One of the pervading horological interests is the idea that great quality watches don’t always have to equate to great amounts of money. When we're talking about watches that spawl the intersections of quality, value and price – Claude Bernard always come up as one of the options.
The Claude Bernard Retrodate Day-Date is a simple funtional watch; with a polished case, lancette hands and applied polished indices, subsidiary seconds at six with a big date display and a retrograde day indicator at twelve. It's purely functional and nothing fancy. Like so many truly simple things, it’s a very hard thing to get right.
The appeal and value of functional driven designs is one well understood in the world of watches. Some of the most iconic and enduring designs; watches like the Omega Speedmaster and the Rolex Submariner are products of an utter prioritization of function in the design process. The same is true with the Claude Bernard Retrograde Day-Date. It is a watch where the design is absolutely focused clearly on telling the time, day and date with as little fuss as possible.
The dial is stark, with polished lancette hands, a subsidiary seconds dial with a big date display at 6, 12 applied hour indices, an outer minute chapter and a rare retrograde day indicator.
The hour and minute hands are just the right length in proportion to the hour indices, the minute hand extends slightly beyond the minute marker and the hour hand doesn’t quite reach – a very small detail that assists the legibility of the dial.
Another nice touch is that the printed minute markers only mark the 4 minutes between the 5-minute intervals – again greatly adding to the overall clean aesthetics of the dial.
The sub-dial also has a subtle guilloché finish, adding some nice texture to the otherwise monotonous dial. In it contains a big date display that allows a much larger view of the date and is significantly more legible than a traditional date window without the use of a cyclops.
The case of this watch is just as balanced and well executed as the dial. The Retrograde Day-Date comes in at a modern 40.5mm, but wears very well for most due to the short lugs and narrow bezel. The signed crown is not obtrusive, and surprisingly easy to grip, but that should be the least of your worry as you will likely only utilize it for date changes every other month.
The Retrograde Day Date comes on a decent croc-embossed calf leather strap that perfectly matches the tone of this watch– funtional without being too informal.
The Retrograde Day-Date houses a Ronda 7004 6 jewel movement that features hours, minutes, small seconds, big date and retrograde day display. The standard battery life is rated at 48 months before a battery change is needed.
On the Wrist
Despite this being designed as a dress watch, it isn't constricted to shirt-and-tie days. Because the model being reviewed was stainless steel, it could go incognito as a semi-casual steel watch if you wanted it to. From wedding nights with a suit to pairing it with a t shirt over brunch, the Retrograde Day-Date proves its versatility as a daily-wearer.
That being said, it's not for everyone. If you are not the kind of person who wants someone across the room to instantly know what's on your wrist, this watch fits that bill perfectly. However, that's not how everyone rolls and if you're looking to be called out or want lots of attention over what you're sporting, look elsewhere.
Retailing at $636.70 (w GST) the Claude Bernard Retrograde Day-Date represents decent value for a watch of such unique complications. Furthermore it is a watch from a brand with a clear and strongly articulated identity that aims to offer Swiss-made watches in the highly competitive $300-$1500 price segment. Wearing the Retrograde Day-Date you really understand that this is a completely thought through watch that is true to its inspiration; modest, and simultaneously classic and sophisticated.
Claude Bernard watches are available at Timepiece Atelier, Robinsons The Heeren Level 4 and other retailers