I find it refreshing when a watch brand is offering something beyond the usual three-hands and date models, it’s even more interesting when it comes from a microbrand. It seems that I’m not alone with this, as in the past month, CJR has raised more than $150K on Kickstarter with the Airspeed regulator watch. For the young Calvin Ng, founder of CJR this is his second successful watch project, the Velocita bull-head chronograph that came with an original case design, was also very well received by the microbrand collector community.
I was following the creation of the Airspeed collection from the very early phases, as Calvin was keeping me in the loop with the advancements, and when he offered me to review them, I was really happy to finally have the chance to take a closer look at the prototypes.
Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, a regulator watch is not about watching what the regulatory agencies do. It’s a timepiece that has its three hands: hours, minutes and seconds on three separate registers. A bit like a small second watch, but in this case the hours hand is also moved to a subdial, leaving only the minutes hand in the centre. It seems that the origin of the regulator complication is rooted in the regulator clocks used by watchmakers “to regulate” the timepiece they were working on.
Now, if traditionally the hands of a regulator clock were arranged vertically, with the minute hands in the centre, the Airspeed is opting for a more unusual layout, with the hours register at 9 o’clock and the seconds placed between 4 and 5 o’clock. When it comes to colours, there are two main versions, Vintage with beige dial and silver hands, and the Pilot with a high contrast black dial and white hands.
When I opened the package from CJR, at first glance, it was the black Pilot model that talked to me more. The lack of contrast on the Vintage was a deal-breaker for me, but interestingly, my wife, on whose judgement I always rely when I want a second opinion from a lady’s perspective, she found the Vintage Airspeed the most attractive timepiece of all the watches I reviewed in a long time. She tried it on, and indeed, the Vintage looked great on her wrist. This gave me a pause, I had to take a second look at this model and now, after more than a month of testing the Airspeed collection, I can say that both models have virtues and things that…, let’s put it this way, I would change.
What I absolutely love about these watches, is the case design. When I first saw the pictures, they reminded me the Ressence Type 1, because of the domed Hesalite crystal that covers the “bezel”, going all the way to the edge of the case. The 43 mm stainless steel case — black PVD coated on the Pilot model — continues uninterrupted the pebble shape and it is seamlessly finished with a domed Hesalite crystal for the back. This generous transparency opens new opportunities that the CJR designer exploited in a very smart way. For example, the gasket used for water-proofing the case is visible, and its colour is part of the overall design of the dial. It works especially well on the Vintage model, where the red gasket complements the red accent around the seconds register and hand. For the Pilot model, the gasket introduces another colour to the already colourful dial, in this case, I would have preferred another colour, instead of light blue.
The crown is easy to pull out, but it lacks any texture that would offer a better grip, especially on the stainless steel version, winding is a bit slippery, but I have to acknowledge that its smooth surface complements nicely the rounded shape of the case.
In general, there is a lot action on a regulator dial, and even more so on the Airspeed. The main dial has indexes and numerals and minute marks from 0 to 15, completing it with five minutes marks for the rest of the dial. The hour subdial has a 24-hour register, which I found unfortunate, but it is standard for the Miyota 8219 powering the Airspeed. It’s OK to see if it’s AM or PM, but I often found challenging to read the exact time, especially in the morning hours, between 3 am and 9 am when the hours hand would be covered by the bold disc and counterbalance of the minute hand. The two screws next to the seconds register are also superfluous and only add to the noise.
Now that the Airspeed reached a new stretch goal on Kickstarter, there are two new models added to the collection, the Vintage Sport with red hands and the Pilot S/S with stainless steel case. If you like the Vintage, go with the new Vintage Sport, the hands are more visible and when it comes to reading the time, it will be way better than the model I was testing.
It’s easy to be critical with a watch that is going off the beaten path and my review might sound a bit harsh, but keep in mind that with the CJR Airspeed, you get a watch with an unusual complication, in a cool design that will look great on anyone’s wrist — yes, you will have to watch out, your significant other might confiscate it. It’s really hard to innovate when it comes to watches and I compliment CJR for having the guts to try out new designs, the ultimate winner is you because the Airspeed will be a refreshing addition to your existing collection.
Case Diameter: 43.0 mm
Case Thickness: 14.8 mm
Lug Width: 20.0 mm
Case Material: Hesalite Crystal
Movement: Miyota Caliber 8219
Dial: PVD Coating with Super-LumiNova (Pilot Ver. Only)
Water Resistance: 3 ATM (30 m)
Pre-order price: starting at $349