Insider: Vulcain Aviator Instrument Chronograph Sport Automatic. A Great Pilot's Watch for the Price.

The story of Vulcain began in 1858, in the early days of the Swiss watch industry. This brand from Le Locle has been making its mark for over 150 years and it was in 1947 that it entered the annals of horology thanks to its Cricket calibre, the first ever truly functional mechanical alarm watch movement, from that point on, successive American presidents starting with Harry S. Truman were to adopt it and thereby earn the Cricket watch its enduring nickname as 'The Presidents’ Watch'.  A century and a half of watchmaking passion, as well as 150 years of creation, innovation and expertise patiently acquired and now devoted to defending the demanding values of Haute Horlogerie. Founded in 1858, the workshop of the Ditisheim brothers – which was to give rise to the Vulcain brand – immediately earned itself an enviable reputation through its complication watches, which received awards at several World Fairs. But the technical qualities of Vulcain watches also appealed to explorers and adventurers. From the 1950s onwards, the brand in Le Locle was to partner famous mountaineering and maritime expeditions.

The Vulcain Aviator Instrument Chronograph ref. 590163A17.BFC006 presented last month at Baselworld 2014, features a stainless steel case measuring 44.60 mm in diameter and 15.40 mm in thickness. The case is very robust, very well crafted and it features a domed sapphire crystal that gives the watch somewhat of a vintage inspired look. This new watch features a 12-hour chronograph and is available in six dial color variations including the dark grey featured on this review, blue, off-white, silvered, black and chocolate brown. The watch is fitted with a dark grey leather strap with red contrast stitching and with a stainless steel folding clasp. The texture of the strap is almost like that of nubuck, quite thick and not very supple. 

The beautiful sunburst dark grey dial on this watch features a very interesting running seconds aperture at 9 o'clock. This horizontal double aperture shows a white disc with red bars that rotates creating an interesting visual effect and letting the wearer know that the watch is indeed running. The dial also features white Arabic numerals, a flange with minutes in 10-minute increments, a 30-minute chrono register at 3 and a 12-hour chrono register with built-in date aperture at 6 o'clock. In order to provide good readability of the chronograph, all of its hands are red, while the hour/minute hands of the watch are silver satin-finished with white luminescent material and shaped just as those in classic vintage pilot watches. Overall the design works well, without being extremely busy and the watch has a great aviator look.

One peculiarity of this new timepiece, is that the chrono pusher at 2 o'clock may come with the top all rhodium plated, blue, black or red, depending on your dial choice. The blue finish is reserved for the off-white dial, while the red one is only available on the model featured here. The pusher at 2 o'clock is very smooth when pressed to activate the chronograph and the reset pusher at 4 o'clock is rectangular shaped and fluted on its end to ensure a good grip.

The beating heart inside this watch is the automatic Vulcain calibre V-59 composed of 247 parts, 27 jewels, a skeletonized rotor and nickel coated. The calibre is fully visible via the display case back and it provides a power reserve of 48 hours when fully wound while beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph. For a brand like Vulcain, we would've expected a nicer looking movement.

On the wrist, the watch wears more like a 46 mm watch with nice aviation like wrist presence. The red contrast stitching on the strap plays very nicely with the other red elements in this watch, making it look extremely sporty. For the price, you get a very unique looking timepiece with a nice and functional 12-hour chronograph and with a great name behind it.

Sticker Price $4,350 USD. For more info on Vulcain click here.