Armogans’ journey began in 2014 as a passion project of two very like-minded men, friends Amaury and Charles-Louis. Their vision was to draw from their European heritage bringing the best of Belgium and Luxembourg. Amaury and Charles-Louis’ mission with Armogan is to blend the precision of ‘Little Switzerland’ with the Belgian design language all while crafting watches that hark back to the navigational instruments of the past while maintaining obtain-ability for the modern-day watch enthusiast.
The name Armogan is an old French maritime word often used by sailors of the Mediterranean to describe ideal sailing conditions. This name was no accidental choice or one that was simply chosen because it sounds cool, it represents something meaningful to the founders and is in itself a respect to the environment and the force of nature that can sometimes be “Armogan” or the polar opposite.
This brings us nicely to the Syracuse, a watch that is named after the historic city in Sicily and also pays respectful design homage to the Super Compressor dive watches of old. The Syracuse is not marketed as a Super Compressor, but it does share some traits of watches like the Benrus Ultra-Deep or the Wittnauer SC from the ’60s but with a few modern design flourishes.
- Case diameter: 42mm
- Case thickness: 13mm
- Lug-to-lug: 46mm
- Lug width: 22mm
- Case material: 316L Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Domed Sapphire
- Dial: Black
- Movement: Citizen Miyota 2315
- Water resistance: 100m
- Battery life expectancy: 5 years
- Weight: 92g
- Warranty: 2 years
- Price: €249.00
- Buy here: https://www.armogan.com/en/silver-black-n22
The Syracuse is a fairly sizeable watch in appearance but in fact, wears smaller than its scale would have you believe. On my slim 6 inch wrist, the watch fits surprisingly well thanks to the compact lug-to-lug dimensions; usually, I would never consider a watch with a diameter beyond 40mm but this I have to say is a pleasant exception to that. The thickness, however, does pose more of a problem, as the watch is 13mm thick it is quite imposing on my wrist and a result is a little unsettled for me personally, it just feels slightly off-balanced on wrist. It’s not uncomfortable per se, though it just doesn’t sit quite right. This is likely due to the diameter of my wrist and also its odd shape. Of course, comfort is highly subjective as our wrists are all different, so your experience will likely be very different.
At first glance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how legible the dial is thanks to the oversized numerals at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 as well as the crisply printed highly contrasting markers that fill the rest of the dial – with the exception of the four which has been shrunken to make room for the date complication. This date window has been well implemented and features a nice white border, it would have been nice if the date would have been colour matched to the dial, though in all fairness it does fit in well with the colour scheme as to not look out of place.
The dial itself is a very deep inky black which as mentioned contrasts so well against the prominent white. Armogan haven’t pushed to the boat out too much with the handset and instead opted for something more subdued and stylish. The hour and minute hand are a fencepost style that features a striking white border with a generous application of lume in the centre. There is no mention as to which variant of lume is used we can conclude that is more than likely Super-luminova BGW9 thanks to it’s blue hue and brightness. The seconds hand is very stealthy as it’s finished in black though the tip has been painted white to allow it to retain its legibility. Overall, it’s a very attractive dial that isn’t too cluttered and is a nice mix of an older compressor style with more modern touches.
Looking at the lume more closely and it’s cleanly applied throughout though under UV lighting it looks like there has been an extra layer on the hands when compared to the indices as the hands illuminate more than those. As a whole, the lume is a lovely hue that does get bright and hangs on for a fair while, especially if it’s been outdoors. Unfortunately, it’s not the best application I’ve encountered, but it does get the job done.
The dial itself is protected by a subtly curved piece of domed Sapphire crystal which evokes that of the early crystals found on Compressors from the 1960s. The inner side of the crystal is coated with a blue anti-reflective coating that does a good job making this legible in bright daylight and indoors. As with the lume, it would have been welcome if a more generous application had been applied to improve this quality as Sapphire is notoriously reflective. When viewed slightly off-axis the dial distorts in some lovely ways which again captures the vintage charm of the watches the Syracuse is based upon.
As for the case, it’s done in a way that pays homage to the well-loved compressor-style featuring a crown at the 2 and 4 o’clock. Both crowns are well implemented with the one at the 2 being free moving, whereas the main crown at the 4 is screw-down. If you know your compressors, you’ll be aware that the top crown operates an inner rotating bezel and the Syracuse is no exception. The mechanism is smooth as well as being bi-directional meaning it can turn counter-clockwise and clockwise; both these attributes make it a pleasure to adjust. The main crown features two stages, the first allows you to adjust the date and the second to adjust the time. The date-set isn’t a quick-set like you’ll find on other watches and it does take a few turns of the crown to tick over. The time, on the other hand, is quicker to adjust and very fluid in motion. The stem feels solidly integrated and the crown is well planted all adding to a great experience. This, however, is slightly hampered by the grip on the crown, they’re both too smooth which makes using them a bit trickier than it should be. For aesthetics, the lower crown features a high polished finish with the Armogan logo placed in the centre. The top crown is simply just polished which was the right call as having both branded would have been too much.
