Swiss Army Watches (Victorinox,Wenger) Full Guide-Review
Wenger and Victorinox
Swiss Army watches form a separate department of a company that unites Victorinox and Wenger brands under one roof (only Victorinox carries the additional label "Swiss Army," while Wenger, being a sister company, opts for "Swiss Military" or simply "Wenger"). One of the most popular products Swiss Army offer must undoubtedly be the knives – a selection of several hundred models of them, from basic single blade to highly elaborate and specialized variations.
The way in which both Victorinox and Wenger design and make their watches derives from their attitude to pocket knife development: attention to detail, precision, stress on function, and affordability. It's interesting that the headquarters of the manufactures are located in both French and German speaking parts of Switzerland; two different world views having impact on a whole that becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Swiss Army has a century long history that involves the second world war, American GIs, and a lesson in monopoly abuse prevention that foreshadows Microsoft's troubles. We would like to focus on two particular facts that relate to watches.
First, the source of the name Victorinox: it's an acronym of “Victoria”, the founder mother's forename (the other part involves a chemistry term). The word “Ebel”, the trade name of another successful watch brand, too consists of the names of its founders. Second, Swiss Army made surgical instruments – similar to Tiffany & Co., which, however, went on to pursue the direction of jewelry design (though they do design watches).
Swiss Army rarely break into new territory in their watch design. Instead, they compound the basic principles of clarity, utility, and Swiss precision to produce consistently reliable collections of timepieces. Wenger Aerograph Cockpit is a notable exception, featuring a unique “lunch box” case (though it too resembles Bell&Ross).
Several additional features stand out more than the rest, giving the watches a characteristic appearance: the cross logo, usually red or white, that hovers above the dials as a sort of modern amulet is one; another is the preference for dark (black, brown, gray, blue) and often matted faces. Swiss Army indeed offer white watches, but the overall brand spirit seems to harmonize better with the darker ones – the only exception being ladies models.
Swiss Army make both quartz and automatic (mechanical watches) – often the same watch model comes in both versions – that include several complications: day and date spread in various configurations on the dial, alarm, dual time and chronograph. Additional utilities include water resistance, lume on the hands and indexes, and more.
Despite being united under the aegis of Swiss Army brand, Victorinox and Wenger make separate collections of watches. This guide accordingly reviews the most established and popular lines by each brand. Click on the links to read in-depth dedicated reviews:
Active Convoy, Excursion, and Summit XLT consist of robust cases, outlined by a unidirectional rotating bezel in the latter model, that feature a dial with powerful color contrasts. Prominent white numerals stand out on a black backdrop – sometimes the colors are reversed – and in nighttime receive a chemical luminous enhancement. The function of legibility is given a foremost treatment in these outdoors&sports timers.
Classic Alliance and Ambassador watches present a dressy front where confidently organized dials blend seamlessly with the bracelets or the straps. Alliance is a rare Swiss Army collection that offers white faces which go well with the overall design; both lines feature a dark sunburst face as well. Also available are two-tone and rectangular pieces. Functions include day, date, and chronograph.
Officer's and Infantry watches simplify the design as much as possible: thinner bezels result in larger and more visible dials; fat Arabic numerals further improve legibility. Green and black colors dominate these lines, though an occasional white slips in. Lugs, the most vulnerable joints in any watch, were given extra weight.
Maverick watches introduce more creativity and versatility to Victorinox inventory of casual timepieces. Maverick stands out as entry level diving watch – water resistant, luminous, and equipped with a unidirectional bezel (and a chrono function in some models); Cavalry leaves a mark with distinctive lugs and case shape. Swiss quartz movements.
Ladies Vivante and Diamonds watches expand Victorinox selection into the jewelry and fashion spheres. Smaller rectangular and round pieces contain diamonds, mother-of-pearl, and two-tone bracelet configurations. Some visual references to Ebel Brasilia.
Professional Dive Master and Professional Alpnach watches encase and display a range of pro oriented diving and sports functions: water resistance up to 500 meters, bright orange colors visible in dark underwater conditions, luminous bezel indexes, and a chronograph complication. Among Victorinox's best outfitted (but also costliest) timepieces.
Chronograph, Titanium Chrono: chronograph function spreads across the entire range of Swiss Army collections, receiving a special mention in the Titanium subdivision. There it emerges as a decorative element of the main actor – the titanium made case and bracelet – and appears in a fresh, different light.
Mechanical and Vintage watches comprise the engineering and historical aspects of Victorinox watchmaking. Most major collections, including Pro Diver's, Officer's, Ambassador, and others, encase a mechanical automatic (self-winding) variation.
Aerograph is a master collection consisting of four lines: Cockpit, Countdown Chrono, Day-Date, and Vintage. Without a doubt, the Cockpit variation demonstrates the most original design – the lugs merge with the case to create a unique square outline, from which the round dial protrudes.
Aquagraph offers an alternative to Victorinox Professional Diver. Wenger watches in general opt for less busy dials, dispensing with numerals and markers where possible – this quality is evident in the Aquagraph too. Deep green and red bezel will facilitate legibility in murky aquatic environment.
Terragraph is a solid casual quartz watch featuring stainless steel case, 100 meters water resistance, and surprisingly assured, both business-like and simple, dial design. Complication include date, day, alarm, power reserve, and dual time.
Battalion watches further expand Wenger's reach into sports and outdoors activities, particularly racing and diving. In one model, a tachymeter scale combines with a chronograph and a red-black-white grid to produce an aggressive, muscular timer; in another, oversized indexes and a unidirectional bezel render the piece an effective diver's instrument.
Commando watches stress camouflage qualities by featuring matted or dark dials and bracelets (straps in most models), and bright lume. Besides disguise, this line stands out as highly versatile in terms of complications&functionality.
Field Classic gives a casual alternative to the function loaded Battalion Field: instead of complications it focuses on powerful contours and robust design. The angles in Field timepieces generate a sense of urgency and gravity that's characteristic of many Wenger, and indeed many Swiss Army watches.
More by this Author
Longines La Grande Classique watch in-depth review: design, movements, materials, functions; ladies' and mens'; prices, comparisons to other Swiss collections, and more...
In-depth reviews of Casio watches: collections, functions, materials; men's and ladies; atomic watch, solar, analog, digital, alarm; straps, bracelets; comparisons, prices, and more...
A complete guide to Rado watches: in-depth review of collections and designs; materials and calibers; brand philosophy; Links to dedicated reviews...