Making a name in the watch industry when you’re not Swiss and don’t have a 150-year pedigree isn’t an easy task. Apart from the usual quality and price aspects, the key is differentiation – which can lead to making things in an exaggerated way. Finding the balance between this need for being different and beautiful, elegant and timeless design will be salvation. Has Dutch brand Van Der Gang found this balance? We’ll try to find out with one of their classic offerings, the Original Calendar Chronograph Ref. 20052. (Spoiler… They did)
Van Der Gang background
Van Der Gang watches was created by Wybe van de Gang, a Dutch entrepreneur. After finishing his education at the precision engineer school in Leiden in 1990, he established his own company: Exakt Fijnmechanika – an international player in the field of production techniques for the smallest possible parts, supplying products to the aviation, aerospace and medical industries.
With such knowledge in precision mechanics, alongside a passion for watches, Wybe van de Gang started the creation of a watch manufacture in 2002. In 2002, Van der Gang began designing watches and in 2004, the first model, “the Original”, came onto the market.
The idea behind the watches at Vand Der Gang is about elegance, timeless design with a twist. No shockingly complex movements or outrageous designs to set the brand apart. The collection mostly comprises chronographs, with or without additional complications, based on classic designs adorned with discreet details to make them unique. Even though movements are based on existing ébauches, much is reworked to attain the desired level of finishing, with complications being developed and produced by Van der Gang themselves.
Van der Gang Watches offers a range of collections, from time-only to complications, from dressy chronographs to Vlieger (pilots) watches, and even a ladies’ watch.
Design first and foremost
It isn’t our first encounter with Van Der Gang watches. We’ve already taken a look at its modern and sportier offering, the Vlieger watches – which was part of an event report by Robin here. We’ve also reviewed another chronograph watch made by this Dutch brand, the reference 20019. This watch is to be considered the cornerstone of the collection while being the most classic and the easiest of the lot. But today’s topic is about reference 20052, a watch with a slightly more unusual design, which however is the one that carries the most heritage.
The Van Der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph is the modern re-interpretation of Wybe van de Gang’s first watch, introduced back in 2004. Fifteen years later, the brand still relies on this greatly designed timepiece, which has been slightly updated to gain in modernity and to be more consistent with current demand. The Van Der Gang Original 20052 is a combination of chronograph and complete calendar, but the main topic when it comes to this watch is about design.
At first, the VdG 20052 appears as a classically designed watch, with most of the attributes you can expect from a slightly elegant watch with a few hints of vintage appeal. In fact, from a larger perspective, it could seem quite generic, without much differentiation factors… But then comes the closer inspection, revealing multiple details to set it apart.
Case and strap are certainly not the most important points here. The dial, on the other hand, is what makes this watch unique and so pleasant (in my opinion at least). First is the colour. The silvered dial is warm, light and elegant, with nice off-white reflections and very balanced design. It is complex, quite loaded and carries multiple fonts and tracks, but at the same time, this gives an incredible charm to the dial.
The periphery of the dial is dedicated to the indication of the date – the date by hand is a signature complication at Van Der Gang. It is indicated by blue numerals and pointed by a crescent-shaped hand. Then comes a gilt seconds track and applied rhodium-plated Arabic numerals. Indeed, it is a lot of markers for just the periphery, but it actually feels perfectly balanced.
The centre part of the dial is left relatively clean, with a matte silver finish and text aligned on the 3-to-9 axle. Leaf-shaped, gold-plated hands indicate the time, while the central seconds hand is blued. Then again, multiple shapes and colours… But charm. The chronograph sub-counters are contrasting with a concentric pattern. Both are oversized and align on the 12-to-6 axle, resulting in a balanced display. The counter at 12 o’clock includes calendar indications – week-day and month.
So yes, the Van Der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph Ref. 20052 is slightly disorganized when explained this way. This could have easily resulted is an uncontrolled mess, but in the end, the use of multiple colours and plating, the different textures, the position of the indications, the use of text, all of that result in a balanced, legible and mostly charming watch with a unique design. Some could point a certain resemblance with an IWC Portugieser Automatic Chronograph – which I won’t entirely deny – however the warmer design of the VdG sets it apart.
A classic appeal, mechanical robustness
The rest of the Van Der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph Ref. 20052. When developing this new version of the Original chronograph, the brand focused on the request of its clients to develop a watch with a considerably lower case – an automatic chronograph with calendar indications can easily be over 15mm, not the best for an elegant watch. To visually slim down the watch, the brand opted for a domed dial, an equally domed sapphire crystal and caseback, resulting in casebands that can be made thinner.
The case is rather classic, with a 41mm diameter and a combination of polished and satin-finished surfaces. The lugs are relatively short and curved, making the Chronograph Ref. 20052 comfortable. Bear in mind that this is an automatic chronograph and, as such, it can’t be an ultra-thin watch. Several straps are proposed (crocodile, ostrich, calf or nylon).
Originality is, however, found on the pushers and crown. The chronograph start button is executed in red, adding a touch of colour. The crown is oversized and finely notched, again giving the watch a unique appeal. Finally, there’s the screwed pusher at 10 o’clock, used to set the week-day. This somehow breaks the rigidity of the case and adds a counterbalance to the crown/pushers on the left side of the case.
Powering the Van Der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph is a well-known, tried-and-tested base: a Valjoux 7751. No need to go into details, this might be the most iconic mechanical chronograph movement on the market. However, Van Der Gang takes special attention to modify the movement to add the calendar indications and their signature adjustment pusher for the week-day – the rest of the calendar indications are adjusted via the crown.
The movement is nicely decorated, with perlage, blued screws, Geneva stripes and a personalized rotor. It bears 48 hours of power reserve.
Note that the Van der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph is also available with a steel case and a dial with blued accents, as well as in 18k red gold.
So, did Van Der Gang managed to create a watch sufficiently original to be different but still timeless? In my opinion, they really did. The Original Calendar Chronograph Ref. 20052 is elegant, nicely designed, well executed and offers a restrained originality that never shocks. The watch has plenty of charm and elegance.
The price and the lack of brand awareness outside The Netherlands might be problematic for some. However, exclusivity and originality come at a price.
Price and availability
The Van Der Gang Original Calendar Chronograph Ref. 20052 can be found at Dutch retailers Goudsmederij Van Bruggen (Utrecht) or at Amsterdam Watch Company (Amsterdam), but also directly from the manufacture and its webshop. This watch is priced at EUR 8,100 (incl. taxes) with multiple straps offered. A personal engraving on the rotor of the watch can be required for an extra EUR 200.
More details at www.vandergangwatches.nl.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.