The Echo/neutra Cortina 1956 GMT brings true Italian flair to a jetset piece The Echo/neutra Cortina 1956 GMT brings true Italian flair to a jetset piece

The Echo/neutra Cortina 1956 GMT brings true Italian flair to a jetset piece

D.C. Hannay

If you’ve been in the game for a while, you inevitably have those “could I really do a one watch collection?” moments. Most of us snap to our senses almost immediately afterwards, but every so often, you come across one of those GADA pieces that puts that lingering itch in the back of your brain. Something so gorgeous, so well-considered, it stops you in your tracks, like spying a vintage Ferrari Daytona berlinetta in the wild. The new, Swiss-built Cortina 1956 GMT from Italian microbrand Echo/neutra is one of those pieces. It looks unashamedly retro and contemporary all at once, and brings real-world utility, where many contenders fall flat in daily use.


The stainless case hits the sweet spot for a broad swath of the watch enthusiast audience, with a 40mm diameter, lug-to-lug of 46mm, and a case height of 12mm. That includes the gracefully domed sapphire crystal, without which, the case height measures a svelte 9.9mm. To vintage lovers like yours truly, 2mm of bubbly crystal is a wonderful thing. The brushed and polished surfaces are finely finished, and the lugs have an elegantly swept chamfer, recalling the best of ‘50s and ‘60s watch design. The unguarded screw-down crown ensures water resistance to 100 metres, as does the screwed-in caseback, embossed with the clean ‘1956’ logo.


The fixed 24-hour bezel inserts are colour-matched to the dials, which we’ll get to momentarily, and are constructed of sapphire in the teal and ivory models, with the black in ceramic. Interestingly, the ceramic bezel is fully lumed, while the sapphire ones are not, perhaps due to material limitations. They all feature a graphic representation of mountain peaks at twelve, an Echo/neutra design hallmark. The Dolomite bezel marker is but one of several stylistic touches that render the entire Cortina series recognisable from across a room, which, in my book, is a big design win.


I’m rather taken with the entire Echo/neutra aesthetic, but the dial is where hearts are won or lost, and the brand really makes looking good seem effortless. Many otherwise fine timepieces leave me wanting in the dial department for a host of reasons (see my manifesto/list of grievances here), but Echo/neutra has their visual language on lock. Legibility sometimes comes at the cost of uninspired looks, but not here. Bold Arabic numerals lift from the playbooks of Panerai, Bell & Ross, and any number of vintage pieces, but font choice seems to be an obsession with the brand, and theirs is classic without being derivative. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Echo/neutra uses bespoke typefaces, given co-founder Nicola Callegaro’s design background. The red 1956 logo above six pays tribute to the VII Winter Olympic Games, held in Cortina, where the Games are set to return in 2026.


Also aiding legibility is the old radium Super-LumiNova handset, which includes a big, graphic arrow for the hour hand, and an eye-popping red pointer GMT hand. A hi-vis GMT hand is a real plus for me, as too many seem like an afterthought grafted onto a time-only model. Well played. Colour choices are supersaturated, and include a soft ivory, an intense black, and a teal so vivid, it seems to vibrate with energy. In what I feel is a deliberate choice, there’s no lume on the dials, leaving just the hands illuminated on the teal and ivory variants. However, since the bezel on the black version is lumed, perhaps some modicum of luminous material is warranted on the others, if only on the mountain peak icon at twelve. And in a personal win, there’s no date window, keeping the dial’s beautiful visage unspoiled.


Instead of displaying a ho-hum movement through a visible caseback, echo/neutra have opted to keep the case closed, but rest assured, the brand is most definitely sweating the details. They’ve gone with a Soprod C125 GMT calibre with their highest grade of finishing, and I love that, because it shows that a brand cares about their legacy.

Frankly, a watchmaker is likely to be the only one to lay eyes on the movement once it’s cased, almost like a little tip of the hat from one craftsperson to another. Much like a tourbillon hidden behind a dial, it’s a form of stealth flex that only the wearer can appreciate, smiling a secret smile every time they strap the Cortina on. The C125 features both hacking and handwinding, a smooth beat rate of 4Hz, and 42 hours of power reserve.


Echo/neutra offers a good selection of strap choices, and every watch ships with a second strap of your choice in addition to the standard one for each model. The Cortina 1956 GMT comes standard with a black tropic-style strap, plus your choice of a colour-coordinated vintage suede or leather two-stitch strap, or for a $50 upcharge, the striking three-link stainless bracelet.


The straps are comfortable and perfectly suited to the neo-vintage look of the Cortina, but it’s a no-brainer: always buy the bracelet with the watch. This one takes a stylistic turn by polishing the outer links, while brush-finishing the inner ones. The links are screwed, and the machined clasp has a quality feel that belies the price differential, a mere pittance in my opinion. Once again, Echo/neutra impresses by never going for a lazy, straight-from-the-parts-bin design choice.

Echo/neutra Cortina 1956 GMT pricing and availability


The Echo/neutra Cortina 1956 GMT is available now, with a standard black tropic-style strap included with every variant. Price: US$990 (leather or suede), US$1,040 (bracelet)

Brand Echo/neutra
Model Cortina 1956 GMT
Case Dimensions  40mm (D) x 12mm (T) x 46mm (LTL)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100 metres
Dial Black, teal, or ivory
Crystal Domed sapphire, double anti-reflective coating
Bracelet/Strap Black tropic-style rubber, plus second vintage leather or suede strap
Three-link stainless bracelet
Movement Soprod C125 GMT, automatic
Power Reserve 42 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, GMT
Availability Now
Price US$990 (leather or suede)
US$1,040 (bracelet)