Milus Archimèdes (Review) – Super Compressor re-issue from the 70s + Milus History

Today we are gonna talk about a very exciting watch from an old brand called Milus which just recently started coming back to it’s former glory! Before we dive in the review of the watch from Milus, let’s start with it’s history.

The story of Milus, the brand of finest Swiss watches of the highest quality back in the day, begins with the ideal of its founder, Paul William Junod (1896-1951), to create a robust, yet elegant watch – a precious accessory, which everyone would wish to own.. With this goal, in 1919 he set up the business at Route de Reuchenette 21 in Biel, which remained in the ownership of the Junod family until 2002. Which is a success at it own in my opinion that they survived that long due to Quartz crysis. Paul William Junod who was a trrained and experienced in the art and tradition of the watchmaker’s craft, he wanted to work with this potential, to develop it further, in order to make his dream come true and build a watch brand that would be among the greats of watchmaking.

In 1951 Paul Herbert Junod After the death of the founder Paul William Junod in 1951, his son Paul Herbert took over management of the family business. In 1961 they built a new company headquarters was built at Route de Reuchenette 19 in Biel where they reside to this day. Within the 70s they have received many awards like the Golden Rose of Baden Baden awards for such models as La Mer, Montre de Poche, Avant-Garde and many other models. In 1982 Paul Herbert Junod handed over the company to his two sons Paul and Pierre Junod, who complemented each other perfectly in the management and further development of the company. While Pierre devoted himself to the financial affairs of the business, Paul, the technician and extremely talented engineer and graduate of the celebrated Biel School of Watchmaking, continually developed innovative shapes as well as a new design concept for the Milus brand. From 1986 to 2001 Milus watches were honoured with various prizes; these models feature in exhibitions in leading museums throughout the world.

But in 2003 sadly and for strange reasons that I couldn’t find why, the Switzerland’s century-old Milus watch brand was acquired by Chinese investors. And it was an startegic error from Chinese part. A family-owned business for three generations, Milus was sold to Chinese investors in 2003. First held by the Peace Mark group, the Bernese brand was later sold to the Chow Tai Fook conglomerate in 2008. But although major investments were made, including the refurbishment of the brand’s premises, the Chinese experience ended in failure. Former managers committed a major strategic error in trying to position the brand in the luxury prestige segment, with pieces priced between CHF5,000 and CHF30,000 ($5,062 to $30,372). Previously, Milus had offered very beautiful watches at affordable prices of between CHF1,000 and CHF2,000, he says. While they were xperienced in the jewellery sector, Chow Tai Fook failed to grasp the complexities of the watch sector, where the symbiosis between technicality and emotion is essential to commercial success, Problems of cultural incompatibility between the Swiss management and the Chinese, as other watch brands like Corum or Eterna have also experienced, had a negative impact on the workers motivation from what I can find on the internet.

And in 2016 happened a miracle, it was bought again, but this time by a passionate witness to the history of the watchmaking industry in the Neuchâtel mountains Mr. Luc Tissot! And you read the surname right, his uncle Paul Tissot was a director of Omega and Tissot. And as you already understand that the current owners Luc Tissot’s relatives were the founders of the Tissot watch company. After the death of his uncle Paul Tissot his family returned to Switzerland from Bueno Aires in 1951.in 1961 Luc Tissot obtained a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and an MBA from the IMD in Lausanne in 1965 and after that he started his way into watch world, working at SSIH group (Tissot, Omega and Lemania) and continuing his family heritage working alongisde with his father Edouard- Louis Tissot who had made many calibres and inovations in the watch making up to mid 70s. After that Luc Tissot wanted to try his skills in other fields.

And just recently in 2015 he returned to watchmaking thanks to personal relationships, maintained all over the world: “A friend I met 40 years ago during a research project in Houston (Texas), the famous scientist and artist Professor Dominic Mam-Kit Lam, connected me with the Chinese owners of Milus, They didn’t know what to do with it. I took it over, and we are now working on reviving it by making quality watches at a fair price. I want us to return to the original spirit of the house. The watch is not just technology, it’s something else. You wear it on your body, it closely represents the personality of the wearer. It is this personal link that is the hallmark of the mechanical watch.”

