Hodinkee: The Archiwatch Classic Two-Tone, Inspired By The Calatrava 96

What We Know

This is the Archiwatch Classic Two-Tone. It's designed as an homage to the original Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 96, but rendered in a modern package. It comes from the mind of Richard Ménasé, a French dealer who's previously had his hand in the design of limited editions with Merci Instruments. The Archiwatch is a minimal, easy-wearing take on the vintage Calatrava that should appeal to fans of brands like Merci and Baltic that take unmistakable vintage cues and package them up in a modern watch.

Before this release, Ménasé produced a limited run of 25 "Anonymous" watcheswith no branding in eight different dial variations. The new Classic Two-Tone takes some of the best elements of the Anonymous collection and puts them together: Breguet numerals, a two-tone dial, and a "silver rosé" dial that's salmon-adjacent. The steel case measures 36mm, with a 20mm lug width (45mm lug-to-lug) that's tested for 50 meters of water resistance. The brushed bezel is large and flat, a callback to one of the Patek 96's defining features, giving the Archiwatch a slightly larger wrist presence than you'd expect from its dimensions. The dial design is thoughtfully executed: it's vertically brushed, with radial brushing around the applied Breguet numerals to provide contrast. 

The dauphine hands are sharp and polished, and I also like the decision not to include a seconds hand – it feels like it takes the Bauhaus inspiration of the original 96 to heart with the whole "less is more" thing. The Archiwatch is powered by a manual-wind Sellita SW210-1, which has a 42-hour power reserve. Using a manually-wound movement is another choice that stays true to the original Calatrava and allows the watch to stay relatively thin, measuring just 8.5mm thick.

The Archiwatch is limited to just 25 pieces and has an MSRP of €2,000, with availability on their website today. It's delivered on a pair of leather straps from Molequin – one in what I'd call a grained taupe and the other in anthracite, both of which you can see in the photos here – along with a slim travel case from Molequin and a certificate of origin that I only mention because it's printed on a high-quality cardstock that hints at the thoughtfulness of the entire package. All of the accessories are considered: I much prefer the practical travel case and partnering with one of my preferred leather strap makers instead of delivering a standard-issue box and mediocre strap.

What We Think

This watch is basically made for people like me, but the execution and details are what make it a pretty good homage as far as homages go. While I first got to know Ménasé as a dealer, he's actually got a background in design. He went to design school in the States and worked at a design agency for a few years before his passion for watches came calling, and he returned to his Paris home to become a dealer. He deals primarily in vintage watches, so it makes sense he'd take inspiration from the Patek 96 for his first watch that's branded only "Archiwatch."

I mentioned the Anonymous collection because that's when I first discovered Ménasé's foray into watch design. While I might've preferred a totally unbranded dial here, too, the decision to put the "The Archiwatch" wordmark at 6 o'clock (instead of 12) leaves the branding discreet. It's something I appreciate from less established brands – especially when you're new, there's no need to shout your brand in big letters at the top. Do the talking with your design, fit, and finish, and people will come to recognize your brand on their own (Unimatic is another brand that comes to mind as doing this well). Besides that, the name "The Archiwatch" has a sweet origin story. Ménasé's passion for watches comes from his dad, an Italian architect who had named his company Archigraph – after his dad passed away in 2019, Ménasé renamed his company in honor of his father. 

The Archiwatch joins a list of watches that pay homage to vintage dress watches like the Calatrava 96, a category that's quickly becoming as crowded as the homage diver. Of course, it reminds me of the Baltic MR-01 (I even owned the salmon-dial MR-01 that would bear the closest resemblance to the Classic Two-Tone), but I prefer the execution of the Archiwatch. You might say, "Well, of course, you do, the Baltic is about 600 bucks, and this one's about $2,200, and I've never even heard of this 'Archiwatch' guy." And you'd be right about all these things. But here, the movement is a reliable Sellita; some have reported (fixable) problems with Baltic's microrotor. I like The Archiwatch's brushed case, and while it might've been nice to see some polished finishes for contrast, I understand that might not be practical at this price (or at least, with this limited production). 

Obviously, the dial makes references to the Patek 96s of old, but it doesn't feel old itself. It looks clean, polished, and modern, even if I'm not sure I like how some of the Breguet numerals protrude slightly off the circularly brushed segment. Calling the dial color "silver rosé" is about as accurate a description as I could've come up with, the dial color reminiscent of what it must be like to gaze at a half-dollar coin through a bottle of Provence rosé (I have limited experience with either of these things). The combination of circular and vertical brushing, along with the polished Breguet numerals, shows thought and sets the dial apart from most other homages.

Watches like the Archiwatch aren't made for everyone – more accurately, this one's only made for 25 people – and that's a feature, not a bug. Whether $2,200 is too much for an homage to the Patek 96 is a fair question, especially when brands like Baltic and Furlan Marri have offered the same feeling for a few hundred bucks. But for me, the details in execution here, along with the mechanical Swiss movement, make a convincing argument. And if this one's not for you, Ménasé says he's working on a new design for next year.

Read the entire article here Hodinkee by Tony Traina