Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This Sunday, I’m reviewing the Halo from Swiss microbrand Bolido.

The Bolido Halo, priced at $628 USD/ ~$850 SGD (after promo code below).

Bolido introduced their sophomore collection via Kickstarter last year. The Kickstarter campaign attracted over 200 backers, who pledged more than $120,000 CHF – that’s pretty impressive! Now that production models have arrived, let’s see if the Bolido Halo is any good.

Bolido – the Brand

Bólido was founded in 2017 by the duo of Pierre Nobs and Simon Husslein. If their names seem familiar, it’s because both are veterans of the watchmaking industry. Mr. Pierre Nobs has been by described by SJX as a “design star” and Revolution as “one of the 20th century’s design greats”. The critical acclaim is largely due to his work at the now defunct Ventura watches, which he founded in 1989. Known for their avant-garde, pioneering design on digital watches, the brand unfortunately eventually ran into financial troubles in the last decade, and now no longer exists. Meanwhile, Mr. Simon Husslein -the other half of this duo- plied his trade at the prestigious Studio Hannes Wettstein in Zurich, designing watches for a number of prominent brands such as Nomos Glashutte, Braun, as well as Ventura!

Pierre Nobs (right), Simon Husslein (left).

Early in 2017, perturbed by what the new “Swiss-made” regulation would do to the prices of “Swiss-made” watches, Nobs called up Husslein to see if they could offer 100% Swiss-made watches at an affordable price point. Nobs was grabbed by the idea of using automatic lathe machines instead of traditional case products methods to produce watches in Switzerland, which would lower production costs. As such, two design greats teamed up thereafter to achieve this vision – and Bólido was born.

Nobs and Husslein winning the Red Dot Design Award 2018 for the case design of Bólido watches.

Nobs and Husslein named their brand “Bólido” after the Spanish word for meteor. Akin to a meteor, the duo hopes that Bólido would be “A luminary that crosses between the somewhat immovable fixed stars of established brands on the watch firmament. A timepiece with surprising qualities at a completely un-Swiss price.​” Their vision is to create a “new breed of watches”, “one that matches [their] perception of architectural design and functionality.”

Does the Halo live up to expectations? Time to find out.

Bolido Halo – Build Quality

Given that Bolido watches are 100% made in Switzerland, it’s there no big surprise to report that the build quality of the Halo is great!

Sapphire crystal is used to protect the Halo.

Firstly, the Halo utilises a curved 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. Unfortunately, there’s no AR (anti-reflective) coating applied to the crystal, which can lead to unwanted reflections at times especially when taking pictures. In addition, the WR rating for the Halo is stated at 100M, meaning that you can safely take this watch out for everyday activities (except swimming/diving) without worry!

The Swiss STP 1-11 movement powers the Halo.

Given that Bolido is a Swiss microbrand, it seems only fitting for the Halo to be powered by a Swiss movement in the form of the STP 1-11.
For those unacquainted with the movement, the STP1-11 is a relatively new automatic movement from the Fossil Group, with self-winding and hacking mechanism, 44-hour power reserve, beats at a high 28,800 Hz frequency, and features Incabloc shock protection. I have to say, the smooth sweep of the second hand (due to the movement’s high beat rate) makes for a pleasant sight! Furthermore, the movement is regulated by Bolido in 5 positions to ensure unerring accuracy. Due to internal regulation, the movement should be accurate to -0/+- 15 seconds per day. That’s laudable – few microbrands (or even big brands for that matter) under $1K USD go the extra mile to regulate the movements they purchase from their suppliers. For those wondering, the exhibition caseback is made out of sapphire as well, with nice Geneva Stripes present on the rotor, along with blued screws.

A black caoutschouc strap is the default option on the Halo.

A black caoutschouc strap comes standard on the Halo. It looks good, especially with the black PVD case – there’s a stealthy, “cool” vibe to it. Unfortunately, it is just not that comfortable on the wrist. It’s stiff, and refuses to conform to the shape of my wrist even after days of wearing it. After a week, I changed the black caoutschouc strap to a black leather one from my strap collection, and it instantly felt much better on the wrist. I’m not alone in this department – I know of 3 other readers that purchased Bolido watches, and all of them swapped out the standard caoutschouc strap almost immediately. Bolido does offer an exotic Ostrich strap as an alternative, though that will set you back a further $129 USD. If you’re looking to purchase a third party strap for the Halo, do note that the standard caoutschouc strap is quick-release, which means you would have to get an extra set of spring bars.

