BACKGROUND Last year I reviewed a WRX Sunset Cruiser prototype and although I was overall in favor of the watch aesthetically, functionality-wise there were several critical areas that were lacking. I am very pleased report that the production model of the WRX ''A'' HYBRID seems to have addressed most of my previous concerns.
And surely there could be greater no greater testament than that of Commando Hubert’s French Special Forces, who have adopted the latest incarnation of the WRX as part of the elite forces equipment, and say Ralf Tech; ‘Not just for parade day either’! The WRX ''A'' HYBRID is currently being used by Commando Hubert’s men serving in Afghanistan.
PACKAGING & PRESENTATION
The WRX ''A'' HYBRID came presented in rugged black box, of the type that we typically see manufactured by Pelican or Storm. This one, which is an Italian made box is of equal or better quality. Inside was the watch presented on its gray military strap along with an additional gray rubber divers strap. Mine was minus its tools, but Ralf Tech has assured me that all other production units will be supplied with strap changing tools.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Honestly? When I opened the box, and saw how good looking the ''A'' HYBRID was in stainless steel. The first thing that popped into my head was; why had I requested a gold WRX last year? Frank Huyghe at the time had suggested a steel version, saying it would be a far better choice, however I was hell bent on reviewing some bling. He was of course right; it just took me a good year to see that for myself.
The WRX ''A'' HYBRID is an impressive looking watch. It has a huge domed sapphire crystal that immediately catches your eye. Because of the fact that it was presented on nylon military style strap, you immediately pick up on its military vibe. But no doubt a strap change would change the look and feel of the watch to suit any situation. Nonetheless the ''A'' HYBRID is a really lovely looking watch on its military strap, the perfect combination of luxury and utility.
DIAL A clean matte black dial with 3,6,9,12 Arabic numerals and hours markers. Other elements of the dial include a polished Ralf Tech name and logo and white day / date wheel. In my opinion a black date wheel would have looked sleeker. The markers have been applied with lume.
HANDS The WRX ''A'' HYBRID sports semi-skeletonized hands of the sort that are typically used on Panerai's contemporary dive watches. No points for originality, but the handset works nicely, and happens to be a favorite of mine.
The WRX ''A'' HYBRID's has been constructed from 316L surgical grade stainless steel, which has a very attractive brushed finish. The case takes on the form of a barrel, ever so slightly bulging out at the sides, but with sharper more angular edges rather than rounded ones. The finish of the metal is nice and bright making for a lovely contrast with all the black elements of the watch such as its dial, bezel and strap.
As with all of the WRX series watches its case measures 47.5mm and is equipped with a massive 5.9mm thick domed sapphire crystal. The ''A'' HYBRID has a slightly elevated 500m depth rating over that of previous WRX models.
CRYSTAL It’s amazing what an effect the size and shape of crystal can have on a watch. The ''A'' HYBRID has an enormous domed sapphire crystal, which measures a 5.9mm thick. It looks stunning and is a real eye catcher. The dome does cause distortion, though, which can be both a blessing and a curse. It adds character and interest, but from certain angles the dial becomes obscured. The crystal has been treated to some anti-reflective coating on the inside, but in my opinion not quite enough, especially for a military application.
CASEBACK the ''A'' HYBRID has simple looking screw down case back, which has been engraved with RALF TECH's logo; the placement of logo is a little lopsided and off kilter. Am I being pedantic in wanting it to have been placed more centrally? Also marked out on the caseback is the watches Limited Edition number.
BEZEL ''A'' HYBRID has improved upon the standard WRX; it has been fitted with a new higher-profile bezel making manipulation all the easier. Other improvements include 12 o’clock luminous pip. The bezel is of 120-click type, with a black insert and elapsed dive time scale marked out in sliver. Its movement is nice and smooth.
CROWN Ralf Tech has made much needed improvements to WRX crown. The WRX ''A'' HYBRID crown is now bigger and chunkier and protrudes further from the case; as such it is far more easily manipulated. The large steel crown has been signed with Ralf Tech’s logo and has been textured for better grip. It looks lovely, too.
