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Review: Corum Admiral AC-One 45

A bronze chronograph with maritime soul
by Dan-Andrei Kluska on August 18, 2017
Positives

• Gorgeous bronze case (that will develop a nice patina)
• Beautiful wood dial enclosing perfectly the sailing theme
• A reliable and proven chronograph movement

Negatives

• The black PVD steel buckle completely out of the picture (we know bronze is inadequate for this functionality)
• The discrete brown plates that enclose the middle case, not really well fitted in the design

Founded in 1955, Corum is renowned for his limited-edition watches. Every year, Corum unveils new creative variations of their well-known collection. The automatic Golden Bridge was always a conversation starter between watch aficionados.  The Corum Bubble’s free expressivity was pushed to the level of a contest – “Customizeyourbubble”, where the most creative Instagram user could win a Corum Bubble. Another loved collection is the Admiral’s Cup. The sailing inspired watches are a signature collection of Corum and a must have for the brand’s fans. The association between Corum and the Admiral’s Club ended this year, but Corum continued with the collection under the name Admiral. We review today one of the latest addition, the Admiral AC-One 45 Chronograph, Reference number A116/03210.

Review: Corum Admiral AC-45

The brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, released the Admiral’s Cup in 1960. The Admiral’s Cup is an international yachting regatta started in 1957. The Admiral’s Cup watches evolved from an initial square shaped case to now a twelve-sided design. The Admiral’s Cup AC-One 45 Bois was released in 2015. The novelty of these watches was the natural Teak wood dial. The nautical heritage of the collection was enriched with the warmth of natural wood. With the association between Corum and the Admiral’s Cup ended late last year, Corum continued with this wood theme on their latest bronze cased, wood dialed edition under the revamped line simply called Admira.

 

Corum Admiral AC-One

Corum Admiral is a nautical inspired piece that fits perfectly his design intention. The bronze case has a strong personality of her own that can be loved or hated.

 

The case, dial and hands

Corum Admiral AC-One 45, Ref. A116/03210 comes with a new material for case – bronze and wooden ange dial. This material is not tipically used by Corum for watch cases. The brand has a rich history of precious materials and stainless steel. Bronze is a bold choice and gives an original look, unique for each owner. The bronze develops a nice patina over time, sometimes spectacular. Some of the users even speed up the process by using chemicals. An advantage to take into consideration is that bronze can clean up really well. But most of the bronze fans take pride in developing their own formula to hasten the process. Even our reviewed piece has an interesting appearance, but the patina is natural.

The case has a generous size of 45mm diameter and a thickness of 14.3mm. The complex shape reveals a multilayered construction with alternating materials. The case is not entirely made of bronze. Corum used, as in the previous model, two brown inlays between the bezel, the case body and back-case. This not only makes the transition between one element to another but also continues as part of the crown protection. Moreover, the symmetrical shape is broken by the right-side crown protection. This design element is not subtle, and in our eyes, improves the technical aesthetics for a stronger appearance of the Admiral AC-One 45.

 

Corum Admiral

The multilayered construction is symmetrical. By the addition of the crown protection parts, the case engages new dimensions in a provocative and fascinating way. All the elements will have their own oxidation process. The use of separation materials between the case components might have the reason in the cold self-welding material’s properties.

 

Another element where Corum expended considerable effort is the bezel. The front side roundness is chamfered into a dodecagonal shape. The same shape is found on the double anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The crystal slightly overflows the height of the case,  creating an even more, three-dimensional shape. The visual effect is simply phenomenal, particularly considering how hard it is to obtain unusual crystal shapes.  The screw in the case-back has the same design as in the older models revealing the calibre CO116 through a sapphire crystal.

The crown was not forgotten. Two rows of rectangularly shaped grips not only that enhance the crown’s usage but have an excellent visual appearance. Due to higher usage, the engraving that tends to catch more oxidation and dust, the crown will have in time a more accentuated patina, as the rest of the case.

 

Corum Admiral

The Admiral’s crown offers not only an alluring design but also an excellent grip and ease in functionality

 

The watch’s size sounds like it’s going to wear very large, at least on paper. But due to the intricate design, the watch seats well on the wrist. Even a smaller wrist, used to more classical sizes will have no issues with the Admiral watch. Corum deserves praise for how they handled this case.

The case offers 300 meters of water resistance, as expected for a nautically themed timepiece. Our reviewed piece, still a prototype at the photo-shooting time, has an engraving with 100m water resistance. But Corum assured us that the final and official specification is a 300m water resistance.

For the dial, Corum decided to go again with wood as the choice of material. The wooden ange gives a very engaging view of the watch. The warmth of the dial completes the overall aspect and complements the aged bronze case beautifully. It will be interesting to see, in time, how this will evolve. But the choice of bronze and wood is hardly bizarre. It stems from the maritime origins of the Admiral watch. We find this combination quite often in traditional seafaring vessels.

As a special call sign for the Admiral series, the hour markers are applied coloured nautical flags. The appliques are rhodium plated and printed with the flags by ink transfer. These elements come with a refreshing look, making the dial more enjoyable adding to the vibrance of the textured brown of the wood dial.

 

Corum Admiral

Admiral’s wood dial has the advantage of the natural fibres. The use of bronze and the wood on the dial will ensure that each watch will look different. Each a piece unique of its own.

