Coming soon to a store near you, the new Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Carbon (refs. 241776 & 241777) military-style collection offers you a decent Swiss-made movement neatly packed into a feather-light carbon-fiber body. Despite being somewhat overpriced, the I.N.O.X. Carbon still gives you tons of style and comfort in return for that hard-earned cash.
If memory serves me well, Victorinox Swiss Army has introduced its I.N.O.X. collection back in 2014. Somehow managing to simultaneously look both military and dressy, the series has immediately collected a bucket of enthusiastic reviews both from professionals and mere mortals alike.
While the INOX Professional Diver that soon followed didn’t look as organic and, well, natural as the original version, the Swiss-based brand wasn’t disheartened by the apparent mistake (or maybe that wasn’t a mistake at all: it may very well sell like hot pancakes) and, for this year, has expanded the collection with a beautiful -in its own rugged way- I.N.O.X. Carbon.
While the I.N.O.X. Carbon looks huge on these renders, it is, in fact, relatively compact at 43 millimeters in diameter. The watch doesn’t take much space on an ordinary wrist thanks to its pair of relatively short lugs. It is also not too thick, even even though its massive fixed bezel looks brutal. However, you can’t call it ultra-thin either even though it is animated by a relatively thin quartz mechanism. Well, that’s something to be expected from a watch that was deliberately styled to look as rugged and menacing as possible.
I must admit that I am impressed by how good and consistent the whole INOX series looks and this particular collection is not an exception here. While I have often encountered expensive “tactical” timekeepers that looked like a BMW X5 with its energetically sculpted body clad with vinyl camouflage and the 21-inch forged aluminum rims wrapped in extremely aggressive mud tires (well, I think I am trying to say here that the conversion process applied to the said X5 didn’t look especially “organic” if you don’t mind the adjective,) this model looks like it was designed from scratch to achieve the looks that it has.
The body, the straps, the setting crown, and just about every single part play to the same tune as the others. Even the hour and minute hands with their dressy “black chrome” treatment blend nicely into the overall design: they don’t feel like they were taken from some other model and just slapped on Carbon’s face in a half-baked attempt to save some petty cash.
So, yes: I am impressed and am actually contemplating ordering one of these (although full truth to be told, there is another model from a competing brand that I am seriously interested in, so I am sort of sitting on the fence right now.)
Case, Bezel & Strap
While the shape and size of the 43 mm case remain the same (well, there is also a 45 mm “Professional Diver” sub-collection inside the INOX family, but it features slightly different styling, a unidirectional -but frustratingly hard to operate due to the lack of proper grip- rotating bezel, and, well, can’t be called a close relative of the INOX Carbon,) the material is changed. This time, the Swiss-based brand decided to craft the body from carbon composite.
Although the company didn’t care to specify what material exactly they used to mold the body, CFRP in general usually delivers good strength-to-weight characteristics, which means that the case will be light (in fact, the manufacturer specifies that the I.N.O.X. Carbon on a paracord strap tips the scales at just over 99 grams and the version on a rubber band is even lighter and 93.5 grams.)
However, resistance to scratches may be a problem since this is a resin compound reinforced by carbon fiber that isn’t as hard as, say, stainless steel. On the other hand, now that I think of it, Victorinox used to offer special protective case covers with their 2015 batch of INOX watches that were made from clear plastics, so, if you often find yourself in situations where the case indeed can be damaged, you may want to buy one for your own timekeeper.
On yet the other hand, the scratches will probably be not as visible as dents on steel either coated with black PVD or darkened with some steel carbonization process.
The integrated lugs still provide the oversized setting crown with more than adequate protection.
Although the crown looks like there is not a lot of accessible surface for a good grip and as it may be a bit hard to operate, I am yet to hear just one complaint from long-term owners of any member of the INOX series. Perhaps, the reason for the surprisingly comfortable operation is the deliberately large diameter of the crown, as well as the slightly notched surface of the part. And, by the way, it is the crown that makes you feel that the watch is not as overpriced as it may look at first glance: there is quality everywhere about this product.
It’s not the first time that Victorinox issues a watch equipped with a paracord strap. Back in 2015, they already presented an INOX Naimakka collection that featured a choice of straps of different colors but of the same ‘survival’ style.
Some may find the whole concept stupid since you basically buy a long piece of cord at a price of a good leather strap and, once you have used it, the textile bracelet is basically lost and you end up with a piece of used synthetic rope. On the other hand, we live in a volatile world and one may very well find himself or herself in a situation where their life will depend on whether they have a long piece of high-strength rope or not. It may not necessarily be a zombie apocalypses or a nuclear war. Sometimes it may be something as minor as you are stuck in a freezing car in the middle of nowhere or a basement of a house half-demolished by a maniac in a VBIED.
Things happen, you know.
The real problem with the strap could be its width: once finally used, the 21-millimeter paracord band may be hard to replace with something from a third-party manufacturer if you are one of those persons who are not ready to “measure and cut to size” an expensive 22 mm band. But, of course, you can always get one directly from Naimakka at a mind-numbing price of $170. As a consolation, the Sweden brand with a Japanese-sounding name will add an “exclusive” Swiss Army Knife thingy that even features a “special blade for attaching the strap to” your beloved watch.
