Movado is Esperanto for “always in motion.” In case you’ve never heard of Esperanto, Polish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof created the “universal language” in 1887 to foster world peace. After two world wars and innumerable regional conflicts, Esperanto limps on as a historical curiosity. Does the same fate await the Movado Museum Classic Watch, as Movado‘s midmarket mallrats face death-by-smartwatch? . . .
Movado is all-in on the Museum Watch. All but a couple dozen of the 367 timepieces on their website are Museum watch variations. If you can imagine a riff on the now famous one-dot-and-done design – in terms of the dial, case, hands, indices, complications, movement, bracelet or strap – Movado either made it or still makes it.
Turning my back on a wide range of ill-advised and downright bizarre Museum Watch options, I pulled the trigger on a blacked-out Classic on Amazon, “saving” 41 percent off retail (a concept that only exists on Movado’s website).
I figured it best to assess the joys and sorrows of the aesthetically reserved, unsullied original design. Well not entirely unsullied . . .
Combining his admiration for Bauhaus minimalism and ancient sundials, industrial designer Nathan George Horwitt (above) penned the original in 1947. (Click here for the rounded prototype he donated to the Brooklyn Museum.)
In 1948, Switzerland’s Vacheron & Constantin-Le Coultre Watches found some success manufacturing and selling Horwitt’s mechanical brainchild, mostly in white gold. That same year Movado found greater success ripping off his design.
In 1960, the Museum of Modern Art added the original Horwitt watch (above) to its permanent collection; the timepiece joined the Eames Lounge Chair and the Chemex Coffee Maker in MoMa’s hall of fame. Movado rechristened their version “the Museum Watch” and struck gold.
In 1975, after selling hundreds of thousands of Museum Watches, the Movado Group finally acknowledged Mr. Horwitt’s claim to fame. The Group coughed-up $29k ($143k in today’s money) and launched an ad campaign celebrating the Russian immigrant’s artistic genius. Of course.
Clearly, the 40mm Movado Museum Classic reviewed here isn’t a copy of Mr. Horwitt’s 34mm watch. It’s an improvement. Despite its significantly larger size, this Movado Museum Classic is even more of a minimalist meisterwerk than Horwitt’s MoMa-deified watch. The Classic’s black, PVD-coated case is the key.
Encircling a black-toned steel dial – sporting the now iconic concave glass dot at the 12 – the elegantly thin case slopes imperceptibly to equally unobtrusive lugs. And that’s about it. Aside from gold-plated Dauphine-style hands adding a welcome measure of understated drama.
Talk about understated! If you’re laboring under the impression that minimalism is the passport to horological legibility, you’re right! Generally (e.g., Grand Seiko’s dress watches). In this case, you’re very, very wrong.
In most lighting conditions, at any obtuse angle, the Movado Museum Classic’s hands disappear into darkness. The watch becomes nothing more than a solid black sapphire circle.
The magic trick’s further enabled by a mysterious lack of anti-reflective coating. When the hands aren’t entirely invisible, they’re found (or not) playing hide-and-seek behind fingerprint smears and/or a mirror image of your very own mug.
There are plenty of people (sexist cough women) who wear stylish watches who don’t give a tinker’s damn about its time telling abilities or lack thereof. I’m not one of them. I’m OK with the effort required to read a single-handed Meistersinger, but not this.
The Movado Museum Classic’s black PVD-finished stainless steel mesh strap is another bugbear. Adjusted for my 7″ wrist, the watch JUST fits over my hand.
The strap is comfortable but way too long. Anyone with a similar-sized or smaller wrist will find the mesh strap end crawling around their wrist to a visible position. You could trim it but it wouldn’t be pretty.
The Movado Museum Classic runs off an unidentified Swiss quartz movement. The Timegrapher couldn’t get a bead on the engine’s accuracy, but again, how important is that? I reckon it’s less important than the fact that there’s a silver toned Museum Classic on a leather strap that’s closer to Horwitt’s original design and more legible. A low bar for sure, but there you go.
Regardless, I don’t think Mr. Horwitt would approve of Movado’s take on his watch. It’s a fashion statement, rather than “form follows function” design. In a watch market increasingly dominated by wearable computers, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. For example, a lady friend borrowed the Classic to pair it with a little black dress, leaving her Apple Watch home for the night. ‘Nuff said?
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * * *
An improvement on the original classic – in the right light at the right angle.
The hands literally disappear in many if not most lighting conditions. Thanks to a lack of reflective coating, it’s a mirror in most others.
Comfort * * * *
I mesh with mesh but the overlong strap is annoying AF.
Overall * *
The Movado Museum Classic is a fashion watch: a thin, wonderfully elegant design ruined by illegibility.
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