Automotive culture is steeped in watch lore, from Nina Rindt sitting trackside timing Jochen with her UG, to Jo Siffert ripping hot laps with an Autavia strapped to his wrist. Tune in to any WEC broadcast these days and you’ll find no shortage of watch brands represented both on wrist and in adverts plastered around every turn. The bond has turned out some of our favorite brands, like Autodromo, as well as more than a few watches we’re pretty fond of, like the Carrera, Daytona, and yeah, even the Speedmaster.
Straton is a brand born of the same culture. The owner and designer competitively races a heavily modified Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint in his free time, a car which is depicted on the caseback of the new Competition Driver watches we see here. The car feels appropriate here, a bit unusual, modified for performance, and unapologetic in appearance. There’s plenty of parallels there for the watch itself, the Competition Driver.
Hands-On With The Straton Competition Driver
ETA 2894-2 or Meca-Quartz VK64
Blue; Black/Orange; Grey; Yellow; Green; Red; White/Black; Purple
42 x 45mm
What is a driver’s watch, anyway? There are two approaches to answering this, and both leave plenty of room for interpretation. First, this is a watch made for use while in the act of driving, as in, you’re expected to use it while driving. At face value this comes across as impractical at best (dangerous at worse), but it’s certainly been done and in an era prior to the advent of increasingly accurate and precise digital instruments relying on a wrist bound tool feels appropriate. This De Rijke & Co Amalfi 1S and this Sinn bullhead come to mind as possible candidates for this type, though I’d again cite the Autavia example being used by Jo Siffert, in which case, any watch you’re wearing while racing would technically qualify here.
Second, and more common, are driver’s watches that take inspiration from themes often associated with racing or automotive culture. It’s easy to lump many of the classic sport watches into this group, but a more nuanced approach would isolate brands that may not have any formal relationship with a car brand or racing series, but rather do it from a place of passion. The Autodromo Group B immediately comes to mind here, and the Straton Competition Driver would seem to fall in the same category. While the Group B is laser focused on a particular era and segment of race cars, the Competition Driver is a bit more open ended.
The Competition Driver
Straton is pulling from well established sport watch themes often associated with the motorsport genre for the design of the Competition Driver and it feels like an amalgam of the greatest hits, so to speak. The barrel shaped case recalls sport watches from the ‘70s; the dual register chronograph and TV shaped dial evoke classics from Heuer; and the offset seconds track, along with orange accents, are a direct wink at the Speedmaster with Japanese Racing dial.
The steel case measures 42 x 45mm and features a heavy slope from its edge to the dial. That surface is brushed radially and the edges are crisp (kinda) with no beveling in sight. The finishing on the samples we received could use another pass for some more definition and tighter edges at the transition from top to side. The watch is 13mm thick with the vertical case wall representing about half of that.
The dial of the Comp Driver is being offered in 8 different colorways, from the standard greys and whites, to more wild options like purple, red, and green. You’ll find orange accents on all of them, save for the purple, which gets yellow. Generally speaking, when it comes to sporting chronographs the accent colors are used only on the timing elements to separate them at a glance from the timekeeping functions. With the Comp Driver, we find the accented color placed at the outset of each hour marker, on the timing seconds hand, on the minute totalizer at 9 o’clock, and on the running seconds hand at 3 o’clock. This makes it more of an aesthetic feature than a practical one, but the colors do well together on the grey example we have in hand.
At the dial’s perimeter we find a tachymeter scale printed directly onto the rehaut, which is angled toward the dial to provide some visibility. The matte black color provides a welcome bit of contrast between the dial and case, though the blue dial and black dial receive blue and orange rehaut options respectively. Finally, a date window appears at 6 o’clock, which is black printed on a white disc regardless of dial color.
On The Wrist
The Competition Driver is a substantial watch, both visually and in heft on the wrist. The dimensions aren’t unreasonable, but the shape and depth of the case create a lot of real estate that can sit a bit tall on the wrist. That said, it’s comfortable and feels right at home with a t-shirt and jeans.
While a leather strap can be had separately, the Comp Driver will come on a purpose made bracelet that features 7 lanes of links that alternate between brushed and polished. The bracelet is 22mm at the case, tapering to 20mm at the clasp. Fit and finish is well within acceptable range for a watch in this price range, though it did catch a few hairs here and there in use.
Straton is using an ETA 2894-2 for the automatic variant of the Comp Driver, the very same you’d find in all manner of watches from Tissot to Chopard and Bell & Ross. It functions as well as you’d expect, however using it did present some challenges due to the shape of the case. The pusher at 2 o’clock requires a hefty push to actuate, and the pusher itself was prone to getting stuck within the recess of the case from time to time. This is a prototype so hopefully the cause can be remedied for production.
In total, the Competition Driver is a lot to take in. There are plenty of details to enjoy here, though when taken as a whole, it’s difficult to discern a clear focal point with the design. However, unlike many of the watches referenced in the beginning, the Straton can be had for about a thousand bucks with an ETA 2894-2 or $ 330 with a meca-quartz. Considering the unique bracelet, bevy of dial colors available, and your choice of movement, it’s fair to call the Competition Driver a compelling value if you’re in the market for an original sport watch design that evokes some mid-century favorites.
The pricing is still in pre-order status, and will rise to $ 499 for the meca-quartz and $ 1,499 for the automatic once watches begin shipping this summer. The first production run is limited to 300 units for the meca-quartz, and 200 units for the automatic. Straton.