT with a convoluted connection to the original. The result is a watch that you'll never be able to explain to a non-watch-lover, but that will generate a 100+ page discussion on a forum.
Comparing to the Doxa Army
I'm no a Doxa historian, but compared to photos of the original, the Synchron looks to be a very accurate representation (Doxa Army photos courtesy of Chrono24).
Both feature the same dial layout, complete with the same typeface and the brand and "automatic" text at 10. They also both have the crosshair logo together with the model name at 4. The same logo is additionally present on the caseback, although Synchron adds water resistance information (30atm or 300m) along with the serial number out of 500 to the reissue.
The crown on the Synchron is not recessed into the case as much as it is on the original, but there is a small cutout. I had also assumed that the lumed numerals on the bezel insert were a modern concession until I found a Chrono24 listing showing a lume shot of an original! The biggest differences then are the modern sapphire crystal and sapphire insert over said lumed bezel.
The Synchron Military arrived in a slick aluminum tube packed in a black foam sleeve (which I later learned is a Marai-era Doxa throwback). It's a fun touch, but also could be seen as a slight jab at Doxa.
Once I popped the watch out of the canister, my first impression was quite positive.The 120-click bezel rotation is precise, and the clicks are very distinct. It feels like a cross between the precision of a Tudor Pelagos, and the chunky tool-like feel of a Sinn U1. Ramped ridges make it easy to grip, and there is zero detectible lateral or rotational plan in the bezel. It also lines up well to each marker, something that can't be said for every brand.
The dial and hands of the Synchron, however, are the most fun part of it to look at. In bright light, the orange hands pop off the dial and are very easy to read. When in a shadow (but not lume territory) the legibility is not as good as other divers as the dial is so busy. I guess it just gives you more time to stare at all of the fun details! The hands and dial are about as 70s as they can get.
Wearing the Synchron Military
Based on the photos of the Synchron as well as Doxa watches, I had expected the watch to sit on top of my wrist like a top-heavy hockey puck.
While it is true that the lugs don't offer much curvature to hug the wrist, they are quite compact, giving a short lug to lug distance of 45mm. The caseback is also fairly thin, so the watch is more comfortable to wear than it looks, and does not flop around or feel top-heavy. If you've worn a Seiko Turtle, it wears like a more compact and solidly-built version of that.
When the photos were released, many people complained that the crown sticks out much farther than on other Doxa watches. While it does look slightly less elegant and contacts my wrist a little, I've never experienced any discomfort. This also likely makes it easier to adjust the time, so I'm fine with it.
The watch arrived with a black Isofrane strap attached with a matching black buckle. It is quite comfortable and looks great on the watch. My only complaint with it is that the strap end is tricky to get into the keepers. Because of my Sellita movement "downgrade" (more on that later), Synchron also threw in a gray rubber Tropic strap and a NATO (not pictured). I've mostly been wearing it on the StrapHabit Rubber or Sailcloth Quick Release, Elastic straps, and Flat Link Beads of Rice Bracelets that we sell, and that you are seeing in the photos.
The entire case on the Military is brushed, with very sharp edges. This is in keeping with the tool-watch vibe and is probably closer to the finish of the original. That being said, it would be interesting to see the PVD coating on polished sides as on a current Doxa Sub to make it look more upscale.
The crown also features a Synchron logo, as did the Synchron-era subs.
The Synchron features large square plots of "fautina" lume on the hands, indices, as well as luminous numerals on the bezel. I assume that this is intended to mimic the aged tritium of the original Doxa Army. Many people hate this application, and I also do on some watches. In this case, aside from the "faux" part of it, I think it looks great. It gives the watch a warmer charm and helps make the hour markers stand out more from the otherwise black and white checkered dial. My only complaint about it is that the lume application seems to be thin. It starts out very bright but fades quickly compared to something like a Seiko. The bigger problem is that the white and black alternating dial make it difficult to pick out the lume at a glance once it has faded a bit.
The Synchron website doesn't mention AR coating on the crystal, but it seems to have a blue coating on the underside of the crystal. Whatever is on there is very effective, and it is nearly as reflection-free as my current champ, the Sinn U1 S. AR coating is a small touch on a watch, but it can have a big effect on the overall wearing experience, especially when what it covers is this interesting.
Like on the original, the uni-directional dive bezel on the Synchron is a count-down. This took a bit of getting used to when I was timing some food I was cooking... I mean my dive...but this method is more intuitive for measuring a pre-determined amount of time.
If the Synchron Military release wasn't surrounded by enough controversy, the movement ended up being another point of contention. The watches were originally promised to have ETA 2824-2 movements, a rarity for anything under $1,000 (at the pre-order price). Unfortunately, according to Synchron, during the production run of the Military, ETA decided to stop supplying movements to them (or any non-Swatch company for that matter). Thus, production was delayed, and the remaining watches were delivered with Sellita SW200 movements. Synchron contended that buyers would actually be getting an upgrade, as it was the Elabore version of the Sellita. Some buyers were still angry, leading to some of the aforementioned cancellations (thanks guys!).
Synchron tells me that my late-run watch has the Sellita movement. Considering that both movements have the same specifications (28,800 vph, 25 jewels, 30 to 40 hrs of power reserve), and are basically clones, I was fine with either type. Mine has been running within a few seconds per day, so I'm happy with it. Plus, as a consolation, I received the aforementioned bonus straps for the change (as if I needed more watch straps, but it was a nice touch).
I'm normally not someone who would buy an homage watch. My opinion is that if you can't afford the real thing, there is a great original watch available at any price point. With the Synchron Military, however, but I've decided that the loose connection to Doxa (and the fact that even a fair condition Doxa Army is unobtainium) make this watch special enough to give it a pass.
And if you put aside all history and controversy, the watch is also very well made, making it a good value even at the higher "normal" price.
Plus it's just fun to wear. I'm really excited to have the Synchron Military in my rotation as a summer watch.
It will be interesting to see what if anything that Doxa puts out following its teaser post. Will it be something very similar to the Synchron, opening up a direct comparison, or do they have something more special in mind? My bet is they will use a similar dial design, but put it inside their carbon case, as they did with their recent Aqua Lung limited edition, and subsequent SUB 300 carbon watches. This would be my vote, as I've really been wanting to check out one of the carbon models.
Let us know in the comments what you think. Is the Synchron something special, or just another shameless homage watch. What do you think Doxa will do for its Army release? We'd love to hear from you!
Name: Synchron Military (Black Edition)
Reference Number: N/A
Price: $1,290 (Sold Out)
Dimensions: 42mm diameter, 45mm lug-to-lug, 14mm thick, 20mm lug width
Movement: ETA 2824-2 or Sellita SW200 Elabore Grade
Water Resistance: 300m
Bezel: Uni-directional 120-click with sapphire insert and luminous numerals
Strap/Bracelet: Rubber strap