Victorinox makes the Swiss Army Knife, so it’s a natural fit to make wristwatches that are associated with the same lifestyles as those who buy their famous knives.
First introduced in 2022, the Journey 1884 Automatic is Victorinox’s most concerted effort to create a mechanically powered tool watch as durable and utilitarian as the Swiss Army Knife. The Journey 1884 collection offers both Swiss quartz and automatic models, though we opted to try out the upscale automatic version, which is powered by a 4Hz Swiss-made Sellita caliber SW200-1 automatic with 38 hours of power reserve.
The automatic and quartz Journey 1884 models share the exact same recycled stainless steel case that measures 43 mm x 12 mm, with a lug-to-lug of 54 mm, a 7.5 mm screw-locked crown (protected by crown guards), and a 21 mm lug width. Differentiating the automatic from the quartz are three notable details: a premium ceramic insert in the unidirectional bezel compared to an aluminum insert on the quartz, a clear screw-in caseback versus a solid screw-in caseback, and a monotone Swiss Army shield emblem at 12 versus red and white for the quartz. Additionally, even though the Victorinox specifications page lists both the quartz and automatic models as 12 mm thick, we measure the automatic at 12.5 mm — which is likely a result of the automatic movement and/or the clear caseback being slightly thicker. If I had an option of making the case a little thinner by way of a solid caseback or being able to view the Sellita movement, I’d opt for a thinner case.
As far as total weight, the Journey 1884 Automatic on a stainless steel bracelet weighs a whopping 209.8 grams, whereas the quartz model weighs a little bit less at 201.5 grams. However, considering that all Journey 1884 timepieces are equipped with Victorinox’s excellent push-button easy-change strap/bracelet system — which allows you to instantly swap between the steel bracelet, and a paracord, rubber, leather, or wood strap without any tools needed — you can swap out the bracelet for lighter straps on the fly, and I did just that. By swapping the stainless steel bracelet for a rugged, yet ultra-comfortable paracord strap I was able to get the weight down to just 139.7 grams — making a night and day difference. It’s worth noting that I’m the type to always opt for a strap unless the bracelet has a light and luxurious feel.
Some people I showed the watch to explicitly expressed that they do not like the look of the handwoven paracord strap, but the fact is, it’s lighter, more comfortable, and befitting of a hiking-focused watch, and perhaps most importantly, it can be unraveled — to be used in survival situations kind of like a Swiss Army knife. Once installed, it never left the watch.
From the excellent quick change strap system to the Swiss Army knife-shaped small seconds hand counterweight and 3 and 9 o’clock indices to the ceramic bezel insert and the overall case shape and even the “1884” engraved cut out of the bezel at 6 o’clock — Victorinox has made a great effort with the Journey 1884 Automatic (Ref. 241981).
Even the hour and minute hands shaped like Swiss hiking signs are a nice touch, as well as the yellow colors that also pay homage to Swiss hiking. However, I do wonder if the hour and minute hand design in particular will appeal to a broad audience or if it will narrow the market. Interestingly, the outer frame on the end-of-the-hour hand lines up with the 24-hour central dial ring — making the Victorinox signature military time reference easier to read.
Being 200 meters water resistant and ISO certified for both shock (ISO 1413) and water resistance (ISO 22810) is impressive and shows this is a watch truly designed for rugged activities such as climbing, hiking, kayaking, boating, swimming, and other outdoor activities. Something I rarely see is the sunken sapphire crystal which is recessed below the plane of the bezel — which looks cool but most importantly it protects the crystal from contact (this is referred to as an “armored” crystal). The recycled stainless steel case — with the specific alloy code “AISI 316L” engraved on the left lower case flank — feels sturdy and the watch seems very well made.
My main gripe with the Journey 1884 is that the case could be a bit smaller, particularly in the lug-to-lug dimension which is 54 mm and hangs over my 7″ wrist a bit more than I prefer. Other than that I do think Victorinox did an admirable job in making the Journey 1884 collection a high-quality Swiss-made alternative to some of the other wristwatches in the $1,200 price range. And I absolutely recommend the paracord strap option (which adds $210 to the price of the watch) — especially if you’re buying this as an adventure watch.
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The Swiss Army Knife shown is not included, though some Journey 1884 references do come with a knife.