Presented at Baselworld 2016, the automatic Eberhard & Co. Scafograf 300 (ref. 41034) looks like a faithful recreation of a classic model that was sold by the brand back in the 1950s. Offering you a nice combination of a robust Swiss movement, adequate water resistance rating of 300 meters, and an elegant exterior, it is mildly overpriced but will probably be successful in the long run when all sorts of discounts and rebates kick in.
Although the Swiss watchmaking brand Eberhard & Co. has always tried to play it safe when it came to industrial design, they seem to always have had a thing for being original. While most of their timekeepers were never as radical as, for example, their Chrono4 line of sporty chronographs that featured four linearly positioned sub-dials, they were never generic either.
Still, there clearly is a huge spike of interest in all things vintage and, for a smaller brand like Eberhard & Co. letting this wave to just dissipate was not an option: you have to ride the wave, not ignore it in order to stay afloat. Luckily, their timekeepers from the 1950s and 1960s, too, had a character of their own, although -let’s be honest about that- by no means revolutionary. Offering a sort of homage to a classic line that wouldn’t look like yet another Submariner-lookalike wasn’t that difficult after all.
The new watch clearly looks a bit classier than the original thanks to better finish of the stainless steel case, more refined bezel with black ceramic inlay and more comfortable (although optional) steel bracelet. Still, from where I stand, it is clearly overpriced: not terribly so, but you will probably still need to find a good deal before buying one in order not to lose too much money when the time comes to let it go.
If the price is not an issue, however, the Scafograf 300 may very well become a nice choice if you don’t want to put yet another Seamaster in your stable.
Case & Strap
Compared with the original, the 2016 Scafograf 300 ref. 41034 is just a hair larger measuring just 43 millimeters in diameter and 12.60 from convex sapphire top to engraved stainless steel bottom.
Even by today’s standards, the stainless steel case is not too big although some may find its long lugs not particularly convenient since they easily increase the timekeeper’s overall length by approximately ten millimeters to some 53 mm from lug to lug. If you happen to own a narrower wrist, you are in trouble. However, if you happen to be of more of an average build or even wider in the bones department, the watch should probably fit quite nicely although I can’t call its profile especially well-sculpted.
It is interesting that the older Scafograf 300 from the 1950s didn’t have (and probably even didn’t need) a helium escape valve on its case. Although I can’t really call the part a ‘gimmick’, I would probably have called it an overkill simply because this is clearly not a professional diving tool and, truth be told, I can hardly imagine an owner of this definitely luxury timekeeper to often find himself (or herself, let’s not be misogynistic here) in a situation of peril where an extremely fast decompression would justify an introduction of the contraption.
On the other hand, the extra part at least, um, partly justifies the timekeeper’s recommended retail price, which is nothing less than outrageous all things considered.
As far as ergonomics is concerned, the watch excels in all departments starting with the winding/setting crown that is easy to operate even if you happen to have a set of stubby fingers and finishing with the unidirectionally rotating bezel with nicely finished notches that are wide and deep enough to provide solid grip without any sort of discomfort. The luminescent markers on the first 15 minutes of the diving scale (including the stylized triangle at “00”,) too, help a great deal when you need to use the simple timer in a place where there is just isn’t enough light (and in these sort of places you usually don’t want to find yourself with your oxygen tank depleted.)
As usual, the watch comes on a standard 21 mm wide black rubber band that gives the watch an even sportier (and also more modern) appearance. Yet, it can also be had on optional stainless steel “Chassis” bracelet that looks quite similar to the original bracelet that the 1950s model was offered on. Please note that, while the bracelet comes with the brand’s patented “Declic” deployment clasp as standard, the rubber band is equipped with a lot less comfortable (and probably less secure if you indeed plan to use this watch as a diving companion) steel pin buckle: the aforementioned deployment clasp comes here as a more or less expensive option.
I have an impression that some fifty years ago when rock was hard, cars were deadly, and tool watches were, well, tools, people were less obsessed with what sort of personal statement they would like to make by changing a timekeeper’s original strap for something ‘aftermarket’. Manufacturers, likewise, weren’t too busy looking for a piece of scrap metal that was used as a part of the hull of some doomed ship or a fighter jet but were mostly trying to create -again- a tool that would be good at doing its job. Making it more stylish and more interesting probably helped to sell more of them, but functionality and usability was clearly a primary target for most designers.
