Military watches are always popular on WRUK, especially in a vintage style. Here, Keith Campbell shares his thoughts on the Vertex M100.
Vertex M100 – The watch that you can’t just buy…
Imagine finding out something amazing that your grandparent did and then emulating it. That is exactly what Vertex Watches have done. The owner’s grandfather originally founded Vertex Watches in the early part of the 1900s and he wanted to bring them back with a modern twist. During World War 2, Vertex was selected as one of twelve watch companies who were selected to produce specialist watches to specific military specifications for military use (later known as the Dirty Dozen). The ‘crows foot’ or ‘broad arrow’ under the name on the dial shows that the item is ‘government property’, a traditional heraldry sign in England. Several thousand of the original watches were made and issued throughout the military but only a few still remain today, being highly sought after by both watch and militaria collectors. In 1972, due to the quartz watch revolution, Vertex died away into the shadows. In 2016, Vertex rose again.
The watch case is made from 316L stainless steel and is 40mm wide, 5mm wider than the original that it is based on, but standard watches were smaller 75 years ago. It is only 10mm in-depth and the lug to lug distance is 47mm, built to accommodate 20mm straps. It sits beautifully on the wrist, contained within the solid brushed steel casing with a solid rear. It is water-resistant to 100m. Having had many military issue watches over my years, it certainly feels like it has a military bearing to it. Vertex has obviously taken time to think about what they wanted to create and sought quality Swiss professionals to produce something that would not actually look out of place nearly three-quarters of a century ago, apart from the lume, but more on that later…
Now, moving onto the dial. With an AR-coated double-domed sapphire crystal protecting it, the detailing is nice with two small dots of red at the 12 o’clock position put there to help spacial orientation when looking at it from an offset angle. Although this is not really needed when you glance at the dial with those awesome numbers on it. They are individually made out of solid luminance material (containing Super-LumiNova). It converts the dial into a 3-D entity, even in total darkness, where the lume comes into its own. If you are a watch geek, like I am, this is just such a neat aspect of it, something that I have not seen done like this anywhere else. It makes simple application of lume paint seem outdated, ironic on a watch that is an updated design of a World War 2 original. If the basic military design attracts you to this watch, the lume will make you part with your soul in exchange! The sense of depth on the dial makes it easier to read, especially in the dark. I know of no other brands who do it exactly like this so it is a unique point to the watch.
No date, and not even an automatic movement… at least a few purists will have just sat up and raised their hand to comment… For the subsidiary seconds position and to maintain the original watch’s manual-wound movement, Vertex opted for a Swiss ETA Peseux 7001 mechanical movement. This is basically a smaller-sized pocket watch movement operating at 3Hz (21,600bph) with up to 42 hours of power reserve when it is fully wound. The polished hands (with further lume applied) don’t harm legibility, and the overall composition of the watch feels like a very good way of enjoying the function and nostalgia that it offers.
A dash of red on the dial works like a charm to make the watch feel just a bit sportier. I have no idea why this works so well, but when done correctly, a dab of red on an otherwise two-colour watch dial instantly makes it look cooler to me. The red is placed in the 12 o’clock hour marker and works so well because in the M100 dial design, it helps differentiate this hour marker position a bit more to help you visually orientate the dial when looking at it from an angle, especially as it is bright enough to see all night.
The only thing that I would change would be the packaging. The fantasy of owning something so exclusive as a World War 2 watch is somewhat tainted by it arriving in a black plastic Peli Case. Yes, I’ve seen some very ‘interesting devices’ arrive in these on Operations in far-flung places, usually carried by a guy who only wants to be known as ‘Dave’, along with all his friends, also all called Dave, who all look as if they have just returned from surfing, but this is not a Special Forces weapon. However functional the Peli Case is, I do think that vintage WW2 themed packaging would have set the owning experience off nicely. But, you don’t carry the watch around in the case, do you?
Overall, it is much more of a homage watch than many others. It literally oozes history and the family link from original to this re-imagined piece is a great story. I’ve had lots of comments on mine when I’ve worn it, especially to military events.
The £2500 price of this watch is something that may put some people off. Collectors will, of course, have spent more money on a watch than this (maybe several times more in some cases). But what you get is a little piece of continuity history that has been dreamt up and taken to market by someone who had a vision to keep the family history alive and make a quality item that hopefully his grandfather would have been proud of. Approaching the Swiss to get and build the parts does not come cheap if you do it on a small scale! The mark-up probably is not that huge between production costs and the selling price… Yes, you could not that far short of getting an Omega Speedmaster with its links to the Moon Landings, but this is special in a completely different way – a direct family legacy down almost a century and a link to the Dirty Dozen watches that military collectors love. That certainly resonates with me as someone who is ex-Service.
You want one, don’t you? Well, that could be the problem. You accept that £2500 is a lot for a manual wound ETA 7001 watch, but you love the story behind its creation more. You know that you could buy an original Dirty Dozen watch instead, but you love the solid lume on the dial as there is nothing else like it. You now realise that your life has a hole in it without this on your wrist. That is where you come up against the ownership barrier. In order to keep this exclusive, only 60 watches were sold to people that the manufacturer knew. Each of these people could invite and/ or introduce 5 other purchasers to the M100 watch, using a secret code handed across by word of mouth – it is rather personal. It is an invitation-only purchase. You can’t just buy one! You have to enter the secret code on the website to even enter the area detailing the M100. This exclusivity is awesome! Your mind can run away with you as to the sort of people who have this gem in their collections. Carefully scrutinised to be allowed to own it, there are some rather famous people who have done some amazing things to allow them to enter the M100 owners club. It allows unique exclusivity, not through just having enough money, like the costs of Rolex and Patek Philippe, but by networking with those true collectors who circulate in certain circles. Other watches are available to buy on their website, including that MP-45 which I have and love, but that may be subject to a later review…
So, I have presented a watch that comes in plastic packaging that is too modern for what it is trying to create, too expensive for the sum of its manufactured parts and too difficult to actually get onto your wrist due to lack of availability. That will put a lot of people off! That is the whole point of this watch and, I believe, the vision of the man at the helm of the company. If you are the sort of person who does appreciate the history and journey that it has taken to get this watch created and you are an ardent collector of watches who knows someone in the exclusive M100 Club (Hello!), then you may be able to get something rather special onto your wrist. It is probably rarer to see this out in public than anything that is several times the cost of this. Remember, watches such as Rolex, Breitling and Omega are actually mass-produced in comparison. It will raise comments and questions whenever you wear it, get nods of acknowledgement from those who see it and know about it and give you membership to a very exclusive club. Now, if you are still reading by this point, you know you want one!