MICRO MONDAYS: The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph MICRO MONDAYS: The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph

MICRO MONDAYS: The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph

Fergus Nash

Vintage military-inspired watches can sometimes seem like an easy path for microbrands to go down, but there are plenty of pitfalls and traps along the way. If you get the sizing wrong, you alienate a huge chunk of potential buyers. If there’s a certain detail out of place on the dial, again you’ve lost interest. Even if you do everything right, there may just be too many other similar watches out there for anyone to consider trying your new option. Monchard have navigated this treacherous road deftly with the Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph, nailing every detail, with enough individuality, and an evocative style that tells a story.

The website’s description of the Monchard Skytrain begins with what sounds like a thrilling novel, describing a Douglas C-47B Skytrain aeroplane starting up under a searing desert sun. It’s this kind of creative display that demonstrates Monchard’s passion for the experience of holding a watch and feeling what story it has to tell, regardless of whether or not it’s a genuine relic. Few people buy watches purely because of a list of specifications, instead favouring watches that they can connect with in some way.

The case

As mentioned, bad sizing can be the nail in the coffin for an otherwise great watch. Thankfully, the Monchard Skytrain has nailed those goldilocks proportions that we all hunt for. A 39mm diameter is large enough for modern tastes while still being plausible for vintage pilot’s watch accuracy, and the 46.5mm lug-to-lug length retains great wearability on an average wrist. The overall shape of the case is quite strongly associated with aviation, with plenty of flieger designs using the same smooth-sweeping lugs that culminate in sharp-angled tips. The lugs are also drilled should you wish to swap out the supplied canvas straps with a NATO or perhaps even a Bund strap.

The biggest contributors to the historic vibe are the coin-edge bezel, famously used on the first ever Hanhart chronograph designed for the German airforce, and the large onion crown that was especially popular on pocket watches. Modern touches to the case include a double-domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, a sandblasted and engraved aviation-themed caseback, and a reliable 50m of water resistance.

The dial

The Monchard Skytrain is not a direct clone of any one design in particular, but rather an amalgamation of aesthetic choices that were extremely common amongst pilot’s watches of both sides of World War II, as well as dressier watches from the 1950s. The Hanhart influence was noted on the bezel, however the dial as a whole has an air of Patek Philippe to it thanks to the generous subdials, syringe hands, and the telemeter scale. One more subtle detail you may miss is the “C-47 NO RAD” printed between the minute track and the outer scale, harkening back to the transitional period when luminous paint could be proudly advertised as non-radioactive.

The telemeter scale is definitely not as popular as the tachymetre that can be found on most chronographs, however it certainly has a more exhilarating backstory. With a range between 0-20, the telemeter uses the speed of sound to calculate how far away an explosion is. You can activate the pusher when you see the blast, and stop it again to reveal how many kilometres away it happened. This may not be incredibly useful for day-to-day life, but it fits with the watch’s narrative.

It’s ironic how modern inventions can sometimes do a better job at evoking age than actual antiques, but that’s exactly what has happened with the rise of dégradé dials and faux-aged lume.  The Monchard Skytrain is available in either a rich jungle green or a dusty brown colour, both exceedingly suggestive of mid-century military themes, and both enhancing the flavour imparted by the cream tones of the luminous paint. The crisp white outlines of the Arabic numerals, chronograph subdials and the hands help them stand out for great legibility too.

The movement

The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph uses the Seiko VK64 Meca-Quartz movement to simulate mechanical chronograph timing with all of the quartz accuracy benefits. There is no running seconds subdial on the watch, meaning that there’s nothing on the dial that will tick at 1Hz reminding you of the quartz nature. When the chronograph is activated, the centre seconds hand will begin ticking with a smoother sweep. The minutes are counted on the subdial at 9 o’clock, while the 3 o’clock subdial is actually a 24-hour indicator. The VK64 takes a 394 button cell battery and has an approximate life of three years.

The verdict

Not only is the Monchard Skytrain an exceptionally characterful watch for the money, but the brand themselves feel rewarding to buy from. Their email to us was a joy to read as we felt their passion for their own creations, especially in the phrase “to think that someone will part with their hard-earned money to buy something that we’ve been creating, first in our head, and then as a physical object, is just a totally awesome feeling!”. If you’ve been looking for a vintage inspired watch with real personality, the Monchard Skytrain would be an incredible place to start, and we can’t wait to see what other creations they make next.

The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph pricing and availability:

The Monchard Skytrain Telemeter Chronograph is available from their online web store here, and although the current brown and green options are not limited, there may be more colours to come depending on its success. Price: $370 USD

Case Material Stainless Steel
Case Dimensions 39mm x 46.5mm x 13.2mm
Water-Resistance 50m
Dial Brown, green
Straps Matching canvas straps
Movement Seiko VK64
Power Reserve Three years
Complications Hours, minutes, chronograph, 24h indicator
Price $370 USD