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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Victorinox Swiss Army — Fieldforce series


This thread is dedicated to Victorinox Swiss Army (VSA) Fieldforce watches, most particularly their most common reference, the 241848, which starts the line. Those could be roughly defined as :

  • Field watches.
  • Swiss made.
  • Entry level of Victorinox's line-up.

We will start by an in depth review of one model, and will subsequently present the variations available.



I - REVIEW


a - History

Victorinox is a renowned Swiss brand, founded in 1884 by Karl Elsener. Despite being known for their Swiss knives (which they first provided to the Swiss army in 1891), it's only in 1989 that they started applying their expertise to watches, with an independent subdivision of the motherhouse, Swiss Army Brands. Inc. The Swiss Army brand was later reintegrated to Victorinox, but even nowadays, they aim to remain faithful to the style that popularized them : functionality, quality, and rugged yet classy design.

The Fielforce lines embodies that will while being adjusted to nowadays trends. But how successful is the resulting trade-off ?


b - The Fieldforce



First introduced in 2019, the Fieldforce is the successor of the Chrono Classic units, replacing the pure chronographs in a more diversified line. Its size is also a compromise, with an homogeneous 42 mm instead of the 41 to 45 mm diameter of the latter.

The overall design is that of a field watch, aiming for functionality, but with an even more pronounced emphasis on legibility. Let's see how that applies to one specific model, their blue dial unit.

Reference : Fieldforce 241848.

Base specs :
  • Case size : 42 mm.
  • Case thickness : 10,5 mm.
  • Case back: solid, stainless steel. Screw down.
  • Lug width : 21 mm.
  • Lug to lug : 50 mm.
  • Total weight : 70g (case + bracelet).
  • Water resistance : 330 ft - 100m.
  • Pricing : $350/325€ recommended retail price.


c - Dial & bezel



The dial is simultaneously the one of the greatest assets of this watch, and one of its letdowns. Indeed, while the case is of a relatively common 42 mm diameter, the dial covers 37 mm of those ; compared to ≈ 33 in more typical designs. This translates into a better legibility, while making the overall proportions unusual, as the watch appears like big headed (or flattened) when compared to the average.

This large, clear dial, is associated to sword edged minutes and hours hands, both generously sized and lumed. The seconds hand has a more singular design, with a counterweigh and color constituting a nod to Victorinox's Swiss knives, while the shape elegantly and precisely thins and extends near the outer chapter limits. Despite being the only one not lumed, all of them do contrast perfectly with the slighly textured space blue background.

Remarkably enough, the crystal is both sapphire and triple anti-reflective coated in a quite effective fashion. It protrudes from the case of the watch, exposing it to shocks, but as both flat and scratch resistant, this isn't a big deal.

The markings demonstrate a mix of painted markers and applied indexes, conferring a tridimensional aspect to the hours numbers ; further enforced by the smart appliance of a reflective material on their outside. The intelligence of this design resides in the combination with a yellowish inner lume : during the day, the outer part shines an the eye fuses the whole parts in some gold colored numbers, evoking a naval captain's uniform with the dark blue of the dial. And at night, the numbers turn to a shiny, visible green, ensuring that the legibility remains maximal. Really smart design here.

The smartness continues with the 3 o' clock markers replacement by an arrow like triangle, simultaneously highlighting the date window's position and luming the hour ; while avoiding a truncated marker. Same for the iconic Victorinox shield at 12 o' clock, gaining space for the below logo.


Now, this is an entry level watch. And while the dial seems molded to ensure the correct positioning of the then applied indexes, the centering of the movement itself isn't perfect, as the slightly downwards date and day wheels suggest. While minor (the view angle makes it look worse than it actually is), this could increase the frequency of misaligned hands issues

Second, while the bezel cleverly displays the minutes, it doesn't rotates. Not that important in fact, as it retains a diver inspired look (VSA's watch activities started with the diver looking Lancers) and in the end extends the dial. But it will surprise those used to a functionnal one. It's also just painted aluminium, which suggest it could age badly if scratched, but the outer layer of steel and the slightly protruding crystal (which is paradoxically more resistant than the bezel !) might prevent that.


d - Crown, case & water resistance


Despite being protected from lateral shocks by the case, the crown is very easy to pull and operate. Too easy for my tastes at first, as I feared it could accidentally get pulled, it appears to have just enough friction for this not to happen. Combine that to its push-pull conception, and to VSA's shield engraving, and we've got a quite pleasant crown to use.

