Epos is one of those brands that doesn’t have immediate name recognition among the broader group of watch enthusiasts, but it does have a loyal following that frequently cites the brand’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and how they stand out from the crowd as reasons they were initially drawn to it. It’s easy to make this point and move on, but I talked to a friend of mine who is an Epos owner about his experience owning his watch, and he generally agreed with this consensus. Hey, it’s anecdotal, but I spent two months with the Epos Sophistiquée 3424SK watch. While not perfect, I can report back an overall product that it is worthy of consideration and even borderline downright affordable at just under $2,000.
For those unfamiliar with them, Epos is an independently owned watch band founded in 1983 by Peter Hofer. Like many watch purists in that decade, he was increasingly perturbed by the idea that his beloved mechanical watches were in danger of going extinct. So, he started Epos with the intention producing timepieces that showcase the beauty of mechanical movements at (relatively) affordable prices. Since value is what consumers are after, especially in an era where watch prices continue to climb despite decreasing sales, I think it’s always worth giving a closer look to the smaller players who are holding their own.
The Epos Sophistiquée 3424SK aims to be a skeletonized dial dress watch that costs around what you’d pay for a mid-range Frederique Constant rather than the Maurice LaCroix Masterpiece Squelette Skeleton Dial watch which the Epos is clearly heavily inspired by. Now, the Maurice LaCroix asks something like $7,500 which is about four times the cost of the Epos. Obviously, the finishing, details, and overall quality of skeletonization are not going to be at levels that approach the work done by these pricier brands, but that’s just how it goes. The parts are machined without premium finishes that you might see in higher-end skeletonized dials. In an ideal world, I would have liked to see the watch have more of a premium finish since the focal point is the movement.
That being said, when you’re not analyzing the dial with a loupe or looking at macro shots and just wearing the piece, it feels like a cohesively well-built watch. The Epos Sophistiquée 3424SK uses a brushed stainless steel construction (though other finishes are available) with a sapphire crystal on the front and mineral crystal on the back. The size is an inoffensive 42mm wide and 10.4mm thick. The more conservative side of me likes the idea of a 40mm piece but with so much of the watch’s identity relying on the skeletonized dial, you’ll at least want the 42mm size to get a good look.
There’s one concern that immediately comes to mind when I think about watches with skeletonized dials, and that’s legibility. Here, the watch hands are polished stainless steel with white (non-luminous) inserts and the hour markers are index style with the same finish as the watch’s hands. Fortunately, the hands stand out enough that legibility is not compromised, and I could readily tell the time in all instances no matter how sunny it was outside or any other environmental factor.
Epos uses standard Swiss movements and adds their own touches like finishes on the movements as we see in this watch or adding modules for various complications. The movement is a hand-wound Unitas Cal 6497 (also manufactured under the ETA banner) and has been in use since the 1950s. It is identical to the ETA Cal 6503 except with no date function. It has a Lepine configuration and was originally designed as a pocket watch movement. The cal 6497 operates at 18,000vph and has a decent power reserve of 46 hours.
As important as the technical aspects of the movement is how the skeletonizing and decoration on the plates look. Again, the work is well-done but falls short of remarkable. The feeling that a machine cut this is clear, but there really aren’t any serious blemishes or cheap-feeling finishes. The patterns pressed onto the plate might be my least favorite aspect of the watch, though. It looks like an afterthought and I think Epos would do themselves a huge favor with some refinement in this area.
The watch comes on a 22mm crocodile strap with soft leather backing. The buckle is an Epos-embossed stainless steel buckle. A black strap is the only strap option for all the different models of the Epos Sophistiquée. Sure, you can go to the second market for a strap but some options from the brand would be nice.
The watch is designed to accompany business attire such as a suit. I personally like watches that can straddle the line of casual and dress attire so I can wear them for various occasions. I find the watch sits more in the dressy category, especially with the black croc strap and matching black face. I generally find black croc straps pull a watch toward the dressier side anyway; with the elaborate black face, it upgrades the Epos Sophistiquée 3424SK to a dress watch. Outside of this, the watch feels very light, and the 42mm case provides enough size without dwarfing my medium-sized wrist.
One thing I noticed is that the watch ticks very loudly. It compares to the tick of a Hamilton pocket watch, so I guess for those who appreciate the soothing comfort of a ticking watch, it meets all needs. For those who are used to the almost-silent tick of many mechanical watches, it will be noticeable (or very noticeable for some, even from across a quiet room).
In the beginning of this review, I mentioned asking someone I know who is an Epos owner about their experience with the watch. I’ll leave him anonymous here, but he has owned an Epos for many years (though not this particular model) and he responded with these thoughts: “The watch keeps phenomenal time. I’ve always felt it was a lot of bang for the watch buck. I like having different styles of automatic watches. They don’t spend a ton on movement finishing but they make sure it is well built to keep very accurate time and is interesting to look at through the display back. Although this is the only one I own, I’ve looked at various other Epos watches over the years and all are of the same high quality and attention to detail.” As I suspected, we both reached the same general conclusions.
Overall, I found the watch to be lightweight, wear well, and have plenty of beautiful pieces and parts visible to create a great conversation piece. I wish there were a little more to be said for premium finishing on the movement, but overall it’s still a great-looking watch that uses a time-tested movement found in much more expensive watches. The Epos Sophistiquée 3424SK is priced at $1,800. epos.ch
>Model: Sophistiquée 3424SK reference number 34126.96.36.199.25 (as tested)
>Price: $1,800 USD
>Size: 42mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, but as a dress watch. It wouldn’t be my everyday watch, as I prefer something that blends in a bit better as an everyday wear.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: One who wears suits every day for work but wants to show a bit more personality in their dress watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Overall fit and finish (not counting loupe views of intricate skeleton work) is actually really well done. People often thought it cost a lot more than it does.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The finishing on the movement can look clearly machine-done up close. It also has a loud tick.