It’s been over a year since I reviewed the superb yellow-dial Dodane Type 23 Flyback Chronograph. Now the fifth-generation Dodane family brand is out with the Type 23, its first new model ever, following decades of successfully producing the Type 21 for the French Air Force. The Type 23 is a consumer/civilian oriented model, available in both a flyback and non-flyback chronograph. I recently spent some time with the Type 23 Flyback Chronograph and again came away very impressed with this little-known but historied brand and the timepieces it has to offer. Hands on video and lots of pics, below…
Dodane Type 23 Flyback Chronograph Watch Review
The Dodane Type 23 is for the practical watch enthusiast who appreciates reliability and accuracy without worry. Like the Type 21, the Type 23 has a strong technical/”tool watch” look to it, though with some subtle details that soften it up a bit for more casual wear. Make no mistake — every Dodane piece is a chronometer grade chronograph ready for the rigors of professional grade use — but the interplay of the satin-finished case with modestly curvaceous, scooped lugs and the mirror polished chronograph pushers give this watch a certain level of refinement not present in the Type 21.
42.5mm stainless steel case (13.9mm thick, 100m water resistance), automatic mechanical flyback chronograph Dubois Depraz (chronometer, 4Hz)
On the crown is an eagle symbol — it is the sixteenth century symbol of the French city of Besançon and home of Dodane:
The dial is very well laid out — among the best I have seen for a watch of this style. Nothing fancy, but that is what makes so legible at a glance and an all-around pleasure to look at all day long. It features a bi-compax layout with luminous Arabic numerals — except at the 3 and 9 positions. There is no wasted space on this dial and at the same time it is not crowded. No partial/cut-off numerals here (thanks be!)! The hands are of an appropriate style and length, and all — even the tip of the sweep seconds — are lumed.
Also integral to the dial design is a tachymeter (outside the chapter ring) and a rotating bezel with luminous dot. The bezel is bi-directional and has a thin profile and nice coin edge finish to it. Naturally, the Type 23 is clearly capable of making various calculations if the situation so required; however as this watch is intended more for the consumer and not the professional aviator I do not concern myself with these features except to say that they are well integrated into the watch.
The movement inside the watch is an automatic mechanical chronograph with flyback module produced by Dubois Depraz. Dubois Depraz is situated in Switzerland’s famous Vallee de Joux, operated by the Dubois brothers (another “in the family” manufacture — since its inception in 1901!). Dubois Depraz works with and provides modules and caliber components by many of the most highly regarded and famous of watch brands — Breitling, Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, Omega, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and other prestigious brands. And Dodane. Need I say more on the movement? Yes, it gets better….
caseback: again we see the symbol of the French city of Besançon
see-through caseback available
Dodane’s watches are verifiably accurate — very recently their accuracy was recently confirmed by the National Astronomical Observatory of Measuring Time of Besançon (France), borne out by the results of testing from 2006 to 2011. Out of 200 total tests of which only 147 watches finished in the “First Category of Chronometry” since 2006, Dodane ranks first among the 67 watches that have received this prestigious distinction:
A chronograph can be designated an “Observatory Chronometer” if it meets the strict standards of accuracy established by carrying over 15 consecutive days of testing that include testing in 5 positions and at different temperature settings. The uniqueness of this control lies in the fact that it applies only to a fully assembled watch unlike its Swiss counterpart, the COSC that merely tests non-cased movements. When a watch passes the Observatory’s stringent tests, it becomes certified as an Observatory Chronometer and receives a ‘Bulletin de Marche’ from the Observatory, confirming the performance of the movement in the actual watch itself.
The point here is that Dodane places as much emphasis on the inside of the watch as it does the outside, and you get an exceptionally quality movement in the Type 23. Given that they have supplied French military aviators for decades, this is not surprising — but it is absolutely worth knowing and appreciating when you come to making your decision about this watch and why it is worth owning.
