Schild Johann Glacier AS5203 automatic watch - first impressions

Published on 8 December 2023 at 20:56

If you an older watch collector or if you specialized in vintage watches, then you have for sure heard of A.Schild brand, as that brand was one of the most important movement producers in the period from fifties until the quartz crisis in the seventies. The quartz crisis actually made brand to be merged with ETA at the end of seventies. Brand ceased to exist.

It is interesting though, that A.Schild was never very important watch producer, their focus were mainly movements. 

My personal relation to A.Schild brand is even deeper. As my main focus are now mechanical wrist alarm watches, A.Schild represent one of the most important part of my collection. I can easily say that A.Schild was the most important designer and producer of mechanical alarm wrist watch movements. If we add a Poljot as the company which produced a movement 2612 -  a slightly modified copy of A.Schild AS1475 movement, then I will not exaggerate if I say that 70% of all alarm wrist watches were using some version of A.Schild movement. Some of those movements were later produced (or are even today) by other companies. If you need more information about A.Schild alarm movements, check here.

But the alarm movements are not the only A.Schild movements that I have in my collection. There is another interesting automatic movement AS1701, which powers the Glycine Airman, which is a part of my - now already abandoned - collection of space watches. Yes, A.Schild was in the space way before Omega... Since this is an abandoned collection, I am selling this Glycine, but never the less, A.Schild was and is an important part my collections.

So,  A.Schild brand has diminished long time ago. You can imagine how surprised I was when I received an email from Watches.com web shop announcing the introduction of the new brand in their offer - Schild! And they even offered promotional prices at the beginning of the new brand's on their shelves. Of course I was more than intrigued. I also checked all over the net who else is selling those watches but the only other webpage where Schild watches were/are available is the official web page of the company. Even on the Chrono24 there were no offers.

So I started analyzing what they have in their collection. Quite a lot of watches, with some very different movements inside. One collection was particularly interesting, named Johann. Why? Well, this collection really is a true heritage to the old Schild. Namely within the Johann an original A.Schild automatic movement is running. All other watches have some Selitta or Chinese movements, but Johann is a pure Schild. The movement is called AS5203 and it happens to be the last movement that A.Schild developed and introduced back in 1976. And since just two years later Schild merged with ETA, this movement can hardly be found in any of the watches from that period. So, quite a rare movement indeed. I admit that I was not familiar with the movement, I did some research and found a very good description of the movement here

By reading the description of the movement, you can get the general idea why this movement was abandoned. It was in many ways worse than ETA 2824. But that does not really matter for the true collector, right? 

Before I purchased the watch one thing bothered me - where do these movements come from suddenly? Are they simply the remains of some old stocks from the end of the Schild era, or is somebody maybe producing new movements based on the schematic of the movement? Who is the owner of the producing rights? I contacted Schild company several times asking them those questions but never heard back from them. Maybe my questions were too delicate or simply their customer support is awful, I don't know. Yet, I can't give you answers to those questions, sorry.

I had to purchase the watch without knowing how the AS5203 movement ended in the watch. Since the watch has a glass backplate and even some see-through dial, and all those pictures were revealed in the website I was at least able to see that in fact AS5203 is inside the watch. I had to speed up the order since beside the introductory promotion a Black Friday additional discount was also available. So, I took a risk and grabbed it. 

Before I continue, let me just say that four color versions of the dial exist on the silver (steel) case and one additional version with the black dial on a rose gold PVD steel case. My dilemma was only a Salmon dial or a Glacier, a kind of "panda" white-black dial. As you can see I have decided for the latter, but even today I am not sure if this was a right decision. Unfortunately Salmon on some pictures looks very pinky and on others very bronze. I would like bronze but pink is out of the question. So the panda was a safe choice....

It took almost fourteen days before I received the watch. All the custom bureaucracy, shipping from the USA to the EU. I was already very curious about what the watch will look like.

First impression was very good. Watch arrived in a good wooden box, with a nice booklet envelope, the magnifying glass is also attached. In the box there is also a place for a spare strap, but this model does not offer one. So it is probably a generic box for all Schild watches as on some models additional strap is offered. 

The first impression about the watch itself was not so impressive though. On the web pictures the watch looks better, in reality the dial is a bit boring. The white ring is not so clean white, it is more gray than white. The hands are not impressive, they are just somehow lost on the dial, the contrast between hands and the dial is poor. The same is true for the roman hour markers (again with the wrong number 4 -written IIII instead of IV). The red date window and the red end of the second hand are the only two details which give some lightning to the dial. However the date window is a bit too small (I don't want to say that the date fonts are too small) and the alignment of the date within the window is not perfect. On a two digit date, where the first digit is 2 or 3, the second digit is partially covered by the date window while on a one digit date the number is not in the center of the date window. Only the dates between 10 to 19 seem to be perfectly placed and centered.

Dial seems to be metal, screws by which the dial is placed on the movement are revealed. 

What is good is the fact that the dial is not too busy. Even though there is a lot of text on it small fonts were used therefore most of the text are almost un-notable. Only the SCHILD sign is clearly visible below the twelve o'clock. 

Minutes are "hidden" on an inner black ring which is made in 3D. Small red markings for almost every minute, five minutes intervals are marked with the digits. All very subtle and almost invisible. Maybe that is why the magnifying glass is added in the box :)

Then I focused myself into the bracelet. Shrinking the bracelet was very easy, it uses standard pins. What I miss are half sized links. Namely, all links that can be removed are of the same size. Since the bracelet ends with a double sided butterfly clasp, there are no micro adjustments available. Fortunately the links are relatively small, just 8mm - I have seen bracelets where the half sized link was almost the same size as the normal link here.