Overall though, I would say that the build quality is pretty good! Sapphire crystal protects both the front and back of the watch, and a regulated Swiss automatic movement keeps the Halo ticking smoothly. The default caoutschouc strap is a disappointment, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a third party option!

Bolido Halo – Design

However, it is in the design that the Halo truly shines. After all, there’s a reason why Nobs and Husslein won design awards!

Love the yellow of the dial.

First off, I love the bright yellow of the dial. Yellow dial watches are a rarity these days, and even when one comes across them, it’s invariably in a dive watch. I like the youth that the yellow brings to the watch – it’s a nice contrast to the otherwise black watch. In my opinion, black and yellow is such a striking colour combination! The yellow really pops in sunlight. Of course, the yellow colour scheme also references its namesake – the halo (often yellow-golden) of an angel. For those who prefer something more subtle, there’s the Bolido Pure, which features a full black dial.

Love the subtle design cues here.

Husslein’s design impetus is obvious here, upon closer inspection. Having designed for both Braun and Nomos, the Bauhaus styling is evident in Bolido watches. The watch is minimalist and clean but not boring – something I absolutely adore. The use of white on the hands makes time telling an ease, and gives the dial legibility. In addition, I find the indices really interesting, radiating out of the center sector dial. I don’t think I’ve seen such design cues before actually! The styling reminds me of the sun, which seems appropriate given the celestial provenance of Bólido’s name. Meanwhile, the fact that the watch is Swiss-made is proudly proclaimed at the bottom of the dial. Elsewhere, I like the red contrast on the second hand – it adds an additional pop of colour to the watch. Lastly, I also appreciated how the date window is inconspicuously incorporated due to its small size and the usage of a black date wheel. The symmetry of the dial is preserved as well, due to the placement of the date window at 6 o’clock. Overall, I love the thoughtful design cues present in the Bolido Halo.

One of the most unique case designs I’ve come across till date.

I have to highlight the award-winning case design of Bolido. A ton of thought has been poured into the watch, and it shows. Firstly, adding a second rotative axis to the case not only tilts the face of the watch to facilitate time-reading in situations like car-driving, it also increases the case height at the top of the dial to allow the integration of a large winding crown in an unusual but well protected position. Most watches feature the crown at 3 o’clock, which though convenient, expose the watch to accidental impacts that impairs water resistance. Tilting the case also allows Bolido to mill an inconspicuous notch into the underside of the crown tube, facilitating the winding and time-setting of the watch. Having the a crown that is hard to wind is one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to microbrand watches, so I’m really happy that Bolido had paid close attention to what seems like an insignificant detail.

Bolido’s innovation extends to even the caseback!

The caseback is PVD Black as well, with relevant information inscribed. However, the caseback possesses significant design innovation as well! The tiny screw on the caseback is the principle nub in Bolido’s innovative monocoque case construction. It allows for a watchmaker to pull out the crown stem with a special tool. When done so, compressed air will blow through the hole to eject the sapphire crystal of the exhibition caseback, allowing for the retrieval of the watch movement for servicing. Bolido states that developing and perfecting this mechanism took over a year and countless prototypes – that’s pretty insane for a mechanism that largely flies under the radar!

The Bolido Halo wears pretty well on the wrist!

The Bolido Halo wears significantly smaller than its 43mm diameter suggests on paper due to its lugless design. This is intentional – Bolido went to great pains to ensure that their watches will fit a wide variety of wrist sizes. This is because the distance between the axes of the two spring bars that holds the strap underneath the case is only 32mm. Regular men watches of comparable size have a typical spring bar axis distance of 42mm or more. As such, despite their relatively large dimensions, Bolido watches should be able to fit gentlemen with smaller wrist sizes (me), and even women without issues!

