I awaited the arrival of this watch with equal parts anticipation and anxiety. As a fully-confessed devotee of Renato, I had the sense that this new watch could well be the fulcrum upon which the entire future might turn for the beleaguered watch company. For that reason, I genuinely wanted its debut as a ShopNBC 'Today's Top Value' (TTV) to be a success. However, I wasn't too sure if this particular watch was going to be pre- or post-MZB takeover in origin; in other words, I was hoping it hadn't been 'cheapened-down' as MZB has so infamously done with the XO brand.
I have to admit that the pictures I'd seen of earlier versions of the Beast pretty much put me off; while the curved crystal was pretty cool, the oddly-shaped and textured bezel reminded me of the 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien - I could almost imagine it uncoiling off the watch some night while I slept, then showing up again at breakfast the next morning, bursting out of my chest and taking my sternum and a couple of ribs with it. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but suffice it to say that I wasn't exactly smitten with the model, especially in its 'ana-digi' iteration.
But when when it showed up as a SNBC TTV for $299 last month, I found myself reassessing my opinion of it; seen live on TV, it didn't have that 'horror-movie critter' look I'd seen in its still photos, but it rather came across as a pleasantly attractive watch. Still big, to be sure, but nonetheless attractive, and it had the advantage of featuring both a bracelet and a rubber strap. And, despite the largely ignorant prattle of MZB's 'watch ambassador,' Avi Veiera, I found myself actually considering the purchase of this newest Renato. I ultimately decided to give it a shot, thanks largely to its TTV $299 price tag and SNBC's 30-day return policy. After a couple weeks of on-and-off wear, here are the results:
Colors: Two-Tone (Gold Dial), Silvertone (Blue Dial), Rose Gold (Brown Dial), All-Black
Bracelet: Stainless Steel
Bracelet Clasp: Push Button Decorated Dual Deployant
Movement: Swiss Ronda 5040.D Quartz Chronograph Movement
Crystal: Sapphire Coated Mineral
Crown: Screw Down w/ Rectangular Function Pushers
Strap Measurements: 9" L x 26mm W
Strap Material: Rubber W/Gold-Plated Stainless Inserts & Signed Lug Fasteners
Strap Clasp: signed buckle (Logo)
Case Measurements: 47mm (w/o Crown)
Case Thickness: 16mm
Total Weight (w/Bracelet): 244 Grams
Total Weight (w/Strap): 167 Grams
Water Resistance: 10 ATM - 100 meters - 330 feet
Warranty: Five year warranty provided by Renato Watches Inc
I had always been impressed by Renato's presentation boxes during their heyday; they were either (1) all-wood with a black 'piano finish', or, for the more expensive watch models, (2) a larger wooden case, covered with black faux alligator, etched Plexiglas top and steel trim on the corners. The current models, with their 'bullet' shape, cardboard construction and stitched vinyl covering, made their debut when Renato returned to ShopNBC after their first hiatus. This came as a rather unpleasant surprise to Renato's loyal fans, but the watches were still of high quality, so the issue was soon forgotten. Ultimately, the Plexiglas-topped boxes all but disappeared, and the all-wood boxes followed suit not long after, and Renato has not made them in nearly four years. The latest versions have a faux satin finish, which make them look a little richer than their predecessors, but cardboard is still cardboard, irrespective of what it's covered with.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I slipped on the watch for the first time. Given the relatively large size of the case and the accompanying stainless steel bracelet, I was expecting yet another "wrist weight," suitable for telling the time and getting a pretty decent workout in the bargain. Not so with this one; this is one of the lightest-feeling big Renatos I've ever worn - if not the lightest. Yes, at 244 grams, this is not a 'baby watch,' but the overall feel is far more comfortable than I'd have guessed. Remove the bracelet and install the rubber strap, and its suddenly an amazingly light and comfortable watch.
The aforementioned crystal still bears its unmistakable and even iconic curvature. The dial face is surprisingly clean and straightforward, and very easy to read as compared with some of Renato's other models, such as the T-Rex Grand Diver, or even the Cyclops chronograph, as shown below. Unfortunately, it still bears that troubling 'SWISS MOV'T - HAND MADE' notation at six o'clock, and this alone might be a show-stopper, but I'm guessing - even hoping - that this version of the Beast is NOS and that, in future, Renato will cease and desist in keeping the whole 'Hand Made' myth alive. (Yeah, I know...) Additionally, I'm still not overly fond of the rather odd, 'gnurled' bezel, but at least I'm no longer worried about being the star of Alien IV any longer.
The signed goldtone crown and goldtone pushers look very nice against the stainless steel color of the case, but the crown does not screw down and there's a short protective lip around most of its base that makes it difficult to pull out. In other words, the opening at the bottom of the lip is too small to get a fingernail inder the crown, thus making it harder than it ought to be to pull the damned thing out. On the plus side, you can be pretty confident that the crown won't inadvertantly pop out on you...
The Swiss Ronda 5040.D has proven to be very reliable over the years, and I have numerous watches with this 'workhorse' movement driving the hands and subdials. My only problem with this particular iteration is the reeeaallly slowwww resetting of the chronograph seconds hand. I use chronographs extensively in my work, and the faster the reset, the smoother things go for me. Of course, if I want really fast resetting, there's always my automatic or mechanical chrono's, but, like most WIS's - or at least the ones I spend time with - I want to wear a variety of watches on my wrist...or, put another way, I like to show off as much of my collection as I can, even if I'm the only one looking.
