Back in 1944, while the rest of the world was blowing itself to ever smaller bits, Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker had a much different problem: how to make a clear, readable and modern-looking railway clock. Sure, it was less life and death, but by God, the Federal Swiss Railway needed to run on time!
The design he came up with became one of the most iconic Swiss exports of the era. The Official Swiss Railway Clock with its stark black-on-white look and bold, red, lollipop second hand became an international star and put Hilfiker on the map who, fun fact, went on to develop the concept of the fitted kitchen. The clock was his high point.
The point is that the 1944 design is, to this day, instantly recognisable and in no small part thanks to Mondaine. The brand may have been founded a good 40 years after Hilfiker’s masterpiece, but their faithful tracing-paper interpretations of the clock have been at the core of their collection throughout their history.
Honestly though, if you look at their watches over the years, it’s hard to pick out one model from the other. The problem with faithfulness to one design is that you pigeonhole yourself a bit. They made a bit of a break for it with the Helvetica smartwatch, but not enough for it to still be around in any meaningful way.
Instead, they’ve been focusing on the mechanics, upgrading various elements across their collections and generally improving their watches as a whole. Which is perfectly fine by me: why change a formula as winning as the railway clock? The most recent result of those efforts is the Evo2 Automatic.
The Evo2 has been around for a little while now, with its gently-rounded case and magnifying sapphire crystal and maintains Mondaine’s signature Bauhaus minimalism. Previously though, it has always been backed up by a quartz movement. That’s fine for the price tag, but an automatic has been long overdue.
The upgraded movement in question is the workhorse Sellita SW220-1, a perfect fit for a functionalist piece like this. You can see it through the sapphire caseback if you really want to but it’s nothing you won’t have seen before. It’s reliable, accurate and affordable, everything you want from a third-party movement.
Perhaps more importantly, Mondaine have made a few quality-of-life changes to the Evo2. For one, they’ve upped the curvature around the bottom of the case where it curves into the sapphire caseback. It’s not too noticeable from the front, but makes the watch feel a touch smaller than its 40mm and looks lovely in profile, especially with the bright red Mondaine crown.
The lugs too have been given a little more shape, helping the Evo2 sit better on the wrist. It did so well enough before but now it’s an absolutely gorgeous watch to wear, especially on the mesh bracelet, even if I do prefer the look of the leather, upping the black-and-white contrast.
Among all the various Bauhaus-inspired brands out there – mostly German – Mondaine’s always been the purest. Perhaps the least creative over the years, but faithful all the same and there’s no denying that with the Evo2 Automatic, you’re getting an absolute classic that feels and looks great on the wrist for a price that makes it a no-brainer.
At £549 on the strap in either black or red and £599 on the bracelet, it doesn’t exactly have an investment price tag, but if the last 77 years are anything to go by, it’s a design as timeless as any Patek.
Price & Specs:
Model: Mondaine Evo2 Automatic
Case/Dial: 35mm diameter, brushed stainless steel, white dial
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Calibre SW200-1, automatic, 26 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 38h
Functions: Hours, minutes, central sweeping seconds, date
Strap: Black or red leather or stainless steel bracelet
More details at Mondaine.