Echo/Neutra Averau Versante Inspired By The Dolomites A watch born in the Italian mountains has a mountain to climb by Rob Nudds April 21, 2020 MIN READEcho/Neutra Averau Versante Inspired By The Dolomites
Inspiration comes from all places. For the Echo/Neutra Averau Versante, that place rises high above civilization. 2,649 meters above, to be precise. The mighty Dolomites of Italy have breathed life into this project. But does that breathe signal a wind of change, or is it all just a lot of hot air?
Tearing press releases/design inspiration to pieces could fuel a dedicated blog. For those of us who ply our trade translating press release jargon into digestible content for the masses, it would be a nice way to let off some steam. But when it comes to the Echo/Neutra Averau Versante, I’m not feeling that steamy at all. In fact, I’m feeling pretty good about the mountainous inspiration of this timepiece. Is there anything about this watch that makes it more suited to a life at altitude than any other three-handed mechanical? No. No, there is not.
But inspiration does have to come from somewhere. And, refreshingly, the team at Echo/Neutra hasn’t shoved the mountaineering angle down our throats. Rather, the airy sense of calm one might experience atop an imposing peak is riddled through a brand story and pleasingly crisp website for our benefit, not boredom.
How I came to this brand
I approach every watch review differently. There are occasions upon which I don’t feel compelled to talk about dimensions, movements, or even functions. Maddening as I’m sure those moments may be for some, they make for a valid, personal takeaway of the way a product can make an individual feel. Other times, it is all about the specs. Normally, I’ll find myself treading that path when I’m dissecting a watch that is very much pitched as a “value proposition”. That’s because it’s going up against vast swatches of other, often “new”, brands trying to do the same.
I’m somewhere in between on this one. For the sake of keeping this review straightforward, I want to tell you the story of how I cam to this brand and how my thought process has evolved at every stage of my involvement with it.
I sniff around Kickstarter like a stray dog sniffs around yesterday’s trash. It’s not even for pleasure anymore. It feels like a reflex — an almost entirely unconscious action. But I think it’s just professional curiosity. I love the concept of brand building and product innovation. There are few better places to find those things together and in abundance.
I found Echo/Neutra at the start of its campaign. I liked it. The design looked solid, the price was appealing, and the story spoke to me as a mountain-lover. I added it to my watch list and waited for the campaign to develop. Don’t ask me about the strategy behind such a move (one should really always back a project that piques their interest at the earliest possible opportunity as it is possible to cancel one’s pledge right up until the death).
But in the back of my mind, I knew I wouldn’t pull the trigger. It was good, but it lacked something. I wasn’t able to put my finger on it from images on the screen and so I resolved to get my hands on one once the campaign concluded for a thorough inspection.
A strange choice
I spoke with Nicola from the brand over a couple of months. Eventually, we settled on the blue-dialed Averau Versante Ovest in the uncoated steel case. As someone who had one watch with a blue dial (the Tockr Hydro Dip Tie Dye) in a collection of over 50 timepieces, this was a strange choice for me. But it looked nicely done and I thought the brown and blue combo of the strap and dial evoked a classic era of mountaineering that was more in line with my image of the brand at that point.
Things got off to a good start…
I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. But even as my anticipation built, I found myself very, very unsure about the product heading towards my home address. When it arrived, however, things got off to a good start.
There are entire YouTube channels dedicated to the unboxing experience. I am an old millennial. I don’t really fit with that generational categorization. As such, these things are lost on me. I am not above good packaging (shout out to Schofield Watch Company of Sussex for possibly the best in the business), but literally watching someone else interact with it is about as interesting to me as watching paint dry.
The boxes are well-made and well-printed and feel very nice to the touch.
I think part of my disinterest stems from the fact the unboxing experience is largely tactile. The Echo/Neutra Averau Versante Ovest came nicely packed. The boxes are well-made and well-printed and feel very nice to the touch. I received three packages in total. The first box contained the watch itself, the second housed a bracelet, and the third padded-bag contained a leather travel pouch.
