In a world of established brands that have histories stretching almost 300 years into the past, it is very rare that a new watch brand is able to offer true in-house manufacturing and therefore unique layouts and features for their watches. More often than not, many micro-brands focus on the exterior design of the watch – of course there is nothing wrong with this, and most mechanical watches are meant to evoke an emotion in the first place. However, it is Horage that has sprung up, seemingly out of nowhere, to produce watches with their own in-house movements. On the wrist is the Horage Autark 10 Years Edition that we have been road testing for the last month.
The K1 movement housed within the Horage Autark is aptly named after the Karakoram mountain range, a name meant to represent the Herculean task to get a new mass production movement off the ground. Around the late 2000s, Swatch Group would announce a reduction of supply in their ETA movements, leading others to turn to alternative movement suppliers like Sellita, or to venture forward and create their own – and the latter is what a group of engineers and watchmakers decided to do. Since 2009, the brand has been utilising industry heavyweight names in order to create these movements, most notably with the K1. According to an interview published by Europa Star (an industry journal), the goal of the K1 was to not to make a clone to replace ETA movements, but to make it easier for brands to use their movement, featuring similar encasing points familiar to someone in product development, or watchmaking.
This led to 18 different variants of the K1, including versions with big date, small date, subsidiary seconds, central seconds, power reserve indicator and combinations of the aforementioned complications. In addition, one of the most sought after components in watchmaking is the “assortment” – the combination of escape wheel and pallet fork is entirely produced by the company. This is remarkable in itself due to the relative size of the company compared to the rest of the industry, as a lot of larger brands themselves do not make these components, let alone in friction-reducing silicon.
From all of this, Horage is the watch brand that houses these groundbreaking movements, and The Horage Autark 10 Year Edition celebrates 10 years of the K1 movement and the road to its development.
The Horage Autark 10 Years Edition features an integrated case and bracelet design that is executed in titanium. Boasting a hardness value of over 800 Vickers, the case and bracelet (with dual push button operation) is blast hardened for extra durability, and comes with an additional sueded biodegradable leather strap with deployant clasp. The dial is an anthracite colour with vertical brushing that appears to change colour and texture depending on the way light hits it. Arabic numerals populate the dial, as do the small seconds indicator at 9 o’clock, the power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock and the big date complication at 3 o’clock.
Turning the watch over, we see a COSC Chronometer certified version of the K1 movement with a rotor engraved with “10 Years K1” in 19 different languages, as well as the signatures of Jonas Nydegger and Florian Serex – two people who were crucial to the development of the K1. The watch comes in a leather carrying case capable of holding two watches, as well as a tool with multiple heads for bracelet adjustments or strap changes.
The Autark 10 Years Edition is certainly a force to be reckoned with on paper, with its in-house movement beating at 3.5 Hz, and its combination of complications – small seconds, power reserve and big date. Comfort is certainly noticeable with this watch, with its combination of a titanium case and bracelet, as well as its slim case, and relatively short case length. The bracelet is able to drape around the wrist well due to this design, and it rarely gets in the way during daily life – even slipping under many shirt or jumper/sweater cuffs. Movement performance is also fantastic, as I have no complaints about the watch running fast or slow during the review period.
I, however, would have appreciated a few changes to this watch in terms of its dial design. For one, the application of luminescent material on the dial and hands is very small – limited to the tips of the hour hands and the very top of the numerals. In our time with the watch, we found that this leaves low-light visibility slightly lacking. In addition, the font of the numerals themselves seem to be incongruous with the modern, integrated case and bracelet design of the watch – minimalist markers may have been a better choice for this modern design. The power reserve indicator, whilst serving as the only point of colour on the watch, seems to be too obvious, drawing your eyes down to the 6 o’clock position, whilst the branding at 12 o’clock tends to disappear into the dial due to its finishing.
Overall, the watch is certainly a celebration of a monumental technical achievement – if one considers this watch as a piece of memorabilia in the context of the entirety of the Swiss watch industry, then the engineers and designers at Horage have no doubt earned the right to design a watch best suited to their 10th anniversary. With this in mind, this leaves the aforementioned dial design quibbles and gripes at the door.
The Horage Autark 10 Years Edition, then, is a milestone watch that celebrates their achievements to date – one should not consider its design choices as flaws, but rather as the influences of the people who made this movement happen. The future is certainly promising for Horage, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for the K1 movement, and indeed, their upcoming feats of engineering.