HANDS ON WITH THE OLLECH & WAJS P-101
– By Dale Mracek
The name of this small Zurich based brand, founded by two friends; Joseph Ollech and Albert Wajs dating back to 1956, may not ring bells to many. The history of the brand is intriguing and intertwines through brands such as Breitling and Sinn. It saw the decline of mechanical watches during the Quartz crisis and survived. Despite all odds, OWZ (Ollech & Wajs Zurich) continued their focus on pilot, dive and tool watches.
Sadly, Joseph Ollech passed away in 1992, and Albert Wajs started a new company, OW, which designed and produced a new line of sports watches with the same pilot/diver focus.
In 2017, after a lifetime of work and ten years of exchanges and networking, Albert Wajs handed the brand over to a trusted and dedicated collector who shared the same values and long-term vision for the brand.
Celebrating the past, OW recently released two military-inspired pieces the P-101 and -104 respectively.
The P-101, reviewed here, is a direct homage to the MC Donnell F-101, the very first fighter jet in service capable of exceeding 1,000 mph, setting a world record in 1956. What a way to make a comeback!
The brushed 39.56mm stainless case matched with slightly curved lugs measuring 49.5mm lug to lug and 12.5mm thick, including the boxed sapphire crystal, the P-101 hits all the right markers straight out of the box for a modern piece. The large, Tudor like screw-down crown is smooth to wind and manipulate and surprisingly did not cause any wearability issues. Its also numbered with the initial batch (of 56) that was released. Although from the website, any piece onwards appears to have the OW logo etched instead.
Additional 300m water resistance thanks to the screw-down caseback only add to the utilitarian value that OW aspires to.
Beating inside is a modified and adjusted ETA 2824-2 with an engraved main plate and machined rotor. The power reserve advertised is 38hrs, but after weeks of usage, expect several hours longer. The caseback is finished with a clean etching of the companies logo.
An uncluttered, matt grey dial with baton indexes is nothing new to most readers, but the ladder-style hands with its eight small squares filled with Super LumiNova add some interesting character to an otherwise well-balanced and straightforward design. A boxed date window at 6 and a simple logo just below 12, ties the clean look together, while the sizeable arrowed second’s hand enhances interest.
The 12 hour, bidirectional ceramic bezel (which allows tracking of a second timezone) is smooth but does not click or have notches, which on occasions results in the timezone inadvertently being changed. Lumed bezel indices would also be a welcome addition for improved functionality.
The curvature of the lugs certainly plays a role in allowing the P-101 to remain sleek and sit low and flat on the wrist. I’ve had no issues during daily wear on my 6.5-inch wrist. It’s a comfortable, no-nonsense watch that can be worn in a multitude of scenarios, though it may be pushing it with a suit and tie based on the thick, vintage-looking appearance of the leather strap.
Initially stiff, the handmade in Italy strap wore in quickly and is pleasant to wear. The leather softened the longer it spent on the wrist, and there was no urge to try other options. The signed buckle is a neat little addition.
There are no other strap options at present unless you choose a different model. The drilled lug holes do make strap changing easier should you wish to mix up your options for versatility.
Ollech & Wajs have done a fantastic job of keeping the original spirit of the brand alive. With classic proportions and a practical approach, the P-101 ticks many boxes. Excellent water resistance, a robust movement that’s easy to service and sharp finishes make it a very appealing package. A bracelet option in the future would be great to see, and something that would make the P-101 even more attractive to a broader audience.