I recently visited the Stølås web site and found out that the company is releasing a great-looking naval model, available to pre-order. Here is the teaser featured on their revamped Website at the time of writing:
Back in June 2010, I wrote an introduction piece about Stølås, a young and fresh micro-brand named in honour of the founder’s Scandinavian heritage. Being an avid collector of timepieces, Curtis Stolaas decided to set up his own watch brand and open a small workshop where the timepieces could be assembled and tested.
At the time, I was a bit weary of their Harbormaster model looking too much like a Ulysse Nardin, but this detail should not overshadow the hard work that entrepreneurs Curtis and Christina Stolaas have been putting behind their horological endeavour. I particularly like the fact that in response to the disasters in Japan, they chose to create a limited edition of 10 watches and donate 50% of the proceedings to charity.
The Harbormaster collection has actually been expanded into three variations: the Genoa, the Spinnaker and the Gennaker. The biggest difference between those models lies in the dial material and the colour of luminous compound. The Genoa features a white embossed dial while other models use a carbon fibre texture. The Gennaker is the only one to feature a PVD coating on the case and bezel.
Introducing the BallCall
Besides their demanding customers interested in Swiss made automatics or clones, Stølås also have customers who are pretty content with a battery-powered watch. To cater for that clientele, Curtis and Christina Stolaas have been working on a design that makes reference to naval aviation.
Named after the radio transmission for safe carrier approach, the “BallCall” uses the same frame as the Harbormaster, but the luminous bezel is replaced by a much simpler design that instantly reminded me of a bronze diving helmet. The bezel features 6 screws, of which one serves as the index.
The hands are hollowed so that even though they may overlap each other, everything remains easy to read. This layout is extremely simple, but at the same time it offers all the information one needs. Inside is a Ronda 6004D calibre with small second and date. Ronda is possibly Switzerland’s #2 top quartz movement maker right after ETA.
The BallCall has been developped in a special version that commemorates the year when women where first granted their wings in the US Navy. Besides the entry-price quartz version, the team has also developped automatic models in a wide array of dial and luminous compound colours.
À la carte
Interestingly, Stølås is the second company I know to offer ETA 2824 clones alongside the Swiss movement. The first micro-brand to do this was the Orange Watch Company. The most obvious consequence for the consumer is the price difference: where the Stølås Genoa costs about USD 1499, the company is able to offer a clone-powered alternative at USD 609.
Chinese movements are not all that bad. I recently tested an ST1901-powered Alpha chronograph on my watch timer, and it ran as nice as any Swiss movement. For some reason, Chinese manufacturers are now in a position to offer very good clones of the 25 years-old Swiss calibres: ETA 2824-2, ETA 2892-A2 or ETA 7750, you name it! One might even wonder if the Swiss didn’t want to outsource so badly that strategic tooling ended up in the “wrong” hands. I am also aware of at least 2 Chinese companies that have established factories in Switzerland, where Chinese blanks are assembled in perfect “Swiss Made”-compliance.
From a technical standpoint, the SMC clone chosen by Stølås after extensive testing has the same fitting as the Swiss ETA 2824-2: when mainenance will be performed on the watches, the workshop will be free to use the same case, dial and hands on either calibre. The calibres can also be swapped, so if one start with the SMC clone and for some reason decidse to move on to the Swiss ETA, Stølås also sells spare Swiss movements for the upgrade.
Prices for the BallCall collection range from USD 373.75 to USD 1740.05 in pre-order. Prices will be higher once they have all the watches in stock. Check the gallery below for some of the versions available: