Rotary is an interesting low-profile brand in the watch world. They’re not really hailed as a go-to brand for affordable value, nor are they regarded as anywhere near mid-tier luxury. What they do have going for themselves is unique in-house watch designs with a bit of a historical backstory originating in Switzerland. They eventually moved their headquarters to the UK and infused British influence into their watchmaking language.

They recently released the RW 1895 Heritage Chronograph which is a re-issue of their 1960s Aquaplunge Chronograph, and on first glance after unboxing they do indeed look remarkably similar. Usually, when a watch brand decides to launch a re-issue they take small design cues from the past and modernize them, but what I think Rotary has done here is almost cloned the original model and rebranded it for today’s watch enthusiasts.

Case design & proportions

One of the most apparent design features that stood out to me was the vintage-looking cushion case with the “cut-out” lugs. This is a case feature quite popularly found on Seiko watches, although in Rotary’s case here, they’ve decided to keep that original 1960s look of a more pronounced sharp lug rather than the rounded style most of us are used to seeing. Actually, now that I think of it, what this really reminds me of is the Aquastar Model 60.

Upon initially unboxing the RW 1895, I was also struck by the small but thick size of the watch. Although the official specs state a 38mm diameter and a thickness of 12.45mm, I was expecting a slimmer appearance due to the meca-quartz movement. I was initially taken aback by this awkward design cue as I prefer watches that fit slim on the wrist, mechanical or not – but as time went on it grew on me and I found it still retained an elegant appearance on my wrist.

As you can see in the images, the crown and pushers are also retaining the classic 1960s “pump” style that is on chronographs from this era. They’re identical to the original Aquaplunge, which I think was an essential aspect to retain in the new model. One of the only visual design changes I’ve found on the new model is on the bezel, with the addition of red filling on the minute markers between the 5-minute Arabic numeral increments. While the splash of red color breaks up the rest of the monochrome layout I think the original black or even empty silver engravings would have suited the overall vintage aesthetic better.

Despite the thickness and rather stout appearance of the watch when off the wrist, it does wear remarkably well on my 6.5-inch wrist. The short lugs help in wearability on a smaller wrist, and while the case is small in size the dial feels perfect in proportion. Sometimes on smaller watches, the dial layout can feel too cramped, often coming off as “ladylike” in style, but Rotary has managed to retain a masculine sporty feel with this chronograph.

The bezel is very tight and tactile, working in a unidirectional function, which I think is quite odd considering there’s no need for safety precautions at extreme depths with this watch. But this does keep the watch more in line with its roots as a waterborne watch of the past. Nonetheless, the function of it is reassuring and quality. The same can be said for both the crown and pushers, which offer a nice audible click when activating and stopping the chronograph function.

Dial layout

The dial is probably my favourite part of the RW 1895, with Rotary keeping a nearly identical layout to the original except for the absence of the “Aquaplunge” name at 6’oclock, and instead replacing it with the water resistance rating (100m/328ft) text and Chronograph text under that.

The dual subdials keeping track of the minutes and hours are beautiful and perfectly centered on the left and right. They’ve also been upgraded from what appears to be basic white subdials on the original, to a vibrant sunburst silver on our reissue here. Another design aspect that I love is the absence of any date window. It could have been tempting to add this feature with a simple mecha-quartz movement but I’m glad they didn’t. Not only does this keep the watch true to its heritage but it simply looks better and allows this small dial to remain legible.

The minute and hour hands have a nice broad sword shape appearance and are filled with fairly effective lume, which I’ve tested at night. The rest of the essential time-telling markings on the dial also have lume applied. The only thing that I found questionable in terms of the dial is how sunk into the case it feels. If looking at the rehaut from the side I’d almost say it’s 3mm deep. With the addition of the bubble mineral crystal, it gives the impression that the dial is far away when I look at it.

Final thoughts

At the price point of £299, the RW 1895 is a really cool reissue watch with remarkable accuracy in terms of design from the original. The sizing is excellent for those with smaller wrists or for those of us who prefer a more classic wearing chronograph which is not always easy to find.

I would have loved to have seen the implementation of a mechanical movement instead of the chosen mech-quartz especially since the thickness was not reduced much with the use of a quartz movement. The rest of the watch is great though, and the overall quality and metal work found on the case and lugs is impressive at this price point. This new watch from Rotary is also limited to 500 pieces each to commemorate their 125th anniversary. It’s difficult to say how quickly they’ll sell out of this model, but once they do it’ll be gone for good at its retail price – and you’d need to resort to sourcing one on the grey market afterward.


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