Full resolution images can be found on Flickr.
Roland Kemmner (erkahund on eBay) was the engineer at Fricker responsible for various Precista watches, including the fabled PRS-2 Dreadnought. After his departure from Fricker, Precista pledged their confidence in him and migrated to contracting their watches from him directly. Currently, he also sells watch parts and self-branded watches directly, though these appear to be better known in his native Germany (in such venues as uhr-forum.de) than in the United States. I'm hoping that this will no longer be the case in the future, as my experience with his products have been excellent.
His eBay storefront can be found here:
It is inconsistently populated with items (empty at the time of this review, as I believe that he is attending BaselWorld). One might wish to contact him directly to query for availability and sales.
In the past, I've ordered a complete set of parts for a classic marine deck watch from him and was pleased with both his service and the quality of the items. Recently, on a whim, I decided to check out one of his assembled watches. Though his various dive and B-Uhr style offerings seem to be the most popular, his Tonneau dress watch caught my eye. It was an attractive and relatively inexpensive Swiss movement model and I'd just bought a diver. Given his work on complex, precision-intensive watch designs like the Precista Dreadnought and Kemmner-branded models like the Octopus, I felt that this should be an easy one for him. At the time of purchase, the price was $198 Euro, or around $270 USD.
The watch was shipped in an attractive and unmarked leather-textured polyurethane dual watch case. The felt padding material inside smells strongly of mothballs, though I imagine that this is a temporary condition. Though I do enjoy a nice branded watch box as much as the next WIS (a non-sequitur shout out to Ocean7's!), it's a nice change of pace to get something actually useful in its place. I can eaily see how this might come in handy for traveling. This box can be seen in the picture above and below.
Case material is 316L steel. By my calipers, the case measures 38mm wide and 43mm lug-to-lug. Lug width is 22mm, which works well with the squarish case style. The case is marked as having 3ATM water resistance. Crystal-to-crystal thickness is 12.3mm. The tonneau case wears larger than a circular case of that diameter; on the wrist, it feels about on par with 40-41mm circular watch. The watch wears comfortably on my 6.75'' wrist.
The case finish is uniformly mirror-polished and, as expected, without flaw. The design is elegant and lacking in embellishment, but very well-considered on closer inspection. The convex sides of the tonneau case flow naturally into the curve of the lugs and the polished beveled lip supporting the crystal is a discrete, but attractive ornamentation. The crown is conveniently sized and bears a deeply engraved stylized "K" Kemmner logo, an unexpected touch for a small watch producer. The quality of engraving is high; it is deeper and sharper than many mass-produced pieces from name-brands I've come across.
The front features an impressively large domed Sapphire crystal, which is a main draw of the watch for me. It is anti-reflective coated on the interior. While it is not domed to the degree as my Ocean7 LM-1 or Speedmaster Pro, the square shape of the crystal and the thin bezel of the case makes it larger than either of those watches. These properties produce an effect unique in my collection; it is quite impressive, as I've attempted to demonstrate in these pictures. The anti-reflect coating adds flickers of color to the black dial and is a thoughtful feature for a dress watch in this price range.
On close inspection, there is a spec of dust under the crystal. I'll give Roland Kemmner the benefit of the doubt and trust that this is a random, isolated occurrence, I think reasonable in light of his long partnership and favorable reputation with Precista.
The caseback matches the shape of the case and is attached via four slotted screws on each corner. There are deeply engraved markings on each side, marked "316L", "Made in Germany", "3 ATM", and the serial number. Each piece appears to be engraved with a unique serial number, again surprising for a $300 watch. Mine is no. 73. The engraving here is similarly crisp and and deep. The caseback display crystal is round and smaller, but reasonably so as the 2824 movement is round and small.
Dial and hands:
Kemmner offers three dial and hand variations: silver on black, black on white, and what looks to be rose gold on cream. Mine is the black version. The indices are applied silver with slanted sides. The hands are silver with white lume inlays on the hour and minute hands. The dial is polished with a very subtle sunburst texture visible only with close scrutiny. Normally, it appears to be a black mirrored surface. The Kemnner wordmark is printed at 12 o'clock, with "automatic" and "MADE IN GERMANY" at 6, with a white-bordered date window in between. The date wheel is a matching white text on black. The mirror dial shouts "dress watch" as loudly as my the matte dial on my Seiko diver shouts "tool watch"; the polish texture may not be as technically accomplished as guilloche, but it's definitely executed well enough to hold its own. It's very pleasant to glance at the time and see the sweep second hand reflected on the dial. The Kemmner wordmark printing seems slightly light, but this is a fairly shallow criticism. Its vintage script on the other hand is a perfect match to the case style, as is the understated (and lower case) "automatic" marking. The indices are arrayed in a circular pattern, but still remain equidistant to the case edges due to the tonneau shape. It is a clean, classic design that avoids the showiness of the large arabics common to this case shape.
The lume on the hands seems comparable to other sub-$1000 European watches. Normal color is white, with green glow. No lume is present on the dial indices.
The movement is the ubiquitous Swiss ETA-2824 with three central hands and date wheel that features hand-winding and hacking. It is undecorated with nondescript rotor, Incabloc shock protection, and straight balance wheel spokes. It is a generic workhorse of a movement and certainly not bad for this price. I have not yet measured accuracy on any dimension, but see little reason to suspect that its performance will different greatly from other 2824-equipped watches.
The OEM band for the black dial model is a matching black alligator-pattern leather strap with black stitching. It is thickly padded, but very soft and comfortable. I'm pleased with the quality of the strap, but those with larger wrists should be aware that it is rather short. I wear the watch on the center of 7 strap holes. As my wrists are 6.75'' in circumference, I imagine that those with wrists larger than 7.5'' will require a longer strap.
The clasp is a generic butterfly deployant of modest quality. Nothing to write home about, but it's definitely nice that it's a deployant instead of a buckle and tang.
Roland Kemmner's Tonneau is an excellent value dress watch that holds its own against other European offerings despite being at the lower end of its price bracket. Its styling is understated and graceful and manages to distinguish itself from most others of the genre. There are numerous small touches rare or unheard of at this price: the quality of engraving, AR coating, sapphire crystal, unique serial number, deployant clasp. For me, the best feature is still the glorious domed sapphire crystal - I just can't stop fidgeting with the watch, watching the dial distort and the reflections dance around. It's a great deal and a great watch; it'll certainly win its share of wrist time, even competing against much costlier watches in my collection. For the cost of an absolutely entry-level automatic European watch, you can support an independent watchmaker with a sterling reputation and get some decidedly non-entry-level features to boot.
A final note on the seller:
Roland Kemmner has been great to deal with as a seller. He's responsive to queries, fast to ship, and extremely careful in packing. When I purchased this watch, I asked him if I could also purchase a different style crown for a watch case I had bought from him months ago. His response was to throw in a full set of 4 crowns and two sets of gaskets for free. This is service! I unreservedly recommend him not only as a watchmaker but also as a seller and will definitely look for his future releases personally.