Gavox is a brand we’ve talked about a few times here on worn&wound. Whether making Type XX inspired chronographs for the Belgian Air Force, or riffing on Marine Chronometers, Gavox has a tendency to surprise with their watches. Despite their young age as a brand, each model has achieved something new and different, and frankly been very attractive both aesthetically and financially. Well, their newest watch, the Aurora, is a game changer for the brand and an industry first.
On the surface, the Aurora might look like another twist on an aviator watch, but lurking inside is a movement unlike any other we’ve come across. It’s a Soprod Mechatronic movement that was developed with Gavox to their specs and desires. So what does it do? Well on top of telling time it has seven different modes, including a chronograph and perpetual calendar to name just two. It’s basically like having the functionality of a digital watch, but with an analogue layout and controls. When you switch between modes, the hands themselves move around to work in different ways as per the function. It’s not only fun to use, it’s fun to watch. In a day and age where mechanical watches are gaining in popularity, it’s watches like this that bring relevance back to quartz and other methods of timekeeping. Simply put, you couldn’t make a mechanical equivalent to this watch.
The Aurora is entirely Swiss-made and features a sapphire crystal with AR and a battery life of 4 - 7 years. Without VAT, the Aurora goes for $838, making it pricey for what one would typically expect for a quartz watch, but as you’ll see in the video (I recommend watching to see the watch in action) and read below, this is not like any quartz you’ve seen before.
The Gavox Aurora has a case befitting its pilot/aviator style. Coming in at 43 x 51 x 12mm, it’s wide and flat. Yet, despite being on the large side literally, it doesn’t look or wear oversized thanks to the general proportions. It’s also worth noting that the movement itself demands a larger watch, as there are hands pushed all the way to the outside edge of the dial, thus needing some space.
The design is nothing out of the ordinary, but it gets the job done. Thick lugs with aggressive angles that slightly contour into the case give it a strong shape. The sides are slab, but thanks to the moderate thickness, they don’t seem empty. On the right side you have two pushers a “crown” and crown guards. I put crown in quotes as it’s really just a large button, but one that you do pull out like a crown as well to access certain functions. Essentially, you push it to switch watch modes, and pull it out in some modes to enter a “set” mode. Either way, it’s sized and shaped like a crown for the most part at 6mm wide with a Gavox “G” on the flat outside surface. It does lack texturing, such as a coin edge, which is actually a smart visual clue that you aren’t meant to turn it. The pushers have a standard look with cylinders sliding into cuffs.
The crown guard design is well considered and simple. They swoop out of the case, creating a scallop shape that the pushers rest in the middle of. This shape mimics the shape of a thumb making it an easy area to push within. They then raise up and quite closely wrap around the crown. Since it’s a button, as said, they could really get near the crown and not interfere with usability.
The case back is a screw on steel plate with various markings and a large Gavox logo etched in the center. Pretty standard fare here, nothing much to point out. In terms of finishing, the watch is available in brushed steel, matt black PVD and full polish rose gold PVD. The matte black works really well on this watch. It makes it look a bit smaller and more compact, and the black really emphasizes the dial, which is the star after all. The steel is nice too in a more classic way, but has perhaps a touch less personality than the black.
The Aurora’s dial pulls from the classic aviator style, but adds layers of complexity due to the immense amount of functionality hidden within. At a glance, you have the primary index, with two sub-dial arcs at 6 and 9. In subtle gray print there is then more information on the dial and chapter ring. So, the surface is matte black, and the primary index is stark white. The main index consists of large 12, 3, 6 and 9 numerals, as per the aviator standard, with large slightly tapering rectangles per hour all in BGW9 lume. At 12 there are also 2 dots, one on either side of the rectangle, for a clear pilot styling. Between each hour are smaller, but still bold white lines for the minutes, as well as other functions. This whole index is circled with a white line, which is a detail I quite like, as it gives a nice hard stop to the dial.
Without going in to too much detail yet, as I’ll hit it all when covering the functions, the sub-dials at 6 and 9 are quite striking and add a lot of information to the dial. The sub-dial at 6 indicates the watch’s current mode, of which there are 7: HOME, SEC, UTC, TMR, CHR, DATE and MOON. So, it’s essentially a passive sub-dial that is not in motion. The sub-dial at 9 is both passive and active, sometimes indicating active seconds, other times, hours, date, moonphase, etc… Since they are arcs, they give the watch the look of having retrograde functionality, which is does in some cases. A subtle detail I really like about the design of the sub-dials is that there is fanned, concentric circular graining starting at the primary index and ending at the sub-dial index. This bit of texture, which is only viewable in bright light, adds some nice depth to the design.
