Review: Geckota S-01 Phalanx

Regular contributor, Jed Edwards reviews the first military watch by this upcoming British watchmaker.

Whether it’s judging the best point to stop for lunch or knowing how long until the forecast rain shower, keeping track of time can be incredibly valuable when outdoors. For professionals, including military personnel, being able to wait, act or convene at the right moment is crucial to successful operation. 

British watchmaker Geckota’s story begins in 2010, and they’ve grown an impressive collection with diving, sports and dress watches all making appearances in their repertoire. To produce their first military watch, Geckota brought in a collaborative partner – the result is the Sierra Zero One (S-01) Phalanx.

Drawing on their partner’s experience as a technical advisor and trainer for military and police special operations, Geckota set about designing a watch that would capture the spirit of these units, and fill the role as the perfect operational watch. 

They wanted something robust enough to survive harsh conditions but with a low enough profile to slip by unnoticed in a covert situation. Geckota’s Gloucestershire office is a stone’s throw from Hereford (home of one fairly famous Special Forces unit), but also the Welsh Brecon Beacon mountain range, and so Geckota decided it was important for the Phalanx to work for outdoor adventurers away from military service as well.

In order to function as a field tool, a watch needs to be tough, accurate and legible. The S-01 Phalanx is built from stainless steel, with either a satin steel or black PVD finish available. The ETA 2824-2 movement is a common swiss calibre. The uninitiated will be happy with its reliability and how, being an automatic, there’s no need to manually wind it, or replace batteries – it keeps going as long as it’s worn regularly; seasoned watch enthusiasts will appreciate the availability of spare parts and ease of modification this brings.

Other aspects of the design are also tailored for this use: the crown screws down to protect the workings from dust or moisture (it achieves a 300m water resistance rating) and is off-set at the 4 o’clock position so as to not dig into the wrist when climbing or using tools. The bezel rotates, enabling wearers to quickly and intuitively track time by twisting the ‘0’ to line up with any of the hands. 

The face has a sharp luminescence which glows after only a gentle charge, and the colour of that bezel marking is subtly different from that of the main dial. Tucked onto the outside edge of the face, a secondary dial also breaks the hour into hundredths – Geckota wanted to allow for decimal notation, which is occasionally used instead of minutes on military operations, without interrupting the ease of use for civilian wearers. 

Testing the watch myself, I found the S-01 Phalanx easy to read in a mix of conditions. The clean, prominent numerals and broad ‘sword’ hands meant I could get an accurate read without stopping moving, even in the rain, or low light. The anti-glare coating on the sapphire crystal was great even in bright sun, and although it means the Phalanx won’t double as a signal mirror in an emergency, that’s probably a good thing. 

The size of the watch wasn’t overwhelming even in town, and I had no issues getting it to nestle inside shirt, jacket or glove cuffs. The 22mm strap worked fine with my Suunto Clipper compass (I didn’t have one of the PDW models to test!), which made a great back-up to my Silva compass in the field. The Phalanx felt reassuringly sturdy on my wrist and, without being gentle with it, I’ve seen no sign of scratches or scuffs appear through my time with the watch.

To many outdoors-folk it may seem that newer, more functional technology of the twenty-first century is set to replace tried and tested gear and skills. Smartphones, after all, can do the job of navigation, timekeeping, photography and even illumination in the dark… or so is the theory. 

The truth is that lumping all those jobs onto one gadget (and just one battery) is a recipe for trouble, and mountain rescue teams have to seek out and support hikers who are relying on their phone time after time after time. Just like the paper map and magnetic compass, a dedicated wristwatch remains a firm pack essential. For professionals, adventurers, and maybe even Special Forces, the Geckota S-01 Phalanx is a great option to fill that role.

By Jed Edwards

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