Dial & Legibility
Deliberately styled as what I usually refer to as a “tactical office watch,” the I.N.O.X. series has traditionally featured a fairly legible dial and this new specimen is not an exception here. Even though the hour and minute hands are treated with something that resembles black chrome, the dial is perfectly legible while still staying as cool as a loaded Glock.
The red secondary chapter ring with military-style 13-24 hour Arabic numerals that were etched or applied in some other way on the sapphire crystal was probably added to make the stealthy black timepiece look even more ‘tactical’. From where I stand, the design element is superfluous, but I can’t say that it seriously detracts from the gadget’s ominous charm: it just needs to be visually supported by some other element on the dial itself. And, no: the central-seconds hand of the same color doesn’t help much in this respect.
While we are at that, the secondary chapter ring on the bezel flange with its 1/3rd of a second scale, too, looks unnecessary here and, since the seconds hand can only measure time in one-second increments, serves exclusively decorative purpose providing the dial with extra visual depth and giving your eyes something to look at.
Besides that minor ‘flaw’, I would say that the dial is almost perfect providing good legibility in all sorts of lighting situations while being organically blended with the rest of the piece. Even the calendar wheel with its black numerals printed over white background looks surprisingly cool playing well with the applied hour markers featuring Superluminova of the same color.
The three oversized Arabic numerals finish the picture playing well with the brand’s Shield logo and making the dial look way more interesting than the faces of other members of the INOX family.
My only serious complaint about this collection -besides, obviously, the fact that it doesn’t have a mechanical movement and, if I ever decided to bite the bullet and order one, I would have to look at that jumping seconds hand till the day that it would die, although I understand that this is the most subjective part of this review, so ignore the statement- is the lume. Somewhat unexpectedly, the chemical compound’s brightness is far from adequate: first of all, it takes forever to charge, unless you do it under a led or fluorescent lamp, and, second, it is rather dim. If you want a ‘tactical’ timekeeper mainly for its nighttime legibility, you may be seriously disappointed with this particular model, as well as with the INOX series as a whole.
It always irritates me when a watchmaker fails to mention the name of the caliber that powers their new gadget. Can you imagine a specification sheet for a car or a smartphone that wouldn’t give you any information on what engine or SoC makes their respective product work? Yet, many brands either truly believe that a normal customer isn’t interested (why wouldn’t he or she be?) or are simply ashamed for some reason to tell you that their luxury (a watch that costs more than $300 is a luxury item) timekeeper is powered by a mechanism made by a different brand.
Well, as you have probably already guessed, the movement that powers this INOX Carbon is not clearly specified. Still, I can assume that it is the same Ronda 715 gold-plated quartz caliber that also animated the earlier iteration. If that is indeed so, then you are looking onto a watch that is powered by a good, repairable mechanism that, besides such useful features as battery end-of-life indicator (nobody wants to go on a hiking trip only to find out that the battery went dead the very first night of the adventure,) also gives you sixty months of guaranteed power reserve, which may not be as impressive as a solar-powered mechanism with almost unlimited battery life, but is still nice.
Pricing & Availability
The INOX family has never been especially cheap and this new entry is not an exception here. While the version that is offered on an unassuming black rubber band retails for a whole $850, the ref. 241776 on the paracord strap is even more expensive with its recommended retail price of $950. Of course, it will pretty soon appear in independent online stores with a more bearable price tag, but, if you prefer to get your timekeepers at brick-and-mortar shops or live in Europe, the MSRP may really hurt.
From where I stand, the I.N.O.X. Carbon is overpriced. Yes, the exterior is unique and every little thing about it screams quality, but the combination of relatively inexpensive materials, fairly average quartz movement, and a gimmicky “survival” strap doesn’t amount to $950 from my perspective: for this sort of cash you can get a nice military-styled Swiss-made watch that is also powered by a good self-winding mechanism. In this respect, I think I would give it only 3.5 stars out of 5 although I would love to have one of these trinkets at a more reasonable price $600 or so. But to each their own, I suppose.
Photos: Victorinox Swiss Army / Naimakka
Build quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 3/5
Value for money: 3.5/5
Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Carbon specification
Price: $950 (MSRP, on Naimakka paracord strap, ref. 241776) / $850 (MSRP, black rubber band, 241777)
Movement: Caliber Ronda 715, repairable, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 6
Power reserve: 60 months
Movement decoration: Gold-plated
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, end-of-life indication
Case: Carbon composite
Size: 43.00 mm
Lug width: 21.00 mm
Numerals: Arabic, applied, luminous
Hour markers: Applied, luminous
Hands: Luminous, black chrome
Water resistance: 200 meters
Strap: Survival Naimakka paracord strap, black synthetic textile / Black rubber band
Crystal: Sapphire, anti-reflective (triple-coated)
Back: Solid, screw-in