Earlier this year, Swiss brand Mido made headlines by releasing the critically-acclaimed, 1939-inspired Multifort Datometer. This watch, produced to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1918 founding of the brand by Georges Schaeren, held a number of traits popular in today’s “new vintage” market, with its smaller 38-mm size, uncommon triple calendar, and relative affordability. It was a watch that easily melded its championed vintage features with the modern manufacturing capabilities of a Swatch Group-owned brand, and thus struck a chord in the horological world.
Alongside the Multifort Datometer came alongside another commemorative design, in the Mido Commander Shade series. The new models, which expand Mido’s already robust Commander collection, find their inspiration loosely in a vintage watch from 1979. The Commander series, which was first known as the Ocean Star series, initially debuted in 1959, and has been a flagship of the brand’s portfolio since its release. At that time, the Golden Era piece featured a single-shell case and “Aquadura” crown to better protect the watch from water damage through various sealing mechanisms.
Over the next few decades, as with many other watch series, Mido transitioned the design from a technology-focused angle to one that could move with the trends of the day. This allowed the Ocean Star series to expand into a number of different styles, some with oval designs and multi-layered dials, others with pillow-shaped cases and integrated bracelets, and still others with “TV” cases and dégradé dials; there was not much unifying the diverse array of styles that found their way into both the Ocean Star and, later, the Commander series.
Still, despite their lack of uniformity in design, these vintage models proved to be of major historical significance to Mido, and so they were obvious choices for a homage during the brand’s 100th anniversary. Hence the launch this year of the Commander Shade series: two 37-mm watches— one in steel and the other in rose-gold PVD — meant to recall a late ‘70s design. These watches, stylistically identical outside of the different metal coloring, use rounded cases with tight crowns and integrated mesh bracelets with old-style secure sliding clasps.
Beneath the acrylic crystal of the watch is the black dégradé dial — described by the brand as “satin-finished smoked sunray”— and upon it, short metal-and-black applied hour markers; a mid-century-style day-date window at the 3 o’clock position; and vintage applied scripts for the Mido and Commander logos. Sweeping over the face are two matching black-and-metal rectangular hour and minute hands, with lines of Super-LumiNova at their centers, and a simple pointer for the seconds, all powered by the automatic ETA 2836-2 with a 38-hour power reserve. These special-edition watches are currently available for purchase, with the steel version listed by the brand at $870 and the PVD model at $1,070.
In comparing these watches to the 1979 “original,” we have a slight problem, in that no exact watch or reference number is cited by the brand as a predecessor. Mido describes the modern design as “freely inspired” by the vintage watch, and as “a tribute to the seventies spirit.” So, without an exact design for comparison, we’re instead left with the circa ‘70s era of the vintage Ocean Star as the closest equivalent. Many design traits from this era can be found on the contemporary piece, such as the integrated bracelet and monocoque (one piece or single-shell) steel case; the mesh style of the bracelet; the smoked dial; the rectangular style of hour markers and hands; and even smaller details like the style of the day-date window and the tight crown that echoes those of early Ocean Stars. In these details, the Commander Shade has a clear vintage inspiration from the historic series, and an even clearer “era inspiration” from the 1970s, as seen in the thorough integration of the case and its funkier details.
However, while this watch has many features rooted in this specific era, there was likely a specific reference from 1979 that included all of them, and it is for this reason, among others, the Commander Shade is a modern conception of a “vintage homage” rather than a direct re-edition. Very few of its details can be directly traced to the modern era. Some are very subtle, like the small Mido engraving on the inside of the acrylic crystal to verify its authenticity, and the rose-gold PVD coating, which is a modern upgrade of the vintage models’ gold plating. Further, the movement is modern, and it goes without saying that the construction and finishing of the watch is notably contemporary and up to today’s standards.
Its anniversary year of 2018 has been panning out to be a real watershed for Mido, with the release of both the critically-acclaimed Multifort Datometer as well as the Commander Shade. With these and other releases, the 100-year-old Swiss brand has built its foxhole in the ever-crowded “new vintage” market, showing in two different designs its nimbleness in creativity in combining both historical and modern elements to create interesting and affordable watches. Time will now tell if that foxhole can transition into a longer lasting foundation for more homage watches to come.
For an in-depth, hands-on review of the Mido Commander Shade, check out Mark Bernardo’s summer tour of Mexico in our Borrowed Time series (click here).
And for the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Doxa SUB 300 Searambler “Silver Lung” to its historical predecessor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.