How did I found out about this brand? Well I read a story about Navy pilots who were sometimes forced to land in unknown, even hostile, territory. So the US Navy operating in the Pacific decided to give them hermetically sealed rubber boxes containing valuable items that would allow them, in the event of a parachute jump or forced landing, to negotiate for information, for their freedom or even their lives. This “life barter kit” contained among others two rings, a chain with a gold pendant and a watch from Milus, the Snow Star. There isn’t and exact records on the Snow Star as I searched the forums and as I understand the Milus had a fire in the 40s or 50s and all the records were lost, but these kits were issued first in 1942 for the Doolittle raid, it was a one way trip & pilots knew they would have to ditch behind enemy lines. Supposedly these box sets were sold off by the US.Gov in 1980. Most of the sets were unopened since the early 1940’s & were accompanied at auction by X-ray’s of the contents, some of them are still out there, as far as I read on forums: 1 is in the Smithsonian, G.Bush senior has a set, Milus 2 or 3 & a few in private collections. But forum members kind of think that the watch isn’t from 40’s as it doesn’t look like one from those times with that modern case shape, cyclops on the date, quick set date and overall the date complication as that was quite rare in those times for a watch to have a date complication. Many watch experts found that statement a bit untrue as it looks like from 60’s or 70s and either Milus was way ahead of all the watch industry or it is just a mistake in records or maybe a bad marketing. Some historians (the ones that gave the info to Milus about these kits) have said it is true and the watch and all other accessories are from around 40’s. So I can’t say if the story is true, as the design obviously screams 60s or 70s, but nonetheless it was interesting reading the forums and investigating this. Anycase Milus actually re-issued the watch and it was quite popular in some places, have seen a lot of posts in watch forums about this and they actually made the packaging look similar to how the ”life barter kit” was packaged.

But the watch we are looking at today is the Milus Archimedes, which is a nother “re-issue” on already existing watch! Archimedes by Milus is the modern successor of the Milus Super compressor of the seventies. In the mid-to-late 50s, Swiss case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA) filed patents and began manufacturing their latest and greatest catalog component, the Super Compressor case, for brands such as JLC, Longines, Blancpain, Milus, LIP, Landeron and many others. During the 70s, it was extremely common for brands to use catalog components from general case manufactures such as EPSA. As a result, many of the vintage Super Compressor that have survived through the years share common and identifiable components. And if you type in google “Super Compressor vintage” you can actually find that many parts of the case look the same! And only couple of years ago Milus re-issued the Archimedes in a more modern case size, dial design and everything.

So the Milus Archimedes is available in 3 colour variations: Blue, Green and the Black which is called “gravel black” and it is the one we have here. It is actually a stunning watch, yes the price is pretty high at 1919CHF which is a considerable amount of money and you can buy a pre-owned super compressor style watch from brands like Longines and some other brands that are more established in the watch world, but we are here to underastand and see if it is really worth it and if it beats the Longines Legend Diver as it is in almost the same price range and it’s the main competitor in my opinion to Archimedes.

First I must thank to Milus and Luc Tissot for the provided watch for this review, I’m super honoured to help spread out the news about Milus watches. And I know I say this in almost all reviews recently, but I never thought I could review such watches as these that cost over 1000euros or more. So let’s get in to the review! The Archimedes came in a very nice gray leather zipper pouch. Inside you can see those design ques from that “life barter kit” as the watch and strap are placed seperately (watch head and strap) in similar fashion. Also inside the pouch you will find the warranty and instructions booklet. The first impression of the watch was pretty good. I really like the broad arrow hand and the overall super compressor style. Actually super compressor is my favourite dive watch case style ever. And what I was blown away at first was the quality of everything, I just recently had Longines Legend Diver for some photography work and they are really similar and maybe even the Archimedes is slightly better in that, but we will see!