This non screw-down nature might be what limits the water-resistance to 100m, but this is a non event : 100m is already excellent for a field watch, and more than enough to swim. I've gotten it immersed a few times, and it seemed to fit the bill.

The case itself impeccably alternates between brushed (for the flanks) and highly polished finishes (for the upper parts), creating a visually pleasant variety, and demonstrating VSA's mastery of stainless steel. It's also quite flat, and will thus sit comfortably on equally plane wrists.


e - Caseback



Plain, and screw-down. In other words, no unnecessary fancy here (this is quartz watch after all), but a practical and reliable way to ensure water resistance, and easy service. You will notice along side the reference that there is also a serial number, which, among other tools, helps fighting against replicas.


f - Movement


Delving inside that case, we discover a Ronda 517 movement. Contrary to what I thought for a long time, this is my first experience with a Ronda. And I've got mixed feelings about this. It features :

  • 3 hands, central seconds.
  • 3 o' clock day-date window complication.
  • 11,5" caliber - 25.6 outer diameter (26.0 mm max), 3,00 mm height.
  • Powerful rotary stepping motor with deadbeats seconds (1 step/s).
  • Fully metal components, for better repairability.
  • 3 positions crown, including a hacking function and quick date but also day correction.
  • -10/+20s per month.
  • 45 months ≈ 3½ years battery life (SR920 = 399/395 battery).

It proudly boast its one jewel (but which man ever needed jewels ? XD). Jokes aside, as usual there are two versions of this movement, but VSA's seems Swiss made rather than Swiss parts.

Theoretically, the battery life is a bit longer than average, it has a nice day-date complication, and so would feature everything one would need. The problem is the execution : as part of the Powertech line, which is the entry level of Ronda, it has quite a lot of backlash.

If you're not familiar with the term, let's just say that there is space between the teeth of the gears, to ensure they operate without too much friction, and better resist to shocks.



The issue, is that this space is variable, and that if it varies too much the hands will be taken in a farther or shorter distance than intended. And that, for hands with significant kinetic energy (such as the seconds hands), this will translate into visible misalignment, as the hand will travel more (or less) than the distance between two markers.

And so the seconds hands of the Fieldforce are somewhat misaligned. I've done a bit of research regarding this, and not only all the non-chrono Fieldforces (with visible motion hands in videos) were affected, but also the watches of other brands featuring a Ronda 517. Contacted on this topic, Victorinox kindly and honestly confirmed me this is mainly due to the movement. So, while it's not catastrophic (mine is acceptably aligned with 50-60% of the markers), there is not much that can be done to improve it. Still, coming from a simple ISA 1198 which was able of maintaining it's alignment, this is a disappointment. Yet, though frequent enough, its amplitude is moderate enough not to hinder the read.

The minute hands also suffers from some backlash, as its alignment varies depending if it's on the ascending or descending half of the dial. However and contrary to the seconds hands, it's not that noticeable (it's at most ¼th of a minute too low on the descending part, and perfect in the ascending on mine). But, as it moves by very pleasant increments of 1/60 of a minute (the dial is sol legible you actually see those every second), it's really a pity, because it had the potential to become an extremely precise display.


Regarding accuracy however, things get better, with between +6 and +7 seconds per month deviation for a watch worn 70% of the time, translating into a decent +0.25 spd average. This means that after one month, not only your watch won't be late, but that you can be reasonably confident in it being off by less than 10s. Which I consider reliable.

Also, the design seems to be good, as the hands aren't that affected by the quick setting of the day or the date, or even one by another. In some entry level Asian movements, moving the minute hands or changing the date could create unwanted movement on the seconds hands, this won't happen too often here.

