Tonight we are looking at a microbrand that was suggested by a fellow blog reader Jeff! I was eyeing this brand for some time and completely forgot about it for some time, but when Jeff reminded me about this brand I wrote to them and they sent in their latest release!
The brand is called Echo/Neutra. The brand is based in Italy. Founded by Nicola Callegaro, Designer and Communication Consultant, and Cristiano Quaglia, Aerospace Engineer with a specialization in Propulsion Systems. Following the Averau Collection that Echo/Neutra released on Kickstarter 2 years ago, the Italian microbrand Echo/Neutra launched a second series to honour the 1956 Winter Olympics VII, held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in 2020. These games had the largest number of participating countries at the time, 32 nations, and were the first Winter Olympics televised to a multi-national audience. The new vintage-styled collection draws inspiration from 1950s sports watches with Italian design and Swiss hearts. A three-hander and limited edition chronograph bring refinement and maturity that belie their accessible prices and show that this relatively new brand is here to stay and can bring something original to microbrand world! But recently Echo/Neutra updated their Cortina 1956 3H line with a new model called “Deep Black” which is basically a blacked out version of the Cortina and I think it looks amazing in the “new colours”!
The Deep Black arrived in a really well made box. The outside cardboard box is signed with Echo/Neutra logo and inside you will find a nice, black wooden box also with Echo/Neutra logo. Inside the box you will find the watch, seconds strap, extra buckle, spring bar tool, warranty card and instructions. Quite a nice package that starts at just 665euro. The watch comes with 2 straps which you can choose. The number one option is either tropical rubber strap or cordura and the second option is 4 leather straps to choose from (black alligator print, vintage style, black buffalo or the milanese bracelet). Mine example came with a tropical rubber strap and vintage style black leather strap. Also a nice additions was the spring bar tool which can be handy and it seems like a pretty good one and is also signed. The first impressions of the watch were wow. It is really a great looking watch. At first I was a bit skeptical when I saw the photo of it that the Nicola sent me, but in flesh it is a whole different story!
The case of the Deep Black is made of 316L stainless steel. The machine work is done really good! The finishing on the case is satin brushed with high polished edges of the lugs, crown and bezel. The finishing is done really good and close to some brands that cost much more than this watch, but that is just why I love microbrands like these as you can get a watch for half or sometimes more less than for example if on the watch would be a logo from some very known brand. The case is shape is round and styled as a dive/field/sports watch. The case is 40mm in diameter, 11,9mm in thickness, it measures from lug to lug at 46mm and the lug width is 20mm. The watch in my opinion has the perfect size for any wrist. I have a slightly larger hand than average at 18cm and it fits me perfectly. I like that it isn’t over thick or big. The 40mm size is the new 42mm’s in this age and it seems that almost every brand is starting to go away from bigger watches and start making 38-40mm watches. On top of the watch we have a fixed bezel with black ceramic insert that also has timing measurements. I think this is the only flaw or maybe I must say “strange thing” with the watch, I don’t get why you put measurements on the bezel if you can’t turn the bezel and time anything. I just think each detail that is added needs to be functional, either in design or a literal function like timing. Anycase it is well done and the “Dolomite mountain” shape 12 o’clock lume is a nice detail. At 3 o’clock we have a signed screw-down crown. The crown has no guard so it is very easy to grip and manipulate. The crown action is also pretty good. The solid caseback is nicely decorated. I like the polished 1956 numbers and the beadblasted back drop. Around the middle section we have some specifications and other stuff. Also we have an engraved case number. On top of the case sits a box shaped sapphire crystal with AR coating that is pretty good. The water resistance rating is 100m (10ATM) which is fine for swimming if you put the provided tropical rubber strap on the watch. You can use it in water, but I wouldn’t do any serious diving or diving in general as for that there are much serious divers watches.
The dial and kind of watch itself reminds me a lot of Bell&Ross BR V2-92 Vintage. But it seems that it wasn’t the intention of Echo/Neutra to copy the design in any way, it just looks similar. The dial is matte black with printed shiny black minute track and hour markers. The 9, 12, 3 markers are big and very bold. At 12 o clock we have the Echo/Neutra logo with “Automatic” which has a really nice font chosen for it. At 6 o’clock we have the text “Swiss Made 100m=330ft.” and under that the Cortina 1956 collection logo. I also like that the 3 numbers and all the writing is in this creamy colour. The arrow shaped hour hand and rectangular minute hand is in black colour with the same creamy coloured middle part which is lumed. The black stick shaped second’s hand has a red, white & red tip which kind of reminds me of aviation inspired watches or maybe some army watches. The lume on the hands and the bezel is pretty good, but I just wish it would be a tad more brighter. The dial itself in my opinion is executed very well and it is pretty legible which is good as the main reason why we wear these little things is to check what’s the time!
Inside the Echo/Neutra we have an automatic Swiss STP 1-11 from Swiss Technology Production, the same as in last year’s collection and a copy of the ETA 2824-2. It has 26 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 44-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes, hacking seconds and date (not used in this model). What can I say about this movement? Well a lot! Since I started working at a luxury watch dealer who also has a service center with the best watchmakers on this side of Europe I have learned a lot of info about the movements, what each part does, what is bad and what is good, and I must say a lot of watch people are saying so many wrong things. When it comes to ETA copies, in my and my colleagues (watchmakers) opinion the STP is the closest when it comes to quality, finishing and QC at the end of manufacturing. Then we have the rest Sellita, Seagull, Hangzhou, Ginault, Lioning Peacock etc. which lack the quality, finishing and many other things. So kudos to Echo/Neutra for using the STP movement! My example ran at about +5 to +6 seconds a day which is pretty good, but you could easily get closer to 0 with a good watchmakers help. I actually have had this movement in 3 of my watches and all they got regulated to +1 – 0 and they still show the same results 3 years later.
The straps that Echo/Neutra included for this watch are the vintage black leather and the tropical rubber strap. The Tropical rubber strap is pretty well made and very supple. I wich it had built in quick release spring bars, but hopefully they will add this option too! You probably noticed that the strap comes without the buckle, but Echo/Neutra got you covered with the tang style buckle as it uses different size from the leather straps. The vintage leather strap was a bit weird choice for this watch, as I tend to wear my personal sports watches on bracelet, rubber or canvas, but I actually quite dig the look. The leather strap also is top quality made from Tuscany leather. And I like that rougher texture on the leather rather than smooth one that usually is labelled as the “Italian leather”. Oh and did I mention that all the straps are Handmade in Italy? The leather strap is made by artisan company that makes straps and other leather products fro almost 50 years now. On the wrist the watch feels really good on both straps and I quite like that you can choose 2 straps and this probably would be my choice also. The leather strap is for the winter and the rubber strap is for the hot summers at beach or on a yacht!
Overall the watch is really good and in my opinion and I don’t get why it hasn’t gotten very popular in the microbrand world! The watch costs 665euros +40euros if you choose the alligator strap. In my opinion the price is very good. You get a well designed Swiss made watch, boxed sapphire coating, ceramic bezel insert, screw down crown, 100m water resistance, great packaging, 2 straps and a very good Swiss made automatic movement, what more could you wish for? The only thing that I quite don’t like is that the bezel doesn’t turn, I hope to see a version which has a rotating bezel and I would get it instantly even if it costs 100euros more! Can I suggest the watch? Hell yeah! It is great little watch!