Cvstos Challenge Chrono II Skeleton Watches
Cvstos Challenge Chrono II is a great skeleton collection. While Cvstos doesn't produce their own movements, they produce parts of their own movements in-house. They also utilize a lot of exclusive movements and specialized parts thanks to the loving attention and particularity of brand designer Antonio Terranova.
The watches are really his vision, and it is important to note that the Cvstos brand has an in-house designer. Surprisingly enough, many of these more boutique watch brands (and larger ones, even) rely on a variety of outsourced design help. Having an internal designer tends to yield not only better work overall, but more design consistency as well as more complete designs that involve the case, dial, and movement together.
The Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches in their various forms likely make up the majority of the timepieces that Cvstos produces. It should be noted that Mr. Terranova's primary inspiration for design is boats - which is something he holds personally dear - but the Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches are inspired by a variety of areas including automotive and motorcycle design.
In this article, I go over a few recent Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches. The collection comes in a range of colors and materials, and even with varying dial designs. I'll start with the two-color carbon-cased Cvstos Challenge Chrono II Carbon Honolulu. This comes in a black and red "mix" carbon tonneau-shaped case that is 41mm wide by 53.7mm tall (and 13.35mm thick). A nicely chosen domed AR-coated sapphire crystal completes the curvy shape of the watch while the complex indents and cuts on the case offer a modern approach to this classic look.
Water-resistant to 100 meters (thankfully that, and not less), the case uses titanium parts for the screws and crown. The rear of the case has a nice sapphire crystal exhibition window. Inside the watch is the Cvstos caliber 577 automatic chronograph movement. I believe that the base architecture of the movement is a Swiss Valjoux 7750, but it doesn't appear that any of the parts are ETA since this looks to be a very cool and custom build. Functionally, the 577 movement includes the time, date, 12-hour chronograph, and also the welcome addition of a power reserve indicator. The addition of the latter complication is, in my opinion, rather nicely integrated into the overall dial layout making for a handsome symmetrical look.
Operating at 4Hz (28,800 bph), the movement has a power reserve of 42 hours and a rotor produced from mostly titanium with either a tungsten or palladium weight (depending on the watch). I am further amused by the application of the term "technology" on the rotor which seems to fill the extra space but is a bit spurious. Overall, the movement looks really sharp and certainly enhances the modern, high-end feel of the watches.
Tonneau-shaped (barrel-shaped) watches aren't for everyone, but the right one can look cool. While Franck Muller is responsible for making the tonneau-style watch an important facet of the contemporary timepiece world, it is easily Richard Mille that made this case design relevant for modern sport watches. The overall shape lends itself well to unique designs that go beyond some of the traditional limits of simple round cases. Lugs, case, bezel, and even dial design seem more open to possibility, but so are the chances to screw up a good look. It takes a careful eye to make sure a tonneau-style sports watch is handsome versus simply overdone.
You can draw design parallels to Richard Mille if you like in the Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches and other Cvstos designs. I don't know that it would be wrong, but I also don't know if it matters. In this price category, the competition isn't Richard Mille but rather certain watches from brands like Audemars Piguet and Hublot. I think that when it comes to sheer value for the complexity of the watches and unique parts, Cvstos might have them beat with overall lower prices. That said, Cvstos does have its share of artistic and tourbillon watches as well.
Not everyone is a fan of modern skeletonized dial design on sport watches, but I can get into them if they are well-done and legible. Cvstos does a pretty good job of ensuring legibility with the white-lume-coated hands and hour markers on the otherwise deep and complex dial. It isn't a look for everyone, but if you are interested in a modern sport watch whose aim is to show off difficult-to-produce small parts and elaborate design, then I don't think you'll be unhappy here. Nothing about the dial feels "utilitarian," but that isn't what Cvstos is going for. This isn't a brand that is afraid to show off, and neither should their customers be. For what it's worth, these are some crazy dials that nevertheless feel conservative when it comes to delivering the functionality you expect from a timepiece.
Using a similar style case as the black and red carbon Cvstos Challenge Chrono II Carbon Honolulu, the limited edition Cvstos Challenge Pedrosa Carbon opts for a black and orange carbon case. This limited edition model was produced for Spanish motorcycle racing driver Dani Pedrosa - and in the scope of limited edition watches for driving athletes, I found this watch to be pretty cool. Cvstos removed the subsidiary seconds dial and instead reproduced Pedrosa's cartoon style ninja logo which I felt was really nicely done. The chronograph subdials were further made to look like large brakes... with amazingly cool detail. I don't say this often, but this is a limited edition watch for a person and sport that is well-done. Sure, you sort of need to be a MotoGP and Pedrosa fan to be into this timepiece, but if you are (and can afford it), then this is one hell of a testament to your passion that you'll be happy to show off on your wrist. It helps if you like orange as well.
While the two above-mentioned Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches focus on carbon as a case material, most of the Cvstos Challenge Chrono II watches have steel or titanium cases. The final version of this Cvstos chronograph watch that I'm looking at has a case produced with both titanium and 18k rose gold elements. Rose gold takes on a very subdued and arguably industrial look when offered in a brushed versus polished finish. Depending on the look you are going for, this is either a good or bad thing. Then again, on watches like this which are clearly inspired by modern industrial design, going for a more "tool style" look is going to be a plus-factor.
Grays and rose gold tones are accented with a hint of blue which works well with the overall composition. You get a wild look without it looking silly or overdone - at least in my opinion. Again, because the dial mostly emphasizes the functional elements (same with the case, for that matter) the decorative and skeletonized elements serve more as embellishments rather than stealing focus from the purely practical elements of the watch (which is a good thing).