Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.
The first watch from Italian-based startup Echo/Neutra looks, at first glance, like a straightforward, military-inspired watch. Look closer, however, and its refined design reveals some unique touches and a shot of personality. Priced similarly to the most competitive indie watches with comparable specs, the Echo/Neutra Averau stands out for its dial design that’s somewhere between military watch and more run-of-the-mill field watch — with cues and references that’ll appeal to lovers of the outdoors and hiking.
Case Diameter: 42mm
Case Depth: 10.9mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Swiss automatic STP 1-11 or STP 3-13
Notable: A busy yet balanced dial design is where the Averau derives much of the character that helps it stand out among watches with similar prices and features. Echo/Neutra is not alone, but exists toward the competitive end of watches offering a combination of premium features starting under $600. Those features include a Swiss automatic movement, sapphire crystal, mixed case finishes, and a durable build that’s promised by 100m of water-resistance. At 42mm wide, some will find the Averau to have a bold wrist presence.
Who It’s For: Design inspirations that reference things like specific Italian mountains will be personally meaningful only to a very narrow audience, but the overall theme will still appeal to those with a general appreciation of hiking, camping and the outdoors. With a mostly monochromatic dial and brushed case, the Averau presents itself as a pragmatic watch without much need for bling — and particularly so in matte black, as shown here. However, there are refined details and premium features that will be appreciated by watch enthusiasts and that help give it a more versatile appeal.
Alternatives: The Echo/Neutra Averau’s design doesn’t look quite like that of any other watch that comes to mind, but if you simply enjoy its outdoorsy vibe, there are plenty of alternatives at a range of price points. With respect to field watches, you almost can’t get away from mentioning the affordable Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, but a more apt comparison here might be the automatic version. The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto also measures 42mm with sapphire crystal and a Swiss movement, but actually costs a bit less than the Averau.
Like the Averau, and priced about the same, the Seiko Alpinist isn’t bound by a strict field watch prescription but has a similar mountaineering purpose — as well as an automatic Japanese movement and sapphire crystal. Ascending in price, there are watches like the Sinn 856 that embody a similar ethos, and of course, you can keep climbing to the Tudor Ranger or further to the Rolex Explorer. Each of these watches is an excellent option depending on your budget and tastes.
If you weren’t familiar with the concept and design inspiration behind the Echo/Neutra Averau, it would still communicate an outdoorsy or military theme, which comes from elements that call to mind field watches. The two-digit hour markers at the inner portion of the dial recall the military-time indications found on many such watches, and the monochromatic, matte-textured dial (specific to this iteration of the watch) has that no-nonsense sensibility. The sans-serif font looks like it could have come from, say, a topographic map. None of these design elements feel off-the-shelf, however, and taken together it all feels fresh.
The Echo/Neutra Averau takes its name from a specific mountain in the Dolomite range of the Italian Alps. The particular version Gear Patrol received for review is called the Versante Nord, meaning “northern face” in Italian. One of the charms of microbrands is that they can reflect the individual interests of their creators, and here, the founders’ love of nature and hiking charmingly shows through. At 7:30 on the dial, in text so small as to almost require a loupe to read, is the elevation of the highest point of the Averau mountain, 2,649 meters.
Just a little bit of flare, provided by the arrow-shaped hour hand and the red-and-white-tipped seconds hand, keep an otherwise utilitarian design interesting. The red and white stripes seem to be the brand’s signature, and they are taken from the painted markers (“blazes”) of hiking trails. Finally, various asymmetric elements on the dial, like the “date” text, the mountain’s elevation, and the emphasized first ten seconds work to add visual interest and convey an overall function-first impression.
Echo/Neutra currently offers a total of six variations of the watch, consisting of different combinations of dial executions and cases in either bare steel or with PVD black coatings. An almost completely brushed finished keeps the focus on the dial, but a sliver of polished bevel is a nice touch that elevates the overall feel beyond that of a lackluster tool. With its screw-down crown, the watch is water-resistant to 100m, which seems appropriate for any rain, mist, or streams it might encounter on a mountain trail. Its size, at 42mm, also feels appropriate, but a smaller future version would also be welcome and likely broaden its appeal.
The Averau’s excellent legibility is one of its strongest points (which makes the black-on-black Versante Sud version a little puzzling, and something of a miss). While, oddly, only the four cardinal hour markers have lume (and the hands don’t), legibility remains strong in all but pitch blackness. The flat sapphire crystal has plenty of antireflective coating — and even the display case back uses sapphire, which is not always the case for watches at this price level and even above.
Through the rear crystal you can see the automatic movement made by Fossil-owned Swiss movement-maker STP. The version shown here has the STP 1-11, but customers can opt for the STP 3-13 for $90 more — the difference being a swan-neck regulator (a fine adjustment feature that’s unusual at this price, but doesn’t add much utility for the user) and a more colorful look with blued screws. Starting at $575 on a nice Italian leather strap (20mm lug width), on a steel bracelet it’s just a little bit more.
Verdict: Easiest to appreciate about the Averau is its unique dial design and the “mountain outing” feeling it successfully conjures. If that character speaks to you, the watch offers solid specs for its price and a wearing experience that’s just a little different from that of the more familiar genres of tool and sport watches out there. If you intend to actually take it into the mountains or on the trail, it would also surely be up to the task.