We’ve been watching New Zealand niche watchmaker Magrette since the 2008 release of their Panerai homage, the Regattare. Founder and designer Dion Wynyard McAsey based the brand on his love for watches, design background and passion for his home country. Since the company’s founding, he’s released a host of beautiful watches, many at affordable prices with the kind of quality that makes a name in this very competitive industry. One of his newest releases, the Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD, is a wonderful example of solid components, great design and affordability.

Magrette encloses every watch in a simple wooden box, in a black fabric roll case, with an extra strap enclosed. In a way, this packaging is a microcosm of the watch it contains: simple, sensible and accessible. It’s by no means a posh presentation, but at this price point, it makes sense — the quality of this watch belies its affordability. The Moana Pacific Chronograph’s case is a PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) 44mm Panerai-shaped case. PVD isn’t as tough as DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) and certainly not as amenable to horological demolition derbies, so don’t treat it like a tool watch or bang it around like a Casio G-Shock.

Unlike many PVD watches, the Moana Pacific has a glossy PVD on the top of its case, which results in a more opulent look, but might not hold up as well to punishment. The sides of the case and the lugs are matte, lending a bit of contrast. The bezel itself has etched numerals and markings, and though nothing is lumed except the 12 o’clock pip, the look brings a tasteful subtlety. A ceramic bezel is a pleasant surprise at this price point and holds up well to dings and scratches; though it could ratchet a bit tighter, it’s by no means loose, and even gloved hands can grip it easily.

PVD isn’t as tough as Diamond Like Carbon and certainly not as amenable to horological demolition derbies, so don’t treat it like a tool watch or bang it around like a Casio G-Shock.

The dial is cleanly designed in a gloss black with small etched markings on the rehaut and C3 Superluminova markers and numerals on the face and hands. Only the 3 and 9 o’clock positions are abbreviated by the two subdials.

The fact that this is a hand-cranked mechanical chronograph, rather than a self-winder, might dissuade some buyers — those who shun the idea of exercising their two fingers on a daily basis. But hand-winding is simple and requires only 10 turns for a full day’s wind. It also makes the watch special in a collection of automatics. The large display back shows off the intricacy of the Chinese-made Seagull TY-2901 movement, one that’s based on the well-known Swiss Venus 175 calibre (which has been around since the 1940s). While Chinese movements don’t have a lot of fans among watch snobs, this is a time-tested movement that performs incredibly well. It also helps keep the cost of the Moana Pacific Chronograph down.

Another great feature on this affordable chronograph is the double-domed anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. While many manufacturers would opt for a mineral crystal at this price range, Magrette’s choice provides a robust crystal and a correspondingly beautiful look. The screw-down crown and pushers exude quality, and the actions on both are excellent. The chronograph center seconds hand snaps back to the 12 o’clock position precisely, just as it should.

Though our tester arrived with a black leather strap and red contrast stitching, the production model comes with a 24mm chocolate brown leather strap, which lends a nice level of sophistication to the all-black watch. The quality and comfort of the leather is excellent, and the strong buckle (with Magrette logo) provides great security. Unlike many other larger diameter watches out there, this watch is extremely comfortable. The slightly curved lugs never dig into your wrist, and long-term wear is as easy as it gets.

The Moana Pacific has a water resistance of 500 meters and is, unfortunately, limited to 1,000 pieces. Magrette has positioned themselves well by providing solid quality timepieces at great prices — along with designs that won’t easily be mistaken for something else. The PVD finish adds another dimension to this watch: it looks great worn for a jaunt with friends or a dressier evening out. Though the first batch is already sold out, the second wave is now up for grabs. Snatch one up, and make both your wallet and your wrist start the year off right.

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