And the lume? (What lume?) Ugh. I'll be generous and say that it's 'not all that great.' The Superluminova has apparently been only sparingly applied to the hands and hour-markers, and even more sparingly to the tips of the sweep second and subdial hands. Under a standard 60W light-bulb, it takes several minutes to get a really decent charge-up, and this only lasts more than a couple of minutes - about the same amount of time as I spent charging it up in the first place. And the Conjurer quick-glance-in-a-darkened-car test (tm)? Don't even try it; any decent lume is lost by the time you get out to the car. I eventually charged the watch up under my uber-bright, 5-million gigawatt back yard lights, and got a very nice result...that lasted right around 30 seconds or so, then faded out to almost nothing after about five additional minutes.
Renato introduced its quick-change system a couple years ago, and it very quickly rendered all other so-called 'quick change' systems obsolete. Even more remarkable, the watch itself looks no different after its installation than it did before. Best of all, and unlike standard 'quick-change' pins or the more complicated screw-in systems that actually require special tools, the Renato system is consistently simple to use. Press and hold the 'bolts' on the outside of each set of lugs, and the bracelet drops away; press and hold again, and you can simply snap it back in place and release the buttons. Easy-Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy...
Unfortunately, for those of you who had hoped to use the leather straps and stainless steel bracelets from previously-released Renato quick-change sets, the news is not good, at least in the case of the T-Rex (which is the only other Renato quick-change set I own) vs. this Beast. The bracelet and inner lug width sizes are only slightly different between the two models - the T-Rex versions are a mere two mm wider - but it's enough to keep them from swapping out pieces from different sets to 'expand your collection.' as they say on Shop.
The two-tone version of the bracelet looks pretty much like those featured on many previous Renatos: the links are of the 'bicycle chain' type when seen from the side. This particular bracelet features gold center links that have a framed criss-cross - or diamond-shaped, if you prefer - pattern cut into them that gives each an almost gnurled appearance at first glance. A close look between these links reveals excellent consistency of gold plating with the rest of the more visible parts of the link. Although the bracelet is made of stainless steel, it feels considerably lighter on the wrist than other, similar bracelets from Renato, such as the aforementioned, slightly larger T-Rex quick-change bracelet. However, this TTV Beast bracelet weighs in at 125 grams vs. the T-Rex at 139, so this statement should be taken with a very large grain of salt.
Overall, I like the bracelet; it's easy to sync-up with the case, and the mix of polished and brushed sufaces is nicely balanced. It's also very comfortable. My one 'down-check' is the concern about the potential for dirt or other 'yucky stuff' getting into the the finely textured surfaces of the center links; cleaning them out can be a difficult proposition, difficult enough that you might occasionally pass on wearing the watch and moving on to something more maintenance-free.
The rubber strap is also very light and very comfortable. Its underside has been 'hollowed out,' ostensibly to both keep the wrist cool and channel out perspiration during both normal and hot-weather wear. (Don't know if this is actually true, but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?) The textured surfaces on the top mimic those of the bracelet's center links, and it provides a nice visual balance against the gold-plated fittings - buckle, 'cross-bars' and 'Beast' signed quick-change links. The thinness of the strap has the very real potential of making it look cheap, but these fittings ultimately save the overall appearance of the strap. Still, it's a 'near-thing,' as my grandad used to say.
I do like this watch but I don't quite love it. As a $299 TTV on Shop, it's an acceptable buy, but not so much for its regular $430 pricetag. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:
Overall Size / Weight
Consistency of Plating
Quick-Change Ease of Use
'Hand-Made' Claim on Dial
Poor Lume Quality
Dirt-Magnet (Bracelet Center-Link Gnurling)
If I really love a watch, it's not unusual for me to want to buy different iterations of it, such as an alternate plating, or a strap version to go with the bracelet, etc. And while I don't actually buy multiples of a watch very often anymore - it's nice to be a WIS and not a geek - I figure the 'want to' part is, in its own way, almost as big a complement to the watch and its maker as actually buying a second or third version of it. Unfortunately, I didn't get that 'oh-wow-I'd-sure-like-to-get-another-one-of-these' feelings from this latest Renato set. There are a host of problems that, individually, don't necessarily kill the deal, but when taken in total, they add up to a watch that doesn't quite fulfill the promise of "the new Renato."
As I indicated at the beginning of this review, I'm a genuine fan of the brand. However, it appears that Renato is heading down an all-too-familiar path: (1) Come back to Shop; (2) Charge exhorbitant prices for the product, thereby (3) Setting yourself up to make money only when Shop actually lowers the price to something most TV brand buyers can afford. The big change this time around, however, is an across-the-board reduction in quality that, at first, seems almost imperceptable, but it adds up as you take a close look at the product.
In its previous incarnation, the things that remained static - and therefore kept us coming back - were the overall fit, finish and quality, from the component level to the finished product. Sadly, those things have slidden a good bit down that old slippery slope toward mediocrity; after that, we're talking about a sheer drop-off into POS territory, a place no watchmaker in his right mind wants his company to go. Unfortunately, as of this writing, it seems all-too-apparent that Renato is inexorably headed in that direction.
It was either a member here, or someone at WatchLords, who opined that Renato should have just gone quietly away this time around. Instead, it looks like those of us who care very deeply for the brand will now be subjected to the unwelcome experience of the company's slow, ignominious and painful death, courtesy of MZB and their air-headed 'watch ambassador."
If you ordered this watch, especially at its full price, return it before it's too late.
Many thanks for looking.
R. I. P. RENATO......? I certainly hope not...