Posted on June 08 2023
In the world of watches, there are plenty of small brands run by enthusiasts. They have boatloads of passion but often lack an eye for design or the spark of originality that allows their watches to stand out.
You'll have also seen generic watch releases from fashion brands. They usually lack both passion and enthusiasm and add little to an already crowded market.
So when I discovered a watch brand with a passionate founder who also has a proven background in watch design I was keen to find out more.
And what better way to find out if Dwiss hits the sweet spot between enthusiasm and skill than by strapping its most accessible model to my wrist for a few weeks?
Dwiss R2 Floating Hours
Dwiss R2 Watch Review
Those two elements - enthusiasm and experience in watch design - are part of the Dwiss story, but it's worth taking a minute to expand on this.
Like most microbrands, Dwiss (Design Watch Independent Switzerland) is the brainchild of one man. In this case, Rafael Simoes Miranda.
Unlike a lot of microbrand watch companies, Rafael didn't found his watch company without previous experience in the watch industry. When he created Dwiss in 2011 he'd already designed hundreds of watches for more than a dozen brands. From the outset, Dwiss was a brand that was able to offer something special.
There's also another element that differentiates Dwiss from similar brands - The Club.
The Club is a way for fans of Dwiss to pay a monthly subscription - over 12 months - to pre-order a Dwiss watch. But get this. Each member of the Club gets to vote on the design of the watch.
And it's not a simple vote as to whether the watch has a black or blue dial. Or whether it's equipped with a strap or bracelet. The Club members get a say in each step of the watch design process.
In a previous example from the Dwiss site, Rafael outlined the basics - the watch would be Swiss-made, have an automatic ETA movement and a sapphire crystal. He then offered a vote on four possible case designs. After a case design was chosen, the members voted on the size. Following consultations with the Club members variations to the case design were made and another vote was taken.
You can see where I'm going with this right?
Step by step, Rafael and the club members designed a watch that was then built and shipped to the subscribers.
It's in this context that I unboxed the Dwiss R2. Although not a product of the Club, it shares the same ethos. It's a Swiss-made automatic watch with a very distinctive appearance and some really quirky features.
It looks like the kind of watch an adventurous and experienced watch designer might have designed - after running things past a legion of watch enthusiasts. There's a lot to unpack with this beauty so let's take a closer look.
Dwiss R2 Floating Hour Watch in Detail
Ok, I promise. This is the last of my preamble. But there is one extra point that I'd like to make. Rafael notes that any watch can tell the time, but a Dwiss watch tells it differently.
As soon as I unboxed the R2 it was clear that the watch was faithful to that founding statement. It's not Dwiss's most complex watch - as I noted above it's the brand's entry watch - but the appearance is definitely not conventional.
Having said that, the angular case has a style that you're probably familiar with. It's industrial looking and the stainless steel has a black IP coating. The watch, like others from Dwiss, references motorsports and the case fits that aesthetic. It's a look similar to MHD's Streamliner, another watch with automotive inspiration.
It's a mid-sized case with a 40mm diameter. With the height of the case, the case back and the double-domed crystal, the watch is still only a little over 10mm thick.
The short lugs combined with that slim profile mean that the R2 wears well. Importantly, it manages to feel robust without becoming cumbersome. The industrial style continues on the plain bezel. It's a utilitarian design and features four polished contrasting screws. The straightforward look means that there are no crown guards - just a modestly sized crown which is, of course, signed with the Dwiss logo.
The case is well-designed and well-finished, but it's not the star of the show. It's the dial that sets this watch apart from similarly priced Swiss watches.
But take your time with the dial. It's easy to miss the details.
So what is a Floating Hours dial?
Where you'd expect to see the dial, there's a sapphire disc. This replaces the hour hand and instead has a bold triangle that notes the hour as the disc rotates. The more traditional minute hand is large and bright red and is paired with a similarly eye-catching red second hand.
It's that central disc that really sets the R2 apart. It's transparent and reveals the mechanical movement beneath. So although it's an integral part of the apparatus for telling the time, it also acts as a display window. And if you look closely - and I missed this at first - under the sapphire disc is a black ring with red date numerals. The current date is highlighted in white. The sapphire disc also hosts a subtle white brand name.
There's still more to this dial.
There's also a ring with simple white hour numerals and a smaller outer ring that displays the minutes.
Despite the layers, colours and unusual display the watch has a pleasing coherence and feels well thought out. It's almost like the designer has done this before.
The dial is protected by a second sapphire crystal with a much-needed anti-reflective coating.
There's a third sapphire crystal too. This is on the case back and offers a view of the Swiss-made Peseux P224 automatic movement with its decorated rotor. It's like an ETA 2824 movement and offers the same 38hr power reserve. I particularly liked the perlage and cote de geneve decoration which again feels like a hidden detail.
And that's where the R2 wins.
It offers a style that we're all familiar with. It's a boxy, tough automotive watch. But it also has a number of small details and finishes that make it unique.
The R2 in black is available in two variations with this model featuring a rubber racing strap - another nod to the automotive heritage.
For those who want a little extra heft there's also a black stainless steel bracelet and both that and the rubber strap have an ever-useful quick-release option.
The Dwiss R2 Floating Hours is the brand's most accessible watch and prices begin at a little over £800.
The Dwiss R2 Floating Hours is a watch that tells the time differently. But it doesn't feel experimental or outlandish. Instead, the impression is of a well-thought-out design that features an unusual display.
For fans of innovative horology, there's a lot to like about this watch. It's clear that the founder's previous watch design experience has led to a watch that is aesthetically balanced.
The case isn't too square or too big. The dial is busy but not too complex. There's colour, but not too much.
In many ways, the R2 hits the sweet spot and it's a great introduction to this up and coming independent Swiss brand.