Your Next Watch: The Ollech & Wajs P104 is a serious watch that you need to take a look at!
Welcome back to Your Next Watch, an ongoing series that looks at the watches you’re considering buying at the moment and breaks them down based on real hands-on experience with them.
The act of wearing a watch is rooted in historical importance and a sense of connection. Mechanical watches specifically take us back to a time when their usage was focused on dependence rather than any sort of emotional connection to a bygone era on the wrist. There is something hugely appealing in wearing a watch that was created for a clear purpose, job and role to execute. These watches are commonly referred to as tool watches because since birth they have been regarded as tools.
This is a concept Ollech & Wajs (OW) understand well. They have been doing this since the 1950s and I’m pleased to say that this philosophy is still paramount in their newest creations.
The OW P104 - What it doesLooking back through the history books, it doesn’t take long to realise that the watch world has a complex, hard and multi-layered past. A textbook example of this is OW Watches. The brand had a humble birth attributed to the meeting of minds between Joseph Ollech and Albert Wajs in Zurich, 1956. This partnership was founded on a desire to open a watch shop stocking many familiar brands, however, the two friends wanted to create something for themselves.
So, Ollech & Wajs was born. Their aim? To create robust, reliable, legible and functional watches powered by reputable movements. And it's fair to say not much has changed for the brand. The brand went on to enjoy many decades of creating great tool watches including a period where they actually took ownership of Breitling’s stock when Breitling went into liquidation in 1979. The outcome of this came in the form of watches that were made from genuine Navitimer parts but assembled under the brand name of Aviation (Sinn was also involved in this). Today a trusted collector and friend of Mr Wajs is now at the helm of the OW brand to ensure that desire and spirit of the founders is still as strong as ever.
The P104 here with us today isn’t a re-issue, rather a reimagination of the watches produced by the brand over the decades. The first aspect of the watch that reflects this is the case. This 39mm wide, 50mm lug to lug and 12.5mm thick fully brushed case is prominent and substantial on the wrist. It effectively avoids feeling brash, in your face or clumsy.
This robustness is a common theme throughout every aspect of the watch. Screwing and unscrewing the crown feels reassuringly secure and the presence of the OW logo etched on the crown lets you know you’re wearing a considered watch. With 300m of water resistance, you need not worry about wearing this watch basically anywhere.
A frictionless bidirectional slide rule bezel frames the whole watch, marking the start of another theme for the P104 - information. Moving from the slide rule bezel we see the corresponding inner track with a kilometres scale.
This scale is actually raised from the dial itself which gives the watch great depth and a sense of consideration behind it. The P104 hasn’t been created on a whim. It’s the combined effort of all of these small design choices that make this watch a hugely compelling offering. The presence and execution of sensible depth are always appreciated and welcomed in watches, especially at this price point.
This inner scale is the first time we get to see the presence of colour on the piece as small orange arrows sit on the greyed-out scale providing a warm addition to the black colours of the watch. The dial itself is excitingly understated in its execution.
The dial on this watch is all about the pops of colour, symmetry and those hands. First up, the colour and this warm orange with hints of yellow coloured lume fills the 12, 3 and 9-hour markers as well as the hands.
This is such a brilliant choice from OW as it isn’t trying to be vintage lume or fauxtina but the impact of it feels familiar. Next is symmetry and this is where those bold, prominent hour markers command this aspect of the watch. The date thankfully sits at the 6 o'clock position to allow the legibility of the piece to really come into its own.
The dial is actually asymmetrical as the model name is at 3 o’clock. This can’t even shake the P104’s elite level of balance.
And those hands. Large, dominating rectangular minute and hour hands effectively finish the aesthetics of the watch. This hand execution is something that instantly reminds me of original vintage watches where characterful, unique handsets had such a personality.
The minute hand has an orange and black checkered design down it which is incredibly compelling. Under a loupe each hand is vertically brushed to an incredibly high standard, although you won’t need a loupe to see this level of finishing as thankfully the quality of the brushing jumps out (even more so when the light hits them!). The final touch is the arrow hand for the seconds, perfectly completing this attractive, legible dial.
The original founders of the brand were driven by only using reliable, reputable movements and fortunately this remains the same for present-day OW as the P104 uses the ETA 2824-2 OW3P. This modified ETA has the benefits of the well respected 2824-2 but with the addition of an engraved main plate and OW machined rotor.
The P104 is a Swiss-made watch, and OW confidently share the information that it is 90% Swiss made. In a world where watches that are Swiss-made only need to have 60% of the parts made in Switzerland, having 90% is something to be celebrated.
