The Vanguard is Aries Gold’s latest mechanical offering, and features a skeletonised dial. Like most of their watches, the Vanguard is pretty affordable. It’s cheap, but is it good? Let’s find out.
Update: I’m pleased to list the Aries Gold Vanguard on my new web-store, The Shiok Shop.
Aries Gold – the Brand
Many of us Singaporeans should be familiar with the brand Aries Gold – we see Aries Gold watches stocked in watch retailer H2 Hub (with over 10 locations in Singapore) across the island. What many Singaporeans may not know is that Aries Gold watches are actually “Made in Singapore” – the brand possess their own manufacturing and assembly facilities and team of watchmakers right here on our little red dot! If you would like to details of Aries Gold’s brand story, do read my review of the Aries Gold Jolter (one of my personal favourites) here, in which I covered Aries Gold as a brand in detail. I also previously reviewed the Aries Gold Cruiser here, the Aries Gold Roadster here, and the Aries Gold El Toro here.
Aries Gold Vanguard – Build Quality
The build quality of Aries Gold watches never fails to impress me, and I’m pleased to report that the Vanguard is no exception!
Firstly, the Vanguard utilises a flat sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. In addition, the WR rating for the Vanguard is 100m, which should render it safe for most daily activities except prolonged submersion in the pool or the sea.
The Aries Gold Vanguard features the Seiko NH70A movement, which is essentially a skeletonised variant of the workhorse Seiko NH35A movement. Some quick specifications: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH70A movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 82S0 movement (which is the alternative skeletonised movement commonly seen used in microbrand watches). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH70A, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. In addition, the Seiko NH70A movement features Cotes de Geneve decoration – visible through an exhibition caseback – which is seriously impressive for a watch of this price point.
I’ve been critical of the straps on the Aries Gold watches which I previously reviewed, but this time around the brand informed me that they have worked hard to improve the quality of their straps. The Vanguard ships with Aries Gold’s new “Italian Genuine Leather Strap”, and I must say I found it to be significantly better than their previous straps. The Italian leather strap feels more premium to the touch, and it’s definitely much more comfortable on the wrist. It’s nicely finished too with edge dye and stitched strap loops, and features quick-release spring bars to facilitate easy strap changing. The buckle is etched with Aries Gold’s branding, which is a nice detail. It’s still nothing mindblowing, but it definitely on par with the $20-30+ straps one might get from Nomadwatchworks or Straposphere.
Aries Gold doesn’t advertise this, but there’s actually lume on the hands. It’s not the greatest though – the brand tells me it’s “Asian lume”. If you’re a lume head it’s definitely not going to satisfy you, but I guess something is better than nothing!
Overall, I’m very impressed by the specifications of the Aries Gold Vanguard – it really punches above its price point. There’s sapphire crystal, a skeletonised Seiko NH70A movement with a cotes de Geneve decorated rotor, 100M WR rating, a very decent Italian leather strap, and even lume! Not bad for a ~S$300 watch.
Aries Gold Vanguard – Design
While the specifications of the Aries Gold Vanguard is certainly impressive, its design is no slouch either!
Aries Gold states: “With a bold and unapologetic design, the watch commands attention and with the attention to detail that we are known for, will easily stand up to scrutiny.” That’s a strong claim. Let’s start with the first part – the watch certainly has a very pronounced design. The Vanguard comes in a variety of colourways (5 in total), with an Aries Gold representative commenting that the silver colourway (the one I’m reviewing) is the brand’s favourite as it best conveys the industrial look of the Vanguard. I must say, I like the silver/gold colourway of this Vanguard. It’s a nice twist on the classic two-tone watches of bygone times, yet unlike say a two-tone Rolex Datejust, the silver/gold colour scheme contributes to a more industrial vibe here. Pretty interesting.
Aries Gold claims that the Vanguard “will easily stand up to scrutiny”, and I must say that is true. Honestly, I’m pretty mindblown at the details of this ~S$300 watch. It’s a watch that possesses both depth and texture. Majority of the dial’s depth stems from the skeletonised dial. At this price point, most brands that boast a ‘skeletonised’ dial simply cut a hole in the center without any finesse. That’s not the point of skeletonisation – skeletonisation should emphasis the beauty of the movement. Aries Gold did a remarkable job at the skeletonised dial of the Vanguard, ensuring that features such as the balance wheel and the main gears are visible. The usage of applied indices, as well as the applied Aries Gold plague, enhances the depth present too. In addition, there’s also nice juxtaposition in texture between the dial’s sandblasted bottom layer, and the metallic brushed surface of its upper layer. There are blued screws present as well, though they appear to be painted/electroplated instead of heat-blued.
