Presented at Baselworld 2016, the Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 9 Automatic Limited Edition (ref. 241732) chronograph somehow manages to combine more or less adequate pricing (especially after all the usual discounts that the Swiss-based brand is known for) with a fairly small lot of pieces destined to be manufactured and sent to select stores around the world.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 9’s overall styling seems to be inspired by the Airboss Titanium series of limited edition watches. The collection included a three-hander (ref. 241600) and a gorgeous chronograph, both released by the brand back in 2013. The impression of similarity is formed not only thanks to the overall greyish color scheme and lots of brushed and sandblasted surfaces but also with those red color accents including the signature 24-hour military scale. The scale was printed directly on the inner side of the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that protects the dial from dust, humidity, and whatnot. The worn-look leather straps that accompany both models, too, help to make a connection between the two.
Read the detailed review below, but, in a nutshell: this new ref. 241732 rocks in a surprisingly discreet kind of way. It is, in fact, one of those precious few timekeepers that were introduced during the last couple of years that actually make me want one.
Case & Strap
With a diameter of 45 millimeters, the watch is not too large (at least, not obscenely so especially if you take into account its deliberate vintage-pocket-watch-turned-pilot’s-watch-homage styling.) What may pose a problem here is the timekeeper’s overall thickness and, to a lesser degree, its overall length from lug to lug.
Speaking about the former, I must warn you that, while the lightweight titanium case itself measures approximately 14.6 millimeter top to bottom and it is not that high per se, the cuff strap, which is crafted from relatively thick leather, adds at least a millimeter more to the grand total making the watch take a lot airspace on the wrist. Well, the watch was probably designed to attract lots of attention to its owner, so the timekeeper’s overall thickness may not actually be a serious problem, but it will still limit your choice of shirts and coats eliminating not only more formal attire (that’s sort of obvious) but also even more casual one with tighter cuffs.
As for the latter, the total lug-to-lug length of the Airboss Mach 9 family is approximately 52 millimeters, so, if you happen to own a set of relatively narrow wrists, you should probably invest some time into visiting a brick and mortar store to try any member of the collection on your own wrist. You know, just to be sure.
As for the timepiece’s ergonomics, it seems to be well thought-after and, if you plan to wear it on your right hand, will probably feel natural on your wrist. However, if you, like most of us, prefer to wear the piece on your left hand, you will probably be forced to take it off every time you need to adjust its time (and that will probably be as often as at least once a couple of weeks given the mechanism’s only slightly above average -in this price range- accuracy.) The chronograph push-pieces, as well as the extra crown at 2 o’clock that is supposed to operate the slide rule bezel, will give you no trouble though regardless whether you are a lefty or a righty.
The timekeeper’s water resistance rating is limited to rather underwhelming 100 meters (10 ATM / 330 ft.) even despite the fact that it is equipped with a screw-in case back cover (it is, by the way, equipped with a transparent -probably sapphire- crystal that gives you a good view at the self-winding mechanism that powers the whole setup) and screw-down crown. Well, the WR rating is really enough for most daily activities (you can even swim in them occasionally if you are not afraid of ruining the leather strap) so it is still a very versatile timekeeper, just try not to wear it while going for a scuba diving session.
The wide leather cuff strap, by the way, deserves some attention. While it may not be a very choice for hot weather exacerbated by sweaty hands and should probably be replaced with something more appropriate -like a nylon NATO strap or some beige-toned Cordura band- during prolonged heatwaves, it still looks like good value, although that’s more like a personal preference: some people will probably hate the part with all their hearts.
Earlier members of the Airboss family often looked messed up and cluttered with all of their multiple sub-dials, cut-outs and ultra-contrast color schemes that were supposed to put extra emphasis on the collection’s links with the roaring world of military aviation, but actually made your eyes bleed from shock.
However, during all these years, Victorinox Swiss Army has come a long way in terms of industrial design learning on their own mistakes and, something tells me, hiring a number of qualified professionals that actually knew what they were doing.
