Mondaine sent me an email touting the Mondaine EVO2 Automatic. I called their U.S. contact number to get more deets on their New Collection. I pressed 1 for Sales. “The mailbox is full.” I called back and pressed 2 for Customer Service. Same message. No surprise there. Mondaine has been struggling to defend and extend a brand built on the Swiss Railways Watch’s stark minimalism. For example . . .
In 2019, Mondaine introduced Stop2Go. The Railways Watch variant’s clever engineering replicated the display of the Swiss Railways clock deployed at train stations throughout the Confederation. Here’s the official explanation of its inner workings:
The second hand is accelerated to complete a rotation in 58 seconds. It waits there until it receives an electric signal from a central hub, which tells the minute to jump and the seconds to reactivate.
It’s a quartz movement with two motors, one for the seconds hand and the other for the minute and hour. The time and motion of the hands is regulated by a “Special Integrated Circuit” in order to maintain accuracy.
Unlike most quartz watches, the Stop2Go also has a sweep seconds, ticking at a rate of about 4 times per second. As the watch is not controlled by a central signal, the unique stopping motion is novel rather than the effect of synchronization, but as it’s a quartz it is accurate regardless.
At $550 to $650, the 41mm timepiece was a non-starter – especially when you can pick-up a non-stuttering Official Swiss Railways Classic for $195. It’s still a bit pricey, but you’re buying the original design, launched 1986.
Well, not exactly. The largest available version of the Classic Railways watch clocks-in at 36mm. That’s well shy of the Goldilocks size (39mm) and nowhere large enough for modern tastes.
To be fair, Mondaine updated the Classic design in 2018. The refreshed EVO line – offering a “slightly rounded shape” and “refined case lugs and a new functional crown” – is available in 40mm.
There’s also a 40mm Big Date Railways Watch and a day/date version. Other riffs have come and gone (e.g. the Helvetica watches, smartwatch hybrid, Day Date Sports model and Ultra-Thin). As of this writing, 16 out of the 82 models on Mondaine’s website are “sold out,” including the entire Simply Elegant line.
I don’t think “sold out” means what Mondaine wants it to mean. I reckon the brand is flailing around, trying to flog watches that improve on perfection [sic].
It’s the same challenge faced by Movado’s museum watch (reviewed here), with the same response (endless variations), with the same post-smartwatch future (bleak). Movado clings to life as a ubiquitous mall watch, whereas a Mondaine Railways Watch is harder to find than a beautiful woman who disproves the hot/crazy matrix.
Make that “was” hard to find. Amazon is their lord and savior (no commission on link), where discontinued and “sold out” models live to fight another day.
While the new Mondaine EVO2 Automatic has yet to make its discount debut on Bezo’s baby, I reckon it’s only a matter of time . . .
I understand the thinking behind the Mondaine EVO2 Automatic. Staring down the barrel of the smartwatch crisis, it makes sense to take a downmarket watch brand upmarket to avoid extinction. Seiko and Citizen are headed in the same direction.
The $665 and $720 EVO2 Mondaine Automatic make their claim on mid-market money based on the simple fact that an automatic movement powers the hands sweeping around the world famous dial.
And there it is: the Sellita SW200-1. A workhorse engine if there ever was one, as common as muck. Sellita manufactures hundreds of thousands of these movements in four grades: Standard, Elabore, Top and Chronometer.
Mondaine ain’t sayin’ which one powers the Mondaine EVO2 Automatic. I bet dollars to donuts it’s the Standard grade tempting me to point out that mundane and Mondaine are homonyms. If it is Sellita’s bog-standard movement, the watch is no more accurate than +/- 12 sec/day.
Hang on. Accuracy is the entire point of the Swiss Railways watch.
Sure, legibility is the headline attraction. The Railways Watch boasts the most legible dial ever created by hand of man (Hans Hilfiker). To the point where Apple paid $24.5m to Swiss Federal Railways to license the design for their iPad clock (above). BUT . . .
The pleasure of watching the conductor’s baton second hand whack the Railways Watch’s topmost indice at the exact right moment – as it does at Swiss train stations – is gone. Not to put too fine a point on it, wearing a Swiss Railways Watch without quartz-driven precision is like listening to Beethoven’s 9th on an iPhone speaker.
Don’t even get me started on the Mondaine EVO2 Automatic’s date window or the striking similarity between the Swiss company’s logo (on the auto’s crown) and Nintendo’s logo for the Mario franchise.
Instead of moving upmarket, Mondaine should produce the quartz-powered Classic in various sizes and sell the living sh*t out of them, telling the watch’s story ad infinitum. And live with the fact that they can only sell so many.
If Mondaine wants to chase volume, they should launch/buy another brand with another raison d’être. Brand extensions always start well and almost always end badly. Especially when the original product is perfect.