Today, I provide you with “Review: Roue TPS Chronograph”, a piece about a fun, affordable and high-quality watch by a uniquely imaginative maker. The Roue TPS also has a wonderful history behind it.
In a watch world where we so often get caught up on movement specifications, case sizes or brand prestige, it’s surprisingly rare to find a watch which requires none of these considerations. This is a watch which doesn’t burden the buyer with a high price or claims of grandeur. Instead, it is a fun, affordable and high-quality watch by a uniquely imaginative maker. Above all, this is a watch which makes me smile.
Where racing-inspired watches are concerned, I am of the opinion that some of the most interesting pieces are currently the most affordable. Zodiac produces the charming Grandrally and Autodromo continues to produce a delightfully made collection. However, the other brand which springs to mind is not only the newest but the most affordable: Roue.
The World of 1960s Racing
The history of Roue is a short one. Their first slew of models featured a barrel case and bead-blasted finish to give a decidedly ’70s look. However, a couple of years down the line, Roue have turned back the clock by 10 years to the 1960s: the most dangerous period of motor racing. In this period, cars reached speeds unbeaten for another decade due to their non-existent aerodynamic grip and slippery bodies. This was a time when cigar shaped cars carved up Formula One and curvaceous prototypes negotiated other road users at the Targa Florio.
Derived from the French term for a wheel, this brand has always had a strong automotive feel and this piece bears the Porsche 910 on its caseback. Produced from 1966 to 1967, the 910 was a lighter and smaller version of Porsche’s last road-legal racing car: the 906 or Carrera 6. As such, the choice of this represents a time when road and race were one: something at the heart of a watch both utilitarian and stylish.
With the Roue TPS chronograph, a complex approach is taken to the case, dial and movement. The concept of this watch is to incorporate several key functions into an interesting but comfortable package: the chronograph, tachymeter and pulsometer. As such, this watch unites speed with the intrinsically human heartbeat.
The case of this watch is a marked progression from earlier models with a more complex appearance. The diameter is 40mm, which makes the watch feel smaller than its predecessor, yet the large dial and narrow, polished bezel actually help the watch to catch the eye more readily. The case thickness of 13.4mm is by no means small, although about a quarter of this height is the crystal and, thanks to a domed caseback, you lose another millimetre into your wrist. The lug-to-lug distance is a sensible 48mm, thus making it relatively compact. The relative flatness of the lugs also ensure comfort on larger wrists.
The finishing of the watch is, for this price, superb and brings me back to the reason why this watch makes me smile. The concentric brushing on the lugs and along the sides of the case has a clarity and grain usually seen only on much more expensive watches. The polished bezel and bevels down the edges of the case are executed with care and catch the light extremely well. Curiously, it’s the small details which are the most interesting. These include the broad, brushed lug tips and the large polished pushers which are extremely easily pressed. The crown is another detail which combines practicality with a unique design.
Where other affordable watches tend to have generic crowns, this slightly curved divergently conical crown not only gives an elegant appearance but also allows the crown to be easily manipulated despite the size of the pushers. The caseback is dominated by the large, embossed depiction of the aforementioned Porsche 910. Despite this, it is more complex than it first appears. The Porsche is surrounded by an area of bead-blasted steel and a raised ring which is brushed. This incorporation of three finishes is rare for the price and thoroughly appealing. Where details are concerned, we are informed that this is one of a limited edition of 1,000 uniquely numbered pieces and that the movement is a meca-quartz affair. My only complaint here is not an aesthetic one but rather that, due to Porsche 910 protruding from the caseback, the watch cannot lie flat when put down on a surface.
Seiko Mecha-Quartz Chronograph Movement
Previously, Roue have used Miyota quartz chronographs which give a similar smooth tick to a mechanical chronograph but rest over several seconds as the second hand glides back to zero. However, for the TPS chronograph, Roue have used the VK63 from Seiko. Formerly used in the Autodromo Prototipo, this Seiko movement uses a more utilitarian version of technology made famous by Jaeger-LeCoultre. Famously used by IWC, JLC developed a quartz powered and regulated mechanical chronograph. These movements are most commonly found in IWC pilot’s watches. Whilst unsuccessful, these quartz chronographs demonstrated that a quartz powered watch could have the levers and hammers which give the feel of a mechanical chronograph.
