In October 2018, Chronotechna announced Yet Another Kickstarter Watch Project: “The blackest watch ever made.” The watch itself is a typical upscale project watch: Sellita SW200-1, off-the-shelf case and hands, and average finishing. What made this one special is that the dial would be made of an “aerospace super black” compound with a cut-out sandwich dial illuminated with “Grade X1” luminance paint.
TL;DR: Chronotechna still hasn’t shipped all the promised watches, even to “super early bird” backers like me, and those it has shipped haven’t been all that impressive.
I liked the idea of the watch and the look of the sandwich dial, so I decided to pledge. I joined at the €399 “ONE (1) Watch – SUPER EARLY BIRD” level, which entitled me to a limited edition Chronotechna watch, a leather strap, a cleaning cloth, a luxury gift box, a soundtrack/ring tone (?), all at 80% off the (laughably optimistic) MSRP of €1,995. Estimated delivery was set at March 2019, with shipping to anywhere in the world.
October 2018-July 2019: A Typical Kickstarter
The Chronotechna “blackest watch” (it had no other name) was successfully funded on November 30, 2018, with 878 backers and €378,775 pledged. As is typical, the team set up some stretch goals: AR coating, sapphire glass, a limited edition. The usual.
Chronotechna Support Levels
- 98 – €499 Super Black Black (Nov 2018)
- 16 – €429 Early Bird (Mar 2019)
- 529 – €399 Super Early Bird (Mar 2019)
- 9 – €589 VIP Rainbow (Mar 2019)
- 3 – €0 Super Black Black (Mar 2019)
- 95 – €389 Super Early Bird (Mar 2019)
- 5 – €489 VIP (Mar 2019)
- 99 – €499 Super Black Steel (Mar 2019)
Shortly after funding, the Chronotechna team announced that they were evaluating materials, sourcing prototypes, and ordering movements and other parts. In February, 2019, they claimed to have the first production samples in hand from their “Swiss manufacture” and that things were being fine-tuned. The pledge forms went out by the end of the month.
In March, backers received the first bit of bad news. Applying the Chronotechna script logo to the dials was not going well, with a whopping 95% reject rate. Later that month, Chronotechna announced that delivery would be delayed until June because backers didn’t complete their pledge forms and Sellita pushed the movement order to October. Blaming backers was not really credible, especially since many did fit out the form (including yours truly) and they admitted that “all watches are specced now” even at the time of this update.
As for the delayed movement deliveries, this shows the naïveté of the Chronotechna team: Sellita movements were experiencing strong demand in 2019. The solution proposed at the time is essentially what every other etablisseur (not “manufacture”) in the industry was doing: Find a reseller or distributor with stock and buy it from them.
In April, the Chronotechna team announced that “it looks good for June deliveries.” On May 31 they shared photos of (some of) the movements and dials, promising to “fulfill all orders by the sequence from there with production running estimated 2-3 weeks.” June came and went, and the July update promised deliveries “in the week from 15th of July” due to bad gaskets. Backers had started getting angry, and the company promised that all would be well.
August 2019: Don’t Panic!
Things looked better on August 5, as Chronotechna announced that “deliveries have started.” The talk then was of VAT and customs, packaging, and changes of address.
I assumed that, as an “early bird” backer, I would receive mine shortly. After all, as we heard on August 19, “ALL boxes will be sent by the end of August” (emphasis theirs) so why worry? September 1 came, with no watch or delivery information for me, even though they claimed that “rest is all with Swiss Post.”
This was the first indication of the trouble ahead, though. The September 1 update discussed how they had exceeded the planned “rejection rate of 30%” on the dials. What could be happening? Where were these deliveries? Clearly something was wrong.
It hit on September 5. In an update titled “Don’t panic..!“, we were addressed by Harry Guhl, a backer of haute horology firm Czapek et Cie and, apparently, also a backer and shareholder in Chronotechna. From the title to the signature, Harry’s update caused panic among the backers. According to his letter, “I totally understand your frustration, that some of the watches are still in transit.” Which made no sense since many backers hadn’t even received shipping information. Then he obliquely mentioned the difficulty in producing this watch, “especially with our delicate dials.” After promising that “this is definitely no scam,” he promised that “watches are being and will be delivered.”
To say that this was a cause for panic was an understatement. Where had this unknown shareholder come from? Why would he tell us not to panic? What about those delicate dials? Was there something he wasn’t telling us? And more importantly, where are our tracking numbers?
September 2019: Panic!
The update on September 25 began to explain what was happening. Although they claimed to have shipped 250 watches and to have another 300 “leaving end of this week,” the Chronotechna team revealed that there was a problem with the signature feature of the watch.
The team admitted that “24 backers” reported “a sort of lighter center on the dial” indicating that the “NanoBlack” coating wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The team claimed to “pull back from the distribution all of the over 600 remaining and on the route boxes” for another quality check.
At this point, the Chronotechna team estimated “this could take up to 8-11 weeks to get solved. 2 weeks to disassemble all the watches, up to 6 weeks to redo the dials, 2 weeks to re-assemble, 1 week to ship them.” This put shipping at December 11 at the outside. All went silent for the next month apart from constant comments from backers asking the same question: “Where’s my watch?”
On November 23 the team finally posted another update. Now they claimed that 550 watches had been fulfilled, with 370 still to complete and ship. They claimed that, in all, they were re-making 400 dials with NanoBlack coating to replace those that failed quality checks.
By my reckoning, I should already be holding one of those 550 watches, since I was part of the Super Early Bird group. But I had received no communication, and certainly no watch. December came and went, with the promise of repairs and shipment but still no watches. The same happened in January.
Now here we are in February, nearly a year past the promised delivery date, and all we have is the promise that watches will ship soon.
As noted by many backers and commenters, the draw of the Chronotechna watch lies in the dial. They promised the “blackest watch” at a price far below the limited-edition Vantablack watches offered by a few luxury brands. They also promised that the luminance would be especially bright through Panerai-style sandwich cut-out dials, thanks to special material.
They also promised a high-quality Swiss Made product, not the typical Asian-sourced Kickstarter watch. And they promised shipment by March, 2019.
This is how we must evaluate the Chronotechna watch:
- Is the dial a deep, even black?
- Is the lume notable?
- Is the product up to Swiss quality standards?
- Is it in the hands of backers on time?
By all counts, the Chronotechna fails these tests. The dial quality was so poor that the company had to pull the entire production run and remake the dials, perhaps multiple times. Early deliveries showed a notable light area at the center, and many others have claimed uneven blackness.
Images from backers also show the luminance paint to be nothing special. They compare it to similar-priced Swiss and Japanese watches and it simply doesn’t stand out.
Another common issue is the quality of the dials. Specifically, the cut-outs for the lume are uneven, with specks of white or silver showing through around the edges. This is certainly not up to Swiss standards.
And finally there is the fact that many backers, including me, still have not received their watch. This isn’t especially notable among Kickstarter projects, which are often delayed. But it is interesting that the company doesn’t seem to be following the (paid) delivery order. With the majority of backers selecting “super early bird,” perhaps this can be chalked up to poor planning on their part.
I will update this article when (if) I receive my Chronotechna watch. But as it stands, I am not all that hopeful! On the other hand, it’s can’t possibly be as bad as the Xeriscope!
Case: Common Metals, Stainless Steel
Country: Czech Republic, Europe, Switzerland
Tags: Chronotechna, Kickstarter, NanoBlack, Vantablack