The case of the Archimedes is made of 316L stainless steel. The case machine work is really good! All the lines, how everything goes together and everything is done to the highest Swiss standart. The case finishing is also really good with bezel, crowns and bottom of the case polished and the top of the lugs, sides of the case and case back satin brushed. The finishing also is very close or even better than on some higher end pieces that cost much more. The case shape is pretty standart for all the super compressors, round case, nice long lugs that slope down and two crown at 2 and 4 o’clock. The case diameter is is 41mm, the thickness is 12mm, from lug tip to lug tip it measures at 51mm and the lug width is 20mm. There are two screw down crowns at 2 and 4 o’clock. The one at 2 o’clock is for the inner rotating bezel and it is signed with a divers helmet logo and the one at 4 is signed with Milus logo and is for the movement winding, setting time and date. Both the crown action is pretty good actually, although the one for inner rotating bezel is kind of loose, but that’s more to do with the gearing and all with the inner rotating bezel. The bezel is kind of loose and rattles upon shaking the watch, seems like the mechanism for it isn’t made properly or maybe not assembled right. But I have read about this issue with rattling bezels on some other super compressors too, even the JLC Polaris, Longines Legend Diver and some microbrands have this. So I don’t know if it is how it supposed to be or not. On the left side of the case at 9 o’clock we have an automatic helium escape valve which is polished. The solid screw in case back is engraved with Milus logo, name of the watch “Archimedes” and some info of the watch like ref. number, serial number and water resistance which is 300m (30ATM) which is considerable amount for super compressors as the ones I have tested are usually 200m at the most, so swimming with it is more than ok, just make sure you screw in both crowns. On top of the watch sits a slightly domed sapphire with inner antireflective coating.

The dial is mostly similar to all inner rotating bezel watches. Around the dial we have a concaved inner rotating bezel with lumed triangle at 12 o’clock that has a red outline. There is also a minute track printed on it. The middle dial is kind of a fume dial with middle part beeing in this sand colour and the uoter colour is dark grey/black. The hour markers are printed with white outline and faux vintage lume. Around the dial we also have a minute/second’s track in white. At 3 o’clock we have a rectangular date window with white date wheel, I just wish they matched the colour of the date wheel with the dial as it would look much better. The Longines Legend Diver for example has a colour matched date wheel and it looks stunning that way. At 12 o’clock we have a Milus logo at 6 o’clock we have a writings “Automatic, Water resistant and 300m/1000ft” and under that we have a “Swiss Made” right on the edge of the dial. The “Broad Arrow” hands are diamond cut & rhodium-plated with applied faux vintage SuperLuminova. The lume is really good, it lasts about 2-3 hours which is more than enough for a diver. The finishing on the dial is really good compared to Longines and even higher end watches like Omega or Breitling. The finishing on the hands, the print crispness and everything is made just like it should for a watch at this price range or even higher.

Inside the Archimedes is an automatic self-winding, ETA 2892-A2 (TOP) calibre, 21 jewels, 42-hours power reserve. It has a pearlised and snailed bridges, blue screws, and rotor with Milus logo open-worked. As this is a loaner watch I can’t tell my watchmaker to open it for photography, but Milus was kind to send me a photo of the movement and I must say, it is really well decorated, it looks really nice! The ETA 2892 is kind of a gold standart for movements and that’s no wonder cause it is kind of based on the 2824 and is it’s higher end movement. I tested my watch with the Lepsi watch scope for 10 days straight and it runs at around +1 to +2 second’s a day which is really good! I actually haven’t got more to say about this movement, cause it is really good!

The strap is a dark brown leather strap which has a contrasting stitching in white. The strap is really good, supple right out of the box and feels very expensive. It is quite similar to the Tudor leather straps actually in leather and how they are finished. The buckle is a veru nice stainless steel tang style buckle with satin brushed top and polished sides. and signed on top with Milus logo. The strap is 20mm wide at the lugs and 18mm wide at the buckle. The strap is fitted with a quick release spring bars which is really nice to see in a bit higher end brands too. While the strap is really good, I actually think that it needs to be on a rubber strap and especially super compressors, I think fit really good on a tropic rubber strap or something, it would be nice if they could atleast include it as a second strap. But anycase the strap is really nice!

Overall the watch is amazing! In my opinion one of the best super compressor watches I have reviewed so far! It is a really well crafted and designed watch! I like that they didn’t do a direct copy of the old design, but designed it with a modern twist and in a pretty modern size. The broad arrow hands is a nice touch I like, as not so many watch companies do them these days! The watch isn’t cheap as it costs 2042$ which isn’t the money you can just go and spend so easily + there are some options from Longines that are really great watches at the same price range and also there is a ton of known brands you can get at this price range. Nonetheless this is a serious competitor to upper mid-tier watches from popular brands and if you are in the market for a diver or compressor style watch, I would highly consider this watch!

Price: 2042$ @ milus.com

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