Hands-on thoughtsThis is a watch that really speaks to the tool watch obsessed watch nerd in me. The appeal lies in its ability to provide a lot of information in a visually clean and subtle way. We always talk about case width and lug to lug measurements. The case width gives you a good indication on how a watch will wear but you’ll need to combine this information with the lug to lug measurement to get a true idea of what to expect. The P104 remains well-sized on my 7 ¼ inch wrist with the lug to lug distance adding to the prominence of it’s wrist presence. You won’t be slipping this under a dress shirt cuff anytime soon, but it’ll be a comfortable and appropriate watch for casual wear. Although you may wear this watch casually, the P104 is far more capable and prepared for tougher situations. And it feels ‘ready’ as well. Everything about this watch is solid and robust. I’d confidently wear this piece out hiking, camping or something far more extreme, knowing I’d never have to worry about it.
I feel a comforting reassurance from the P104. This is a watch that has been carefully designed and constructed with great precision and care. It can easily hold a candle to watches two times its price tag.
For such a serious watch on paper, the P104 has a fun playful side to it with a big thanks to the use of orange throughout the watch. Even those large hands with the large seconds hand and checkered minute hand all have their own part to play. Speaking of the hands, they are easily my favourite feature of the watch. From the increased width to the burnt orange colour, delicious-looking brushing and the black/orange design on the minute hand. The imagery of original tool watches from the past race to my mind with every wrist check. Obsessed is an understatement.
As many have been able to tell, I thoroughly enjoy the dial on the P104. The sense of symmetry and balance is hard to not fall for. Combine that with a bunch of information on your wrist and this tool watch starts to make a lot of sense.
Watch straps for Ollech and Wajs
The P104 is available on an interesting, well-engineered metal bracelet. This take on a beads of rice bracelet look adding real emphasis to the tool aspects of this popular strap design which can sometimes look quite smart. The watch itself is a bit of a strap monster. Due to the definitive tool watch design, the style of the watch can be played around with by using certain straps to effectively give this watch a fresh look.
ZULUDIVER Quick Release Sailcloth Waterproof Divers Watch Strap
First up is the Quick Release Sailcloth by ZULUDIVER. If we’re being honest, we’re finding it really quite difficult to not include this strap (or at least a version of it) in our reviews. Straps using this PVC rubber sailcloth like material tick so many boxes. It’s comfortable, stylish, durable, long-lasting and simply suits watches like the P104 down to a T.
The grey stitching option is the one to go for if you’re looking for a subdued combo or pick up the orange stitching version to really make the watch pop.
Veryan NATO Watch Strap By ZULUDIVER in Black and OrangeNext, we have the Veryran NATO and the colour scheme chosen here works perfectly on the P104. Here a subtle grey stripe throughout complements the tone of the watch with the orange and black pulling through from the watch dial to the watch strap. OW does offer the P104 on a similar NATO to this, so this is a solid option if you like to have a look that is all matching as well as the metal bracelet.
Dedworth Distresso Cowhide Quick Release Watch Strap in Distressed Brown
Now we’ve spoken about how the P104 isn’t a re-issue of a specific watch from the OW history books, rather a re-imagination of their work over the years and this final combo is fantastic at extracting that history and making sure you feel it every time to strap the watch to the wrist. Here the Dedworth Distresso in Distressed Brown tones the watch down, adds some warmth and pulls out that character. Quick-release spring bars and a quality leather choice ensure this is a strap easy to love.
Things we would change
As always here at WatchGecko we like to address some things about watches that don’t quite hit the mark for us. Some models have more points than others and the P104 only really has one...
The buckle of the metal strap - For such a well-engineered and thought out timepiece and bracelet, fitting the watch to the wrist and operating the below par buckle was a little disappointing. When folding over the buckle it seems to have two clickable positions which means once you have ‘secured’ the buckle, you then have to push again to fully lock it in place. The result of this is a buckle that is incredibly easy to pop off if you don’t secure it correctly.
The addition of only two micro-adjustments as well doesn’t feel hugely in line with both the brand ethos and the watch itself. I’m sure this won’t come as news to OW so let’s hope they have something in the works to improve this small niggle.
Final thoughts on the P104
Capable sports watches are a dime a dozen nowadays. But rarely do you find an example as honest, dependable, considered and just simply as cool as the P104. This model on the bracelet will set you back around £1,000 which is just an unbelievable amount of watch for the price tag.
The P104 is the discerning choice for collectors who want something that shows they appreciate what ‘great’ looks like.It’s understandable then that soldiers, pilots and divers over the years would write to OW sharing their gratitude to their watches. Something makes me think those words of praise will continue to pour in for many years to come…
The OW P104 is now available through OW’s website for $1,244.95. They also offer the P101 which is a more of a ‘civilian looking watch’ which can be found here. We’d like to thank OW for sending the P104 over on loan for this coverage, to find out more click here.