So overall, there's good and bad to this movement. Hence my mixed feelings about it.


g - Strap

The 241848 features more colors, but also a leather strap. Not only this one is very agreeable to the eye and to the touch, enforcing the classy watch design, but it is also well thought, with features such as quick-release bars. If you've ever fought long and uncertain battles with vintage bracelets, you will know how extremely pleasant a quick release is : no tools required, easy to take off and most importantly easy to put back. Really nice touch here.


And, considering how comfortable that bracelet gets after the break-in (it's a bit stiff at first), this attention to detail only adds to the pleasure of use. The outer layer is quite smooth, but, contrary to the inner one, generously shined. So in case you get a mini-scratch, just brushing it with a damp cloth will spray the shine again, effectively erasing the scratch.


Classy, comfortable and well designed, this strap would near perfection. The uncoated stainless steel buckle tends to scratch however, but some would argue this is unavoidable.

h - Lume

Some have said that Victorinox's lume was often on the weak side. I do not know if they only have eyes for Seiko divers, or if it's an impression of the past, but I kinda disagree :



Compared to a 25 years old tritium lume on the left, and an average Luminova equivalent on the right. As you can see, it's quite powerful in fact. And this is after 4H of regular daylight exposure, so its not even full charge (which you'd get with a torchlight). In practice, the hands but also numbers start to glow by merely entering the lightest shadow, ensuring the legibility isn't hindered. The seconds hands isn't lumed though, but night readability still is one of the strong-suits of this watch.


i - Overall


It's a good watch, but not as good as it could have been. The movement induced misaligned seconds hands in particular are a pity considering how extremely precise could have been the read otherwise. Also, I subjectively think that while the atypical proportions are one of the secrets behind its masterful legibility, going for a 41 or 40 mm case instead of 42 while keeping the bezel width unchanged would've allowed a close performance, while delivering a more consensual field watch design.

Yet, this watch has qualities, with a legibility among the very best ones I've witnessed (to the point the read can sometimes require only a fraction second). And, in the end, delivers function with a classy look.



ProsCons
  • Extreme legibility
  • Moderately misaligned hands
  • Smart & classy design
  • Atypical proportions
  • Field watch capabilities
  • No custom colored date wheels
  • Quite affordable
  • Uncoated steel = scratches
  • Comfortable & practical strap
  • Relatively shock resistant
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Lightweight
  • Thin
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
II - Fieldforce line


There are plenty of variation of this watch. While most are built on the same base, this isn't always the case. I will list them below, as well as links to other reviews. If you want to share here your own review of a Fieldforce, whether it's listed here or not, don't hesitate !



1 - Base Fielforce


a - Leather strap


Simple variations of the basic day-date model, they introduce us to the most common color themes of the Fielforce line : blue (closer to space blue) ; black ; and as presented below, white dial.


Movement and pricing are unchanged. You will notice however that other details change with the color scheme, with the metal parts of the hands here swapped to a more contrasting black, while the outer edges of the applied indexes now exhibit a silver color. Functionality-wise, this is the same watch than the one reviewed, but with a dial now matching the color of the day-date window. Thus gaining in elegance what it loses in contrast.

Base Fielforce (€325-$350)
  • 241846 = black dial (+ black leather strap)
  • 241847 = white dial (+ black leather strap)
  • 241848 = blue dial (+ brown leather strap)


b - Metal bracelet

Basically the same watches than above, with the same movements and color schemes, but featuring a stainless steel bracelet instead of a strap.


Victorinox started and remains a knives manufacturer, and so metal works, particularly stainless steel, is their area of expertise. The finishing and robustness of their units' metals is thus often surprisingly good for the price. And that of course applies to their bracelets, with this model extending the alternation of brushed (outer links) and polished finishes (on their center links). This gives a touch of elegance over a rugged conception, which might be the very spirit of the initial Swiss Army Brand watches.

