MICRO MONDAYS: Vario modernises the first wristwatch with their 1918 Trench line

MICRO MONDAYS: Vario modernises the first wristwatch with their 1918 Trench line

Zach Blass

Military watches, or tool watches, are incredibly popular in today’s marketplace – with heritage becoming a huge emotional driver behind watch purchases. The Vario 1918 Trench Watch is a new and affordable option for buyers looking for a detail-driven and military-inspired timepiece. Vario carefully considers each component utilised within their Trench watches, working to provide the best build and value to the end consumer.

Vario 1918 Trench

The story

Most tools and products are born as solutions to encumbrances and problems. To make our lives easier than they were previously. During the First World War, soldiers and officers utilised pocket watches that were integral to strategic efforts on the battlefield. But with shrapnel flying around, bullets ripping through the air overhead, every second counted – and any pauses to their effort, or time spent distracted in the pursuit of information, was an unwelcome vulnerability.

Image: History.com

Imagine, in the throes of battle, having to pull out your pocket watch and open the protective lid with gloved hands. In a setting where a second could be the difference between life and death, this configuration would no longer be acceptable. Further detriments of the utilised pocket watches of the time included a lack of luminescent material, and glass crystals that broke far too easily. The solution to the battle-inadequate pocket watch? The advent of the wristwatch, particularly the trench watch.

The case

Vario 1918 Trench

The Vario 1918 Trench is extremely wearable and will cater to a large spectrum of wrists. The 37mm marine-grade 316L stainless steel case is very compact, with a lug-to-lug measurement of 45mm and will slide very easily under a shirt cuff due to its thickness of 10mm. The watch is water resistant to 100 metres and has a screw-down crown at the 4 position, which will be enlarged in production models for better handling and operation.

Vario 1918 Trench

The 18mm wide lugs are true wire lugs, which means there are no spring bars involved in securing the strap to the case. The fixed nature of the wire lugs presents an extra layer of security, with no risk of the strap detaching from the case upon shock. The 2mm thick double-domed sapphire crystal also provides a more robust layer of protection for the dial than the glass crystals used in original trench watches, and is AR coated on its underside for better visibility in sunlight. The caseback features an engraving of a soldier holding a rifle to pay tribute to personnel who fought in the trenches during World War I.

Vario 1918 Trench

For a small extra cost, there is also the ability to personalise and engrave the caseback with English text, which can be comprised of four lines totalling 40 characters.

The dial

Vario 1918 Trench

The large Arabic numerals are consistent with the layouts found on trench watches from the era, with a railroad track elegantly displaying the minute markers surrounding the dial. The hands are large as well, executed in a cathedral style that is easy to read. The running seconds is placed within a sub-seconds register neatly placed at the symmetrical 6 position. It is made of a modern enamel composition, which Vario claims will not chip, crack or age over time and will maintain the pristine sheen it is delivered with.

Vario 1918 Trench
1st row, left to right – White Dial with White Lume, Grey Dial with White Lume, Black Dial with White Lume. 2nd row, left to right – White Dial with Orange Lume, Cream Dial with Orange Lume, Black Dial with Orange Lume

The Vario 1918 Trench has six dial configurations to choose from: White Dial with White Lume, Grey Dial with White Lume, Black Dial with White Lume, White Dial with Orange Lume, Cream Dial with Orange Lume, Black Dial with Orange Lume. They are all coated with a luminescent C3 coating that will maintain the high legibility of the watch in darker settings. While all configurations will glow in the dark, Vario points out that the orange coatings require a bit more time to fully charge. The grey, white, black, and cream tones of the dials can pair easily with any colour wardrobe, making them very versatile.

Vario 1918 Trench

The straps

Vario 1918 Trench

There are two strap configurations to choose from, each rendered in six colours: Coal Black, Ash Grey, Indigo Blue, Forest Green, Mahogany Brown, Cinnamon Brown and Camel Brown. The straps are very easy to switch between, and present a simple way to switch up your watch’s aesthetic on demand.

With the Bund straps, simply unfasten the button clasps found on each side to unhook the leather from the wire lugs. With the single pass strap, it’s as simple as taking the watch off and pulling the strap out. This results in a quick-swap set-up that will not require a visit to your local watchmaker.

Vario 1918 Trench

As the Crazy horse leather gathers scratch marks it will simulate a battle-induced patina quite easily and really drive the vintage aesthetic home. In terms of the strap size and measurement, the Crazy horse leather with Bund pad is 80mm in length on the buckle side and 120mm on its loophole side, and the single pass NATO-style strap is 270mm in total length.

Vario 1918 Trench

Vario transparently notes that the Bund is suitable for up to a 7.2-inch wrist (fits 7.5-inch for those who wear it tight) and up to 7.5-inch wrist without the Bund. They suggest that buyers with bigger wrists should choose the single pass leather straps, which can actually pair well with the Bund.

The movement

Vario 1918 Trench

The Vario 1918 Trench is powered by a Miyota 82S5 automatic movement that includes hacking seconds, making it easier to sync to a reference clock. The 21-jewel movement beats at 21,600 vph – nice middle ground between a classic 18,000 vph and modern 28,800 vph. It’s a very cost-effective movement, in that it keeps the price down for purchase, as well as maintenance down the line.

Final thoughts

Vario 1918 Trench

Considering the Vario 1918 Trench is only a few hundred USD, there is a lot of value brought to the table (or the wrist) with its enamel dial, robust case build, and plethora of strap options. My only criticism is quite easily solved, and that would be to provide the option for fabric-based straps that would better cater to water submersion. With 100 metres water resistance and a screw-down crown, this is a watch you can certainly swim with, and leather may not be your best bet at the beach.

Vario 1918 Trench watches pricing and availability:

The Vario 1918 Trench Watch is available now for pre-order on Kickstarter.

All watches will come with a choice of single pass or Bund strap, which customers can choose in a survey after the campaign. The watch also comes with a one-year international warranty and a 14-day return period if you are not satisfied with the product upon delivery.

The future retail price of the watch will be US$368 (30% OFF ON KS), with each extra single pass strap priced at US$22 (30% OFF ON KS) and Bund strap priced at US$34 (30% OFF ON KS).

For more information, and detailed pricing, you can head directly to Vario’s website here.