Escape From Warszawa—the Xicorr Circle
by Randy Torres
One of the best things about being a watch reviewer is that you get to discover little gems like the Xicorr Circle. Sure the watch snobs are all about TAG, Rolex or Patek but how about something cool, different, well made and affordable for us little people? Xicorr, an ambitious Polish upstart that someday hopes to manufacture its own in-house movement in Poland, has answered the call quite emphatically with the Circle!
Another great thing about reviewing watches from the small brands is that you get to have some great interaction with their principals, i.e. they watch your reviews like hawks. As most of you know our format here at the Watch and Clock Forum is to first do a quick and dirty video review as soon as we get the watch and give you our unfiltered first im-pressions. Frequently, our first impressions are, shall I say, slightly off. Our video review of the Circle fell squarely into that category. We got a few things wrong, for example, we missed the embossed, but discreet, C for Circle in both the watch “box” (it’s really a circular tin can) and case back and wondered what an ‘ircle’ was. We wondered whether the rivets on the case were decorative or functional. We pointed out the crown was at the 4 o’clock position and we speculated that Xicorr might be one of those secret government agencies that conducts abominable experiments on humans.
Then we heard from Adam Tomaszewski, Xicorr’s owner. Adam very kindly pointed out that there’s a C there and it’s not “ircle” it’s Circle, the rivets are definitely functional and they hold the watch together (quite nicely I might add), the crown (and the date window) is positioned at the 3:30 position and Xicorr is stylized a Polish prison slang for watch (hence the title of our review). Thank you Adam, we appreciate the insider insights! Compare and contrast with our interaction with power brands like, say Audemars Piguet, whose artistic director personally promised us a book if only I would give him my busi-ness card, but then we never heard from him again.
But what about the Circle itself, after all that’s why we’re really here isn’t it? Well my first reaction when I saw the very impressive chunk of riveted steel that is reference X0101 was: now here’s a watch Mad Max would be proud to wear to a stylish event at the Thunder Dome! And yet appearances can be deceiving, the case is a reasonable 42mm and actually wears quite comfortably on the wrist. Furthermore, in spite of its industrial look, the watch has various stylish elements that soften the heavy metal considerably. First and foremost, is the Circle’s very nice leather strap. At first glance it appears to be a hard piece of tough leather, but appearances deceived us again. This strap is smooth and comfortable, its deep black color contrasting nicely with the cold hard steel of the case. The grey (Xicorr calls it graphite) and white double French stitching provides an additional splash of elegance. The big stainless steel buckle is signed, an always welcome touch.
Frequently at this price point leather straps feel more like a tight new shoe strapped to your wrist and require a couple of weeks to break in. The Circle uses a soft, supple but still substantial strap manufactured by Pattini, a Polish outfit with an Italian name. What is it about Italian names that make everything seem better? You could give a construction brick factory an Italian sounding name, Stradivari for instance, and they would be suita-ble for use in the Sistine Chapel. Regardless, the strap is very soft and attractive and felt like a second skin after about 10 minutes.
The detail that really makes the Circle special is its enamel dial, which I really liked—a lot. I’m not very familiar with the actual process of producing enamel dials, but at this price point these dials tend to look like they’ve been enameled with spray paint. Maybe the Circle’s dial was too, but they did an impressive job. The black enamel is deep, rich and lustrous, so much so it looks like Xicorr sliced, shaped and polished a piece of onyx and stuck it in the case. On moments that lend themselves to intense meditation, like a ride on the R train from mid-town Manhattan to Brooklyn (otherwise known as the real slow boat to China), I found myself getting lost in the hues and reflections of this intense black dial.
Xicorr wisely kept the clutter on the dial to an almost nonexistent minimum. The com-pany’s raised chrome X logo and printed company name and model are tastefully and discreetly placed between the 9 and 10 o’clock positions, a printed “Automatic” at the 6 o’clock position and a proud, but almost imperceptible “Made in Poland” between the 6 and 7 o’clock positions. That’s it. The subtle date window is a small chrome ringed circle that uses, and huge points for this, a black date wheel to match the dial. I really appreciat-ed that detail; too many watchmakers get a free pass with a white off the rack date wheel.
