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Certainly, the last few years have seen the vintage watch industry enjoying a massive renaissance. The market has been literally flooded with vintage collections by various watchmakers who pay homage to the good, old days.
With so many options offered by brands that don’t really differ in terms of style, picking the right one might be quite a task. One of the watchmakers that aren’t on the lips of everyone but continue to deliver unique vintage style characterized by casual dials, large cases, and oversized markers is Glycine.
The Swiss brand has been around for over 100 years – yet it’s still largely untapped for a large section of the watch community. Focusing on stylish pilot and tool watches that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the brand is often referred to as one of the most underrated watchmakers in the present day. Why is that?
You will find the answer to this and many other questions in today’s Glycine watches review.
Table of Contents
Glycine Watches History
The fact that Glycine watches aren’t aggressively marketed might be the reason many folks haven’t heard about the brand. However, there’s little doubt that the watchmaker has already reached millions of aficionados as it’s one of the oldest watch companies originating from Switzerland.
The brand was founded over 100 years ago, in 1914, by Eugène Meylan. At that time, he was an up-and-coming watch engineer. With a good understanding of the Swiss market demands and the advancements in horological technology, he became highly successful in manufacturing superbly accurate (at that time) and small movements for ladies watches.
From the date of foundation to today, all timepieces have been produced at the factory in the Swiss city of Bienne. From the early days, the manufactory gained a reputation as the place where the finest miniature movements were produced. Installed in precious gold and platinum cases and frequently adorned with diamonds, these watches became particularly popular amongst the wealthy class of England and America.
Some of Glycine’s biggest breakthroughs date back to the 1930s. In 1931, Eugène invented one of the industry’s better-performing self-winding watches. The collection, Glycine Eugène Meylan SA, is still a highly-regarded collector’s item.
The success of the self-winding line didn’t make Meylan rest on his laurels – far from it. Three years later he launched a chronometer range that passed the exacting tests of the Official Swiss Quality Control.
The depression years of the 1930s and the subsequent World War didn’t spare Glycine. Just like other Swiss watchmakers, Glycine was cut off from the majority of its traditional export markets. Unlike many of its competitors, the brand dealt with the setback brilliantly and was included in the small group of 29 exhibitors at the prestigious Basel Fair in 1938.
As World War II came to an end, the whole horological industry breathed a sigh of relief. Glycine didn’t plan to lose any time and in 1945 launched a new range of automatic watches, using the most advanced technologies. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a massive success.
The 1950s saw Glycine release another two breakthrough lines, one of which is still racking up the sales to this day. The year 1952 saw the birth of Vacuum chronometers, a line of timepieces famed for their solid resistance to water and shocks. These were excellent tool watches designed to survive under hostile conditions.
A year later, in 1953, Glycine released the Airman line – one of the most popular collections to this day. It was and still is known for displaying both the regular local time and the world time. As the class of frequent travelers and pilots continued to grow, Glycine Airman watches were on a never-ending wave of popularity.
The Airman line took the pilot watch industry by storm. With the increasing demand, in 1967 Glycine released an upgraded model in the form of Airman SST. The abbreviation stands for Super Sonic Transport. The caseback of this model featured a spectacular engraving of was none other than Boeing 2707.
Another major crisis that hit hard especially the Swiss industry was the Quartz Revolution of the 1970s. Spurred by the release of the world’s first-ever battery-powered timepiece by the Japanese mogul Seiko, it lasted for nearly a whole decade.
The Swiss brands in particular suffered massively as they were late in introducing quartz movements to their collections. Combined with the worldwide recession and a huge increase in the value of the Swiss franc, many manufacturers were pushed to the brink – including Glycine. Fortunately, the brand managed to get by.
The 1980s saw big changes at the steer of the company. Glycine was acquired by a private label businessman, Hans Brechbühler. After a difficult start, the new owner contributed to the development of fresh products – particularly the first quartz line – and successfully expanded to new markets that included Scandinavia, Italy, and Germany.
