A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… So, by now most of you know that I have done some deep diving into some classic Mido models and history. Let me just also point out that if it were not for the TBWS podcast, I might not have heard about Mido. I felt it only fitting to make a trilogy out of Mido Watch articles and what better way to end the trilogy then by covering the third most well-known name in their collection.
We started with the Ocean Star Tribute, the watch that salutes not only the history of the Ocean Star name, but dive watches in general. Then we covered the Multifort, Mido’s oldest and most successful nameplate that is the go anywhere, do anything watch. Now I’ll finish the trilogy with another Mido classic.
This watch isn’t just classic in name, but it’s also a watch that is mostly unchanged from the watches released in the late 50s and early 60s. Is that a good or a bad thing? We live in a time when everyone wants to go vintage or, at least, have a vintage feel. So, with that said, let’s dive into Mido’s most art-deco, classic, and vintage piece that has been in the line up since 1959. The Mido Commander M84126.96.36.199*!
Mido has a plethora of watches under the Commander name. Even over the last few decades, there have been other watches to carry the Commander moniker, but the M8429* is the classic. This is the watch that Mido sold to our parents and grandparents as a classically styled watch that could do so much more. This is the watch that the Ocean Star nameplate first appeared on, and, until recently, was notated with the words Ocean Star on the case back. It still wears the image of the sea star on it.
While it comes in many colors and even in the Shade dial versions, I picked the watch that felt the most correct to me. Gold is coming back. I’ve gotten too old for people to keep telling me that gold is gaudy. Gold is unmatched on a vintage looking watch. This IS the watch my father or grandfather would have chosen, so gold it is!
The 37mm Case
The case on this bad boy is as simple as you can get. This is the kind of case that forces you to fill your paragraphs with filler sentences like this one. It is quite simply a round, 37mm, lugless case. A perfect circle and nothing more. A flat edge goes all the way around and bevels up into the crystal. As stated before, there are no lugs, the Milanese Mesh bracelet sits in a cut-out on the back of the case to give it the appearance of being integrated into the case itself.
This gives the watch the elegant look of jewelry and possibly something that one might associate with a woman’s watch today. However, I believe this to be and terrible judgement if it exists. Men like jewelry too, and sometimes that simplicity plays very well with different looks. With a thickness of only 10.8mm (including the crystal) this watch easily works with a summer suit or a Hawaiian style shirt and khaki shorts.
This Mido Commander, being the modern version of the original, comes with the monocoque case that Mido Commanders are so well known for. So there is no case back access to the movement, which means it’s smooth with just the normal Mido information etched on the back. There are two recesses on each side of the case back that keep the sides of the watch looking too thick.
Mido Commanders have always come with small crowns and this one is no exception. Hiding just below the right side of the case is the small Mido signed crown. It’s a simple pull out crown and while it is 100% honest to the Commanders of old, it can be a real pain in the ass for modern watch enthusiasts. It is impossible to wind as there is absolutely no way to grab it in winding position.
I’ve learned that running the edge of my index finger downward through the recess in the case and applying pressure is the only way I can get it to turn and wind. Also, the movement, being as nice and tight as it is, gives quite a bit of resistance, so you don’t end up turning it that much with each stroke.
On top of that, if your fingers are a little calloused or just fat like mine, you can’t even feel if it’s turning. It’s hopeless. Shaking it until it starts or winding it until it starts and shaking it seems to be the way you have to go on this one.
Gold Sunburst Dial
Matching the case is a sunburst dial in gold that beautifully radiates in every direction. This watch is lovingly adorned with the classic cursive Mido logo and Commander moniker. It’s a touch I wish would appear on more of their current collections. Everything on this dial is applied with the exception of the words “Automatic” and “Datoday.”
There is a beautiful gold border around the day-date window and all of the 5-minute interval markers are applied gold vintage style markers with black roofs to make them visible against the field. The wide baton hands follow the same motif; gold with a stripe of black and lume paint to differentiate from the rest of the gold field.
You would think it would all get lost, but when looking at the watch directly, the hands and logos grab the darker reflection and stand out boldly against the fields of gold. Cue the Sting song.
There is lume paint on the hands and small dots at every marker, but on this kind of watch, they really aren’t necessary in my opinion. The dial isn’t without its faults. There are literally no markers for any minute other than those divided by five. Setting this watch to, say, 2:32 can become a chore.
Overall, it’s an extremely elegant package that give the watch depth under the slightly domed Hesalite crystal. You read that right. Hesalite. This is not a watch that claims to be an updated version of a classic. This IS the classic.