 

The hour and minute hands are rhodium plated with faceted finish. They are skeletonized, which in our view is a good decision. The hands are designed to have a generous width and have the tip finished with SuperLuminova. The central seconds’ hand is baton shaped with the Corum logo as counter-weight.

The date window is discreetly placed at 6 o’clock and is enhanced by a rhodium plated border.  The white on black digits looks a bit out of the place in the scheme of things. Perhaps the choice of the colour scheme is not the happiest one.

The sporty feel of the dial fits very well the case. The entire look is pleasant and quite engaging. The watch comes with a brown “Mad Max” leather strap, treated specially to be salt water resistant.

The movement: Calibre CO116

The Corum Admiral AC-One 45 uses the same calibre CO116 as the previous models. This is expected since it is the same collection and the novelties come from other points. The movement has the typical modern characteristics like the 4Hz balance wheel and the 42 hours of power reserve. The Calibre CO116 uses an ETA calibre as a base, with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. Everything seems to be done flawlessly as the manipulation of the timing functions is nice and clean, with only minor visible jumps of the hands when the function is engaged, which is typical of such module chronographs.

 

Corum Admiral

Admiral’s movement CO116 is a well-adorned movement. The rotor weight reveals only a part of the calibre, but, on the other hand, it is itself an interesting component. The back engraving shows the water resistance rating to be 100m, but the Corum technical specifications state that the depth rating is 300m. The photograph was shot in Baselworld, and perhaps incorrectly engraved. This is not unusual as during the rush for the show, errors like this are bound to happen.

 

The movement itself is kept almost hidden under the bespoke rotor weight. The skeletonized rotor plays peek-a-boo, and as it moves let parts of the movement to be visible with its nicely executed perlage. While the movement was clearly not decorated for visual impact, it redeems itself nicely. The oscillating weight features a smooth circular brushing and chamfered “windows”. The brand’s name and logo is engraved, just to remind the allegiance.

Competitive landscape

Corum Admiral AC-One 45 is priced moderately at S$16,585 (inclusive of GST). For this price, the market offers enough chronograph competitors. But the marine constellation of chronometers in bronze cases is poorly represented.

A lovely chronograph in bronze with 100m water resistance and with a price of US$7,100 is the spectacular Zenith Heritage Pilot Extra Special Chronograph. The watch was released pre-Baselworld 2017 and is a version of the Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer.  The watch sports a 45mm diameter case with engraved solid titanium case-back. Typical for a pilot watch, the Pilot features big luminescent numerals with a nicely done rail-road seconds scale, but it lacks the date function. The gold-plated hands increase the black dial’s appealing and the over all aeronautic style is a nice touch. The Pilot Extra Special is powered by the Calibre El Primero 4069 – a column wheel chrono with 5Hz balance wheel and 50 hours of power reserve. The main difference stays in the Pilot’s classic design that it shows his real size, being not the obvious choice for a smaller wrist.

 

Zenith Heritage Pilot Extra Special Chronograph

Zenith Heritage Pilot Extra Special Chronograph is a beautiful watch with an in-house movement.

 

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin”  was released in 2014. The Aquatimer shares many similarities with our reviewed piece. The 44mm diameter case is a little bit thicker, 16.9mm the IWC versus the 14.3mm of the Corum. Mostly satin brushed, the bronze case has some design elements which removes the classic boredom of a round shape. Interesting is the internal display rotating bezel with SafeDive system, specific to diver watches. The watch features a black dial with vertical layout and date window. The self-winding calibre 89365 has the advantage of the “in-house” tag for the price and flyback chrono function.

 

IWC Aquatimer Bronze

An interesting diver (with the corresponding diver bezel) with in-house flyback chronograph

 

For other bronze watches, we invite you to read more about the Bronze debate and to have a look at our Recommendations for bronze watches.

Concluding thoughts

Corum Admiral AC-One 45 is an interesting watch with a bold personality. Perhaps polarising due to its size and case material, the Admiral is more a “love it or hate it” piece. We noted the clever case design enables a good fit on the wrist and perhaps masks the generous size.  As a sailing watch, it is a bit out in the water, so to speak as it lacks functionality typically required of a regatta watch. But the charms of the natural wood texture will write love stories between the boats’ fans. The bronze patina will leave, in time, unmatched and unique signs that will personalise the watch in a way known only by the owner. A reason for pride, in our opinion. Corum Admiral AC-One 45 fits perfectly his nautical theme.

 

Corum Admiral

Despite the generous dimensions, the Admiral fits well different wrist sizes. The complex technical construction hides the real proportions and offers a comfortable wrist-wear.

 

Specification and Price

The Ref. A116/03210 has a retail price of S$16,585 (including GST)

 

Movement

Calibre: Calibre CO116

Type: mechanical self-winding movement

Dimensions: Ø 12 1⁄2’’’

Jewels: 39

Power reserve: 42 hours

Frequency: 4 Hz / 28’800

Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds; date; 30 minutes chronograph

 

Case

Material: bronze

Dimensions of the case

Diameter: 45mm diameter; 14.3mm thickness;

Crystal: double anti-reflective sapphire crystal

Crown: bronze

Caseback: see-through sapphire

Water resistance: 300m

 

Strap

Material: “Mad Max” leather

Buckle: Triple-blade folding clasp in black PVD steel

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