The new strategies started to bear fruit in the early 1990s. After getting back on its feet thanks to the increasing popularity of Glycine’s battery-powered line, the brand could slowly but surely restart manufacturing mechanical watches. As the quartz hype began to wear off, with their rich tradition and expertise, Glycine was in a strong position to offer brilliantly crafted mechanical models again.
Despite the Quartz Crisis, Glycine never fully departed from offering their prime collection of mechanical Airman models. However, catering to the new trends, they released two battery-powered Airman timepieces that were a massive success especially in Japan and the United States.
In 1998, Airman 2000, a highly anticipated rebirth of the initial model, saw daylight. Using one of the more refined mechanical movements at that time (ETA 2893-2), the watch offered tracking of three timezones at once – a unique feature amongst 24-hour timepieces at that time.
The beginning of the 20th century sparked a new style of Glycine watches, characterized by larger case diameters. The years 2000-2009 also saw the release of high-end chronographs running on the famous V7750 and V7751 calibers. An example of such was the barrel-shaped Alpus model which was inspired by a Glycine watch from the 1950s.
Rumors of Glycine’s financial crisis started surfacing in 2016. As it turned out, there was no smoke without fire. The same year news broke that the brand was acquired by the Invicta Watch Group, primarily known for Invicta watches. That move sparked fears amongst many Glycine supporters who didn’t want the timepieces to be influenced by the futuristic design approach used with so many Invicta collections.
Fortunately, that hasn’t proven to be the case. Furthermore, the group’s CEO, Eyal Lalo, clearly stated that he didn’t plan to merge the two brands and Glycine would put more focus on developing its highly successful Airman and Combat collections.
Nowadays, Glycine watches continue to reach new markets. By offering durable, well-crafted models running on reliable Swiss calibers, Glycine is seen as one of the most respected names of the low-to-mid-budget sector of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Are Glycine Watches Any Good? (Quality Review)
When trying to define the quality of any watch brand, it’s important to stay realistic. By that I mean: avoid comparing a low-budget watchmaker with the best in the industry. Instead, we need to look at what the brand in question has to offer when compared with watchmakers in the same price basket.
Considering that the cheapest Glycine models are available for around $250 and the most expensive barely reach the $500 mark, we can safely categorize it as a low-to-mid budget watchmaker.
So, is Glycine a good watch brand? And does it offer value that’s adequate to the cost? To answer that question, we need to look at all the important metrics contributing to the overall score.
Without further ado, let’s go.
Some low-cost brands product watches that look amazing at first glance but fall apart after a few months of wearing. That’s usually down to the poor quality material used to assemble them, poor workmanship, or a combination of both.
Gladly, this doesn’t seem to relate to Glycine timepieces. Despite not breaking the bank, they’re made from high-quality, enduring parts and pass all the Swiss quality tests before going on sale.
Let’s start with the most damage-prone party of a watch – the dial window. Irrespective of the collection and the pricing, all Glycine timepieces use the best protection in the form of sapphire crystal glass. It’s the most scratch and crack-resistant material out there, used by all the top-shelf watchmakers such as Rolex or Omega. To Glycine’s credit, the presence of the sapphire in other watch brands oscillating in the same price range is far from a given.
When it comes to cases, Glycine opts for industry-standard 316L stainless steel. Since cases are also easy to scratch, the material is the best you can hope for in this price range as it has strong anti-scratch and anti-stain properties.
What’s also important is that crowns, integral parts of cases, are screw-down. The screw-in crown is a precious feature, especially popular in dive watches, that considerably aids in water resistance. This particular type of crown screws tightly into the case and prevents any form of water or dust from getting inside. This provides the movement with the best protection and helps you maximize the watch’s longevity.
Moving on to straps, the selection is bigger. We can differentiate between five types of bands:
- stainless steel – the most scratch-resistant and dressy type
- carbon fiber, textile, or nylon – pretty enduring but a more sporty type
- genuine leather – the most elegant yet most fragile type
Crucially, all Glycine watches run on Swiss-made movements.
