Thanks to Swiss railway engineer Hans Hilfiker, the Official Swiss Railways Watch was, is and always will be the most legible watch made by hand of man. The original design – white dial, black hands and indices, red second hand – is perfect. Changing or adding anything is like messing with Mozart. Still, a Swiss watchmaker’s gotta finagle a few Francs here and there. So Mondaine cranks-out a freight car’s worth of Railways riffs . . .
Most are subtle variations on a theme – a steel mesh strap here, a gold case there, a $650 Stop-To-Go with backlit hands lying around somewhere in the back of the warehouse. Nothing to scare the horological horses.
Some models, though, are ill-advised. The sub-dial-heavy EVO chronograph – complete with an A. Lange & Söhne-style date window – makes a mockery of the original design’s minimalism. But what do I know?
Just this: it sold out. Need more proof of my feel for the common man’s taste? After pulling the trigger on a dark dial Swiss Railways Watch Sport Day Date, the company killed it.
Yup, the black faced SDD is a proverbial dead parrot. I choose to believe it’s because Mondaine got tired of counting all the money. Common sense suggests otherwise.
You can still order the white dial version above. Well, sign-up for re-stock notification. Alternatively, you can opt for the 36mm Classic Day Date, with the day/date windows butted-up against each other at 3 o’clock.
The 41mm black-faced Mondaine Sport Day Date is larger, funkier and more useful than the 36mm Classic Day Date. It’s also a better read than the white face SDD.
The dark dial does a better job “hiding” the not-at-all-small day and date windows. You can ignore the complications when checking the time. Like the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver LE, the Swiss Railways Watch Sports Day Date adds functionality while maintaining maximum minimalism.
Props to Mondaine for skillfully sizing the dial’s various elements. The XL white-framed day window would’ve been a disaster if it had matched the relatively small size of the date window. The day window balances out the branding at the top of the watch’s dial while maintaining maximum readability.
The thin, sloping bezel, right-sized crown, flat crystal and extra-long highly curved lugs also do their bit to keep the Sports Day Date from looking a big screen TV (seen above on my 7″ wrist).
Make no mistake: this is a big, bold piece (the Classic Pure clocks-in at 36mm). In fact, the Sports Day Date is large enough to provide a full product description on its stainless steel caseback, including a warning not to mess with Mondaine’s copyright lawyers. One thing missing: a description of the movement.
The website says the Sport Day Date’s quartz powered and . . . that’s it. The EVO2 credits the Ronda Caliber 513 for motivating its ghost-like hands, so maybe that’s the ticket. No matter which [presumably Swiss] movement powers the Sports Day Date, it’s The Little Engine That Could.
The SDD’s water resistant to 100 feet. The crystal resists scratches like a three-year-old resists bedtime. It’s accurate enough that I couldn’t eyeball the deviation after five days. And it feels substantial. In short, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.
The black strap – neither cheap nor luxurious – is a wearable workhorse. It offers enough well-spaced holes to accommodate all wrist sizes, and the buckle is bad ass in a Bauhaus kinda way. Vegans will be pleased to learn that no cows were harmed in the making of the strap, whose plasticity adds to the watch’s already admirable swimmability.
The Railways Sports Day Date is one of those watches that starts as it means to finish. The moment you put it on, you know you’ll never regret buying it. Other watches will captivate your attention, but the SDD will always deserve your respect and admiration. It’s like that old friend where you pick up where you left off, no matter how much time has passed.
I apologize for singing the praises of a watch you can’t buy. Suffice it to say, the white dial Sports Day Date only loses a fraction of the dark dials’ legibility. At the same time, I can’t recommend the basic white dial Official Swiss Railways Watches highly enough. They’re inexpensive, versatile, handsome and practical. A mainstay of any collection. And [temporarily] sold out.
Meanwhile, Mondaine is making increasingly radical departures from the Railways station, including a hybrid with a deeply meh app. Your original Swiss Railways Watch patronage helps keep Hilfiker’s unassailable, irreplaceable design alive. And you, like his beloved trains, on time.
Official Swiss Railways Watch Sport Day Date (white dial available)
Price: $145 [click here to buy, no commission paid]
Functions: Time Day Date
Case size/diameter: 41mm
Case material: Stainless steel
Caseback: Stainless steel with Screws
Crown: Regular Gasket
Weight: 2.1 ounces
Crystal: Mineral Crystal
Strap: Artificial Leather
Movement: Quartz with hacking seconds
Water resistance (m/ft/atm): 30 / 100 / 3
Width at lug (mm): 22.00
RATINGS (out of five stars)
Design * * * * *
A classic born in 1948, perfected in 1952 with a red second hand based on a conductor’s baton. It will never, ever go out of style
Legibility * * * * *
If there was a sixth star I’d give it. The world’s most legible dial, bar none, even better at 41mm (said the old guy).
Tactility * * * *
The pleather strap lacks leatheriness, but the watch’s weight’s enough to make it feel like a significant piece. The right-sized, well-knurled crown is easy and satisfying to adjust.
Comfort * * * * *
The extra-long curved lugs wrap around the wrist beautifully, placing the case flat on the wrist.
Overall * * * * *
A classic design that’s not messed-up by the day/date complication.