Lastly, you also have days of the week in dark gray set between the hour marks from 10 - 5. These are used in the date mode, and since they are not needed for standard time telling or most of the functions, they smartly kept them very subdued. The chapter ring also relates to the date function, featuring months of the year, repeated 4 times, which I’ll talk about why when discussing the functions.
One of the real strong points of the Aurora is the hand design. Typically aviator watches have broad roman sword hands… We’ve all seen them a million times. I was really glad to see that Gavox decided to take their own approach and create a unique, but still appropriate hand set. I also know from speaking to Michael Happé, owner of Gavox, that these hands had very high tolerances and weight restrictions due to forces from the movement. in order to achieve this they made them out of aluminum with the aid of a very high-end hand maker in Switzerland. You can see from the detailing on the hands (the shapes, changes is color, etc…) that they are indeed much nicer than average.
So, the minute hand is a long sword that tapers ever so slightly, for a more dramatic shape. It’s white on one side, black on the other and filled with BGW9 lume. The hour hand is then altogether unique. It’s sort of a sword, sort of an arrow, featuring a broad diamond shape with a split line in the middle. The back end is black, the front is white, and it then elongates to a bright orange tip. The orange is also lumed. The sub-dial hands are then smaller versions of the minute hand, but in glowing orange and BGW9 rather than white.
The Gavox Aurora’s unique Soprod mechatronic movement has more functions packed into it than most collections have in total. It’s like have a full featured digital watch, with the styling and motion we love from analogue. Let’s go through each and what they do (be sure to watch the video review as well):
This is the base position. Here, you have the time via the hour and minute hands and date via the hand at 9. You’ll notice that the index at 9 has 31 marks on it for the date. The first important thing about this mode is that it’s essentially a power save mode. The battery life of the Aurora is an impressive 4-7 years. Even at its shortest length, it’s longer than most time only quartz watches. The battery is only drained when the motors are in operation to move the hands. So, by having nothing in constant motion, there is little draw.
The second important function is that in this mode you can adjust the time to accommodate changing timezones with ease. Simply pull out the crown, and then use the pushers to advance the hour and minute hands separately. The time here is based on the time that is set in the UTC mode (which we’ll get to), so rather than set the time by the minute, you can jump in 15 minute increments or in full hour increments. This is handy when traveling in certain parts of the world where timezones change less than an hour. When you enter set mode, you’ll see that the date hand switches to a 24-hr hand in order to indicate am/pm.
One can jump back to this mode quickly by pushing and holding the crown button down at any time.
This mode is simply the time with active seconds. The hand at 9 becomes a retrograde seconds, ticking up to 30, and then back from 30 - 0. This is very cool, as there is a logic to counting down the second half of the minute. You’ll notice also that the seconds and minutes are actually linked on this watch, so when the hand reaches 0, the minutes jump.
UTC is essentially your reference time. When you pull out the crown, you can adjust by the minute. So, perhaps you set it to GMT, or to your home, and then use “home” for local time. In this mode, the 9 hand shows 24-hr time. Also in this mode you are able to calibrate the watch hands if they are not lining up. To do this, one pushes and holds both pushers until the hands zero out. Then you use the top pusher to adjust the hands by small amounts, and the bottom pusher to change which hand you are calibrating. This is a necessary function for the watch to have, and one you wish all quartz watches could have as their second hands tend to get off the mark. That said, I found that even with calibrating, the hour and minute hands never perfectly lined up, jumping over the mark ever so slightly.
This is where things get a bit more unique. TMR stands for timer. When you enter this mode the hour, minute and sub-dial hands all go to zero. Since it’s a timer, you first need to set how long you wish to time for. So, you pull out the crown and then use the top pusher to set the minutes and the bottom pusher to set the hours. Should you have previously set a time, it will be stored there and pulling the crown out will re-zero the hands. You can set it to a total of 31:59. In this mode, the hour hand actually indicated the minutes, the sub-dial hand the hours and the minute hand the seconds (makes sense in person).
When you start the timer, you’re in for a treat. The minute hand will start to tick away counter-clockwise! It’s very cool to watch, and I believe quite unique. When the timer is done counting down, you’re in for another show. In order to indicate that the time is up, the hour and minute hand will spin around the dial in opposite directions to get your attention. Should you have started your timer and then gone back to home, it keeps counting, the hands will flutter their as well. I think this is very cool, but I do wish it was tied to a vibration as well… This still requires you to look at it, and there are many circumstances in which you simply wont notice it.
