A WEEK ON THE WRIST: Inspired by a classic motorbike, the Ollech & Wajs OW350CI is the wheel deal

A WEEK ON THE WRIST: Inspired by a classic motorbike, the Ollech & Wajs OW350CI is the wheel deal

Henry Zwartz

The thrum of the horizontally opposed twin engine spins into a whine when the traffic lights go green. It’s a beautiful spring day in Sydney and the old BMW motorbike is in its element as I wind along a coastal road, with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean flanking the cliffs.  I look down and glance at the khaki green dial of the watch on my wrist – an Ollech and Wajs (pronounced Weiss, like those delicious fruit-flavoured ice creams many Australians are familiar with) OW350CI.

It seems fitting that after spending a week with this watch, I’m going for a ride on a classic bike with a watch inspired by a different vintage motorbike; in this case, a Swiss military Condor 350. Ollech & Wajs collaborated with a classic motorbike restoration specialist, Atelier Zevaco, for this piece. And while it shares clear DNA with the brand’s other toolish offerings. The OW 350CI is an intriguing new addition to the Ollech and Wajs stable.

Ollech and Wajs is an interesting brand and their approach to watch design is no-nonsense. When one looks at their modern offerings a word like “industrial” comes to mind. Their website is pretty great, with detailed information on historic models and stories of their use in challenging conditions.

In its heyday in the ’60s, the brand was popular with US soldiers serving in the Vietnam War who appreciated the robust build-quality on offer. Ollech and Wajs was also at the cutting edge of deep-divers, offering the 1000m capable Caribbean diver alongside Jenny.

One gets the sense handling this watch that it is built to last the toughest of adventures. The complete lack of polished surfaces is nothing short of charming. Sporting a sturdy oversized 6.10mm crown on the left-hand side, brushed detailing, 300 metres of water resistance (better than many dive watches), and a brushed stainless-steel 12-hour rotating bezel (which doesn’t click), the OW350CI is a robust companion for any motorbike adventure that could also include camping, swimming and sports. It’s also consistent with two other models in the brand’s line-up, the P-101 and P-104, which share many of the same specs and are classed as pilot’s watches.

One great and obvious change to those other models though is that the OW350CI’s crown has been placed on the left to avoid the discomfort of it digging into your left wrist as you ride, a thoughtful design feature. And a great perk if you’re into left-handed watches.

The company says the dial has been inspired by the military colour schemes of the Condor. Khaki yellow cardinal markers pop out at the 3, 6, 9 and 12, with white markers making up the rest of the dial. The date window at 6 is clean. The writing on the dial, with the Ollech and Wajs logo and model name is simple and looks great. The dial itself is described as khaki green. But hints at purple in dusky light. I’d consider it more of a pale olive, than khaki.

Legibility under most lighting conditions is excellent. Though the stainless-steel hands can sometimes be a little difficult to read simply through a lack of contrast with the green.

For someone with small wrists, the lug-to-lug is a little intimidating at 49.5mm. Thankfully, the watch comes with a second set of lug holes drilled further into the case. This creates a more flush fit for those of us with smaller wrists, and is a great feature that’s present in some of the brand’s other offerings. Kudos to Ollech and Wajs for incorporating this feature.

Inside is a trusty ETA 2824-2, adjusted in five positions with a custom-engraved Ollech and Wajs rotor. The positional adjustments and custom rotor are welcome additions to a solid movement built to last.

The supplied leather strap is thick, and well-made but not particularly comfortable on first use. For someone with a smaller wrist, the strap adds to the profile of the watch (and so was quick to come off in lieu of a rubber strap, which I could swim with).  It would make more sense, perhaps, for a watch like this to come with a rubber or stainless steel option as standard. Once the watch is on the rubber, it feels like a great fit. At 12.5mm thick, it’s no hockey puck.

The watch exuberates a solid quality. The finishing, though industrial and certainly not pretty, makes this watch feel very well made. One of my favourite things about this watch, and the brand, is the over-engineered crowns. Thick, solid stems. They don’t wobble when you change the time or start winding the watch. It is similar in experience to a modern Tudor, and that’s a very good thing.

The OW350CI is a watch that grows on you. The way the dial changes under different light has caught me staring at it at all sorts of random moments throughout the day. Once you take it off the leather and put it on something more sporty, it feels like a great companion with which to share the most rigorous adventures.

Ollech and Wajs are not a well known brand by any means, which is perhaps why they are such value propositions. What is on offer is a unique design ethic, very robust build quality from a brand with genuine horological pedigree that’s proud to state 90% of their watches are Swiss made.

Like the Condor 350 which inspired this piece, I’d fully expect these watches to happily take a beating for decades to come in the most challenging of situations. And there’s something refreshingly old-school about that approach from a modern watch company. I’ve waxed lyrical about my Doxa SUB 200 previously. This OW350CI is making a strong case as my new daily beater with its industrial charm. Perhaps on my next grand motorcycle adventure across the Nullarbor.

Pricing and availability:

The Ollech & Wajs 350CI  is available now for CHF 1146. For more info click here