Looking for a watch that quenches your thirst for bronze but doesn’t break the bank? Look no further than Gruppo Gamma, a brand that we’ve grown to love, which has a few that are right in your wheelhouse. Since WatchReport reviews watches that our audience seems to crave, Gruppo Gamma, and its watches, is no stranger to our site. Months ago, I ordered one of their bronze Vanguard (N-18V) watches after a friend, whose opinion I trust dearly, couldn’t stop complementing the watch. One could say that he reviewed it before I did, and I would soon confirm for myself what he’d been so over-the-moon about.
Gruppo Gamma Vanguard Specs:
- Case Diameter: 44mm
- Case Height: 16mm
- Weight: 170g with strap
- Lug Size: 24mm
- Lug to Lug: 54mm
- Strap: Buttero strap, brown, length 125 x 80mm, 24 x 24mm, raw edges with Type V buckle and an additional Ghilbi strap, brown (greenish tinge), with the same dimensions and characteristics as the Buttero
- Movement: Miyota 9015
- Crystal: Sapphire with anti-reflective coating
- Water Resistance: 200m
- Retail Price: $579.00
The package arrived safely to my doorstep, and I was soon greeted by Gruppo Gamma’s hard-to-forget logo. Inside the reinforced one-watch travel case I found the warranty card, the two extra straps mentioned above, a screwdriver, and two extra lug screws, which was a nice added touch. Most importantly, I discovered the Vanguard (N-18V) I’d been so eagerly expecting. No instruction manual was included with the packaging, but truthfully, I’m yet to read one as most of us have become quite familiar with the operation of an automatic movement.
While I had a plethora of dial configurations and colors to choose from, I’d been yearning for a green Arabic dial for some time. This version of the Vanguard’s dial is a dark matte green, which plays well with the bronze colored case and chapter ring that butts up next to the dial. To say the dial is uncluttered is an understatement since only the brand’s name graces it. Inspired by iconic brands such as Panerai, a three dimensional look was achieved by placing a layered luminescent dial underneath the main one, allowing for the C3 Superluminova to shine through the Arabic numeral cutouts at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions, also known as a sandwich dial. Matching V-shaped cutouts can also be found throughout the dial in 5 minute increments, with painted on individual minute markers in-between. This was my first sandwich dial, and I can’t believe the depth it adds to the watch’s overall look. Once charged, the CS Superluminova shines brightly though the cutouts, giving you hours of night time luminescent feedback. Bronze is reintroduced via its use in the Vanguard’s hour and minute hands, which are also heavily lumed with Superluminova. For added dial pop, Gruppo Gamma chose a red seconds hand; one that beats around gracefully and is powered by the Vanguard’s high-beat 28,000 bph Miyota 9015 engine. After reading the above, it might come as no surprise that I found the dial to be extremely legible under any lighting condition.
The Vanguard’s CuSn5 bronze case, previously thought to be CuSn8, is hefty and robust, but wore well due to its down-turned lugs. The entire 44mm case is brushed as is the porthole styled bezel. Unlike some watch reviewers, I wear my watches well before ever writing a word about them. With that said, you will notice that my bronze Vanguard’s case doesn’t look as pink as a new bronze case normally would, as it has already started to patina, which is a clever word for oxidation. While this may initially sound scary, patination, whether forced or naturally occurring, is a coveted process, and its effects can be as unique as the people that own and play with this “living” metal. The screw down crown, protected by two beefy crown guards, is signed “Gamma III” and sits in the Vanguard’s 3 o’clock position. Two non-functional hex screws add to the Vanguard’s nautical quasi-steam punk vibe. Due to its textured grip, I found the crown to not only be easy to operate, but sturdy feeling as well. The sapphire crystal, which is ever-so-slightly domed, is AR coated and sits microns above the bezel.
While the Vanguard doesn’t necessarily holler “dive watch” at first glance, as many of the classics do not, there are enough subtle diver clues strewn throughout the watch, like its porthole inspired bezel that reminds you that this is a serious marine inspired timepiece not to be taken lightly. A large luminescent pearl marks the 12 o’clock position, and equally sized recessed holes appear every ten minutes following. You’ll find three raised areas along the bezel that not only assist you in turning it, but they also act as access points for bezel removal, of which I did not do. The 120 click uni-directional bezel was functional and had no play when purposefully moving it back and forth during my testing of it.
The brushed stainless steel case back is the Vanguard’s only departure from its bronze construction, as a bronze case back would more often than not turn a wrist green as it reacts to the chemical makeup of a person’s skin. While a 100% bronze watch looks incredible, the green-ish tinge your skin takes on does not. The brand’s logo revisits the center of the case back along with pertinent information, including brand name, serial number, movement type and crystal material. This is the first time that we bear witness to the Vanguard’s water depth rating of 200m, as it’s pleasantly absent from the dial. Six stainless steel screws secure the case back to the watch, and with it, Gruppo Gamma yet again exemplifies the definition of “uncluttered” with their case back design.
As this is a bronze piece, a bracelet is absent from the total package, but two incredibly supple 24mm leather straps have taken its place. The strap that came attached to the Vanguard is knows as a Buttero, and the second is known as a Ghilbi. While I prefer to wear my Vanguard on canvas, I must admit that the Buttero wore extremely comfortable on my 7.5 inch wrist, and it was buttery soft right out of the box. The second strap, called Ghilbi, has a brownish-green look to it, and it appears to replicate the naturally occurring characteristic of exotic animal skins. Each strap came equipped with custom bronze V-styled buckles that matched perfectly to the Vanguard’s case.
While the homage watch debate wages on, Gruppo Gamma has kept its head down and continues to deliver affordable, well-built watches to enthusiast who are more concerned with quality and pleasing aesthetics rather than solely the name that’s printed on the dial.