Vintage VDB has built a solid cult following in the last several years by offering highly exclusive and creative wrist beasts. The small German watch company prides itself on never repeating designs – every year, a new small batch of handmade serial watches are conceived along with many one-off higher end pieces. For this review, we’re taking a look at the VDB Military Diver 2019 in bronze – a limited edition of just 20 pieces per iteration.
The company takes some clear cues from Panerai and other vintage military pieces. If you can imagine an alternate universe where vintage 1930s Panerai styling — large cases with very simple, legible details — became the standard for military watches, you get an idea of the design language used here. The watches are often in the 44-46 diameter range and usually have extra large lug width of 28mm to make room for large custom leather straps.
The acronym VDB stands for “vintage daily beater,” a concept founder Stephan Obst said encourages the idea that the watches are a daily companion to be worn and enjoyed in any situation.
The Military Diver 2019 case is made from the same aluminum bronze found in Formula One car parts. It’s corrosive resistant and forms a dark, even patina. At 44 millimeters in diameter, the watch wears even larger thanks to its 53 millimeter lug-to-lug measurement and slim bezel. The high dome crystal is a mesmerizing feature (although it is quite a pain to photograph). The bezel is shaped as a 12-sided polygon and the bezel insert is aluminum painted the same vintage brown as the dial. A large polygonal cut crown is seated at the 2 o’clock position.
Because of the thin bezel, there’s plenty of real estate left for a dial with impact. The sandwich cut numbers and markers are clearly Panerai inspired, featuring the familiar open 6 and 9. The VDB logo is displayed loudly and proudly just under the 12-o’clock marker. The 2019 is finished off with double-pencil style hands – white for the hour and orange for the minute hand. A beautiful simple white seconds hand glides around the oversized dial powered by the ETA 2824 found under the hood.
Material: AAMCO type Aluminum Bronze
Bezel: Uni-directional microclick
Dial: Superluminova lume, Dial hands
Crown: Screw crown
Superluminova lume, Dial hands
Glass: Domed Sapphire crystal
Water resistant: 200m
Movement: 2824-2 swiss made
Accessories: Handmade leather strap with matching VDB buckle
Pricing: starting at 1,400 Euros for stainless models. You must contact VDB to get detailed pricing for each piece.
The Vintage VDB Military Diver is a beautiful watch with simple yet bold design. If you can handle larger sizes and want that vintage military feel, this brand is well worth a look. With models starting in the $1,000 range, it’s a great value for a handmade experience. If you budget allows more flexibility, you could go for a custom-made piece using a vintage movement. Those typically sell in the $3,000 to $10,000 price range and have featured movements like the Rolex 619, the Rolex 3135 and vintage movements from A. Schild and Patek Phillipe.
Nothing on a VDB is mass produced and, aside from the movement, is machined and assembled by a team of one. That’s an extremely rare achievement for this price segment. I know I look forward to seeing what VDB will produce every year. And this Fall, we’ll be taking a look at the latest piece, the Kampfschwimmer 2020.
Unfortunately, as of publishing of this review, the bronze VDB 2019 has sold out. Iterations in DLC, sand blasted steel, polished steel and distressed vintage remain in stock. With less than 20 pieces available for each model, I’d recommend moving quickly if you want one. You can find more info at www.vintage-vdb.com.