In the case of this Seiko movement, we have a conventional battery powered quartz movement which offers accuracy and durability with a 3 year battery life. Built into this quartz movement is a mechanical module which allows the chronograph hands to tick smoothly rather than in 1-second increments. The hands also reset instantly rather than rotating around the dial and the lower pusher will reset the chronograph in a single push. These features very much caught my attention whilst producing this review of the Roue TPS chronograph.
The functions displayed are the time with small seconds at six o’clock, and with the 24 hours displayed on the subdial at three o’clock. With a chronograph which functions up to one hour, the subdial at nine o’clock counts the full 60 minutes and the central hand displays the seconds.
The High-Domed Crystal
However, the way in which this is conveyed on this model is rather interesting as, amongst all the details of this watch, the dial is the most arresting. Above it is a heavily domed mineral crystal with an external sapphire coating. This should give it the same long-term durability as sapphire when used in all but the most abrasive of environments. Of course, sapphire is preferable but, for this price, it simply would not have been feasible with such a prominent dome. Looking past the material, one is still furnished with an internal anti-reflective coating — a necessity for decent legibility.
A Remarkable Dial
Quite frankly though, the crystal will be largely ignored with such a striking dial. Composed of 3 levels, it is available in three variants: a black version, a panda black and white version and my personal favourite, the blue model. This version almost completely removes the dominant orange of the other model and replaces it with yellow. The main surface of the dial is painted a matte blue-grey whilst the upper-right hand corner is silver. This corner houses the pulsometer: a rarity on a watch. On main blue surface are printed the Roue logo, the Swiss super-luminova plots. Around the rim are printed the tachymetre and pulosmeter. Note the fine strakes of orange which remind one of the dials of a racing car or the gorgeous font chosen for the Roue logo. Here, the luminescence could be better, but I think that larger luminescent plots may have removed balance from this dial.
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Raised above this level is a silver ring for the seconds and below are recessed the subdials. These feature concentric rings to catch the light and give a level of lustre to an otherwise subdued palette. Giving appealing asymmetry, a stepped edge for the 24-hour counter is used to display the day and night during a 24-hour endurance race. I must admit that I would have preferred a 24-hour counter linked to the chronograph in order to actually time a 24-hour race. However, considering the price range, the mere presence of this feature is a charming nod to the watch’s inspiration. The hands are perfectly mated to the design with squared hands with luminous tips. These are considerably different in length and, thanks to white paint and a central grey stripe, are very legible. A detail which speaks for the quality of the product is the addition of painted centres to the hands.
The quality across this dial is simply staggering for the price and displays no flaws under close examination. In truth, this is central to the appeal of the watch for me. It would have been easy to set the quality of finishing to the level which the movement appeals to: the affordable chronograph segment. Instead, Roue have taken the care needed to make a more expensive watch and combined it with a reliable but affordable movement.
The price of this watch is USD 290, for which you receive a soft watch roll, rubber strap and perforated leather rally strap. Where the straps are concerned, comfort on the wrist is superb. The leather strap gives very good ventilation whilst the suppleness of the rubber alternative is remarkable. Both are equipped with bespoke buckles which complete a curious and rather exciting package.
In conclusion, it has been rather enjoyable to review the Roue TPS chronograph since it makes mechanical snobbery irrelevant. It matters not a jot that this watch uses a relatively modest movement nor that it comes from a young and largely unknown brand. What it delivers is fantastic enjoyment for a fair price: the highest praise such a watch can receive.
- Dimensions: 40mm x 48mm x 13.4
- Material: 316L Stainless Steel
- Crystal: High-domed sapphire-coated mineral crystal
- Display: Matte painted blue-grey dial / Luminescent markers and hands / Tricompax subdial layout / Tachymetre & pulsometer / 24-hour & day-night indicator at 9 o’clock
- Water Resistance: 5 ATM / 50m
- Movement: Seiko VK63: Time, 24-hours, chronograph, instant reset / Quartz regulation and mechanical chronograph / 3-year battery life / Instant chronograph reset / Hacking seconds