Depending on the collection and the model, you can pick from either quartz or automatic timepieces. If you value unbeatable accuracy, go for a battery-powered model. If you’re a fan of more complex and sometimes vintage calibers, opt for an automatic watch.
Considering the relatively low cost of these watches, the standard of the movements is really on point. In general, Glycine sources the calibers from three manufacturers: the highly-rated Swiss duo, ETA and Sellita, and… Glycine itself. Glycine calibers are labeled as their own but are based on either ETA or Sellita complications. Whatever type, these usually deliver impressive accuracy and last for years.
As an example, GL224 is one of the frequently used automatic movements. It’s a 25-jewel caliber with a 38-hour power reserve, vibrating at 28,800 BPH. The aspect about which the users marvel the most is the superb accuracy. For a watch in the $300-500 region, the average accuracy of +- 4 seconds daily is an outstanding result.
Glycine Watch Collections
Since the 2016 takeover by the Invicta Watch Group, Glycine narrowed down the focus to the two collections for which they’ve always been recognized – Airman and Combat.
Let’s have a brief look at what’s on offer with both.
As already mentioned, Airman was the first collection that helped Glycine stamp its mark on the horological industry, particularly on the sector of pilot watches.
From the very first Airman model, debuted in 1953, the collection has focused on a design suitable for military and commercial pilots, as well as everyday aviation enthusiasts. Quite notably, the Airman was the go-to watch line amongst U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam war. It was also one of the favorite timepieces of the popular astronaut, Peter Conrad.
The collection is divided into three mini-lines: Airman Contemporary, Airwoman, and Air Vintage.
The Contemporary collection presents the most modern look. Many, I included, think that the style offered by this collection has been slightly influenced by the 2016 acquisition by Invicta. The most notable characteristics of the line are the thick cases and large lug-to-lug diameters, and dials.
Despite being based on the design of the original Airman from 1953, Contemporary models have been enriched with a 24-hour dial and two distinct crowns.
As you can probably guess, the Vintage collection pays homage to the early Airman designs. If you’re looking to get a watch that is the closest to the original 1953 model, the Vintage line is your best bet.
These watches come with considerably smaller cases, measuring between 36mm and 42mm. The cases are quite thick and use a rotating bezel with 24-hour markers to help you track an additional timezone. Airman Vintage resembles very much the early GMT models of the brand (read also: What Is a GMT Watch?).
One of the biggest characteristics of the Vintage collection is the dial featuring an outer ring of numerals for the 24-hour hand. Additionally, it’s equipped with an inner minute ring with circles and rectangles for every five minutes.
Due to increasing demand for Airman watches that would also suit the slender wrist of a woman, the brand released the Airwoman collection. Certainly, it’s impressive how the watchmaker managed to implement the busy Airman dials into much smaller diameters for females. These models look just as robust yet send out a clear feminine vibe at the same time.
Glycine’s Combat collection embodies a more sporty style. Instead of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, these watches are more popular in the military and sports circles.
Because of even more impressive durability, they’re often referred to as tool watches. Similar to Airman, the Combat collection is divided into three mini-lines: Combat Sub, Combat Vintage, and Combat Classic.
The Combat Sub line is the equivalent of Airman’s Contemporary. It presents the most present-day style and offers some of Glycine’s most distinctive watch models. Introduced just before the start of the 20th century, the line has been one of the popular picks amongst Glycine fans.
These watches look extremely sturdy yet don’t feel super heavy on your wrist. All come with three-hand automatic complications with a date window positioned at three o’clock.
The biggest characteristic of the collection is the colorful un-directional bezels for measuring minutes and oversized crowns. Because of the strong water-resistance capabilities (all come with a 20ATM / 200m rating), these watches are a popular choice amongst diving enthusiasts.
Just as robust, the Combat Vintage models pay tribute to the watch designs of the glorious 50s and 60s.
