You are designing two project-watches for one of the world’s largest watch forum. One of the designs are accepted, while the other is not. The one that didn’t make it is still a popular concept that members and fans are interested in. You decide to proceed, and you create your own brand, based on this watch. A manufacturer is contacted, with promises of high-quality parts and well-built prototypes. The disappointment, when it turns out that these promises are not fulfilled, and the high-quality parts turn out to be rubbish. You decide to take this project to another manufacturer and continue to work on developing and refining the watch. A couple of years have gone, and you can see the release date getting closer. Suddenly, a year before the planned release, you are presented with the news that the manufacturer that was turned down, due to bad quality parts and prototypes, is selling a watch, a true copy made of a design from the early days of the project. The only thing that has been changed is the brands name and the model name. What would you do? I know for sure that I would crack. I would probably stay in bed for a year, feeling sorry for myself and embrace all the sympathy coming my way…
This is the short version of what Chip Yuen and Aevig went through from 2011 to 2016. But instead of being a whimp like me, Chip decided to release Balaur in 2016, showing the world how the real deal should look like. In my opinion, Balaur is Aevig’s definite flagship, not only because of being what started it all, or the rollercoaster history, but also because of the components and design. The watch I am going to take a look at is the Balaur SE, the latest version of this vintage inspired watch with the looks of a super compressor.
What is new? To be honest, there aren’t a lot of changes. But the few cosmetic upgrades have made a big impact when it comes to the appearance of Baular. A rose gold bezel and rose gold hands, that’s it. You might wonder where the technical upgrades did go? Well, I’m going to tell you why I think this is a good upgrade and why I don’t miss a bigger change.
First of all, Aevig is a well-established microbrand. A vast majority of microbrand brands uses low-grade materials, cheap quartz movements and no useful features, if features at all, trying to cut the cost as much as possible. What Aevig brings to the table with Balaur is, from front to back, a double domed sapphire crystal, a high-quality stainless-steel case, an internal bezel, operated by the crown at two o’clock, functioning both as a 60-minute countdown timer and as a simplified GMT function, a Swiss ETA2824-2 automatic movement, a screw down main crown and a secondary crown fitted with extra gaskets, giving the Balaur a 300m water resistance, a beautifully engraved case back and a high quality, custom leather strap. And of course, if a bracelet is your thing, that is available as an extra option as well. As you can see, there aren’t many changes needed.
But then another question pops up? Why turn a scuba-diving rated watch into a more “fashionable” watch by adding rose gold details and a leather strap? The thing is, most of us don’t dive, and those who do uses digital wrist-computers or a favorite diver watch because of sentimental values. The rest of us just appreciate watches with solid specs and a beautiful design. So, there is the reason why I think only adding rose gold to the watch is a brilliant update.
Lets go deeper into the design and looks. Being 42mm x 49mm x 14mm, the Balaur SE isn’t as small watch. Still, the comfort is very good, much because of the curved lugs making it wrap around the wrist nicely. The 22mm lug width gives the watch a good balance and the right attitude. Design-wise, this measurement is quite important, and I have seen watches that are “destroyed” by the wrong lug width. Bringing 20mm to a 34mm watch or 18mm to a 46mm watch is almost a crime, making the composition fall apart.
The sturdy and nicely shaped case is mostly brushed, with polished details following the curved lines of the watch, from lug to lug. The rose gold bezel calms it all down and brings a new level of elegance and maturity. The matt, black dial is similar to the first Balaur. Vintage inspired, no numerals and easy to read. Rectangular hour markers applied with green C3 lume, white lines represent the minutes and rose gold, semi skeletonized hands. The hour and minute hands have large sections painted with the green lume, while the paint on the second hand glows from a smaller, trapeze-shaped dot.
Even if the cosmetic upgrades are lovely, the main attractions still are the inner bezel and the super compressor design. By operating the crown at two o’clock, the 60-minute counter or semi-GMT function can be set as you wish. Turning the crown, you will recognize how smooth and noiseless it is.
The closed, screw down case back is where the inspiration regarding the name is found. Balaur is a mythical dragon from Romanian folklore, often presented with multiple serpent heads. The polished emblem, showing a tangled-up dragon, lies on a matte surface, giving the design a nice contrast.
Inside the watch, the swiss workhorse ETA2824-2 keeps things alive. This is a movement that has a date feature, but as Balaur SE is designed as a no-date, the function is hidden. When unscrewing the crown, you will notice the calendar-click and hear the date changes if you turn the crown. Pull it further out and you are ready to set the time. Fully wound, the 25 jewels movement has a power reserve of approximately 40 hours.
Being stuck to the feeling that Swiss movements are the best of the best, what so ever, discovering microbrands that chooses to go the “Swiss way” always triggers me. I know there are other manufacturers that produces just as good movements, and maybe better, but the good feeling I get when I think of Swiss watchmaking is hard to erase.
So, to sum this up, saying that the Balaur SE has taken it all in a new and right direction is not the right thing to do. That’s because the right direction was plotted when the first version was released. It just continues its path in a more refined and delicious way. Beautiful design and high-quality components, from top to bottom. What is there not to like?
Before I end this review, I will sit for a while and enjoy the feeling of not being alone in this world. This watch is as big as it gets from Aevig. I would not go as far as saying that Mr Yuen has as small wrists as me, that would be quite rude, but having kind of small wrists and to be able to wear his own watches, his designs will not exceed 42mm. So to all the small-wristed ladies and gentlemen out there, you are not alone.