The preocupation about solidity is also highlighted by the lock, as while being a butterfly deployant type, it also features an additional safety clasp to ensure it doesn't open inadvertently ; and that while the Fieldforce constitutes the first model of their official workbook. While aesthetically perfectly complementing the case, it of course bulkens aspect and weight, with +60g compared to the leather option. Remarkably enough, this leads us to a 125g total which is identical to the former Lancer 100, despite the watch being 42 instead of 39 mm.

Steel bracelet Fielforce (€415-$425)
  • 241849 = black dial (+ steel bracelet)
  • 241850 = white dial (+ steel bracelet)
  • 241851 = blue dial (+ steel bracelet)



2 - GMT

Spread in a regular and sport line, they feature a mix of straps/bracelets option mixing both origins.


Though the 515.24H movement obviously differs, it's from the Ronda's same Powertech line. The characteristics are therefore similar, with the date complication being traded for that additional 24H GMT hand. Thus, the battery consumption (45 months) is in fact exactly the same, they come with the same 1 jewel nickel plated versions (regardless of Swiss Made or Swiss Parts), and the same dimensions. Hence, the case is exactly the same than the base's, and the quick date change just becomes a GMT setting function.
So, while the hands' alignment seems somewhat better in the pictures, what I've seen seems in fact similar to the original model, which is moderately misaligned.

That being said, the same intelligence also applies in the design, since the 24H markers are cleverly deported in a previously empty section of the watch, its center. And the GMT hand is not only lumed, but adapted to show the indexes of that new 24H subdial ; while the ease of read of the regular chapter remains unchanged. Clearly a smart design for a GMT ; contrary to some 24H main dial watches (such as the Glycine Airman 22) there won't be a learning curve just to read the time. ;)


Leather strap GMT (€365-$375)
  • 241895 = black dial + black strap
  • 241931 = silver/blue dial + bright brown strap

Steel bracelet GMT (€415-$425)
  • 241896 = blue dial
  • 241930 = black/silver dial

Sport GMT (€415-$425)
  • 241897 = black/orange dial + orange rubber strap


3 - Chronographs


Labeled either as « Sport chrono », with rubber bracelets and bolder color schemes ; or as « Classic chrono », with dressier tones and sunburst dials.


As the denomination implies, all of them are chronographs, and thus feature a different movement : the Ronda 5030D. This one is from a completely different line than the 517's Powertech, and features 6 to 13 jewels with either a nickel or gold plating (depending on if Swiss Made or Swiss Parts), a battery life of 4½ years (54 months) and a 6' date window. Thus you can expect it to behave differently from the basic Fielforces'.

With a sub-seconds hands, you'll probably won't notice the hands misalignment issues as much as with the 241848, though losing in readability for common time reading. However, I've only checked a handful of units, but once the chronograph is in action the seconds hands alignment still felt similar to the 517. Ronda still is Ronda.

Do expect thicker (12 mm) and heavier watches (+30g ≈), with a parallel price inflation due to this movement upgrade (+150€/$). The hands become pencil-like, while the chronograph parts of the dial have a different radial finish, improving the visibility of the complication over regular day time. That line also flashes some dual tone models with glints of gold on the case and bracelet, but with a price tag now nearing the double of the base Fieldforce... Expect price tags just below those in the Sport line, starting with rubber straps and ending with black PVD cases and bracelet.

Classic Chrono

Leather straps (€470-$500)
-241900 = silver sunburst + bright brown strap
-241928 = black sunburst + dark brown strap
-241929 = blue sunburst + black strap

Steel bracelets(€520-$550)
- 241901 = blue sunburst
-241899 = black sunburst

Steel bracelet/gold dual tones (€565-$600)
-241902 = grey sunburst + gold
-241903 = silver sunburst + gold


Sport Chrono

Rubber straps (455€-$475)
  • 241891 = black/yellow dial + black strap
  • -241892 = black/orange dial + orange strap

Rubber straps + PVD case (550€-$575)
  • 241893 = gray dial + black strap
  • 241963 = black/orange dial + orange strap

Others
  • 241889 = black/red dial + black strap (470€)
  • 241890 = black/red dial + black PVD bracelet (€565-$595)



4 - Others

There is a titanium limited edition of the Fiedlforce.


