When it comes to the idea of a field watch, some collectors find themselves divided on what can make or break a great example. We find ourselves fixated on so many small details and field watches can almost offer an even greater combination of those details to obsess over, compared to other watch types. Back when I was visiting WindUP NYC last year, one of the brands that really intrigued me was Circula—a German brand with its origins tracing back to the 1950s. It’s been recently revived, not by some empty shell company but by the founder’s grandson. I was immediately drawn to the models and that story, which led me to spend some time with the very limited Circula ProTrail “Old Radium” Limited Edition.
By this point, Circula has released a handful cool sports watches including a GMT and a diver with a real functioning super-compressor case. But I look at the ProTrail as the brand’s flagship watch coming in at under $1,000. This particular version is limited to 99 pieces with a different dial design compared to the other models. Still, Circula charges the same whether you go for the LE or not. I decided to take this watch on a quick getaway to Suquamish, WA for some much-needed rest and it was a great companion during my time out there.
The first feature that’ll pull you in is the case finishing and style. There’s nothing out there quite like it and if you’re generally bored of the usual field watch look, this may be something to look out for. It’s 40mm in diameter, 46mm lug to lug, and 12mm thick. On top of that Circula mentions scratch-resistance of up to 1,200 Vickers through “surface hardening.” While I’m not sure what that process entails, the case feels tight and sturdy with a nice matte finish to the DLC and practically no rotor noise. The faceted, aggressively-angular case styling leaves the watch feeling like a modern luxury piece, but still rugged and utilitarian.
Unlike the other versions of the Circula ProTrail, this limited edition features a dial with Arabic numerals for the 12, 3, 6, and 9 hour markers only. All of the hour markers together with the hands feature a nice tone of “old radium” colored Swiss Super-LumiNova BGW9. It’s an interesting design contrast next to the modern case styling but I think it fits. Then again I’ve never really been too harsh on brands for using faux-aged style elements. I also loved the railroad seconds track and the no-date configuration with very minimal dial text. Often times field watches have their dials crowded with a date or secondary scale but this is about as clean as it gets.
Behind the embossed case back is an Elaboré Grade Sellita SW 200-1. The crown operation on this thing was superb. I actually had another much more expensive field watch in for review at the same time that had a ton of embarrassing crown wobble. But everything was tight and satisfying on the Circula and it actually put that other piece to shame in so many ways. Timekeeping was awesome and at the sub-$1,000 price point it’s a great movement to offer to buyers.
Another nice feature of the watch was the matching black sailcloth strap with quick-release springbars. It just completed the entire package. But I do wonder if the watch would do well on something like a NATO-style strap, which many field watch lovers turn to. To my surprise, Circula also offers a matching steel bracelet if you wanted a full steel look. That combo with the watch’s screw-down crown, 150m water-resistance, and sapphire crystal makes me sad I ever sent the watch back! Definitely a great option for a beefy rugged look on the wrist, I’m sure.
Circula ProTrail “Old Radium” Limited Edition Specs
- Case Diameter: 40mm
- Case Thickness: 12mm
- Lug-to-Lug: 46mm
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Water Resistance: 150m
- Movement: Elaboré Grade Sellita SW 200-1
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Bracelet: Matching sailcloth or steel
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Price: €899
All told I’d say the Circula ProTrail is by far one of the nicest watches I’ve handled at a price just under $1,000. Sure, if you’re a fan of the mil-spec specific field watches making the rounds, it probably isn’t your thing. But if you want something outside of the box that’s just as useful, it’s an interesting piece to explore. Cuurently Circula offers the watch in a range of different dial colors; sand, black, umber, and this “old radium” limited edition. I’m sure all of them would serve wearers well but if it were my pick, I’d snag this DLC model while they’re still out there. You can learn more about the Circula ProTrail on the brand’s official site.
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.