A Space Rocket on your wrist - Werenbach Soyuz 02 B.T.O. Superlative watch review

Published on 23 September 2022 at 23:38

Do you remember my review of the Raketa Space Launcher review? You can read it here again:

 

Well, at that time I was not aware of the small Swiss watch company Werenbach, which has in their collection several models of watches and - what is important - almost all models have the entire dial made of some part taken from Soyuz space rocket and just the cheapest quartz models have only a small piece on a dial made of Soyuz parts. So my statement that Raketa Space Launcher is the cheapest way to reach the stars is not correct - you can find cheaper automatic watch with space rocket part or much cheaper quartz watch with (very) small rocket part here: https://www.werenbach.ch/en/shop/

Of course I checked all models in every detail while thinking about a purchase. Among all models the most intriguing were the B.T.O. Superlative models from Soyuz 02 collection. Why? Well, let's start from the beginning. 

B.T.O. stands for "build to order" meaning, that every watch is made according to the final buyer's own wishes. So, every watch is configured through configurator (at least in my case configurator worked great in German language selection but failed on English one). Since dials are cut from rocket, every dial is different and every dial has different scratches made on rocket's travel to the space and back.

So the most important phase in the configuration process is to choose which particular dial do you want. To make the selection at least a bit easier, Werenbach made six sub collections in advance marked by the B.T.O. I to B.T.O. VI. Each sub collection has a dial made from a different part of the rocket and subsequently a different "base" color of the dial. 

Material for all watches from Soyuz 02 collection comes from the Soyuz MS-09 which was launched on 6 JUNE, 2018 at 13:01 UTC. The Werenbach team collected material two days latter in Kazakhstan steppe. In order to better understand from where dials for version I to VI are cut, I have found on the internet the picture of the stated rocket. So, let's start:

B.T.O. I - Grey - inside of the booster (green part on the picture);

B.T.O. II - Olive Green - outside of the booster;

B.T.O. III -  Orange - outside of the booster (cladding);

B.T.O. IV - White - Firing (top of the rocket);

B.T.O. V - Blue - Firing - Russian flag from the top of the rocket;

B.T.O. VI - Red - Firing - SOJUZ signature on the top of the rocket.

So the first three versions are from the booster parts, last three from the second stage part.

As a consequence - dials from the booster parts reached "only" 45km, while dials from the last three reached over 85km above the Earth. I have of course opted for the one of the last three versions. Higher is better, right? :) So I checked all the dials which were still available within IV, V, VI. I wanted a dial "ruined" as much as possible, with a lot of scratches and with a unique look. I was not able to find any attractive white look, I was a bit restrained over the Russian flag part (plus the choice was reduced to only one dial which was more white than blue), therefore the red with more than 20 available dials was the obvious choice. Available variations were from almost fully white with just small red spot to fully red and from quite scratched to almost no visible scratches at all. After several rounds of choosing I have selected this one:

The next step in the configuration process is choosing the case. I was able to choose among three versions: steel, steel black PVD and steel - rocket material, where the case is made from the steam turbine of the rocket. You don't have to guess which one did I select, right? Rocket steel, of course. Only when received the watch I found out that I was more than lucky to be the last customer with this case still available (serial number of my case is 50/50). So if you go and test this configurator now, rocket steel is no longer offered.

After choosing the case, the next decision is choosing the badge for the left side of the case. Again you can choose standard steel version, black PVD steel version or white rocket material from the top of the rocket. 

My decision is more than obvious from the picture.

This is the last phase where "rocket" parts are available for selection. From now on you have to select only the "standard" features. So, the next step is to decide only the color of the hands (silver or black) - mine are silver ones, then type and the color of the strap (textile, leather, rubber, steel bracelet). Well, I had quite a dilemma here. On one hand watch looks very sporty but can easily be worn as dress watch. I was sure that the bracelet (due to the fact that it is available only in "normal" steel or PVD steel and both versions are of a different color than rocket steel case) is not the candidate. At the end, I opted rubber, which in general is often my favorite.

