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Eterna - The essential KonTiki Date

Eterna The essential KonTiki Date

Looking for a watch that is both affordable and iconic? Look no further – the Eterna KonTiki Automatic Date may be the answer. Here are the reasons why.

Having a passion for a job is wonderful but it can make us lose touch with… reality. Exactly: we in the watch media are spoiled by constantly reporting on extraordinary creations and stratospheric masterpieces that can be worth the same as a penthouse in a major European city or a luxury yacht; sometimes we get to test many of them, but we can seldom afford most of those dream watches. In my case, I’m frequently pulled back to Earth by friends wanting me to write about “regular watches for ordinary people” or asking me for advice regarding the purchase of a good mechanical timepiece with a price tag between 1,000 and 2,000 euros – and even though there are several brands capable of providing a nice product in that range, there aren’t many affordable ones exuding icon status and capable of capturing your imagination. I would say the Eterna KonTiki Automatic Date is one of them.

 

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I must confess to being emotionally attached to Eterna’s KonTiki line since I acknowledged it existed, because in my youth I read Thor Heyerdahl’s book on his 1947 saga across the Pacific on a primitive balsa raft (christened KonTiki, ‘God of Sun’) just to prove an anthropological point of view.  During that journey, the Norwegian ethnographer and his five-man crew chose to wear Eterna watches on their wrists, specifically commissioned to endure the sternest tests. In 1958, Eterna adopted the KonTiki name for its most rugged line of timepieces as a homage to the 101-day oceanic odyssey; since then, there have been many Eterna models (and many cocktail bars around the world!) bearing the KonTiki label – including some more attractive than others, a few remarkable ones and a couple of forgettable versions. The Eterna KonTiki Automatic Date, first launched in 2008, is definitely one that stands out for both its price point (around 1,600 Euro on a steel bracelet) and its looks, which are reminiscent of the 1958 original.

 

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Compared to the first KonTiki, the KonTiki Automatic Date is naturally bigger – with a 42-millimeter case that sits rather well even on midsize wrists. It emulates many elements of style of the 1950s and can be compared to another timepiece that I consider to be the essential Rolex: the Explorer, whose origins are contemporary to the Eterna KonTiki and tied to another famous explorer. Legend says Sir Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first men on top of Everest in 1953 and specifically prepared Rolexes were part of the expedition, inspiring the 1957 model christened Explorer that was last updated in 2010 with a 39mm version (ref. 214270).  It also features a black dial that gives prominence to a luminous triangle (at 12 0’clock), whereas the typical Eterna KonTiki boasts four (at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock).

 

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I bring the Rolex Explorer into comparison not only because of certain similarities in style and origin, but also because of the price. Not to mention the famous quotes associated with their famous owners: it is said that Sir Edmund Hillary, when questioned why he escalated the Everest, answered “because it is there”, whereas Thor Heyerdahl once stated ”Borders I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people”. And also because I happen to know the Explorer and the KonTiki Date quite well, having taken both to an iPhonographic photo session at the picturesque Cresmina Beach near Cascais, in the outskirts of Lisbon. Of course, the Explorer exudes Rolex’s overall quality and the remarkable in-house automatic caliber 3132 – but, at round 5,500 Euro, it costs over three times more than the Eterna KonTiki Date. Granted, 1,600 euros can still be a big sum for a lot of people in a crisis-ridden Europe, but it sounds about right for a quality product from an historic Swiss brand – a start-up watch for those moving on to mechanical watches, a ‘beater’ for aficionados who have more expensive timepieces but wish to have a sturdier one to knock around.

 

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I love the steel case of the KonTiki Date and how it combines with the metal bracelet. The size is perfect, whereas I would like the Explorer to be a tad bigger (a mere 1mm would do!). The finishing is quite fine, with polished touches contrasting with the dominant brushed surface. The dial center bears an engraved outline of Raroia (the Polynesian atoll where the KonTiki arrived after the epic 4,300 nautical-mile journey), surrounded by the emblematic luminous triangles under the four numbered hours and strips of luminous compound. Like in every KonTiki timepiece, the case back is identified by an engraved medallion of the iconic raft. The movement is an automatic Sellita SW200, inspired by an ETA caliber (and Eterna had historic ties to ETA in the past, having perfected the ball bearing system for the rotors in 1948).

 

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Right now, the regular KonTiki collection includes the 42mm KonTiki Date available in several dial colors and also on rubber and leather straps besides the metal bracelet; the 40mm KonTiki Four-Hands, with an analogical flange calendar framing a centerpiece inscribed with ancient runic characters; the 44mm KonTiki Four-Hands XXL that also carries a pointer-type date display; the 42mm Chronograph, an exercise in style on how to use the emblematic triangular areas on the dial in spite of the counters; and the fabulous Heritage Super KonTiki 1973, a faithful reedition of a Seventies model adopted by the Israeli secret services.

 

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But stay tuned! In a couple of days, Eterna will introduce new KonTiki versions at Baselworld, further affirming its ties with one of the most significant anthropological expeditions of modern times. The Grenchen-based brand will also confirm the launch of the Royal Kon-Tiki Two Time Zones, unveiled last year and equipped with the first of 88 possible variants of the new in-house Caliber 39. Thor Heyerdahl’s legacy continues to inspire Eterna. And myself.

 

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