Although the Vanguard is meant to have an industrial look, I found it to possess a touch of elegance as well. In particular, I love the minute indices, which are very intriguingly designed. I’ve personally never seen such an aesthetic before – it reminds me of a more modern version of the traditional railway pad. The slim Roman indices gives the Vanguard a dressier touch too. I also want to highlight the attention to detail present that’s present. On more affordable watches, you often see imperfections, such as dust on the dial, misaligned indices, etc. That’s not the case here, and try as I might I’m unable to spot any imperfections on the dial. Kudos to Aries Gold on their stellar quality control, even at such a low price point!
The Vanguard also features a cushion-shaped case, which instantly reminds me of Panerai watches. Due to the association with said Italian tool watch brand, the cushion case definitely ties in with the Vanguard’s overall industrial vibe. Furthermore, the case is simply brushed throughout in a utilitarian manner – no polishing here! While I usually prefer to see a myriad of finishing techniques on my watches (brushing, polishing, beveling, etc), the pure brushed case again lends itself to the Vanguard’s tool watch feel.
Furthermore, the crown is signed and well-sized, making hand-winding the watch an ease. In fact, I have to say that I enjoyed hand-winding the Vanguard a ton, largely in part due to the superbly sized crown! The crown is also treated with some sort of brass coating, whose gold tones not only complements the gold accents of the dial well, but also adds to the industrial nature of the watch.
Make no mistake – this is a big watch. Its 44mm dimensions, coupled with its long lugs makes the watch a beast on the wrist. For me, the Vanguard is at the very maximum of what I find acceptable on my 6.5 inch wrist. If you’re a fan of larger watches (Panerai, Hublot, etc) then the Vanguard will be right up your alley. Personally, I wish that the watch was a tad smaller – 42mm would have been perfect. It’s also pretty thick at 14mm, so this is definitely one that won’t fit under a shirt cuff!
All in all, I’m very impressed with the design of the Aries Gold Vanguard. I love the skeletonisation of the dial, the texture and depth it possesses, the high quality control, and the watch’s overall industrial feel. My only knock is the 44mm case size – I just wish it was a tad smaller at 42mm. Nevertheless, if you have large wrists or prefer bigger watches, the Vanguard is a darn attractive watch at its price!
Shootout: Aries Gold Vanguard vs Advisor Astrohelm
When I first received the Aries Gold Vanguard, it immediately reminded me of another watch I reviewed eons ago – the Advisor Astrohelm. The cases of the two watches are strikingly similar, and both exuded an industrial, tool watch vibe.
In terms of specifications, both watches are about even. Both the Vanguard and the Astrohelm use sapphire crystal, feature workhorse Seiko movements, and come on decent straps. If I have to choose a winner, I would say that the Astrohelm edges out the Vanguard due to its use of Swiss lume, which shines much brighter than the Asian lume found on the latter.
If we are to talk about aesthetics, my vote will have to go to the Aries Gold Vanguard. The Astrohelm is a fine looking watch in its own right, but the Vanguard simply possess more depth, texture and attention to detail. It’s not just the dial either – the Vanguard features a signed crown, which the Astrohelm does not. In addition, it can be argued that the Astrohelm’s design is substantially more derivative of Panerai’s, as compared to the Vanguard. If you’re a fan of more minimalist designs the Astrohelm might be more up your alley, but for me, the Vanguard is the better designed watch.
Given that both watches are similarly priced, my winner of this shootout will have to be the Vanguard.
Conclusion – so the Aries Gold Vanguard “shiok” or not?
The Aries Gold Vanguard really impressed me. Firstly, the Vanguard has terrific specifications (sapphire crystal, 100M WR rating, Seiko NH70A movement, decent strap, lume) for the price. Secondly, the Vanguard is a well-designed watch, packed with depth and texture. It really is a bold look, and I’ve grown to appreciate its industrial look. I’ve to give Aries Gold credit for their high standard of quality control too – the dial is impeccable, without any alignment issues, specks of dust on the dial, etc – issues that often plague other watches at this price point.
For those interested, you can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” for 20% off all watches from Aries Gold’s web-store! After the discount, the Vanguard can be had for just $364. That’s a terrific price – I don’t think you can find a better skeletonised watch for ~S$300!
Update: The Aries Gold Vanguard can be had for just $364 on The Shiok Shop – an unbeatable price.
View the full range of Aries Gold’s watches here.
Model: G 9025 SRG-SRG
Case: Solid Stainless Steel
Strap: Genuine Leather Strap
Glass: Sapphire Glass
Water Resistance: 10atm
Case Size: 44mm
Functions: SKELETON AUTO , 3H
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.