This watch grew on me over time, but for some reason I can’t think of a decent nickname for it. I challenge you, dear reader, to imagine a proper title for this Armand Nicolet J09-3 GMT timepiece, with its even sexier “A663AAA-BU-MA4660A” reference number. That just rolls off the tongue. The boys and girls at Armand Nicolet have a sense of humor, at least. Each new collection I view from the brand seems like a combination of something we very much know with something we have never seen before, a dedication I admire.
The J09-3 collection is actually just the name of this case style; the GMT is just one subfamily. As of writing, across the Armand J09-3 family, there are 36 different references. This includes three movement families, which include a Swiss Made automatic three-hand with date movement, GMT (as reviewed), and a mechanical chronograph. The three-hand model is the most conservative, from afar, and the chronograph is probably the sportiest of the J09-3 pieces. The GMT feels the most mature and capable as a general all-purpose watch. That is exactly what the J09-3 GMT aspires to be, a really nice all-purpose around-town watch that feels mature and designer-ish but without overly calling too much attention to itself. This is very much an extension of what we see in many watches crafted by Italian designers (probably, as a group, still the best assortment of creative minds in the watch space in recent times).
The J09-3 — especially on the bracelet — very much wants to be Armand Nicolet’s particular response to the Gerald Genta design trend, which is currently hot right now. The brand has answered the call to “integrate a bracelet with the case in a steel material watch.” The result isn’t half-bad, especially for the price. The case wears larger than it is given the cushion shape of the case with its accordingly wide lugs. The case is 41mm-wide but wears like a 44, visually. The taper on the bracelet is rather dramatic. It goes from 24mm down to 18mm-wide at the deployant clasp. This is at least double or more what most other bracelets taper on watches these days.
The case is 12mm-thick (water-resistant to 50 meters) and has a rather long 50mm lug-to-lug distance. The bracelet also doesn’t immediately drop down, so I think it is safe to say that the J09-3 GMT is best for medium- to large-size wrists. It is just a bit too long for the anatomy of my wrist, but I still like the look and feel, overall. On a slightly larger wrist, with a suit or something formal, I think this would prove a very handsome, masculine design.
The bezel does its best to channel the Nautilus / Royal Oak (Genta designs) vibe, if it were cushion-shaped. It sorta works. What people have to recall is that Genta’s shapes are extremely dependent on a nuanced set of proportions to work, visually. When others try to vary the geometry of the design, that can sometimes look awkward, even if mathematically symmetrical.
The finishing on the J09-3 GMT’s steel case and bracelet is really good. There is a jewelry-like level of shine and quality polish that you don’t normally see on watches at this price level. I think Armand Nicolet’s blending of component machining and traditional polishing lends itself to a fine look at a fair cost.
Speaking of decoration, the brand often uses movements that are decorated, and that is true here with the J09-3 GMT. The movement used inside the watch is the Swiss Made Sellita SW330, which is an analog to the ETA 2892 automatic operating at 4Hz with two days of power reserve. This GMT-style movement offers the time and date along with a 24 hour GMT hand to remind you about the time in another time zone. The center of the dial has a two-tone ring, a style commonly used for the bezels on other GMT watches, though with the gray mixed with metallic blue combo here, the difference in hue can be challenging in some light conditions.
The dial design of the J09-3 GMT is interesting. The dial itself has a lot of unusual shapes, and there is clear effort toward making the hands and hour markers original and effective. The dial is legible, with a good sense of contrast between the hands and markers against the face. The hands are tipped with little forks that remind me of quartz oscillator crystals in quartz movement-based watches — which is ironic given that the J09-3 GMT is a mechanical watch. Even though I find the dial to be spirited, I also think it is a bit aggressive in its brutalist design. The J09-3 GMT is very much a young man’s watch. It displays the endurance and enthusiasm of youth. By the time we get older, our watches tend to reflect our sense of cultured taste and diplomacy.
Armand Nicolet went with an interesting bracelet choice for the J09-3 GMT. The watch is also available on a leather strap for those who prefer the design that way. The look of the bracelets reminds me of Bell & Ross watches from 20 years ago (not a bad thing), which seemed to focus on not being able to see your skin through gaps in the links. Thus, they focused on elaborate designs with links that relied on close tolerances to properly fit together. The J09-3 GMT isn’t as strict when it comes to tolerances, but it nevertheless has a satisfying and smooth wearing effect on the wrist. Let me also note the push-button fold-over deployant clasp that uses an interesting construction trick to be compact in size and also wearable. On the wrist, the J09-3 GMT is really quite comfortable, but you need to make sure the strap or bracelet is sized well given top-heavy design of the composition.
The J09-3 as a collection suits the Armand Nicolet brand really well. They do other nice watches but this is among the most character-rich (it would be better with a collection name to go with it) that I also think mainstream audiences could enjoy on their wrist. Price for the Armand Nicolet J09-3 GMT reference A663AAA-BU-MA4660A is 2,550 Swiss Francs.
>Brand: Armand Nicolet
>Model: J09-3 GMT (reference A663AAA-BU-MA4660A as tested)
>Price: 2,550 Swiss Francs
>Size: 41mm-wide, 12mm-thick, and ~50mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a bold-speaking office or business watch.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: A suitable wrist companion for a Mediterranean-minded man who speaks loudly with his hands.
>Best characteristic of watch: Fun wearing experience with a lot of character in a watch with versatile appeal. Good value for nicely finished case.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Largish proportions are distinctive but won’t appeal to everyone. Dial design is interesting but lacks a cohesive theme.