Article by Matthew Cateller
These days, there are plenty of small watchmakers trying to make their mark on the industry. These microbrands have harnessed the power of crowdfunding to revolutionize how watches are made.It used to be incredibly difficult to launch a new watch brand. You needed to design a prototype ,set up a workshop, and create a run of watches. Then, you crossed your fingers and hoped the watches sold. But with modern crowdfunding platforms, would-be watchmakers can go from prototype straight to sales. If a new brand can’t get enough funding, no money is wasted on producing a watch that won’t sell.
Most of these microbrands are from outside Switzerland. Creatives from Istanbul to Seattle make their own unique designs, order Swiss movements, and build their watches. But today I want to talk about Elka, which is a brand new watchmaker based in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Elka recently announced the release of their first two watches, the D Series and the X Series. The Kickstarter campaign has already doubled its goal, and the first watches are set to ship on November 15th, 2022. I took an early look at these timepieces, and was impressed with what Elka has done. Here’s a quick overview of both watches.
The Elka D and X Series watches have different dials and hands. However, the case, crystal, and movement are the same for both series. These watches are inspired by old-school pocket watches, and have a decidedly round profile. The lugs are as short as possible, and spoil the circular shape only minimally. With a 41mm diameter, it has a medium wrist presence, suitable for most people.
The sapphire crystal has a chevé box shape, which is the tallest style of crystal in production. Chevé is French for “domed,” so it’s a domed crystal that has tall, box-shaped sides. The curve distorts the dial when viewed from an angle, but not when viewed from head-on. It also has an anti-scratch, anti-reflective coating, which is important for a crystal with so much surface area.
These watches have a water-resistance rating of 30 meters. I wouldn’t take one swimming, just to be safe. But you don’t have to take them off when you wash your hands – or if you want to be riské you could attempt a shower.Both series use a specialized movement, manufactured by la Joux-Perret. It has a frequency of 28,800Hz, right in line with most modern mechanical movements. It also sports an impressive 68-hour power reserve.
The Elka D Series is available with a silver, blue, or charcoal grey dial. This watch is designed for elegance, with no complications or ancillary markings. Even the words “Elka Watch Co. Automatic” at the top of the dial are written in a pixie-sized font.The hour positions are marked with long, slender hashes, and double hashes at the 15-minute marks. These hashes are gold on the silver dial, and silver on the blue and grey dials. Just inside the 3 o’clock position, there’s a tiny date window at the edge of the hashes.The hands are ultra-slender, and are the same color as the hashes on the dial. There’s no lume striping on the D Series, simply because there’s no room for any.You can order the watch with either a mesh bracelet or a stitched leather strap. The bracelet matches the stainless steel case, while the leather is colored to match the dial. It’s brown on the white and grey versions, and blue on the blue version.
The Elka X Series plays with the pocket watch aesthetic, drawing its inspiration from a mechanical stopwatch. It’s available in three color options: black, beige, or blue.The 5-minute positions are marked as minutes, not hours. So the 12 o’clock position reads “00,” the 1 o’clock position reads “05,” and so on. The Arabic numerals are beige on the black dial, black on the beige dial, and white on the blue dial. All are coated with a Super LumiNova finish.Much like a stopwatch, the X Series sports a ladder index around the outer edge of the dial. This ladder index is white on the black dial, red-brown on the beige dial, and white on the blue dial. There’s also a small date window at the 3 o’clock position, the same as on the D Series.The hour and minute hands on this watch are slightly bowed, and taper to a tip at the ends. They’re filled with a Super LumiNova finish, for excellent visibility in any lighting conditions. The second hand is longer and more slender, with no lume finish.The Elka X Series is available with a leather or nylon NATO strap. The leather strap is dyed to match the color of the dial. The NATO strap will be beige with a black or beige dial, and blue with the blue dial.For more information visit the official Elka website here, or visit their Kickstarter page here.