And - here is the result of described selection process - my own unique Soyuz 02 B.T.O. Superlative (ver VI).

 

Again - I am sorry for the German text on the picture but configurator in English version simply didn't work as it should and I had to use German site version. But I am sure you can understand and also see how expensive each choice was (shown are additions to "standard" selection which is included in the base price of the watch).

Now that we know which watch is an object of my review, let me finally start reviewing it. All my comments about the general impression, etc. are strictly related to my watch presented on this picture. Different combinations might give very different general impression and totally different watch!

Let us start with the basic information: official case diameter is 41mm, however my measurement shows that the minimum diameter is 42mm (top to bottom) and 43mm left to right without crown protector and 44,5mm with crown protector. Before purchasing I was afraid that 41mm will be a bit small for my wrist, but real dimensions are making this watch bigger than expected. Inner dial diameter is 35mm, height is 9.7mm, lug width is 20mm, L2L is 47mm, weight is 85g. As you can notice from the dial diameter, watch also optically does not look small. Optically this watch it is worn as 44mm watch. In addition to all stated, dial ends with 3D minute ring, that gives additional impression of a bigger watch (see the picture on the right). But relatively small L2L makes this watch comfortable on the wrist. 

Front glass is sapphire, while glass on the back side is just hardened mineral. Unnecessary cost reduction in my opinion. OK, it s true that glass on the back is less exposed to potential scratches however if your watch falls down mineral glass can easily be broken. 

Declared water resistance is 10 ATM (100m) which is quite sufficient for a standard use in the water (swimming, snorkeling). I would just feel more comfortable if the watch would also have a screw-in crown.

Dial is very busy, full of text in different colors. I have never had a watch with so many text on the dial. 

The base plate of the dial is not a smooth but has a light relief pattern all over the dial. This pattern is not easy to photo, but it can be detected on the picture on the left. Then there is a big logo of the Werenbach company, followed by Soyuz 02 model notification. And then on the left additional description of the model (superlative automatic). Lower part of the dial is filled with the picture of the Soyuz, description from which part the dial was cut off plus the coordinates of the launching point in Baikanur. If we add a (very small) date window, scratches all over the place, two basic colors, hour indexes, and inner ring filled with text about the time that the rocket needs to get into the orbit, really a lot is happening on this dial.

The strange thing is - I can't believe I am writing this - this overcrowded dial does not bother me at all and does not ruin the look of the watch. I simply can't figure out how such a crowded dial is functioning. The fact is that a lot of the text is written in a hardly visible color (light grey superlative automatic, picture of the rocket and the coordinates are hard to see, white orbit in the inner ring), then the  dial is scratched all over the place and text just gives another "scratch feeling", and at last the dial is in general "clean" without any hour numbers, and just indexes. All stated things together probably helps dial to work fine. But that is of course my subjective opinion, which is based more on the looking the watch on my wrist and not just on the picture.

What I don't like very much is the fact that the date is white on a black background. I would rather have white background and a dark silver (e.g. hands color) date. Plus the date window is too small for my taste. On some dates digits are touching the edge, you have to turn the wrist to the find the position in which date is seen.

Let's move to the back plate. There is also a lot of text. But that is normal, common, expected. I will just point out the "Soyuz mat", which is written only on the rocket steel cases. The rest of the text on the inner ring is self explanatory. On the outern ring there are serial number of the rocket steel case (50/50), BTO, year of the production (2022) and 10atm marking.

The pictures of the back also reveals that the watch is powered with less known Swiss automatic movement Soprod Newton. I must admit that even though I have or had a really tons of watches this is my first watch with a Soprod Newton movement. That makes this watch even more interesting to me and this "unknown" movement was additional reason why I have choosen Superlative model. Namely not all Werenbach models use Soprod (some use STP 1-11, some Sellita 200..)