Now, they seem to understand that an aviator-style watch, however modern it is intended to look, is also supposed to be readable and legible with primary, secondary and all subsequent flows of data correctly layered and prioritized so that you wouldn’t spend precious time (while, for example, riding on some bobberized motorcycle with a single rudimentary instrument gauge with nothing but a analogue speedo and tacho on it) trying to claw your way through numerous indicators just to understand what time it is, while missing a huge pothole on the road and going headfirst into a ditch (or under a truck if it isn’t your lucky day).
In this respect, the Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 9 probably deserves the highest commendations. Although it may not be as legible as a good old B-Uhr with its laconic monochromatic dial layout, it is still easy to read at basically a single glance. Just take a look at the photos: you will immediately see its slightly off-white diamond-shaped hour and minute hands, as well as beautifully executed luminous Arabic numerals. When that information is read, your eyes will easily find the small seconds hand, which is, too, treated with white Superluminova. Then goes date: although a bit too small for me, it, too, is easy to read.
The chronograph is clearly not a priority here, but so is the function itself in the modern world when you always half a dozen of electronic devices around you that are able to measure time intervals with a lot higher precision and a lot less hassle. After all, all you need is to press a start button and then stop the chronograph: you can always read it later when there is enough time for you to get your eyes off the road.
As for the movement, everything is rather straightforward here: VSA is one of those smaller brands that still use blank calibers sourced from ETA: although the company doesn’t seem to be affiliated with the Swatch Group in any way, they either have a good stock of the ebauches not to feel any discomfort in the near future or enjoy some sort of special treatment from the conglomerate that was formerly often referred to as an industry’s movement manufacturer of choice. But I digress.
Like most of their mechanical chronographs, this Airboss Mach 9 Automatic (ref. 241732) is animated by a well-known ETA 7750 natural-born chronograph movement. As usual, the mechanism features 25 jewels and beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour. The only thing that’s missing here is the day of week window.
Although it comes with no fancy finish (all personalization seems to be limited to a branded oscillating weight with nothing more advanced than circular Geneva stripes pattern, and the lack of a day of week indicator, but I have already mentioned it earlier,) it still gives you the same level of reliability and robustness that the movement is known for. Also, as far as I know, Victorinox Swiss Army uses higher-grade calibers for their watches and they usually tend to keep better time than specified by official specs.
They may not be as thoroughly cherry-picked and modified to higher specs as those used by premium brands, but, within its price range, it is probably one of the best choices that you can get. Take good care about the watch, don’t forget to service it at proper intervals and there is a good chance that you will be able to pass it to your grandson in perfect working order.
Pricing & Availability
So far, the Swiss watchmaker offers the ref. 241732 on its own website at an impressive MSRP of $2495 USD excluding local taxes (their German store has an even more shocking price of €2499, but that one includes VAT.)
The price may seem outrageous but is partly justified by the bullet-proof mechanism that powers the watch and the fact that it is limited to just 250 pieces. Also, if past is any indication, the watch will soon be offered by numerous online stores at significant discounts (their Airboss Mach 9 on a nice steel bracelet is currently offered by a US-based online store at a lot more appealing $1195 USD, which is 48 percent off the list price, although I must admit, this one is a non-limited version of the watch.)
The watch is also marked as “in stock” on the aforementioned website, so I believe that it soon will be available in most brick-and-mortar stores around the world, although in very limited numbers.
See also: Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Automatic
Photos: Victorinox Swiss Army
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5 (5/5 after discounts)
Victorinox Swiss Army Airboss Mach 9 (ref. 241732) specification
Price: $2495 (MSRP)
Winding: Automatic (self-winding)
Movement: Caliber ETA 7750, modified, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 44 hours
Movement decoration: Circular Geneva stripes on the oscillating weight and VSA “shield” logo
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, date, slide rule, 24-hour “military” time
Size: 45.00 mm
Case height: 14.60 mm
Lug width: 22 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Hour markers: Luminous (at 6 and 12 o’clock)
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Vintage-style brown leather cuff strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating
Back: Transparent, screw-in