One of the most memorable booths from Basel World 2016 was Meistersinger’s. It wasn’t because of some fancy set up with fish tanks or other bells and whistles, nor was it because they had some wild, hifalutin complication to show off. That’s not Meistersinger’s style. No, they just had some very attractive, simple replica watches that resonated with us. I covered them shortly after Basel, which you can check out here, but today I wanted to go hands-on with the model that really stuck out to me, the Phanero.
When someone mentions Meistersinger, the first thing that should come to mind is the concept of a one-handed replica watch. Though some of their models literally have more than one-hand for complications, they all use a single hand for telling the time. This is a love it or leave concept as inherent in using a one-handed replica watch is a lack of precision time telling. Rather, depending on how the primary index is set up, you’re likely going to be ball-parking the time within 5-minute increments. It’s odd and takes some getting used to, but if you’re not a stickler for knowing the exact minute or need constant motion on a dial, it gets the job done.
So, with that in mind, the Meistersinger Phanero is a new line for the brand that combines classic case proportions, colorful dials and manual winding. With a 35 x 41 x 7.8mm case, the Phanero is small by today’s standards, bringing to mind vintage replica watches, though it by no means feels like a petite replica watch. On the contrary, it’s just a reminder that many modern replica watches, especially those of the causal or dress persuasion, are just too big. That said, it all comes down to proportions and design, which is where the Phanero really shines, to succeed.
At a glance, the Phanero case is reminiscent of the “Bauhaus” standard design you’ll find on the likes of Stowa Anteas and Nomos Tangente/Tangomats, but close up you’ll find that it’s its own, unique concept. From the top down, it’s all dial with a thin bezel (with great finishing, but I’ll come back to that), and thick, faceted lugs. This is where interesting proportions come into play. Though the lug width is 18mm and the case is 35, the lugs are surprisingly thick. This adds presence and some masculinity to the case, balancing out the smaller overall design. The pronounced kink/facet in the lugs also adds a harsh line, which is indicative of that Bauhaus style, and adds an attractive visual detail.
From the sides, things are no less interesting. The mid-case is quite thin and fully polished, with a central line that flows directly into the lugs. On the right side you have a sizable crown that measures 5.5 x 3mm in diameter, making it easy to grasp for daily winding. The crown is decorated with Meistersinger’s Fermata logo, which is a subtle and attractive detail.
The bezel is the most unique aspect of the case, adding a bevel and a play with finishing to the design. Rather than continuing straight up as the aforementioned Bauhaus-style replica watches do, here the bezel kinks in at a slight angle, then angles again for a small distance before reaching the sapphire. For the first bevel they went with a consistent light-grain brush, then with polish for the second. This adds a nice play of textures to the side while also breaking up the surface, which always makes a case seem thinner. From above, the back and forth of brushed and polished surfaces is also slightly visible around the dial, which has a pleasant effect.
Flipping the replica watch over, you’ll find a simple display case back held on by four tiny screws. The crystal in the center grants a view of the decorated Sellita SW 210 movement. An ETA 2801 clone, the 210 is a manual wind, non-date movement with hacking, 19-jewels, a 42hr power reserve. In terms of looks, it’s nothing special, but with a touch of decorating does have a utilitarian charm. Here, it’s plated and features Cotes De Geneve graining. Oddly, there is no Meistersinger branding which does feel like a missed opportunity.
The dial is clean and technical, but with a splash of color that makes it standout. The Phanero is available in a few versions, but here we have the Sunburst Anthracite with red appliqué style. Honestly, I’d call it silver as it’s a pale metallic color, but that’s splitting hairs. The main surface has a sunburst texture, adding a metallic feel to the dial. On the surface, printed in white, is the minute index as well as text and logos. As said before, the minute index is broken down into intervals of 5, with lines of different scales for the hour, quarter, half and five-minute, making it somewhat easier to read quickly.
The standout feature, however, is the hour index of red appliqués. This sudden shock of color is at once unexpected and the exact dose of personality this replica watch needs to not feel staid. Red can be a touchy color. Too much and you’re quickly verging on tacky. Too bright and you’re playing with the obnoxious. Meistersinger luckily balanced this just right, with a red that is just a bit darker than typical and a small and straightforward typeface that adds a restrained amount of the color to surface. What you get is something with a classic look, but a modern attitude and style.
Finishing the dial off is Meistersinger’s large single hand in matte white. It’s an oversized hand, very much giving off the look of a needle from a gauge, that tapers to a fine point. I very much like the design, which is the same throughout their collection, as it’s bold and legible, but not overly stylized.
The Phanero comes fitted with a light gray suede strap. It’s a smart compliment to the dial, melding with the silver dial and further emphasizing the red hours. On the wrist, the Phanero looks and wears great. Yep, it’s smaller than your typical replica watch, but in no way feels too small, at least on my 7” wrist. That said, I own and wear 34-36mm replica watches both new and vintage regularly, so this is very much in my wheel house. But, I think it’s a size that is worth giving a try for a casual/daily wear replica watch, especially if you’ve been tempted by vintage replica watches.
The fact is, a replica watch doesn’t need to literally take up space to have presence. A big dial, some color and good design is all you need. The Phanero then adds comfort and ease to the equation by staying positioned well on top of the wrist, and has the added benefit of being very thin and light. Of course, Meistersinger also makes very similar replica watches in larger sizes, such as the Unitas powered No. 2 at 43mm, but I personally think there is something, at least at this point in replica watch history, more compelling about a compact replica watch that gets the same aesthetic message across with less real estate.
The Phanero comes in with a price tag of $1,595, putting at the entry-level end of Meistersinger’s catalog. That’s by no means inexpensive, but it is on par with more fairly priced Swiss-made mechanicals available at retail (vs direct to consumer). It definitely has the fit and finish you’d expect, and given that Meistersinger has the relatively unique status of being a one-handed replica watch brand, they don’t have much direct competition. With the Phanero, particularly this colorway, I think they’ve made an interesting step towards making more stylish, contemporary timepieces that responds to today’s vintage trends, but aren’t trying to mimic vintage design. Looking forward to what they have in store for Basel 2017.