Werenbach on their web pages introduce Soprod Newton as: "The Newton is a new movement by Jura-based movement manufacturer Soprod and is incorporated into our rocket watches in the high-end ‘Top-Flight’ version (superior quality). It distinguishes itself from the competition with high precision values and a ‘bridge’ above the balance – a feature usually reserved for Swiss luxury watches in haute horlogerie. The bridge increases the shock resistance of the movement." Declared precision of the movement is very good +/- 4 sec daily. I have of course checked this and results are the following.

My phone app measured constant overrun of +12 to +15 sec in all positions of the watch (so no positional error). The same results were obtained by wearing the watch for three days in a role without taking the watch of the wrist. Results are Day 1: +12 sec; Day 2: + 13 sec; Day 3: +12 sec. I con conclude that in fact Newton works very constant with almost no daily variations or the position variations however movement will have to be calibrated by the watchmaker. 

Manipulation of the watch function is "standard" and almost the same as we are used for example on ETA 2824. Position 1 of the crown sets the date, position 2 sets the time and in the position 2 second hand stops. Declared power reserve is 44h, I did not check this.

Crown is of course signed.

I must point out the excellent lume on the hands. Very bright for a really long time. What I also like is the fact that the lume is not all over the place but only where it should be - almost over the entire minute and hour hand, and just very small spots of lume on the second hand and on 3,6,12 hours (two spots on 12 to be precise). 

I also like the design of the hands in general.

Hour and minute hands are classic yet very reliable. You are always confident what time is it, no confusion there. Second hand has a nice arrow design. 

I have already mentioned that watch fits great on my wrist. As said, one reason is a very reasonable 47mm L2L size, but the other important reason is also the brilliant rubber strap. This is for sure one of the best rubber straps I have ever worn. It is extremely soft, quite thin, it hugs the wrist very naturally. I wonder how long this strap will last. To be honest I am afraid it is not very resistant. Softness might have it's price. I just hope I am wrong.

Let me just add that this watch is eye catcher. I received a lot of positive comments from my friends about how good the watch looks. Then when I explain also the story behind the watch (usual question is why the dial is partially white and partially red...) reactions are even more positive.

Watch comes in a leather box, no extravagance here. For such a unique watch one might expect some, but nevertheless box serve it's purpose. A nice touch is that the plate from which the dial was cut is added. You also receive a certificate that dial is from Soyuz rocket and instruction manual in a very basic form. Again - it does what in has to do but nothing more. It's clear that Werenbach tried to reduce the cost of the watch on the least important thing - the package.

I mentioned that you receive certificate of origin for the dial, however I was missing the certificate for the case and plate. Clearly the box and documents are the same for all Werenbach watches, the fact that B.T.O. offers additional Soyuz parts which would also deserve certificate are neglected. 

After receiving my watch I contacted Werenbach and they admit that they could have done better here. They explained that rocket cases have "Sojuz mat." sign on the back case and that plate is very obvious also from the Soyuz. 

And with this response I reached the support part. To all my questions before my purchase (and after) I received quite prompt response directly from the founder and CEO of Werenbach. He was also always available for the phone call. I really got the impression that every customer is important for him. I even had the very unusual wish - to receive some photos of my watch during the assembly process. And - here they are, I am glad to present you the short photo story how my watch was assembled.

Watch is delivered by UPS free of charge all over the world. So I can only say PERFECT user experience.

What about the price? The configurator's result already revealed the price range of my watch. I took all the most expensive parts except the bracelet (which would add cca. 200 EUR over the rubber strap). The cheapest possible combination starts from 2033 EUR (all stated prices are without taxes and duties, watch is exported from Swiss). For a unique watch made of very special materials, I believe the price is more than fair. If you can not afford it, but still want to have a watch with a rocket dial - check other models. Older models, made from Soyuz MS-02, are available already from 780 EUR. And if you register you can achieve 10% additional discount. So my final verdict is clear - for all watch and space lovers - if you want something special I highly recommend Werenbach watch. If you want an unique watch made just for you, which will be different to any other watch in the world, take one of B.T.O. versions. You can't miss here.

P.S.: I of course wanted to check everything about the Soyuz flight and I have found an official video of this flight. So if you want, check how my watch traveled into the space.


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