I can’t say I was surprised when the back glass of my cherished Ball 999 pocket watch fell off. Nor was I taken aback when I heard a telltale crinkling sound as the dealer extracted the watch from its post-repair packaging. Yup, the glass had shattered, shedding shards into the movement. That’s when I changed my mind about the Mondaine EVO pocket watch . . .
I’d started out detesting the thing. It was a size issue (the watch’s, not mine), related to my addiction.
My name is Robert and I collect American railroad pocket watches. In the course of emptying my bank account, I’ve learned a thing or two about the genre.
For example, to prevent head-on train collisions, Chief Time Inspectors decreed that railway pocket watch movements had to be a legible size 16 (43.18mm) or 18 (44.86mm).
The Mondaine EVO pocket watch is a 43mm timepiece. That’s the equivalent of a size 16. Yes but –
The regulations referred to the size of the movement. The total size of a complete railroad pocket watch was much larger. The movement and jumbo dial were housed in, and protected by, substantial cases.
Not so the Mondaine EVO pocket watch. Its case adds virtually nothing to its footprint. It looks like a 43mm wristwatch with the wristwatch bits removed. The diminutive case is cold steel. Holding its shiny slickness is about as sensual as holding a BIC pen.
And then there’s the chain.
A proper pocket watch chain is a work of art: a series of interlocking links forming a hardy, practical and dynamic piece of jewelry, a creation that’s as finger friendly as finely made rosary beads.
The Mondaine’s chain is more like a worn-out metal spring than a chain, as elegant as speaker wire.
The clasp at the belt loop end of the Mondaine’s endless chain (18.5″) is particularly egregious.
It’s a veritable lobster claw of a thing, completely out of proportion with the chain. The watch-holding end of the clasp is nondescript to the point of invisibility.
What do the chain and clasps have to do with the Mondaine EVO pocket watch itself? Well exactly.
I like two things about the EVO: the caseback and the dial.
The centered sans-serif text is as business-like as a Swiss banker at a Board meeting. The pocket watch’s Official Swiss Railways Watch dial remains a paragon of at-a-glance efficiency, as easy to read as a stop sign.
Pocket or wrist, a watch’s appeal lies in the sum of its parts. A Helvetia caseback and legible dial do not a cherished timepiece make.
As I said, I was about to dismiss the Mondaine EVO pocket watch out of hand (so to speak) when the dealer poured a pile of glass onto his velvet tray.
At that point I realized the major advantage of a modern quartz – yes quartz – pocket watch: it doesn’t break.
That’s a very big deal for a guy who’s broken precious American pocket watches in every way imaginable. Unless you’ve experienced those moments of pocket watch-related self-recrimination and despair you can’t appreciate how much I appreciated a pocket watch that I didn’t have to handle with kid gloves.
I pocket carry a SIG SAUER P365 in my right front pocket. I carry a vintage pocket watch in the pocket watch pocket, which also lives on the right side of my jeans or shorts.
While the gun sits low enough not to press on the watch, it’s a source of continual consternation. I’m not sure which would be worse: damaging a cherished pocket watch or delaying self-defense. (I have problems with priorities.)
The Mondaine EVO pocket watch is hardy enough to extract without a moment’s hesitation and small enough not to interfere with a self-defense scenario. And I don’t have to set it down carefully or sweat bullets when someone’s holding it. Not that I feel the need to share.
Handing a vintage pocket watch to a pocket watch virgin is a deeply satisfying experience. I get a kick out of chronicling its history, pointing out fine details, and then watching their amazement when I flip the watch and reveal the movement chugging away.
Lending the Mondaine EVO pocket watch to a newbie is like handing a cigar smoker a generic pack of matches. Meh.
The Mondaine EVO pocket watch is a great pocket watch for people who know nothing about America’s horological heyday, who want a pocket watch that requires zero maintenance or careful handling.
That’s a small enough demographic that Mondaine discontinued the EVO pocket watch right after I bought it. For my part, I’m with legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn: include me out. That said, the ex gets it. Literally.
Model: Mondaine EVO Pocket Watch
Price: $262 (discontinued, available on Amazon)
Case Diameter: 43 Millimeters
Case Thickness: 13mm
Case material: Stainless steel
Chain length: 198.5 inches
Movement: Quartz Ronda 512
Battery: Watch specific
Weight with chain:
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * *
Nothing of a case attached to an excessively long chain with a lobster claw masquerading as a clasp. Some may appreciate the minimalist aesthetic.
Legibility * * * * *
It doesn’t get any more legible than the Swiss Railways Watch design – especially in a 43mm dial.
Comfort * * * * *
Light, with no worries about damage.
Overall * *
Ugly chain and clasps on a perfectly practical quartz-powered timepiece with zero sensual or historical appeal.