The very, very good
This isn’t a wholly positive review, but there are some aspects that are so good, I feel it is right to dedicate a paragraph to them. Don’t take the brevity of this analysis as a slight. It is quite the opposite. These elements of the Echo/Neutra Averau Versante package are so good that I really don’t feel the could be improved in any way for the asking price.
The strap feel, fit, smell, stitching, and color are all superb. The brand must have some pretty good contacts in the leather trade because the travel pouch is also of top-grade quality. It was an unexpected bonus to find it in the package and a very welcome one that’s had a lot of use since.
In my opinion, the movement is about as good as you can expect for €649. At that price, you get the STP1-11. You can upgrade to the STP3-13 for €99 more. The STP3-13 differs from the STP1-11 slightly. It features blued screws and a blued swan neck regulator. My example has the “upgraded” movement. Had I been buying it myself, I would have gone for the standard version. I don’t go in for blued components in a rugged adventure watch with 100 meters of water resistance. I don’t see the need, nor do I find the aesthetic congruous. For buyers with fewer watches in their collection, however, this option provides a cost-effective way of adding a swan-neck regulator to the stable.
The crown. Oh, the crown. It is really smart. Top-drawer knurling for excellent grip, and a precisely machined logo that rivals the very best in the sub-€1,000 category.
There are a couple of elements that I thought were good, but not great. One of them didn’t bother me at all, and the other really annoyed me. The first of these things? The buckle. Smaller brands often neglect the buckle. Most of the time, you’ll find a very boring, off-the-shelf placeholder, apathetically engraved with the brand’s logo. How good this looks, comes down entirely to how well the logo fits the bog-standard buckle. Normally, it is rubbish. When it comes to the Echo/Neutra Averau, however, that is not the case.
A bit lackluster…
The buckle suits the watch. The logo fits the buckle. My problem? It could have been a little more exciting. The buckle, however appropriate — to me, it looks like the kind of buckle you’d find on a 1970s rucksack — is just a bit lackluster. But whatever — it didn’t annoy me like the seconds hand.
So, so close. Immediately, the seconds hand is the first thing you see, regardless of which Averau colorway you choose. It is, in my opinion, the coolest part of the whole watch. So why am I annoyed by it? It’s just too. Damned. Short. Just a touch more length. That’s all that was needed. And then I would have been very happy indeed. Instead, I am still a grumpy Northerner. Apologies for all those that cross my path.
A modern compromise
In keeping with this theme, there was one element that really didn’t speak to me. Those lugs. They are too small for the case’s 42mm diameter. This watch, thanks in part to its slim bezel, wears pretty big. The lugs have clearly been clipped to reduce the watch’s size on the wrist. Here they succeed. However, I question the resulting silhouette.
…maybe I’m dreaming.
I would much rather have seen this watch in 40mm with those lugs retained. The 42mm diameter is a modern compromise offered more and more by start-up brands. I think that enough backers would float a 40mm, or even 38mm project, but maybe I’m dreaming. This is one of those situations where I think the case is stronger on paper than it is in real life. That would be the first thing I would change if I had my way.
For the money, I think you get a well-made product that does what it says on the tin. If I were to choose a model from the collection now, having spent some time with this piece, I would go for the Echo/Neutra Averau Versante Nord. That’s the matte black dial in the steel case. I’d take it on the black leather strap rather than the bracelet and stick with the entry-level STP1-11 movement. At €649, I’d be very happy with my purchase.
What I’m really excited about, however, are the upcoming heritage-inspired releases from the brand in its 1956 collection. Look out for a mechanical time-only and a hand-wound chronograph coming this way soon. Hopefully, we’ll feature them on the site when the time comes. In the meantime, check out the brand’s developments here.
Follow me on Instagram @robnudds
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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