RALF TECH hasn't really made any improvement lume-wise from the WRX Sunset Cruiser. Ralf Tech says that because of its use by the military the lume has deliberately remained stealthy. But I feel all other productions units should have been applied with more lume. I would rate the lume at poor to fair.
The ''A'' HYBRID has a water-resistance of 500M or 1650FT, which is more than sufficient for both recreational and professional diving.
The WRX ''A'' HYBRID houses a quartz hybrid movement, Ralf Tech’s RTE001; a rotor driven quartz movement with 60 days power reserve. On the plus side, you get the reliability and accuracy of a quartz, there will never be any need for a battery change either. On the minus side you get the quartz tick – tick - tick. In fact whilst the battery is low and charging the second hand is quite erratic, jumping all over the place. This is a quite normal phenomenon and it does settle down after a day or so of wear.
STRAP & BUCKLE
The military style nylon strap that the ''A'' HYBRID came on is a really lovely item. The Nylon is has been triple stitched along its length. The part of the strap, where its holes are and the end of strap have been reinforced with leather / leatherette (I’m really not sure which). The material seems quite tough and durable yet at the same time is super soft and comfortable against the skin. It’s the nicest strap of this type that I have worn.
BUCKLE A massive hefty steel 26mm stainless buckle helps keep the WRX ''A'' HYBRID strapped to your writs. It has been signed with the same logo as the crown.
I’m not sure of the lifespan of hybrid movements, but I would expect them to last a decade or few without any need for concern. The watch itself has been constructed from 316L steel, has an enormous sapphire crystal and a tough nylon strap. No doubt the WRX will hold up very well over time and will endure any knocks or bangs that it might encounter over the years.
FUNCTIONALITY & WEARABILITY
Hours, minutes, seconds, day, date. 120 click rotatable divers bezel, luminous material and 500m depth rating.
WEARABILITY Considering its size and weight the ''A'' HYBRID wears very comfortably on its nylon straps. Because of the strap underneath its caseback the watch does sit up a little high on the wrist, but really is no bother.
The ''A'' HYBRID retails for 1’250€. Yes, it’s a limited edition of only 800 pieces, but considering it lacks a Swiss mechanical movement and is not Swiss made as such, only assembled in Switzerland; it’s quite a lot of money. A good discount from dealers would certainly make it a more attractive.
CONSIDER The REACTOR Poseidon LE, which is fitted with a similar type of autonomous quartz movement that can be viewed through its exhibition case back. The 48mm Poseidon, whilst not as sober looking as the ''A'' HYBRID does have 1’000 meters of water-resistance and retails for just 900USD.
OVERALL IMPRESSION I am and shall remain a little on the skeptical side, when it comes to watches that have any sort of connection with the military. From my experience there is no better watch serving any of the armed forces than that of the humble CASIO; but this doesn’t make my desire for a CASIO any stronger than it is, or make me any more inclined to run out and buy one.
We buy watches mostly because we find them attractive; they look good on our wrists and hopefully can stand up to everything that we might subject them to in our everyday lives. This in itself is reason enough to desire the WRX ''A'' HYBRID. Although it is being used by Commando Hubert it is not as such endorsed; nerveless there is a cool factor that comes with the knowledge that your watch is being used by such elite forces, it’s also a great conversation piece for the pub.
So what do I really think of The WRX ''A'' HYBRID? Aesthetically I love it. RALF TECH has taken some distinct styling cues from Panerai, but this hasn’t had any ill effect on its design quite contrary, it’s a great look that has mass appeal. The WRX ''A'' HYBRID is beast of a watch too, robust and rugged; it looks stunning as you can hopefully tell from the images. But is it the kind of watch I would want to go to battle wearing? Probably not, but I’d be very happy wearing one in pretty much any other situation. Many thanks to RALF TECH.