Hesalite, if you don’t know, is acrylic. It’s a plastic crystal from yonder days that is extremely versatile, and offers superior strength, stiffness, and optical clarity. The downside is that it scratches easily, and with the crystal standing above the edge of the watch, it’s going to happen. It’s nothing a little Polywatch* won’t fix. It’s also there for a reason.
Remember I stated the watch has no rear access to the movement? To access the movement for servicing, the crystal has to come off. A Hesalite crystal has a pliability that makes extraction and resetting a much less stressful procedure. Also, it gives the crystal a warm feeling, and any glare is reflected in a soft haze rather than a stark spotlight.
Hesalite crystals are definitely deal breakers for some, but like 35mm film vs digital, a lot of us carry a soft spot for it. One last thing, and it’s just neat on a watch at this price range, if you examine the crystal under magnification, the cursive Mido logo is etched in the center. Pretty neat!
Milanese Mesh Bracelet
There’s no bracelet that I can think of that would fit this watch as well as the Milanese Mesh bracelet. For one, the way the gold links reflect light is a beautiful show that dances across the watch seamlessly into the case. While the website doesn’t give any measurements for the strap, it measures around 19mm at the case and tapers down to a nice 16mm like a good dress watch should.
Since the case is lugless, the bracelet is held to the case by a set of pins that are driven out and unfortunately that makes changing straps a pipe dream. If you don’t like the Milanese, there is a version that comes with an elegant linked bracelet, but if those aren’t your thing, well, you’re just out of luck.
The buckle is adjustable like any Milanese and there are notches in the bracelet itself to help you place it correctly. The lever to adjust the buckle is incredibly stiff though and I encourage you to quell your frustration so that you don’t end up bending it or scratching it all to pieces.
Finally, there’s one neat feature you don’t see on this kind of bracelet. There’s a flip clasp that settles over the buckle once it’s closed. It’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Does it make the clasp any less likely to come loose? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it definitely gives a sense of security if nothing else.
The Mido Commander’s Caliber 80 Movement
Beating inside the watch is Mido’s Caliber 80, the Swatch proprietary movement based off the old ETA 2836-2 that now beats at 21,600 bph, but holds a charge for 80 hours. That’s good especially since the watch is hard to wind and you want to put it down for a day. The movement is also free sprung, and since I didn’t really go into that in previous reviews, I’ll cover a little bit in this one.
Basically, to make the movement more accurate, the regulating system has been completely removed. The rate of the watch and its accuracy are set by a laser system at the factory making regulation by a watchmaker unnecessary. Swatch watches across the board with this movement benefit from having improved accuracy from their ETA predecessors. Mido is currently fourth on the list of total movements to be COSC certified, and while this watch is not COSC certified, don’t be surprised to find your Mido Commander be within 10 +- seconds a day or better. That’s not only been my experience, but many others on watch forums as well.
Final Thoughts on the Commander M84188.8.131.52
The Mido Commander is a beautiful watch that looks classy without screaming about its goldness. Yeah, it’s gold, but it also has that gorgeous vintage subtlety that I love so much about watches of that era. It’s still the watch that anyone can wear to any occasion. However, in this day and age, I feel that only serious vintage enthusiasts (or Mido enthusiasts) are going to be able to keep themselves from flipping this particular piece.
It’s hard to wind, set, and the crystal will take some damage if you ultimately wear it. It is the definition of “form over function.” But, under the hood, it does function quite well, and it wears like a boss with any outfit ranging from a suit to the craft beer hipster look. Midowatches.com lists this version at $810.00 and it can be found on the grey market and even Amazon for way less*. I’ve found examples for around $500 in new condition.
Mido also makes Commanders in bigger sizes with more modern touches. The biggest come in 42mm but considering that the watch is pretty much all dial, the 37mm Commander wears more like a 39-40mm watch, and personally, that’s the sweet spot.
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The Commander concludes my Mido trilogy, and while all three of the watches I’ve written about aren’t perfect, they all offer a connection to the heritage of a little know company here in the States. And while the Swatch group still commands a lot of the range, like they do for most of the lower tier brands they own, Mido offers something that is sporty and classy while being useful for everyday wear.
Their design has a subtleness that sets it apart from its Swatch brethren for a more mature wearer while offering the modern elements and ruggedness of a modern piece. Here’s hoping that they continue to gain traction here in the USA and maybe I can do another trilogy in the future.
Baird is an avid motoring enthusiast and a self taught hobbyist watchmaker from Bristol, TN. He has a love for all things mechanical and has an affinity for the style late 60s and 70s Chronographs and Dive watches. Baird views watches as engineering marvels and tools for everyday life rather than just jewelry. His writing style is inspired by certain “British automotive journalists” and his own experiences growing up and living in a blue-collar society.