Still - I had quite an issue with how many links I should have. By removing four, the bracelet fits  perfectly on my wrist while with three it hangs below my wrist and the watch rotates around the wrist. So I removed four. Until the very first evening, when my wrist - of course - was stranded a bit. Suddenly the bracelet became uncomfortable. I had to put on a link back and my final setting of the bracelet is a longer version. One micro adjustment would be a blessing.

But in general, the bracelet is very good. Smaller links with seven parts makes this bracelet very soft. Clasp opens and closes nicely, buttons for opening the clasp are not annoying. The clasp looks small with an elegant AS logo in it. The end links are well fitted to the case.  But what I don't like is the 20/16 mm proportion between lug size and the clasp size. That makes the bracelet very narrow, too narrow for my taste. I did not mention yet, the case size is 44mm, so having a clasp of just 16mm on a 44mm case size looks unusual, strange. 20/18 or even 22/18 would be a better choice from my point of view.

There is another good thing about the bracelet. It has an integrated quick release system, so removing the bracelet and putting it back is really just a matter of seconds. I have tons of different leather straps at home, so I used that opportunity to play a bit with the different settings and to test how the watch looks and feels on the wrist on a leather. Since some of the straps were fully new and stiff, I did not take them into consideration as they would give the watch injustice. Below you can see some of the results. In my opinion, straps gave the watch some added value, I was even tempted to leave the fully black strap on as my final setting. The best looking combination was using the black strap with red stiches, however that  strap is very stiff and the watch does not fits well on the wrist. I should wear it for a while before taking the picture for the purpose of this comparison. Nevertheless since I needed an original watch for this review, at the end the bracelet was returned,.. 

It's a pity that Schild did not decide to add some additional strap as a part of the package. Box allows that, the bracelet has a quick release, so a leather strap with the quick release lugs would be a logical and appreciated touch.

Speaking about the general impression of the watch on the wrist... As I already said, the diameter of the watch is 44/45 mm, so you might get the impression that this is a big watch. However, that is far from the truth. There is a catch. In fact the 44mm is the diameter of the octagonal platform on which the "standard" round steel ring is placed.  Optically you are focused on this round ring, which measures just 41mm.  And even that ring is curved towards the inside, so the sapphire glass (and the dial) has a diameter of just 37mm. All being said, the watch on the hand does not look big at all!

What helps additionally is relatively small L2L, just 48mm. If I add again a narrow bracelet, the whole impression on wearing and seeing the watch is closer to a 40 mm watch than a 44mm watch!

The only real issue about the dimensions of the watch is its thickness - more than 15mm. 

Crown is signed with the same logo as the buckle and  is screwed in. What I really like is the very long stem of the crown. When you pull the crown out, there is no mistake whether you are in position 1 (setting the date) or in position 2 (setting the time). Yes, the setting procedure is identical to ETA 2824 movements, yet there is one very important difference - this movement does not have a hacking complication. But you can "force" the second hand to stop! When setting time anticlockwise, the second hand even goes slightly backwards, sometimes stopping completely.  If you want you can use this for hacking. On the desired position of the hour, minute and second hand you just gently push the crown in the opposite position - as if you would like to set time anti clockwise, but not strong enough to actually move the hand. By this second hand stops. When needed you just release the crown and voila - watch is synchronized.

After the synchronization, I was able to check exactly how good the movement runs in practice. Honestly the results were much better than I expected. After one week of constant use of the watch the watch runs - 3 sec/daily on average. On the best day it was -1 sec, on the worst day -8 sec. I believe the worst result was achieved due to the fact that I did not move much (almost nothing) for the two consecutive days and that movement was nearly out of power. After this loss of 8 second I winded it manually and from that day the daily delay falls in the 3 sec +- 1sec interval. 

I also have to mention the luminova, As you can see, all digits are luminous and hands have luminova applied on the end part, but not over the whole hand. Two big issues - first one is that luminova fades very soon. The second one is rather ridiculous! The minute hand has such a short luminated part, that it is almost impossible to recognize the hand over the digits. Check the picture where the luminus parts are at their best lightening. You can see how the minute hand is hidden in the IIII mark. You can just imagine that at the lower lightening phase you can't distinguish minute hand from the hour marking. Basically the only thing you can see is the hour hand and digits. Bad design.

So, to conclude. Watch Schild Johann is a very interesting watch with a very unusual, rare movement. In general, the watch is made well, but has some unneeded flaws. Just the change of the hands and the placement of the appropriate luminova (or at least on a bigger part of the hands) would make the watch much better in the sense of usability (basic function, reading the time) and attractivity. Ah, why didn't I try with the Salmon dial :) 

BUT - Schild put the ridiculous price for this watch (as for all of their watches...). 2500 USD!! (plus taxes for your country). Even the unusual, rare movement can't justify this price! The introductory price on Watches.com was 800 USD, I was able to use an additional 20% discount on that price. So with all the EU taxes, I paid for the watch around 750 EUR. In the meantime Watches.com increased the price to 1500 USD. Just recently they dropped it back to 800 USD. They obviously realized that even 1500 USD is too much. I don't know, maybe Schild is again going to be among those companies whose selling strategy is ridiculously high base price and then different sellers offer huge discounts. Remember Invicta, Gevril, Revue Thommen,....

So, if you want to have a watch, which has a Swiss movement but it is something different than yet another ETA clone, grab the chance. Even though it is stated that the watch is a limited edition of 300 pieces, I have no idea how many watches with these movements are or will be released all together. 300 all together or 300 of each dial version or 300 until the next release. But even if this movement will become a regular offer in the future, for the actual price at Watches.com I can recommend you the purchase. For any price above 1000 USD I can only say - you really want to have some particular reasons to have this movement and to purchase this watch for such a price. There are better options available if you are just buying yourself some unspecific watch.

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