All come with unified diameters (43mm) and are lighter, more classic-looking versions of the Sub models. Or vice versa.
Glycine Combat Classic is a prime example of a collection oscillating on the dressy spectrum.
These watches boast a typical present-day dress watch design. From all the collections discussed, it’s one with the most minimalistic approach.
That’s not to say that some of these models won’t turn heads. Especially eye-catching are the open-heart models, featuring transparent dial through which you can marvel at the intricate workings of the mechanical movement.
Characteristically for dress watches, the Combat Classic collection opts for smaller cases. A lion’s share of models measures just 36mm in diameter. The water resistance is also not as impressive, with the WR rating sitting at 5ATM / 50m across the line.
Why Are Glicyne Watches So Cheap Now?
You might wonder why Glycine watches aren’t as expensive as before.
Considering that they still offer excellent value, many enthusiasts scratch their heads about where the drop in prices, compared to a decade or so ago, comes from.
A few things might be contributing to this.
Firstly, the competition in the industry is at an all-time high. Compared to some other brands in the price sector, Glycine watches aren’t marketed anywhere near as aggressively. Since the brand doesn’t hold any advantage in terms of its awareness and exposure, it might need to compensate for it by offering lower price margins.
Also, many think that Glycine lost some of its pull after the takeover by the Invicta Watch Group in 2016. Despite not really influencing the design and the original feel of Glycine watches, Invicta splits opinions like no other brand.
For some, the drop in Glycine watch prices is a red flag. For others, it’s a great opportunity to purchase a reliable, Swiss-made timepiece at fraction of the price of the past.
Where to Buy Glycine Watches?
The chances of coming across a counterfeit Glycine watch are next to zero. These simply aren’t manufactured nowadays. That said, it’s still wise to take caution about where you do your shopping.
The first obvious destination is the brand’s official website. However, if you’re looking for as smooth a purchase process as possible, it’s one to avoid. At the time of writing, the website doesn’t allow for one-click shopping. The only way through which you can purchase a watch there is by requesting its availability. After typing your email address, a Glycine representative will get back to you within a few business days.
One of the places that have a lot of Glycine models available at competitive prices is Amazon. Additionally, the popular marketplace offers same-day shipping and a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy. When shopping on Amazon, make sure to pick highly rated sellers.
Another safe website to do your shopping is Jomashop. Being one of the most popular jewelry and watch stores in the United States, it’s an authorized retailer of Glycine timepieces. The pricing is very similar to Amazon’s.
Finally, if you don’t mind pre-owned watches, you can find some Glycine models at bargain-basement prices on eBay.
Glycine Watches Review: Conclusion
If you’ve been mulling over the purchase of your first watch from the Swiss brand, I have high hopes that the Glycine review article has convinced you to go ahead with the buy (or decide against it). Either way, I’m glad it’s been helpful.
Summing up the Glycine watches review, it’s only fair to classify the Swiss watchmaker as an excellent low-to-mid budget alternative to more pricey brands specializing in the aviation and tool watch sector. Considering the $300-$500 price basket, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to consider Glycine a solid Entry-Level brand.
A decade or so ago, these watches were made from the same quality of materials – yet cost double the price. However, instead of the worsening quality of Glycine watches, it’s more down to the ever-growing competition and the 2016 takeover by the Invicta Watch Group that evokes mixed feelings in the community.
Nonetheless, because of reliable Swiss movements and the solid quality of material used to assemble the timepieces, Glycine continues to score positive reviews from watch enthusiasts around the globe.
Although differing in style, because of the similar pricing and the Swiss heritage the brand is often compared to other popular watchmakers originating from the Alps, such as Tissot or Mathey-Tissot. However, the style presented by Glycine is definitely a departure from what’s on offer with this pair. Design-wise, it’s probably much closer to the traditional German pilot watches.
Final Say: if my review of Glycine watches has persuaded you to get one, then great! I’d love to hear about your choice. Also, if you already have hands-on experience with the brand, I’d love to hear about it. Please use the comment section below to interact!