Few other than Michael Happé of Gavox Watches would construe a power reserve indicator as an activity tracker. But he’s right: if you’re not moving, the gauge will tell you. Happé enjoys imagining novel uses for traditional complications (alarms, for example, can be used to time shifts behind the wheel on roadtrips). To say that Happé is obsessed with complications is not to deny Gavox’s aesthetic accomplishments, yet few brands milk a movement so thoroughly for its possible narratives. The new Legacy from Gavox is no exception, as it urgently asks us to seize the moment (stay fit; live long; have fun) while its vintage marine chronometer styling celebrates the adventurousness of another era.
This 41.4-millimeter watch is quite traditional at first glance: dials are blue, anthracite, or white with concentric dial engravings, markers are either painted roman numerals or lume-filled applied units, and the case is unadorned with traditional lugs. It’s so classically styled that—at arm’s length, anyways—it’s easy to miss how whack-a-doodle the Legacy is.
A date window at seven o’clock that cuts that marker in half? You’ve got to be kidding me. A power reserve pointer mounted in the middle of the one o’clock maker that transverses the the two and twelve o’clock indicators as it moves? The brand’s logo along the inner dial spanning from five to three o’clock? The crown at four? This watch ought to trigger every single pet peeve I’ve got.
And yet, miraculously, it works. If you were to group the date, power reserve indicator, logo, and crown together into a single image (as one does in, say, a design program), and you were to rotate that image counterclockwise exactly 30 degrees (or one five-minute position), everything would land in a traditional spot: the date would be at six; the crown and logo at three; the power reserve at twelve. You’d have a “normal watch.” By cocking these features en masse, Gavox has maintained traditional symmetry while simultaneously flying in the face of convention. This off-kilter design is the visual analog to calling a power reserve indicator an activity tracker; it is a new twist (literally) on something quite traditional.
Happé is from Belgium, and his excellent English is peppered with lovely phrases born of linguistic non-equivalencies. For example, in the description of the Legacy Power Reserve, we find this gem: “Of Huguenot and naval ancestors, the creator walks down memory lane while using modern techniques.” These fifteen words are as oddly anachronistic yet modern as the watch itself. More importantly: they’re fun.
And this is why Gavox can name the white model Carpe Diem (“seize the day”) and the blue and anthracite versions Ultima Necat (“all hours wound you; but the last kills you”). In fact, such Latin phrases once adorned public clocks, which people saw as grim reminders of their mortality, and, thus, also as reminders to get as much from life before it’s gone. In other words: seek fulfillment.
That philosophical urgency is powered by a Miyota 9130, a trusted automatic mechanical movement with hacking seconds, a power reserve indicator, 40 hours of power, a date complication, and a modern rate of 4hrz. On the Legacy, the movement’s handsome Geneva stripes and highly decorated rotor are visible through a rear sapphire crystal. The caseback is rather tall, and the lugs don’t quite land on the table when the watch lays flat. Yet, despite its 12.5-millimeter thickness, the Legacy wears quite comfortably for such a large watch.
The case features vertically brushed sides and lugs, the rest polished. It’s nothing to write home about, though this case does suit the watch. The narrow domed bezel leaves the face wide open for Happé to play. For example, the rehaut is one of the largest I’ve seen in a while. In fact, this is one of the few rehauts I’ve been able to read properly at arm’s length, and I applaud that.
Visually, the white-dialed Carpe Diem is a marine chronometer; its Roman numerals, traditional lollypop hands, and graduated power reserve gauge taking us back to wooden ships and the quest to navigate accurately. The anthracite and blue versions carry a dress watch vibe, their lume-filled markers, dagger hands, and unmarked power reserve gauge suggesting the Jet Age more than one of old-school maritime adventure.
Straps are genuine leather, Gavox-branded units, and there are many to choose from. Our samples looked good on brown suede for the anthracite, smooth tan for the blue, and a compelling croc-textured deep navy blue for the white model. The various joints of the signed deployant clasp are a bit sloppy when opened, but it closes easily and firms right up. I’d probably swap in a standard pin-buckle.
The Gavox Legacy Power Reserve takes risks, and with its mortality-obsessed Latin phrases and off-kilter design, it urges us to do that same. I imagine some will boo and hiss at the asymmetry of this dial, but I encourage anyone to consider this question: do we really need another “normal watch?”