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Ollech & Wajs Astrochron Review

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

Last year, we published a deep dive into the fittingly deep diving Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000. You may have read it and if you haven’t, it’s well worth the five minutes of your time it should take to run through. At the time I honestly didn’t know a huge amount about the watchmaker other than they had a habit of taking on the big dogs of the watch world – and winning. The piece led, as these things do, to me diving deep into the history of Ollech & Wajs with one watch in particular catching my eye: the Ollech & Wajs Astrochron triple-register chronograph from 1967.

Fans of the brand are probably rolling their eyes at that; you don’t need to dive particularly deep to find the Astrochron as, alongside the aforementioned Caribbean 1000 and the Intelstat I, better known as the Early Bird, it’s one of OW’s most famous historical references. It made a name for itself by being adopted by some of NASA’s scientific staff (and was dubiously presented to then Chief Rocket Scientist, Dr. Werner von Braun), cementing its place as a serious, accurate chronograph fit for demanding timing. It may not have made it to space, but it helped get astronauts there.

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron
Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

What set the Astrochron apart from other chronographs of the time was that it wasn’t just a chronograph; it was a dive watch, too. Indeed, it was one of the earliest successful dive chronographs, a sub-set of instruments that’s still unusual today. Despite having pushers to operate the stopwatch mechanism, it maintained 200m water resistance to keep the Valjoux movement ticking 660 feet underwater. It was a fantastic watch.

So, while it might not be particularly original, I did find myself trying to hunt down an original Astrochron. They’re really not that easy to find, meaning that when a decently preserved version comes up, it does so at a premium (a good deal more than its original $85 price tag). And so, I put the idea to bed – until just months later, Ollech & Wajs brought it back to life. Because of course they did. As is the modern modus operandi for Ollech & Wajs, the new Astrochron Chronograph is a pitch-perfect 1960s throwback, geared towards modern wrists. Though it perhaps has more changes than I’d have wanted in an ideal world – but changes that make perfect, practical sense.

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

At present there’s only one version of the new Astrochron in a panda-adjacent mix of blue and white, in line with the North Atlantic Blue of the 1968 reference 2003. The palette is a little more muted – especially without the hints of red and darker blue on the regatta timer (which we’ll get to) but it feels a little more serious and in line with a proper tool watch. It also leaves the door open for some more colourful, charming versions, which I hope Ollech & Wajs walk through. As the TAG Heuer Skipper among others showed, colourful, nautical chronographs are painfully cool.

The proportions of the dial have shifted quite a bit too, but in my opinion for the better. When you see early Astrochrons, the triplet of subdials look absolutely tiny compared to the rest of the dial. The look is charming, but not all that practical when you actually want to read your painstakingly stopped time. And so, the new version makes them a bit wider and easier to read – with a date window now subtly nestled in the six o’clock 12-hour subdial.

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

One of the reasons the new Astrochron can up those subdial diameters is due to what happened with the tachymeter. The original actually had a simple, pared-back 24-hour bezel and instead put the tachymeter around the dial. The modern take ditches the scale completely. It still maintains that technical look of course, just with a compass bezel instead. Compass bezels are unusual, but becoming more common and honestly, I’m not sold on them. They’re cool looking, but relatively pointless in practicality. Still, it’s not like the Astrochron wants for functionality.

True to its mix of seafaring and timekeeping, the 30-minute counter also integrates a regatta timer, an element the 1967 version also had, though here the middle slice of the piece is denoted by lines of dial-matched blue rather than red, leaning into the pared-back colour scheme. If you decide to stop mid-race for a spot of scuba diving, it also integrates an inner diving bezel that’s impossible to knock. And to that end it has a seriously impressive 500m water resistance. It’s the very definition of a go-anywhere-do-anything watch.

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron
Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

The Astrochron is powered by the Valjoux 7753 with a 54-hour power reserve, which at this price point is a punchy  cam-lever chronograph, especially since it’s regulated in- house in OW’s home in the Jura Mountains. It also makes  for a very satisfying chronograph action – not in the same league as the likes of the modern El Primeros, but great for a third-party movement at this level. It’s solid, capable and reliable – just what NASA looks for in a rocket, fittingly.

On the wrist, it has some presence but mainly through its 16.8mm height than its 39.5mm diameter. That height is emphasised on the version we have thanks to the nautical blue and white NATO canvas strap, which means the watch sits pretty high on the wrist. It’s not uncomfortable at all – quite the opposite – but it’s not fitting under most sleeves.

Ollech & Wajs Astrochron
Ollech & Wajs Astrochron

So yes, there have been a lot of changes since 1967. Some of them I appreciate; the rest I can easily justify. Will it stop my hunt for an original Astrochron? Not for the moment. But I do see a near future where I’ve had enough of trawling  pre-owned watch portals and settled for the more-than- acceptable modern alternative. That said, if Ollech & Wajs  just add a bit more colour, it wouldn’t even be a question.

Price and Specs:

Model: Ollech & Wajs Astrochron
Case: 39.5mm diameter x 16.8mm thickness, stainless steel
Dial: Blue with white subdials
Water resistance: 500m (50 bar)
Movement: Valjoux calibre 7753 OW Precision 5, automatic, 27 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 54h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Strap: Perlon 'Regatta' band with stainless steel thorn buckle
Price: CHF 2,356 (approx. £2,060)

More details at Ollech & Wajs.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.