The original Scafograf series is a good example here. What it offered was a matt black dial with all three hands just wide enough to be easily read in any circumstances and simple enough to be produced on an industrial scale at a minimum cost. Surprisingly, they also looked extremely well (maybe it’s because we tend to like all things that are designed to do their job in the most efficient way, not just overwhelm us with complex shapes and exquisite decor.)
Yes, the layout was as simple as it was functional and the only thing where it lacked (and what the new model has inherited) was the absence of a fisheye lens over the small date window: although the indicator is clearly not the most important element of the whole display, it would still be a lot easier to read if there was a small magnifying glass over the calendar aperture.
Compared to the original model that had its “main” markers at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock longer than other eight, the new one seems to have aligned the indexes in a more uniform fashion. Some may call the new layout soberer, some may call it duller. Looking at both, I am starting to think that I am probably with those who think that the older design was a tad more interesting: I think I like its somewhat imbalanced appearance.
Also, I don’t really dig the tiny yellow (and they are also available in blue and white matching the color of the central seconds hand) dots over the hour markers: they don’t add anything in terms of legibility and, fighting for your attention with other elements, even have a detrimental effect on your ability to read time.
Besides these small annoyances, I would say that the dial of the new timekeeper is indeed quite good when it comes to readability: the original design was so great that it was indeed quite difficult to ruin it with those timid attempts to make things look fresher.
This is, perhaps, the most boring part of this review. If you were expecting the watch that is offered at a retail price below $3000 to be powered by an in-house caliber with specs even slightly above the ordinary, you will probably be disappointed.
Like dozens and even hundreds of other Swiss made three-handers from all sorts of brands out there, this model is animated by the well-known ETA 2824-2 blank caliber. Featuring an okay automatic winding system, being built on 25 jewels, and having its balance wheel beating at a standard rate of 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour, this is a movement of choice for a brand that aims to make a reliable timekeeper that would be easy to service in any part of the world and that would also be relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain in great numbers.
Again, the movement is as robust and reliable as it is boring and uninteresting. Like a true workhorse, it gets the job done, but, after your honeymoon with the new watch is over, won’t get a lot of attention besides the scheduled maintenance. Probably, that’s precisely why Eberhard & Co. decided to hide the blank movement behind the solid screw-down case back cover (that and, probably, the fact that the original model, too, has had a solid back.) Well, at least the screw-down back is engraved with a stylized star fish, although the finish is clearly not that impressive if your idea of a “nice” finish is closer to that of anOmega Seamaster, a lot less expensive Certina DS Action Diver or even their very own Scafodat 500 (Ref. 41025) back from 2013.
As far as I understand, the mechanism comes sans any sort of modifications or upgrades. However, in this price range, the calibers are usually more thoroughly regulated to increase their ability to keep good time compared to those installed in cheaper timekeepers. Frankly, I don’t know whether Eberhard & Co. did invest time and money into fine-tuning the caliber, but they’d better did, since this is indeed quite an expensive timekeeper for what it is.
Pricing & Availability
Talking about expensive stuff, the watch will retail for some €2490 (MSRP, will vary in different parts of the world depending on local taxes and customs duties) and will be available in specialized stores later this year.
Again, I have the impression that the watch is lamentably overpriced. Even despite the fact that you can get yourself the aforementioned Certina DS Action Diver automatic three-hander that is powered by the same blank caliber and is still available for something like two fifths of the MSRP, this “homage” is simply less interesting while being more expensive than the absolutely gorgeous Longines Heritage Legend diver that looks more original, is powered by a superior version of the same caliber and, for good measure, retails for about €300 less.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4.5/5
Value for Money: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Photos: Eberhard & Co.
Eberhard & Co. Scafograf 300 Automatic (Ref. 41034) specification
Price: €2490 (MSRP)
Movement: Caliber ETA 2824-2, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800
Power reserve: 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case and Crown: Stainless steel
Bezel: Stainless steel with ceramic inlay
Size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 12.60 mm
Lug width: 21 mm
Dial: Matt Black
Hour markers: Applied, luminous
Hands: Steel, luminous
Water resistance: 300 meters
Strap: Black rubber strap, branded with stainless steel buckle (Optional “Declic” deployment clasp) / Stainless steel “Chassis” bracelet with “Declic” deployment clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, convex, antireflective
Back: Solid, engraved