Defakto is a small German watchmaker that has made a name for itself over the years thanks to the unique, but classic designs it boasts thanks to mark founder Raphael Ickler. The latest watch from Ickler and Defakto, the Vektor, continues this tradition of smart, minimalist looks, but adds a very slim case thanks to use of a Miyota 9015 automatic Japanese movement, and brings some extra retro appeal with a domed plexiglass front sphere and manually bent-minute and second hands that follow the curve of the dome.

As a whole, Defakto has long been one of my favourite smaller watchmakers, since it makes affordable (in watch world terms) timepieces with quality components, featuring case and face designs that are at once visually spare and yet also striking. The Vektor might be my favorite yet from Defakto, however, thanks to a combination of a small, 39mm case and height of only 9.8mm including that domed plexiglass. The red-hued hands in the version I reviewed (there’s also a black on white model) stand out strongly against the black face, as do the fine but easily readable white minute and hour indicators.

This watch also features a stainless steel polished case, which adds very little additional size and weight to the overall design, but helps accentuate its 50s-ish retro charm. The included German-made black soft cowhide strap completes the picture from a design standpoint, but also feels very comfortable even for all-day wear, with a supple, soft finish on the brown underside where it sits on your wrist.

There’s a display caseback too, giving you a look at the Miyota movement with a custom-engraved rotor for automatic winding, and the slender movement itself has some nice detail work with polished striations and contrasting brass gears.

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This is also a watch that’s a treat to examine up close or using a macro lens – the hand-bent, thin minute and second hands seem to ride just under the glass, and the stacked central hearts upon which they turn reveal excellent attention to detail in the craftsmanship of the watch. Again, this is not surprising coming from Ickler and Defakto, but it’s a nice treat whenever I give the watch an up close inspection.

Few watches come quite this close to achieving a perfect balance in terms of size, subtlety, interesting visual features and general wearability – you can dress the Vektor up just as easily as wear it out as your daily wrist companion.

At around $635 U.S. before any import taxes or duties, it’s not cheap; but it’s a very high quality design and build from a watchmaker with a known track record, and again one of the best balanced looks for a watch in this category currently in my opinion. Watches with this Miyota movement are more frequently occupying this price band, and it’s still a lot less than you’ll likely pay for a bulkier design with an entry-level Swiss ETA automatic movement.

Defakto also has excellent sales and support in my opinion, and their watches also definitely pass the test of time. The new Vektor might be my favorite yet from this small German mark, and it’s bound to make an impact on anyone with good taste in precision handcrafted design.

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