The Circula Classic Automatic Anthracite is a 390€, 39mm, no-date, 3 hander, with a mass produced Japanese movement. So what makes it so special and why would I choose it over the myriad of other dress watches that are available on the market?
Circula is a German watch brand that was first created in 1955 by Heinz Huber. He named the company Circula after the circulating motion of the balance wheel in mechanical movements. The company produced everything from chronographs and dive watches to alarm clocks and dress watches. In 2018 Cornelius Huber, the grandson of the founder resurrected the brand, drawing inspiration from the first watch that his grandfather produced.
The watches they offer today are hand assembled in Pforzheim, Germany. Their aim is to create “extraordinary masterpieces with precise horological craftsmanship, high quality materials and new ideas.” At this point you are probably wondering how the first sentence of this review and Circula’s aim align, well there is another piece to this puzzle. Circula also have a range of Heritage models in the 790€ – 890€ price bracket which use historic, previously unused 1970s movements from P.U.W. (Pforzheimer Uhren-Rohwerke GmbH). They have both hand-wound 17 jewel P.U.W. 561 and automatic 21 jewel P.U.W. 1661 models available.
Circula use a watchmaker that did his apprenticeship with P.U.W. (and who is now a teacher at a watchmaking school) to build the watches and assembles the movements by hand exclusively for Circula. As you can imagine, utilising historic movements from the 70s means that only a finite number of watches can be produced. The heritage ranges are limited to 499 pieces each. The movements are a genuine piece of German history and as such Circula target these watches at the German market, although they are available for anyone to buy online.
The same watchmaker also builds the non-limited Classic Automatic watches and regulates the Miyota 9015 movements. The 3-piece 316L stainless steel cases are polished by hand and brushed on the sides. They feature a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback and a double domed, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal on the face of the watch. The watchmaker assembles the watches using his decades of knowledge and experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to claim that this is a “Haute Horlogerie” watch but it is certainly a step above the carbon copy three handers that are churned out by chinese factories. There is a level of care and attention in the assembly of these watches that sets them apart.
A little more about the specs of Classic Automatic watch. The 39mm case is 10.1mm thick including the curved glass; which is quite impressive for a watch with an exhibition case back containing a Miyota 9015 movement. It also has a water resistance rating of 5ATM (50m), not that this is a watch you would wear when swimming, but you certainly don’t need to worry about it if you get caught in a shower. It is 45.5mm lug-to-lug and has a 20mm lug width. The relatively discrete lugs add to the dressy look of this watch. Yes, it is on the large side for a dress watch but it still looks very smart. The version Circula sent me has the Anthracite dial which I can best describe as a dark grey sunburst dial. It looks really good as it catches the light. I have found it quite hard to capture the effect in still photos, it is easier to show off in a video, but needless to say it is very handsome. The dial has silver applied indices, silver hour and minute hands and a white seconds hand. Personally, in terms of the overall look I would have preferred it if the seconds hand was also silver, although I suspect it might have made it difficult to distinguish against the Anthracite dial. The indices and hands do not have any lume, which is not unusual for this kind of watch. I did find that in low light and at certain angles it was a little tricky to read the time at a glance, a slight turn of the wrist usually resolved this. Overall, it is a very clean, handsome and classy dial. The crown of the watch is embossed with a balance wheel which is a nice nod to the founder and brand name.
The watches come with a choice of leather or mesh straps. The model I was supplied with came with a nice black leather strap. The straps are handmade in Germany and have quick release spring bars. The supplied strap has a pleasant soft and supple feel to it. I think the plain black is perfectly fine and a good match to the watch but it is possibly a little safe. I would be tempted to switch it for something a little more more exciting like a black crocodile print strap with a butterfly deployment clasp or maybe a distressed grey with contrasting keepers. I think this is a watch that could definitely be paired with something a bit fancy.
In terms of how I would wear this watch, I think this would make a great option for the office or for a smart event. It would certainly go well with a suit and tie, I would even go as far as saying that it would pair well with a tuxedo. I think that it is quite a classic look but in a modern practical size. The lack of date and lack of screw-in-crown makes it a good grab-and-go option if you need something a little more classy for a meeting or an evening do. A quick wind, set the time and you are good to go. It is also a good option if you are used to wearing a tool watch in the 38-42mm size range, it will feel a little more delicate on the wrist but it is not a million miles away from the size of watch you are used to.
All things being equal, I think this watch makes a good case for itself. At a glance it would be easy to dismiss as just another micro-brand three hander with a Japenese movement but if you dig a little deeper you soon realise that Circula is working to produce something far more special. Yes, the Classic Automatic is their more affordable option and yes it is using a common Miyota movement, but they are applying the same philosophy and quality control to the assembly of these watches as they do to their more expensive and exclusive Heritage models. I think it will be interesting to see where they go next as a brand, especially when the existing supply of P.U.W. movements runs out and they move on to their next headline project. Maybe they could draw inspiration from the art deco alarm clocks and watches that the brand created in the past and incorporate some of those elements into their designs.
Whatever they do next I am sure they will apply the same considered level of care and attention. I think this will be a good brand to keep an eye on over the coming months and years. They have a history that they can draw on with a strong family connection, an aspiration to produce quality watches and a desire to do something different from the norm.