The markers at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock are also chrome ringed circles, perhaps slightly bigger than the date window, filled with a subtle hue of superluminova green, noticeable mainly at night. The hour markers are basically big superluminova dots framed with a thin line of chrome, stylistically similar to their bigger brethren. To add a touch of distinctiveness, the 12 o’clock marker is a superluminova filled oblong, ringed by the trademark chrome. Topping off this luscious dial is a big fat satisfying slab of cold hard sapphire crystal. The way it’s supposed to be!
If the watch has a flaw, in my opinion, it’s the hands. I understand that the look is indus-trial and the hands stay true to the theme, but I think Xicorr could have done better. First-ly, they are too short, which is a shame because they got the second hand exactly right—a very long thin silver needle with a small superluminova filled circle near the tip. The hour and minute hands though, appear to be brothers from a different mother. Both are skeletonized to a degree and both have rounded tips. The minute hand resembles a small test tube and is filled with superluminova except for a small part at the center of the watch. The stubby hour hand looks to be almost twice as wide as the minute hand and resembles the grille of a vintage car. It has a small superluminova filled circle at the tip but is otherwise skeletonized. They don’t completely mar the beauty of the dial, but I think they do detract from it.
The crown, which is signed with the Xicorr X is very nice. It is bullet shaped and grooved, very Mad Max, and as Adam Tomaszewski kindly pointed out it’s placed at the 3:30 position. I’ve always wondered why watch companies place crowns at any position other than the traditional 3 o’clock position or in certain functional cases at the 10 o’clock position. Otherwise I’ve noticed a tendency, especially by newer brands, to put crowns at the 4 o’clock position. Does a watch really look or work better with a crown at 4 o’clock or is it just watch companies trying to push the design envelope? I really don’t know and frankly, it does nothing for me either way. Xicorr puts the Circle’s crown be-tween 3 and 4 o’clock, but in this case rather than trying to push that envelope a wee bit further than the competition, I think they had no choice because there are rivets that hold the case together at both 3 and 4
Another nice feature of the crown is how easy it is to operate. Finger nails fit easily be-neath it and it pulls out with a satisfying click (another nice touch: the watch hacks!). I found this characteristic of the crown intriguing because the watch is rated at 10 ATMs and Tomaszewski claims that it has gone down to 15 ATMs courtesy of a sea dive on the wrist of world record holder Dariusz Wilamowski. I wouldn’t have thought that possible with a non-screw down crown with this much give, but Tomaszewski sent us a Polish Sea Hunt photograph featuring the aforementioned Wilamowski that seemed to substantiate the claim. I’m perfectly comfortable with a water resistance rating of 10 ATM. and I firmly believe that any watch at any price point other than a $10 Fujian Province special should be rated at 10 ATM at a bare minimum.
Xicorr has wisely chosen a fine Chinese 26 jewel Seagull TY2130 automatic movement for the Circle. Not only does it help to keep the price down, but it is readily available, not an insignificant consideration given the new business model adopted by the fine folks at the Swatch Group’s ETA. Based on stock photos in the company’s website, the rotor ap-pears to have some decoration with Cotes de Genève striping and the company’s X logo embossed at its center. Unfortunately, unless you feel comfortable popping the case back of the case you won’t get to see the movement because Xicorr decided to forego an exhi-bition case back. Pity because in my estimation the only unsightly movement is one you can’t see.
While a Chinese movement may give our watch snobs six degrees of consternation it makes a lot of sense for Xicorr beyond cost and availability. As we stated at the outset, Xicorr’s ambition is to someday produce its own in house movements and using a Seagull to learn and tinker with can provide the company with invaluable expertise on which to build its own movement. After all if masters like Paul Gerber and Ludwig Oechslin can take a base ETA 2824 and build $5,000 to $8,000 works of art, why shouldn’t Adam Tomaszewski do the same with a Seagull and keep it affordable for us humble folk!
After several weeks wearing this excellent Xicorr Circle all I can say is I’m happy this prisoner escaped and landed on my wrist. With any luck you’ll be able to capture one too.