While the movement and case dimensions remains unchanged, the styling varies, with a deep red bezel echoing with the outer red of the markers. And of course, it's lighter than the steel version, with about 56g (compared to 70). One thing that is remarkable though is the finishing of the titanium, which despite being darker toned than the steel version, achieves a brushed polish which is unusually shiny compared to the normal matte/stale characteristics of the metal. Is it worth the 500$ (+150) compared to the base one ? Well, it's up to each one to decide, but with only 500 units produced, shipped only to NA, the question won't be asked to everyone anyway...



¤ ¤ ¤

Thanks for the read, folks ! 😃



A few more links for those wanting to learn even more about the Fieldforces :
— Watchonista's review.
— Watch Report's review.
— A
WUS review by another member.
— Caliber Corner's Ronda section.



Thread v1.1b - 2021-05-23
 

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It's Swiss parts not Swiss made, the plating would be gold and the jewel count would be 5.
 

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Bring it down to 40mm. Ditch the day function and make it an auto or (GASP!) handwind!
But thank you Victorinox for filling in the shield at 12. You need to do that more often!

Thanks Trias for the review!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
It's Swiss parts not Swiss made, the plating would be gold and the jewel count would be 5.
I beg to differ. Both Swiss parts and Swiss made versions are 1 jewel and nickel plated. Remember this isn't the Normtech (715 etc.) but the Powertech line, which is one step below. Even at the time where they used ISA, their movements, on their very first watches, those already were Swiss made. 🔎

Now, this seems to be the only movement of the whole Ronda line-up which features a day-date complication at 3', which explains why they chose it over a 7xx one. But while the day-date is nice, the misaligned hands are really a letdown. I think either Ronda should consider making a Normtech version (717 ?) or they should've switched to an ETA for their day-date quartz.
Bring it down to 40mm. Ditch the day function and make it an auto or (GASP!) handwind!
But thank you Victorinox for filling in the shield at 12. You need to do that more often!

Thanks Trias for the review!
You're welcome Zaphod !

I agree 40 mm would be more in line with the expected size of a field watch. Besides, the dial would still be 35 mm (instead of current 37), which is still two more than the 33 of an average 42 mm. So legibility would still be at the rendez vous. They would have to remove one marker to do so though, but this isn't a big deal.

What is however is the movement. I don't see that watch only with a mechanical movement since it's supposed to be accessible and practical, and at the entry level customers might prefer the convenience of a quartz. Victorinox always started its lines with quartz in fact. Yet, as an alternative, why not ? :unsure:
 

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Very nice review and pictures.

I have a few of this brand and IMHO it is underrated. Well made, nice finishing, decent accuracy, all for a good price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Very nice review and pictures.
Thanks ! I'm no professional, but I did my best to make a review as complete as I'd wish them to be.

As for the pictures, there's been intense amounts of misery underneath (one doesn't realize but watches get small particles of dirt deceptively quickly ; and those are extremely visible on close-ups under sun's light), but hopefully I managed to acceptably clean them with Photoshop. 😇
I have a few of this brand and IMHO it is underrated. Well made, nice finishing, decent accuracy, all for a good price.
It's an excellent brand, they make very functional watches, with classy and smart designs. However, I think along the years the average diameter of their units have inflated a bit much. But I think it's going back to settle on some middle ground, as hinted by their new Alliance models, which are 40mm instead of 44 :

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Updated thread (v1.1) !

  • Added the line-up section.
  • Added the links section.
  • Minor style and orthographic fixes.

I must say, the Fielforce must be among Victorinox's units with the most variations (with the INOX), so there was quite a lot to unpack. Yet, the thread now looks reasonably complete, and should now be friendly enough for other members' impressions on most of those. So if you wanna share your opinion, spotted a mistake or disagree on something, don't hesitate to say it ! ;)
 
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