The case is constructed from the industry-standard 316L Steel and feels solid, and reassuringly well put together. It’s finished in a high polish throughout which is done to a very good standard. The shape of the case captures that of the old compressors of the 1960’s thanks to the lovely soft curves and slight taper down at the mid-case; it’s rather nice. The lugs are well blended too as they flow from the mid-case in a very seamless manner and curve down to not only compliment the style, but also aid in the wear-ability and comfort. The lugs are also drilled which does help with swapping out the strap, however, you’ll note that the strap is affixed using screws, this is the first time I’ve ever encountered this on a watch, and it provides mixed feelings. Aesthetically it works well, though it hampers the practicality as you can’t remove the spring bars with a traditional spring bar removal tool.
You can tell some serious care and attention has gone into an area which most would discount: this, of course, being the caseback. You don’t often get a chance to view it, but that hasn’t stopped Armogan from designing a well-executed piece of art. The caseback is a mixture of the high polish finish and some detailed artwork that depicts a part of the sea within the Mediterranean near Sicily. This is all topped off with the Armagon logo in the centre which to me represents a sailboat amid the ocean. Surrounding this is a circular border that features the model name, brand and a few specifications. This is all done cleanly and perfectly fuses with the styling of the artwork. You’ll also note that the caseback is screw-down which helps with the Syracuse’s water rating of 10 ATM.
Onto the strap and the top section of the strap measures in at 75mm and the bottom is 122mm, the total length of the watch is 235mm excluding the buckle. On the website under the size guide it’s mentioned that the size is for those with wrist diameters from 6.79” to 8.35”, this is about right though it does strangely fit my 6” wrist as mentioned early. I would suggest that another adjustment hole is added to make it fit better for those with wrist diameters under the recommended. It does feel secure on my wrist and doesn’t move around or wobble though it sits a touch uneven. I believe this is due to the thickness of the strap which helps it fit my slimmer wrist though this does also slightly make it sit off-centre.
The strap is made from a very thick but supple high-quality silicone, and as previously mentioned it is secured using screw-in spring bars. The strap features a diamond-like pattern that tapers down around the adjustment holes, this is a welcome touch and it enhances the aesthetic as it breaks up the design as well as adding a new element to it. On the inner side there are a series of grooves cut into the silicone which helps with the flexibility of the strap, this is very clever as silicone straps of this thickness usually aren’t as flexible as the one found here. The keepers are made from a soft thinner silicone again to retain flexibility. As for the buckle, it’s a high polished tang buckle that is secured using a spring bar, this means it could be swapped out if needed. You’ll also find the Armogan name is etched into it. As a whole, the silicone strap is one that is high quality, soft, comfortable and features some smart additions you don’t often see.
One negative with the strap is well, it’s a dirt and lint magnet, it’s impossible to keep clean as it gets trapped in the pattern and on the surface, so if you like a pristine looking strap, you may want to swap it out for something else as cleaning it is a real chore.
What makes the Armogan tick? In the heart of the Syracuse, you’ll find the Miyota 2315 which is a solid and reliable movement though is often reserved for cheaper watches as it’s not overly accurate with a range of +/- 20 seconds per month. I have no issue against quartz movements though in a watch at this price point it would be been better to have seen something more befitting of that price, an ETA 9 series quartz or at a push, a Seiko Mecaquartz would have been more welcome. The Seiko would have been preferred as you get a smoother sweep of the second’s hand that would align nicely with the retro feel of the watch while maintaining the higher accuracy when compared to a traditional affordable mechanical or automatic movement. Of course, Armogan could have gone with an automatic which again would have made the watch feel more premium than it already does. Again Miyota could have supplied the auto as they have plenty of affordable movements that would have fit perfectly within the case.
Also noteworthy would be the alignment, at times the second’s hand is a fraction off hitting the markers perfectly and does somewhat detract from the watches quality as a whole.
In summary, the Syracuse is a respectful homage to the early compressor and super compressor watches as it blends both newer design elements with the styling that made SC’s so popular. It feels solid and well put together which is then paired with little flourishes that enhance the overall appearance and quality of the watch. It isn’t all nostalgic bliss however as there are some minor issues. At the forefront is the movement, it works and it’s reliable, though it doesn’t align with the RRP of 249 Euros / £227 (Currently 187 Euro at the time of this review) which is being charged for the Syracuse. Another slight drawback is the strap, this isn’t major though adding a few extra alignment holes would be welcome.
Essentially, none of these are deal-breakers as the Syracuse has more going for it than against it. Maybe the gen 2 would add an automatic to the lineup and maybe offer a strap that would suit those of us with slimmer wrists, but other than these minor issues the Syracuse is a great well-rounded watch that encapsulates the old and fuses it with the new.