This is the chronograph mode, which also has some cool tricks. Once again, the hands will zero out, hour and minute going to 12 and the sub-dial going to 0. You then operate it as you you would any other chronograph; starting it with the top pusher, pausing it the same, and resetting it with the bottom pusher. Some cool things to start: the minute hand once again counts the seconds, while the hour hand counts the minutes. Yup, that means it’s a central-minutes chronograph! It also counts a full 60-minutes. The elapsed hours are then counted on the sub-dial at 9, up to 31 hours, 59 minutes.
Another cool function is split time, which is achieved by pressing the lower pusher when the chronograph is running. The best function, however, is the psuedo-fylback action. When running, if you push and hold the top pusher, the hands will reset, and when you let go, immediately start back up. This is great as a fast reset, but also could be a more responsive way to start timing. The action of pressing and releasing quickly seems like it takes more time and coordination than just letting go… I’m talking fractions of a second, but still.
The name is pretty clear, but it doesn’t tell you that it has a perpetual calendar. In this mode, the sub-dial indicates the date, the hour hand points to one of the days written in gray on the dial. The minute hand then points to one of the months printed on the chapter ring. As mentioned before, there are four full years represented on the chapter ring, which is used to indicate leap year. If the hand is pointing to a month in the last year (which is in white rather than gray), then it is a leap year.
The last mode tells you the time plus the moon phase. The phase is indicated on the sub-dial, which has little waxing and waning moons in gray, with a full moon dead center in white. Not the most useful of the functions, but does give the watch a very well rounded assortment of modes.
Straps and Wearabilty
The Auroras are available on a variety of straps, but the two I tested were fit with 22mm oily nubuck leather straps that are gorgeous. The PVD model came on a khaki nubuck which worked perfectly against the PVD case, while the steel came on a darker brown for a vintage feel. The straps a very well made with clean folded edges and a heavy gauge off-white stitch. They are padded by the lugs with a firm, but supple padding that doesn’t require too much break in time. A really nice addition is that they come on deployant clasps as well, for a finished look. These are really perfectly matched strapped, and while I don’t know where they were made, they rival straps I’ve tried on watches several times the price of these.
On the wrist, the Aurora wear wells, much smaller than its dimensions would suggest. In fact, it really didn’t look or feel big at all… perhaps more like a 40-41mm, especially in black PVD. Even the lug-to-lug, which is 51mm, didn’t seem long thanks to the lugs curving down properly. It’s really a matter of proportions. The dial is big, which it needs to be for the movement, thus the case is large too, but there is no sense of wasted or empty space anywhere. The 12mm height also makes it less bulky, and the quartz movement keeps it comfortably light. On my 7” wrist, it really seemed to fit, and I personally do prefer smaller watches, so that was a surprise. I certainly think people with larger wrists will have no concern at all.
Aesthetically; an aviator is an aviator. It’s smart, handsome but still sporty and aggressive. It’s not an outright “sport” watch as much as tool diver would be, but it’s not formal either. The dial is bold and has a lot of presence, but isn’t loud either. The added density from the sub-dials makes it look more technical, rather than more aggressive, which is nice. Giving everything it does, it’s really a great everyday watch, but is especially a good option for traveling.
The Gavox Aurora is a crazy watch that is hard not to be impressed with. It’s attractive, well made and incredibly feature packed. Having all of those different modes baked into one watch that has a relatively normal design is very appealing. It’s an alternative to getting a digital watch or, god-forbid, a smart watch of some kind. And it’s really exciting that it came from a micro brand. This was no small project for Gavox. It didn’t happen over night, or even over a year. It took years of development and testing, and in the end a small Belgian brand was able to make a watch that is more impressive than what many “big” brands are producing. It’s this kind of innovation and risk taking that makes micro brands so much more interesting than their larger, older counterparts.
The price tag of $838 is going to be challenging for many as it is a quartz, but it’s hard to compare this watch to anything. First off, it is Swiss-made with a Swiss-made movement, which is always going to increase the cost. As noted in regards to the hands, this watch took specialization that required better than average tolerances. But, it’s really about this movement. It might not be mechanical, but it’s complex and I don’t think should be compared with your typical quartz movement. It’s its own thing, its own category, and considering everything it does, while also being energy efficient (a detail I really love) it seems worth a premium. So, if you’re in the market for a multi-tool of a watch that maintains a classic analogue appearance (well, you might not have known that’s what you wanted until now) but does a lot of awesome stuff, look no further.