When Victorinox, the maker of the original Swiss army knife, unveiled the I.N.O.X. for their 130th anniversary, the watch made a relatively big splash in the community. With its unique and handsome looks, it offered the ruggedness of a G-Shock (the watch was subjected to, rather fittingly, 130 different torture tests – one for each year the company has been in existence), but without the polarizing looks and cheap-feeling resin.
But, as is often the case, true watch aficionados demanded a mechanical version of the I.N.O.X., even though putting an automatic movement in a ultra-rugged tool watch kinda defies the purpose and makes all of those 130 torture tests null and void. But the heart knows no logic and this is especially true for the heart of the watch enthusiast.
And me, being one of those irrational watch enthusiasts, wanted a mechanical version as well. And a few years later, Victorinox duly obliged – releasing an automatic version of the I.N.O.X. – with black and blue dial and with an intricate guilloche pattern on the dial, mimicking the scales of their alox knifes, to further separate it visually from the quartz version.
But then a strange thing happened. It seems that almost no one bought one. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating – I’ve never seen one in the wild and it’s quite a rare sight even on watch-focused social media content. Perhaps it was the fact it didn’t get nearly as much press coverage as the original I.N.O.X. on its debut or maybe the inner snob got the better out of most of us – “A pocket knife company producing automatic watches?” – the lack of horological heritage can dissuade even the best of us. Maybe it was the fact that the previously indestructible I.N.O.X. was now quite fragile compared to the quartz version – while Victorinox has trumpeted the ruggedness of the quartz one and the 130 torture tests it endured, they were suspiciously quiet about the tool watch performance of the automatic.
Whatever was the case, it seemed that people just didn’t buy the automatic I.N.O.X., at least not nearly as much as its quartz predecessor. Not me, though. I just fell in love with the textured dial (the alox is my favorite line of Swiss army knives) and the fact that is was powered by the venerable (and, these days, less and less available) ETA 2824-2. And exactly one year ago, I pulled the trigger on the blue dial version.
And this being my one-year-anniversary with this watch, I thought it would be fitting to do something like a long-term review and maybe get people a little more familiar with one of the most underrated value propositions out there.
Now, I’m gonna spoil the review for you from the start by saying that the I.N.O.X. is definitely a keeper. And from a guy who flips most of his watches, that’s not something to be taken lightly. Of course, as with most of the watches out there, it’s not perfect by any means, but the positives outweigh the negative by miles – at least in my book.
Let me start by listing all the things I don’t like or I think they’ve could’ve done better. First of all, the 4:30 date cutout. Now, I know I’m not alone in this, since it’s one of the complaints I hear on a regular basis for many watches. In this day and age, when watches have become much more than a way to tell the time and when everyone has a small computer in their pocket, I feel that the date complication is, more or less, an obsolete one. And it can really become an eyesore, especially if it’s so lazily integrated on the dial.
Second (and third) is the lug width and the bracelet. 21mm (or any odd size, really) is a pain in the ass, especially if you like to change the straps on your watches. Me, being more of a bracelet guy, don’t find this that annoying, but nevertheless, it’s a practice that watch companies really need to stop.
As for the bracelet itself – while it’s not horrible by any means, I get the distinct feel that it’s sub-par in quality when compared to the watch head. It has solid links and a milled clasp, but the clasp is only friction-based and there is a cheap-looking diver’s extension beneath it, which can (and will) come undone when you take the watch off your wrist. Now, I don’t know why there’s a diver’s extension on it at the first place, since this isn’t even a diver’s watch. In any case, it doesn’t win the watch any points in my book.
And finally, the exhibition caseback. While this isn’t a negative per se, I’d much rather see a plain or nicely engraved steel caseback, especially since this is supposed to be a tool watch after all – and it’s not like the 2824 is something to be admired (at least not visually). I’ll finish off with the lume – which is okay – not bad by any means, but nothing to write home about. I do like the lumed shield logo they’ve used as the 12 o’clock hour marker, though.
And now for the positives. Let me start with the watch head – it’s milled from a single block of steel and you can feel it. Victorinox makes its own steel and this is something very noticeable on the head of the watch. No imperfections, just a perfect balance of brushed and polished surfaces on the hexagonal (or dodecagonal, depending on your view of things) bezel. Supposedly, the bezel is treated with a clear scratch-proof coating – now, since this claim isn’t included in any official VIctorinox press releases, I obviously can’t confirm it – however, after a year of use, there is yet a scratch to be found on mine.
Victorinox claim that they use 3 layers of antireflective coating on the underside of the sapphire glass and all I can say is that this is my most legible watch – in most lights, the crystal simply disappears and it feels like you can reach down and touch the hands and the dial. And the dial is, I have to say, beautifully done. The dial changes color in different lights, to the point that I’m still surprised by the shade of blue when I look down my wrist. The crown is excellently sized and it feels buttery smooth when engaging the ETA 2824-2 to set the time. And, as you can expect, the movement is accurate and reliable.
Let me finish off by making some comments about the size of the I.N.O.X., because I think it’s something that perhaps puts off many people from getting one. 43mm in diameter and a 52mm lug-to-lug.
Now, while this may seem intimidating, even more so in today’s world when the trend is going in the direction of smaller watches, allow me to assure you that these numbers are not as scary as they seem. The way the lugs are integrated to the case and the fact there’s no fixed end-link on the bracelet, means that the bracelet (or the strap) drops down immediately from the lugs, making it hug the wrist. The shape of the case makes the watch sit planted on the wrist, while the diameter of the top hexagon on the bezel is only 37mm, making it look visually much smaller than it actually is.
And finally, the watch is 13.5mm thick which, even though it’s far from dress-watch-thin, means it reasonably well proportioned and not overly thick. I have a 7 in. wrist and if I can pull it off without any problems, then so can you.
In the end, let’s talk heritage. While Victorinox’s provenance as a watchmaker is practically non-existent, they excel in another thing – and that’s being 100% Swiss made. In today’s world, the soap bubble of the phrase “Swiss made” has been burst for the most of us – the legal term being full of loop holes like Swiss cheese (no pun intended) and companies being very much eager to exploit them all too much.
However, Victorinox as a company is different – all of their operations are based in Switzerland and you can expect a genuine, 100% Swiss product whenever you buy from them – whether it’s a knife or a watch. Maybe that’s why they offer a 5-year warranty on all of their watches. And the difference really shows.
The more keen-eyed among you may have noticed that this wasn’t a so much of a review, but something more alike to a sales-pitch to the reader. And that’s because it was. I obviously love this watch, the same as I loved it the day I got it. But it makes me kinda sad when I see that this affection isn’t shared by most of the community. I wanted to spread the word – to introduce some of you to a watch you perhaps didn’t knew existed and to convince the ones who thought it wasn’t for them for whatever reason to give it a second chance. Because, believe me, the mechanical I.N.O.X. is well-worth it.