Vintro is a new microbrand that was recently started by Uli Baka in Southern Germany. The first watch to be released by the company is their Vintro Le Mans 1952 Chronograph, a watch that honors the 1-2 victory by Mercedes-Benz at the 1952 24 Heures du Mans in France. Held at Circuit de la Sarthe on June 14 and June 15 of that year, Mercedes-Benz won the race with their first gull-wing racing car, the W194. The car with a carbureted engine produced only 170 hp, while the production model, the W198, introduced two years later for 1954, produced 220 hp with Bosch mechanical fuel injection and a dry sump lubrication system. Rarely does a winning race car develop into a more powerful road car, but it did with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. Regardless, today these cars are now highly coveted collector cars, selling for millions of dollars each.
The spark that ignited the Vintro watch brand is Uli’s passion for vintage (and retro) watches which began at the age of 12 with a watch given to him by his father. The Le Mans 1952 model is designed in Germany, with final assembly and QC in Germany at Vintro’s headquarters and their family owned manufacturing facility. Not all parts of the watch are from Germany, to keep costs down while still maintaining quality. The watch qualifies as “Made in Germany” due to Germany being the source of the majority of the watch’s value. Powering this watch is the Seagull ST1940, a Chinese made automatic movement based on tooling from the Venus 175 movement. This movement design and tooling was purchased from the Venus Watch Company in Switzerland. Seagull was founded in 1955 and is from Tianjin, China. They are the world’s largest manufacturer of mechanical watch movements, currently producing about ¼ of the world’s production volume.
The ST1940 is currently listed as one of nine movement models based on the same architecture. It is a column/castle wheel chrono automatic movement running at 21,600 bph. Details of this movement are a bit hazy, but the movement is listed with either a 36 hour or a 51 hour power reserve, depending on the source of the specifications, with at least 19 jewels. The movement is hand windable but not hacking. My experience with versions of this movement have been nothing but excellent in terms of performance, durability with a very mechanical feel. The movement is beautifully displayed with a very large exhibition case back with a flat, slightly raised, beveled edged, sapphire crystal, held in place by a carefully engraved and polished, screw down case back. Blued screws, gold like gear finishing, polished surfaces, the column/castle wheel and the very large, signed, perlaged and radially brushed finish rotor results an outstanding movement view. The completely polished watch case is 316L stainless steel as well.
For this review, I received two watches. The first watch is on a very nice, quick release, distressed, light brown, signed, leather, 20mm non tapering strap that is padded and stitched with a polished and signed buckle with one fixed and one sliding loop. Since this watch uses a 20 mm lug width, the aftermarket choices of straps and bracelets are endless. I picture this watch on an automobile racing themed strap. The second Vintro Le Mans 1952 Chronograph watch I have is identical except it is on a 316L stainless steel, three solid link bracelet that tapers from 20mm to 18mm. Bracelet end links are solid while the center section protrudes, resulting in a slightly wider bracelet wear point. The bracelet is completely polished, except for the brushed backside of the links and the satin finish of the stamped folding clasp. The stamped, signed and polished clasp has three micro adjustments with a push button release and a flip lock. The removable bracelet links use real screw pins, a nice touch. The bracelet is solid and rattle free. The high mounted lugs do curve down Combined with male end links, the result in a gap under the lugs on my 7 inch wrist. When this watch is worn on a strap, rather than a bracelet, the watch has a closer to the wrist feel.
Besides a 20mm lug width, the watch is a fairly compact 46mm lug to lug and is only 40mm in diameter. I measure the watch’s total thickness to be 15.8mm. The domed, beveled edge, sapphire crystal is stated to have a double internal anti reflective coating. It works extremely well with the vertical and beveled polished bezel, the polished raised indices and the perfectly printed dials. The color choices for the four dials consist of blue for the outer tachymeter (I believe), black for the seconds and minutes, red for the inner telemetre dial, black for the 3 o’clock dial for stopwatch cumulative minutes and black for the 9 o’clock dial for running seconds. The delicately guilloche subdials use small, black baton hands while the stopwatch uses a large black baton hand with a small, spoon like tail. The way the red telemetre dial goes through the guilloche subdials is particularly attractive. The hour and minute hands are silver polished dauphine hands, complementing the eight polished and raised thin rectangular indices as well as the polished and raised 12 and 6. Pushers for the stop watch are silver, polished, rectangular blocks with a slightly curved top while the crown is basically a silver, polished, signed, gear edged pill with a slight dome, but it is not screw down. Surprisingly, this watch is rated 100 meters or 328 feet for water resistance. The white watch face, as Vintro describes it, can appear to be champagne or silver or gold, depending on the lighting.
In summary, this watch is an excellent vintage and retro design that combines technology, careful execution, quality materials and excellent build quality. While limited to only 500 numbered pieces in total, it is currently offered for Euro 599 with the mechanical Seagull movement. A second version of this watch with the Seiko VK64A meca-quartz movement is also being offered for 249 Euros, a great budget alternative to the fully automatic movement. Microbrand Watch World readers are eligible for a 20% discount when ordering online and using the code, “MBWW-20”. vintro-watches.de
Bert Kanne is a freelance contributor to MBWW with a love for well made dive watches and chronographs. All photos by Bert Kanne unless otherwise noted.