Traveling through Switzerland by train means frequently sighting the source of Mondaine’s minimalist watch dial named for the Federal Swiss Railways (SBB). At every train station you’ll see an easy-to-read black-and-white-dial clock originally designed by Hans Hilfiker in 1944 when he was working for the SBB. The design was enhanced in 1947 with the addition of a paddle-shaped seconds hand based on the stationmaster’s hand-held train signal.
The clocks also feature an unusual method of syncing with each other. Once every minute, the seconds hand stops for about 1.5 seconds at the 12 o’clock position. When it receives the next impulse from the system’s master clock, the minute hand then jumps forward, creating what has become known as the design’s ‘stop to go’ feature. . (For those interested in the technical details of this famed pause, see here.
For many travelers in the decades since the SBB clock began to appear at train stations nationwide, the design signifies the punctuality of the Swiss rail network. To this day, watch geeks can be identified at train stations across Switzerland as they stand on platforms gazing at these clocks, awaiting the ‘stop to go’ pause.
The Mondaine watch company in 1986 licensed Hilfiker’s SBB design to make a wristwatch version of the railway clock. Mondaine Official Swiss Railways watches have been available ever since, and since 2013 a few of them even include the famed ‘stop to go’ feature (though not the Evo collection). Several Mondaine SBB watch collections include a date or feature a black dial, and Mondaine offers a wide selection of sizes. Previous limited editions have even been made with automatic movements and square cases.
This year Mondaine, with assistance from industrial designer Martin Drechsel, has refined the SBB case design just a bit for its new Mondaine SBB Evo2, which the brand says has been ‘subtly refined for contemporary life.’
Mondaine and Drechsel have smoothed the case and the case lugs, redesigned the crown, and have fitted the case with a sapphire crystal. The dials, of course, remain as identifiably Swiss as ever.
Fully twelve new models are in the SBB Evo2 collection, priced from $215 to $275. Offerings include an Evo2 Petite (26mm), Evo2 (30mm and 35mm), Evo2 Big Date (30mm and 40mm) and Big (40mm). For more, see here.
Specifications: Mondaine SBB Evo2
Case: Steel in 26mm, 30mm, 35mm and 40mm sizes. Matte or polished finish, IP black option, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 30 meters
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, big date on certain 30mm and 40mm models
Movement: Ronda Swiss quartz
Strap: Leather, steel bracelet or Milanese bracelet.
Prices: $215 to $275