Officially presented during the Baselworld 2015, Certina Chronographe DS-8 Phase de Lune is a perfect example of a dressy complication watch that somehow manages to combine into a single package an almost stunning exterior, a reliable quartz chronograph movement that, for all things practical, blows out of the water almost all advanced electric mechanisms currently available on the market, while spicing all up with a very affordable price. What more do you expect? A free Porsche?
I don’t know why Certina prefers to use computer rendered images to accompany their press releases: they never do justice to their timekeepers and this new DS-8 Phase de Lune is no exception here. Although the images give you a fairly good idea how the watch is designed, in real life, it looks way better and I am pretty sure that a professional photographer can easily capture its natural beauty.
Somehow reminding me of Patek Philippe timekeepers with their layout and general, um, aura, this watch leaves a very good impression with its soft, noble color scheme and nice textures. Everything seems to be designed with lots of attention to details with all of the parts nicely complementing each other providing that sort of experience you rarely expect from a quartz-powered timekeeper from a brand, which is supposed to ‘inexpensive’ (and thus uninspiring).
Perhaps, the only thing that irritates me a little is the length of the hour and minute hands in relation to the diameter of the dial cutout. But that’s perhaps all.
The watch comes equipped with a quartz movement, but that’s not your ordinary, dirt-cheap job that you often see in throw-away pieces with a Mickey Mouse on their dials. This one features a gorgeous ETA G10.962 BH PRD Precidrive mechanism that belongs to their well-known Thermoline family of electric movements. Automatically compensating for sharp changes in temperature, the Thermoline series, which is often used to power Breitling analog/digital chronographs (that says something, right?), usually offers an unprecedented level of accuracy that is about ten times better than that of a normal quartz watch.
Powered by a standard battery (I wonder why ETA still doesn’t have a movement that would use solar energy to keep itself going), the mechanism has a theoretical autonomy of just over three years, although that could be decreased drastically in case you abuse the chronograph sub-system: it is usually quite taxing on the battery.
As usual, the base movement can be fitted with all sorts of complication modules that greatly enhance its functionality. This particular breed features not only the usual chronograph, a simple calendar at 4 hours, and rather standard-looking moon-phase display, but also includes an “average length of lunar cycle” indicator that, while not exactly useful, may be of some interest to those who like an extra complication on their watch.
As I have already noted, these promotional renderings don’t really do the watch justice (in both meanings of the word).
The first of all, the case is a lot better sculpted than these pictures show: the bezel is actually thinner and the crown has a lot better grip than you see here. Whole 41 millimeters in diameter, it is a little bit larger than you normal dressy three-hander, but is, in fact, smaller and especially thinner than an automatic timekeeper stuffed with the same complications.
However, keep in mind that the horns with a beautiful brown leather strap attached to them (stainless steel bracelet is available if you are into this sort of thing) here are rather long making the watch measure roughly 50 millimeters lug to lug. Although that is not terribly long, you should understand that the piece may cover the whole width of your wrist (and then some) if you happen to be on a skinnier side.
On the other hand (I am still talking about justice), the case is not as nicely finished as the guy who approved renders wanted you to believe. Machine-brushed surfaces, unfortunately, lack the level of refinement you expect by looking on the dial. It is precisely there where you can actually see that this is a watch that comes with a modest CHF 765 (CHF 795 for the version on a bracelet) price tag, not a ten times more expensive dressy chronograph from a major brand.
Some of you may be put off by this minor flaw, but I actually don’t see anything wrong with it: while in most cases you get what you pay for, here you get a lot more. Certina once again proves that it can compete with brands that are better advertised and usually command higher prices. I just don’t want you to set your expectations too high: this is neither a Patek Philippe nor an IWC. It’s a Certina and it is supposed to play within the price niche it was assigned to, which also means cutting corners here and there on a fairly regular basis.
The dial, though, is where this timekeeper truly shines. It shines, of course not only with its PVD-treated elements but with the way all of them are put together.
Despite lots of information that are poured on you when you look on the dial, you probably won’t feel overwhelmed because the data seems to be well-structured. The PVD rose gold-plated hands clearly stand over a dark background, which is available in black and dark grey (you can even call it anthracite). Even the version with silver-toned dial still offers enough contrast for the hands thanks to it sunburst finish that makes the watch look really expensive.
The size of the watch is nicely matched to diameter of the mechanism (the latter measures 29,80 mm in diameter) making the dial look visually light, but not too, well, empty as it often happens when a watchmaker takes a tiny movement, puts it into an oversized body and tries to make you think that it doesn’t look stupid. Here, everything is perfectly balanced: the team of industrial designers that worked on this gadget did a really good job.
As I have said earlier, I don’t really like the length of the hands: they look just a trifle (maybe, tenths of a millimeter) shorter than they should, but otherwise, everything looks perfect. There is an adequate amount of lume on the hands and hour markers that not only allows you to easier read the watch at night, but also makes the elements more contrasting in broad daylight.
The fact that it all is covered with a sapphire crystal makes things even sweeter.
Price and Availability
The price is probably the best part here. The Swiss brand offers the watch at a base price of just CHF 765 for a piece on the leather strap: just $800 at the current exchange rate. And, mind you, this is a recommended price: you will probably be able to snatch one at a small discount even if buying it in a brick and mortar shop. The stainless steel bracelet adds just CHF 30 more, although you would possibly be better off getting a bracelet from a third party manufacturer: this timekeeper deserves a really good bracelet.
There is still no info as to the availability, but I don’t think that Certina plans to wait for Christmas before shipping the first batch.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5 (and probably even better than that)
Certina Chronographe DS-8 Phase de Lune specification
Price: CHF 765 — CHF 795 (Retail)
Movement: Quartz, Caliber ETA G10.962 BH PRD Precidrive Thermoline, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 4
Power reserve: Approx. 38 months
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph, moonphase, average length of lunar cycle
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 41.00 mm
Dial: Anthracite (C033.450.16.081.00) / Black (C033.450.11.051.00) / Silver (C033.450.16.031.00)
Hour markers: Luminous, PVD-treated
Hands: Rose gold PVD, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brown leather strap with twin-pusher butterfly clasp / Stainless steel bracelet
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Back: Solid, DS “Turtle” emblem