The price on this piece is $4,500 — very competitive, in fact attractive for a watch of this pedigree. An upgraded version with enhanced movement finishing and sapphire display back is $4,750.
In summary, I think there is much to like and I give high marks to the Dodane Type 23. The small manufacture in the hands of the same family for over five generations knows what it is doing, which makes the Type 23 a watch you can buy with confidence and wear with pride.
Please email me at email@example.com or drop a comment below if you are interested in purchase details.
Did You Know?
The Dodane manufacture was founded in 1857 and rapidly became known in the world of watchmaking for its research ethos and its involvement in aviation. The Dodane family is native to the Val de Morteau, and they were the pioneers who cut the first villages out of the forest near the Swiss border. Alphonse Dodane, with his father-in-law François-Xavier Joubert, created a watchmaking facility and ébauche workshop in the heart of the Doubs gorges, on the edge of the Swiss border, in order to make use of the hydraulic power from the river. The first Dodane watches were manufactured at that time in a factory employing 120 workers. After that, the son of Alphonse Dodane, Raymond Dodane, moved the factory to Morteau (in France’s Haut Doubs region). Raymond Dodane diversified the company by manufacturing chronometric instruments for aviation. In 1917, Dodane developed a reverse chronograph to improve the targeting of bombers. This development cemented the Dodane company with aviation.
In 1929, the third generation of the Dodane family settled in Besançon, and Dodane carried on the traditions of complicated watch fabrication. The company became one of the longest-standing authorized suppliers to NATO.
In 1983, Laurent and Michel succeeded their father Raymond in directing the company and produced up to 100,000 watches, distributed on all five continents. The House of Dodane was the only French company to have been certified for the fabrication of altimetric chronographs permitting parachutists to do night jumps with delayed openings. The company also created the 1/100th of a second timer for the control of the ejection seats used by Aerospatiale. Dodane also supplied many civil airlines, both in France and abroad, as well as to the Aéropostale, the French national department of education, and post and telecommunications offices.
The company folded, but the dream lived on in Laurent and his son Cedric Dodane and the Dodane family continued to supply onboard chronographs to the military, so their company quickly resurfaced as a NATO authorized supplier. Building on their family expertise, the company subsequently launched a wristwatch based on the legendary Dodane chronograph: the Type 21.
“When we relaunched, we started all over again with total financial independence,” says Cedric Dodane. “Our resources were very restricted but we had the firm intention to not let go of five generations of watchmaking heritage. Our main objective is to put the customer at the heart of our job. We wish to propose products with a good price/quality ratio, and with personalized and exclusive service always by being tuned in to the expectations of the clients. It is what differentiates us to the other watch actors who often forget that it is their customers who are important.
“Our watches are adjusted carefully in order to be able to be certified as a ‘chronometer’ by the National Observatory of Time Measurement in Besançon, using ISO standard 3159,” Dodane continues. “The Time and Frequency Scientific Research Department continually ensures chronometric testing on mechanical watches, and the Type 21 has been able to benefit from this prestigious service, just like the original watch in the 1950’s. The uniqueness of this ISO 3159 test is that it applies only to a fully assembled watch and not to uncased movements (COSC certifies uncased movements).”
Dodane is committed to supplying the military, which was its exclusive niche in years gone by, but also plans to branch out sales to the general public as well, a sort of French Panerai, if you will. “We take advantage of our watch-making know-how by conceiving and by selling onboard chronographs and wristwatches which answer the requirements of the professionals and the public,” Dodane says. “The pilots require a high level of reliability, performance and quality. The instruments must be able to support extreme conditions of acceleration and temperature variations while preserving functioning and precision.”
Currently, Dodane produces about 1,000 military watches a year, with additional civilian limited editions. “The main objective of the company is to protect the watchmaking know-how of the Dodane family,” Dodane adds. “So, our motivation is more than strong and our dedication is total. We work as a family: my father, my brother, my wife and I, as well as two master watchmakers.”