Overall, I love the thoughtful design of the Bolido Halo. It’s not as in your face as perhaps the Humism Dasein or the Arcturus LC-1, but I really appreciated the design nuances of the Bolido Halo over time. The design of the dial is thoughtful, the monocoque case construction is unique in the world of modern watches (not to mention the crown placement at 12 o’clock), and even the caseback screw is innovative. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise considering the design credentials of Nobs and Husslein!

Shootout: Bolido Halo vs Gorilla Fastback

Gorilla is perhaps the hottest Swiss microbrand currently – their latest creation, the Fastback Drift, was nominated (unfortunately ultimately lost) at the GPHG 2018. For the non watch geeks reading this, the GPHG is essentially the Oscars of the horological world. Given that both Bolido and Gorilla are spearheaded by industry veterans -Gorilla was founded by Octovia Garcia and Lukas Gopp, both of whom worked at Audemars Piguet- it seems like the perfect microbrand to pit Bolido against!

The Gorilla Fastback, priced at $880 USD/ ~$1195 SGD.

In terms of specifications, both watches have their strengths. The Bolido Halo undoubtedly has the better movement in the STP 1-11, as compared to the rather rudimentary Miyota 8215 movement found in the Gorilla Fastback. However, the Fastback features a variety of exotic materials, such as a ceramic bezel, forged carbon case, and a titanium crown and caseback. Which watch is better depends on what you prioritise more – exotic case materials, or a Swiss movement?

In contrast, the Bolido Halo, priced at $628 USD/ ~$850 SGD.

From a design perspective, I’ll honestly say that both watches are evenly matched. As aforementioned, the Bauhaus, Nomos-like influence is evident on the Bolido Halo. On the other hand, the sports watch DNA of Audemars Piguet (or at least, their iconic Royal Oak line) can also be seen on the Gorilla Fastback. Innovation can be found on both watches too – Bolido really pushed the envelop on the case design, while Gorilla was one of the first microbrands to experiment with combining a variety of exotic materials -more commonly found in luxury watches- in a relatively affordable package. I’ll honestly have to call it a draw in the design department. There is a reason why both brands received design awards!

Where the Bolido Halo has the edge is in its price. The Bolido Halo is significantly cheaper (>$250 USD cheaper!) than the Gorilla Fastback, despite trading blows with it every step of the way. Furthermore, though Gorilla is a Swiss microbrand, it’s important to note that their watches are NOT Swiss-made. Bolido’s watches are 100% made and assembled in Switzerland – in contrast, production of Gorilla watches are outsourced overseas and made in China. As such, if I have to pick, I’ll probably go with the Bolido Halo as the winner of the shootout. That being said, both watches are terrific watches in their own right, and am sure both watches will be future design icons!

Conclusion – so the Bolido Halo “shiok” or not?

Without a doubt. I love the design language of the Bolido Halo. I liked it a lot when I saw the press release of it during their Kickstarter campaign, and I like it even more in the metal as it wears so well. For a 100% Swiss-Made watch (something that comparable Swiss brands such as Tissot/Hamilton/Certina etc cannot claim), it’s relatively affordable. One gets a regulated Swiss movement, and tons of thoughtful design language in the dial and the case of the Bolido Halo. My main niggle with it is the standard caoutschouc strap, but like I said this is easily resolvable with a third-party strap option!

Before I end one last wrist shot.

For those interested, the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” will grant you 10% off all Bolido products! After the discount, the Bolido Halo can be had for just $628 USD/ ~$850 SGD. At that price, I think it’s a lot of watch for the money. If the yellow of the Halo is too bright for your taste, a blacked out Bolido Pure option is available. For the more adventurous, there’s also the Bolido Core ($898 USD/ ~$1215 SGD after promo code) which features a skeletonised dial. With the veteran duo of Nobs and Husslein helming Bolido, I’m sure Bolido will become a design powerhouse in the very near future!

View Bolido’s full collection here.

Specifications:

  • Swiss mechanical timepiece
  • Surgical grade stainless steel case with black PVD coating
  • Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal (both sides)
  • Water resistant to 100m / 330ft, every watch tested prior to shipment
  • Swiss Mechanical Automatic Movement with date, regulated in 5 positions
  • 44 hours power reserve
  • Standard: Black caoutschouc strap (optional ostrich leather strap available)

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