Nope, both handsets are the same.
Nope, both handsets are the same.
Beautiful line the Senators
So... I just returned from Las Vegas where I was able to get my hands on the new, updated Senator Chronometer. It was a factory sample that is making the rounds of the Swatch-owned Tourbillon shops. I was able to compare it directly to the current model (although only the blue-dialed version). Here are a few thoughts, first about the updated version and more generally the model as a whole.
First, all of the updates are very small and very subtle. That said, when taken together, they represent a significant improvement to one of the most impressive watches in the GO stable. The already wonderful dial appears even more refined with the slightly slimmer Roman numerals, logo and sub-dial text. In addition, the small decrease in the size of the bezel seem to open up the dial ever so slightly making it "breath" a bit more at the edges. So often, so-called "improvements" to designs are simply to offer something new, rather than something improved. In this case, each small change has contribute to making an already excellent watch even better. Very impressive.
Also impressive was the color of the new "red gold" case. It had an even more pronounced copper color than I had expected from the pictures I had seen, and it set off the creamy white dial beautifully. As someone who generally prefers WG, SS, platinum, etc. I was extremely impressed with it. If they had let me, I would have purchased it on the spot. But as it was a factory sample, they demurred. For me, this is probably for the best. I am not wealthy, and this watch would represent the pinnacle of my small collection. As such, I have been convinced that as soon as these changes make their way to the WG/blue dial version, I will immediately pull the trigger.
A few more general observations about the Senator Chronometer. I had the opportunity to compare it to the ALS 1815 Up/Down, a watch that on its surface is similar in function and design (manual deck watches), as well as price (they are within a few hundred dollars MSRP of each other and there are similar discounts on either model). As I have noted elsewhere, I prefer the GO to the ALS from an aesthetic point of view. Many people, however, have told me that I would be crazy to buy it over the ALS. So it was interesting to be talking with the ALS salesperson. I mentioned that I was looking at the 1815 U/D and another watch. "Which other watch?" he inquired. When I told him, without a moment of hesitation he said, "Get the GO. It is so much more watch than the 1815." I have to admit, such an honest opinion from a salesperson (who would lose a sale after all) was refreshing. As we talked, between us we articulated some key differences between the two watches.
Dial and Case – Both are excellent in terms of both design and execution. Arguably, the GO dial texture/color is richer than the ALS. Moreover, the case (especially the bezel and lugs) is somewhat more complex and modern. However, there is nothing objectively to separate them other than personal preference and size. I prefer the GO, but YMMV. Advantage: Toss-up
Strap – Both watched come on high quality, croc straps. However, while the ALS offers a gold pin buckle, the GO has a gold deployant clasp. Advantage: GO
Movement Finishing – As everyone knows, there is no watch manufacturer (other than some independents with small production numbers) who finishes a movement as well as ALS at all price-points in their line. That said, this particular GO represents the top of their line in terms of finishing. Yes, ALS' movement finishing outshines many of GO's less expensive watches by a significant margin. But here, GO narrows the gap significantly while still finishing second. Advantage: ALS by a small (but significant?) margin.
Movement Design and Complications – This is where, the more I think about it, the GO is far and away the more interesting watch. The ALS is a lovely manual movement with a single barrel, hacking seconds, and power reserve indicator. But that is it. Its beauty is, perhaps, in its simplicity. That said, the GO is a much more interesting movement with some unique and ingenious complications. First, it includes a big date, a feature that no one (including ALS) comes even close to executing as well as GO. GO's integration of the window and date wheels (including color) with dial is spectacular. It is particularly well integrated in the blue dial version where even the line between the two dials virtually disappears:
Even when ALS executes the big date (a feature not presented in the 1815 U/D), each of the digits rests in its own frame. Although executed flawlessly, this seems to create a separate of the digits of the date that leads one to read it as 2–5 rather than 25.
Where the Senator Chronometer really comes into its own is in its functions as a chronometer whose raison d'etre is accuracy. At the most basic level, the GO has a day/night indicator which makes setting marginally easier. More importantly, while the ALS has hacking seconds, the GO ups the ante significantly. When the crown is pulled, the seconds hand instantaneously resets to 0 and the minute hand jumps to the next full minute. The minute hand then jumps only in full minutes allowing for precision of setting. This adds a large level of complication to the movement with the need for clutches to engage/disengage, the need to control forces, and the need to index the minute hand while maintaining its free flow when moved out of setting mode. To give you a sense of how it works, aBlogtowatch has this nice video (start at 3:36 to see its operation):
This is perhaps a unique (certainly extremely rare) complication that fits perfectly with the watch's teleological reason for being: as a marine chronometer accuracy is the paramount goal. The ability to set it with such precision seems to be in keeping with its design.
Thus, while the ALS offers PR and hacking seconds, the GO offers a much more complex movement with big date, day/night indication, a hacking and zeroing second hand, and an indexed minute hand. This complexity is reflected in the need for 58 jewels in the GO compared to 29 in the ALS. The movement and functionality of the GO is simply much more complex and (arguably) much more useful than the ALS. Advantage: GO by a wide margin
"Brand Equity" – There is no doubt that ALS has a higher level of "brand equity" (i.e., status) within the WIS world. It is well earned. Across their line, they offer spectacular movement finishing and classic design that has earned them a place among (or above) the so-called Holy Trinity. As a brand, ALS has more status than GO. That said, GO is no slouch. It is respected by those in the know. However, they also have less consistency of movement finishing across their line than ALS (with price-points to match). If you care about such things (personally I do not), then ALS excels. Advantage: ALS
Conclusion – Although both watches are excellent, the GO Senator Chronometer comes out the clear winner.... for me. Because I prioritize the movement design and complexity, and because I prefer its aesthetics, in the case of these two particular watches, the GO is far and away the better choice for me. Others, of course, may prioritize other elements (e.g., movement finishing and brand equity). But for me (and at least one ALS dealer), the GO is the winner. The 2019 changes merely take the Senator Chronometer one step closer to perfection. My name is already on the list for when they make their way to the WG/blue-dialed version.
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