Vario successfully launched their latest watch on Kickstarter earlier this year. Soon, the Vario Empire goes on general release. WRUK gives it a once-over.
Vario Empire Review
The Vario Empire stood out when I first saw it because Kickstarter is overwhelmingly filled with diver’s watches and “minimalist dress watches”. The Vario, with its Art Deco aesthetic, looked totally different, and it ticked all the watch enthusiast boxes for me. The watch arrives in a small, perfectly functional box. The Time Bum has recently been complaining about the volume of packaging that comes with his watches, and I have got to agree – in the Vario’s case you get a nice quality box that is appropriate in terms of build quality for its price point, but not too much.
The Vario’s case is elegantly designed, with a couple of neat features distinguishing it from the norm. It’s 38mm, which is a good size being slightly chunkier than the 36mm Rolex Datejust and more suited to modern tastes. The Vario Empire wears bigger thanks to that big, white dial and lack of a diver bezel. It’s comparable to a 40mm dive watch and sits nicely on the wrist. I like the design of the crown, which is easy to grip thanks to its deep knurling. A step above the stock crown I see on many microbrands that just has some laser etching of the brand logo. Around the back is a display case back revealing the beautiful Miyota 6T33 movement. It may not be Swiss, but it’s a reliable and accurate choice that keeps the price of the watch sensible.
Because it’s hand-wound there is no rotor to get in the way and it looks great. The downside of a hand-wind is you have to remember to wind it up! That sounds self-evident, but being used to automatic watches I did find it stopping on me unexpectedly a couple of times when I’d forgotten to give it a wind in the morning. I was a little disappointed by the lack of depth to the case back – it has raised text and, though undoubtedly better than the light etching I often see, I thought a little more height on the letters would have looked better. Full marks for the drilled lugs – although most watches these days arrive on quick release straps, if you swap to an aftermarket wristband this will protect the finish of the watch from scratches.
Dial and Hands
The dial is the star of the Vario Empire package: it’s a layered affair in white, with crisp printed blue Arabic numerals on an outer ring. Beneath that is a stunning white guilloche pattern. There is no date on the watch, which is a bugbear of mine but I think it would ruin the looks of this watch if it had one. It means the Vario Empire would not make it into my regular rotation, and relegate it to “special occasion” wear.
The blue skeleton hands look great (though the hour hand looks a bit like a SIM card removal tool!) and are really easy to read. Overall, a great looking watch.
Strap and Buckle
There are two strap options for the Vario Empire and Vario kindly sent both with the review loaner. There is a Harris Tweed which is really nicely made but not to my taste, and a superb Italian leather which tapers down to 16mm and feels fantastic. The Harris tweed strap only tapers down to 18mm but felt a bit stiff to me.
The Italian leather would be my pick – it’s got a beautiful texture and a great two-tone grey and blue colour to it. The leather strap has a quick-release but the Harris strap does not – those lug holes will be useful for removing this option. They say a strap can make or break a watch and this blue leather takes the Vario Empire to another level for me.
Vario Empire – Video Review
What I Liked
- This is a beautiful watch that it a pleasure to wear
- The dial is superb, with great depth and legibility
- The Italian leather strap is superb, and significantly elevates the standard of the watch
What I Didn’t Like
- The raised text on the case back could do with a little more depth as it is hard to make out
- Hand-winding is not for everyone, so hopefully, Vario will make an automatic variant
- The lack of date puts off as many people as it pleases an option for a date would be nice although I can’t see where it would go without ruining the look
Vario Empire – The WRUK Verdict
Overall, you £286 (at today’s exchange rate) is getting you a hell of a lot of watch. For the money, the Vario Empire is a steal and I would happily recommend picking one up if you like the looks – you won’t be disappointed with what your money gets you.