Here’s a brand we’ve had our eye on for some time. Firstly because we share a common love of affordable watches, but also because on paper, it seems to tick all the right boxes. From design to price to brand content, Echo/Neutra is doing a remarkable job. A few months ago, their new Averau 39 Moon phase PVD Black was a hit with the blogosphere. Today, we’re reviewing one of their flagship models, and we’ve summoned the Cortina 1956 3 Hands.
Echo/Neutra: Italian design, Swiss manufacture
Italy is a discreet but prosperous watchmaking region. The Mediterranean boot is known for Panerai and Bulgari, although it also brings to mind more confidential brands such as Squale, Anonimo and U-Boat. Echo/Neutra is relatively different. Founded in 2019 by Nicola Callegaro, a designer and communications expert, and Cristiano Quaglia, an aerospace engineer, the Latin brand’s timepieces are not radical in design but revisits watchmaking classics. Their project was born in the DolomitesThe Dolomites, a mountain range in the Pre-Alps north of Venice, are a small part of the history and inspiration behind the company’s creations. Their creations bear witness to a attention to detailwhile their production is carried out in Switzerland to ensure the highest quality standards. The collection we are interested in today, Cortina 1956, renders to the Winter Olympics held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, for a result that juggles vintage style with sportiness.
Let’s start with this Cortina’s case. Its proportions correspond in every respect to ideal market standards: 40mm wide, 46mm long, 11.9mm thick (ultra-curved sapphire crystal included). On the wrist, it’s discreet and comfortableeven for small wrists. Mostly brushed, this case features strongly bevelled edges creating a plunging effect on the wrist and adding a touch of elegance with the polished finish. At the same time, it slims down the lugs of an already slim build. The fixed bezel is also polished and topped with a ceramic insert with beige luminescent markings, with a small mountain range as a reference marker, emblematic of the brand. The crown is also marked with these small mountains, and is medium-sized for a comfortable grip.100-meter water resistance. The caseback is solid and screwed, with a huge polished “1956” embossing enclosed in a sandblasted badge, as are the technical specifications. It’s a change from what we usually see; it’s original but subtle.
The black dial background has been lacquered for a sparkling finish which enhances the watch’s elegance. The hour-markers are beige, and only the hands are strewn with SuperLumiNova Old Radium with green photoluminescent rendering. We like the fact that their base blends in with the dial back, creating a stealth effectThe hour hand adopts the same shape as all the other watches in the catalog, like a signature. The same applies to the second hand, whose tip is red and white. The cardinal points are strewn with large Arabic numerals, followed by the logo specially designed for the collection at 6 o’clock. The other hour markers are slender and discreetly accompanied by the 13 to 24 hour markings for the afternoon at their base. A nod to the “automatic” wording under the Echo/Neutra logo echoes that of the Speedmaster released in 1957, a year after the Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympic Games. Nothing to say about legibility, it’s simple and rather effective even if our eyes are used to thick indexes.
The movement powering this watch is, of course, Swiss. Less well known than the famous ETA/Sellita duo, this STP1-11 suffers from a lack of recognition and hindsight, even though we know it well because we’ve had it tested/analyzed by a watchmaker in the past. It is a automatic movement developed by Swiss Technology Production, a company founded in 2006 and acquired by the Fossil Group in 2012, oscillating at 28,800 vph, equipped with 26 jewels, an anti-shock system, a rotor with ball bearings and offering 44 hours of power reserve. Its deviation is within Swiss standards, i.e. -0/+15 seconds per day. And even though the case back is solid, Echo/Neutra has also worked on the oscillating weight, with a little skeletonization and a black surface treatment, not to mention the engraving of the brand name.
Let’s continue with the bracelets. This 1956 Cortina is delivered with two braceletseach can be selected for purchase with a first waterproof (here tropic in silicone) then a second for style (here vintage leather with Italian stitching). The first is a classic of its kind, very supple and comfortablemade in Italy and branded with the collection’s logo. The second is also very successful, with a very particular grain that exudes vintagerelatively thick. Both measure 20mm at the interhorn, tapering to 18mm at the buckle, a standard that will delight those of you who like to change bracelets like a shirt. Each comes with its own buckle, which makes the presence of an installation/removal tool doubly worthwhile. The main buckle is modern and very well designed, with a polished bevel echoing the case, while the second is a standard for a tropic bracelet. It’s a personal opinion, but even if the quick pumps are very practical, we much prefer the charm of an old-fashioned barrette.
It’s always the icing on the cake, but for us, the case also reflects the brand’s desire to please and create an experience. Because these are expenses that inevitably have an impact on the selling price or margin. And when the price is excellent, as it is here, it’s easy to see who’s made the sacrifice. At that, Echo/Neutra does not disappointfar from it. The case is a beautiful wooden box containing the watch mounted on a bracelet, an additional bracelet, a tool, two spare pumps, an additional polished buckle, a microfiber cloth, a warranty card, a comprehensive user’s manual and a beautiful thank-you card. The execution of every element is flawlessIt’s not what you’d expect in this price range.
Our opinion on this Echo/Neutra watch
Our expectations were high, and they were met as soon as we opened the case. No need to turn the watch upside down to realize that the founders aimed for excellence. In this price range, what the brand delivers is simply stunning. Everything has been thought through, down to the smallest detail and at every level. The watch is superb and tells a story that makes sense. It’s a clever blend of past and present that we could see ourselves wearing every day. Given the livery and at 740€, it’s almost a bargain. So if, like us, you’ve fallen in love, go for it!
Echo/Neutra Cortina 1956 3 Hands Watch / Features
- Case : 316L stainless steel / Polished & brushed finish
- Width : 40mm
- Length : 46mm
- Thickness : 11.9mm
- Lug spacing : 20mm
- Photoluminescence : Yes (on hands and bezel) / SuperLumiNova Old Radium
- Glass type : Domed sapphire crystal
- Bezel insert : Ceramic
- Case back : Full
- Movement: Automatic / Caliber STP1-11
- Power reserve : 44 hours
- Bracelet : Black leather & black tropic
- Buckle : Buckle
- Water resistance : 10 ATM / 100 meters
- Warranty : 2 years