Value post: Brief History of Mondaine and Review of Mondaine Giant, the watch for ultimate readability.

The idea of owning a watch is obviously, to tell time. Back in the old days, not that I’m old enough to use this sentence but yeah, there isn’t much of instruments that will tell time more than what it can with complications like perpetual calendars, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), Chronograph, Moon-phase, Regatta timer, etc. Often these complications in today’s time, will be considered as luxury unless you are a racer or in racing team for Chronograph, traveling tons for a GMT function, and Moon-phase if you’re fishermen that goes out into the sea; we overlooked the fact that simplicity, sometimes, is the way to go, and what we need to tell time.

It is about time for me to help in recapturing light for a Swiss Railway iconic watch, Mondaine.

It all started in the year of 1944, when a Swiss engineer & designer Hans Hilfiker that was employed by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), designed and created the Swiss railway clocks that are used in all the Swiss railway stations. The movement of the clock, however, has only 58 seconds markers around instead of the traditional 60 seconds. It is made this way so that the clock would actually sync to the master clock within the 1.5~2 seconds interval before it hits and goes into the next minute. This is important as it helps all the stations and also trains to be synced to the same exact time for a better time keeping, and also safety (avoiding collisions from reading a off-sync time).

It was then until 1951, a tailor in Switzerland named Erwin Bernheim founded his own watch company to create high quality and affordable watch to the mass, and it is indeed, Mondaine.

The iconic SBB clock face wasn’t licensed by Mondaine until the year 1986 where Mondaine saw the opportunity and made possible for it to live on many’s wrist. From this, Mondaine propelled forward with its licensed dial design into more than 40 countries in the world.

Now, back onto my own wrist.

What I’m sporting right now is actually a #LoanFromMyBro Seong Shik, our friendly neighbourhood big man on the blog, the Mondaine Giant, Model: A660.30328.11SBB.

This particular model has a 42mm diameter all around, that’s including lug to lug. Well that’s because it doesn’t sport any lugs at all if you’d excuse me. It came on loan on a stock Milanese Mesh bracelet that is superb on comfort if you’re talking about metal bracelets. Definitely a point on comfort-ability. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just a simple watch face with the name Mondaine on it.

Looking closer, you’ll definitely find another line of random acronyms just right under the big brand Mondaine name that reads “SBB CFF FFS”. You might think, or definitely wondering what does tho acronyms stands for? Well they’re actually the name of the Swiss Federal Railway in three different languages: German, French, and Italian.

Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, Chemins
de fer fédéraux suisses, &
Ferrovie federali svizzere.

Swiss Federal Railways

For the little details that Mondaine proves to be the official Swiss Railway watch comes in little packages like this, and this too, shows how proud they are to be a part of this.

It comes with the signature red lollipop seconds hand that resembles the red paddle that train officer uses to announce departure, and two blacked out hour and minute hands that runs around the clock. Underneath the hands comes with black markers all around, and that white grain paper textured dial.

Oh right, that white grain paper like textured dial, ah.


While some may wonder why is it not a directly dead-flat surface instead, but this? Minute details in this dial tells me that in order to reflect the light that this watch is able to capture via its convex scratch-resistant mineral crystal, the dial is to be textured so that the reflected light can travel to all the direction, and ultimately increase its visibility.

What’s present inside this watch, well its no mechanical but quartz movement. First watch written on this blog without a mechanical movement. It sports a Ronda 513 movment, Swiss-made of course.

On the case back is engraved with all the things that matters for a watch, that is some of its specifications and what not. Written on it: Water Resistant, that comes with a 30 meters of water resistance. With one’s knowledge means its just simply splash proof, not that you can actually wear it and dive in deep 30 meters into the water. Unless you want to see the death of your beloved timepiece.

As I’ve quoted on the title itself, the watch with ultimate readability. I still stand by that, at least on a personal point of view. There is also a reason why these are designed to be that way. Imagine you’re running late on a railway station for your next train ride, forgetting your watch of all the possible circumstances. You’d look up to the clock for a second and immediately, the positions of all the hands are burned and imprinted in your eyes and to your mind. Then you continue running to the platform that you’re supposed to catch your ride.

The design has its own beauty where it is so easy to read that you won’t need another second to take a look at it and figuring out: “Oh now where’s that minute hand point at?”, that kind of situation.

It happens to be the best watch for me to wear to work or doing something that’s actually time-sensitive. As for at work it’s kind of the thing where I’d just peek on my watch to get the time within a second, while it’ll take sometime for me to read on digital watch. (I might be mentally challenged if I’m the only one.)
Especially estimating how much more time do I end my day, that’s the truth.

Turns out to be that, black text on a white background also contributes to the factor that it’s so easy to read its Giant dial, pun intended. Studies has been conducted on how we actually read, and what’s the most effective colour scheme, or UI that allow people to read better.

According to Hall & Hanna (2003), the optimal legibility requires black text on white background which often referred as positive text. While the negative (white text on black background) is considered as equally good, the later does often cause people to re-read texts and slowing their reading time. Hence, the ultimate readability. It is for me to emphasize that comfort-ability and legibility/readability is two different things.

Though as of now, the Mondaine Giant has been updated with a newer version with backlight behind the Giant hands, they do cost around US$399. Not a figure that would break the bank, but a rather iconic design in railway business, and definitely suit those that needs a timepiece to easily tell the time. Given that I’ve actually met a lot of people that wears the Classic series, I do believe that Mondaine has definitely captured its audience among consumers in this vast world of options in wristwatches, especially the Swiss.

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