There are a lot of different pleasures to be found in watchmaking, but one of the best is when you find a watch that knows exactly what it wants to be. Mühle-Glashütte (or to give the company its full name, Nautische Instrumente Mühle-Glashütte) is a company that makes watches in a variety of styles, but its most iconic timepiece is probably its SAR Rescue-Timer, which was designed in collaboration with the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service. A tough, instantly readable watch with the sort of naturally achieved aesthetics that comes from real, uncompromising adherence to practical considerations, the Rescue-Timer is in its own way as much a classic of the tool-watch type as, say, the Submariner or the Mark XII, and it sets a high benchmark for other tool watches from Mühle-Glashütte. I’m happy to say the ProMare Chronograph is up to the challenge of meeting the standard set by the Rescue-Timer.
The ProMare is the latest in a long line of bring-it-on tool watches from Mühle-Glashütte.
This is very much an everything-you-need, nothing-you-don’t kind of wristwatch, but it anticipates that what you might need from it, is an ability to put up with all kinds of rough treatment. It’s 44mm in diameter and 15.4mm thick, and offers 30 bar/atmospheres water resistance (that’s 300 meters) although it’s not a true diver’s watch owing to the absence of a one-way timing bezel. The first impression you get is of stolid indestructibility – you can imagine doing everything with it from jamming it into a crevice in a cliff and using it as an improvised piton, to bludgeoning a rogue grizzly bear into submission, and the strap seems strong enough to hold the weight of a full grown adult – certainly, the spring bars are going to fail before the strap does.
A combination of orange and black make it very much an outdoorsman’s timepiece.
The robust strap and simple, well-made buckle fit the ProMare’s sense of purpose perfectly.
However, as you spend a little time with it, you start to notice some surprising grace notes in amongst all the hairy-chested machismo. Though cosmetics per se were clearly the last thing in Mühle-Glashütte’s intentions when this watch was designed, there is, however, a certain – let’s say it, Germanic-seeming – intolerance for sloppiness or anything resembling the haphazard, in design or execution. This is a very well made watch – no flourishes, but all transitions are crisp and clean and the case has, if not beauty, then certainly the handsome dignity of a tool made with real fundamental integrity.
The ProMare, though simple, gives an impression of being very carefully made, with great fit and finish.
The transitions between brushed and polished surfaces are very well handled, case geometry is harmoniously appealing, and the ceramic-inset bezel is both practical, and good-looking.
Good looks are fine but performance counts too, and in terms of operating ease, not only is this a very easy watch to read, it’s a pleasure to operate. The large crown is very easy to grasp and it screws in and out with none of the wobble or sense of roughness in the screw threads that you often find in less expensive tool watches. Likewise, the chronograph pusher feel is surprisingly smooth – there’s a crisp detent as you press the pushers home, so operation feels very precise, but start, stop, and reset have none of the unpleasant notchiness often found in entry-to-mid-level mechanical chronographs. Orange accents on the chronograph center seconds hand and 30 minute counter make read-off of elapsed time a snap.
The movement is Mühle-Glashütte’s caliber MU 9408, which is a fairly extensively modified ETA 7750; alterations to the base caliber include a 3/4 plate, as well as a “woodpecker neck” regulating system. Like the watch, it gives an impression of fastidiously precise fit and finish – again, not pretty as such, but radiating a very appealing punctiliousness with respect to functionality.
Inside is the 3/4 plate automatic chronograph caliber MU 9408.
And of course legibility in the dark is exemplary (the ProMare seems to have enough Super LumiNova for twenty ordinary watches).
Legibility is great, under any conditions.
What’s it like to wear? On the wrist, despite its thickness, it’s extremely comfortable; 44mm is at the upper limit for a lot of folks in terms of wearability, but the sturdy-but-flexible strap goes a long way towards making the watch feel balanced once you have it on.
It’s on the big-and-heavy side but the robust strap keeps things balanced.
This may be one of the best candidates for The Only Watch You’ll Ever Need that I’ve seen in a while. There are less expensive tool-watch automatic chronographs, but I think this one brings a lot of extras to the table – everything from the extremely well thought out design, high quality in fit and finish, and ease of use, make this one of the best sub-$5k chronographs out there. The fact that it gives the impression that you could wear it daily for everything from a dull day at the office, to a weekend at Yosemite hiking up Half Dome, and after years still have it looking basically the same as the day it came out of the box, goes a long way towards increasing its appeal. It’s a watch that’s been made with a lot of respect for quality and utility – which translates to an impression that it’s both a watch that’s been made with a lot of respect for its potential owners, and a great Value Proposition as well.
The Mühle-Glashütte ProMare Chronograph: case, stainless steel, brushed and polished; 30 bar water resistant; sapphire crystals front and back, double AR coated. Ceramic-inset bezel. Leather/rubber strap (model shown). Dial, black carbon-coated. Movement, caliber MU 9408, patented “woodpecker neck” fine regulator and three-quarter plate with 48 hour power reserve. Date corrector at 10:00 in the case band. Price, $4,299 on a strap; also available on a bracelet for $4,399. More at meuhle-glasshuette.de.