The Shootout: Brew vs. Roue

Two Affordable Chronographs for Under $400


January 6, 2020 Reviews By Photo by Chandler Bondurant

Chronographs are widely considered one of the most popular and beloved of watch complications, and while I typically like to go against the grain, this is one case where I fall in with the masses. I myself am a one-watch-woman, and that watch happens to be none other than a chronograph.

It makes plenty of sense that the chronograph is a favorite of the watch community. Unlike many other complications, it’s relatively easy to operate, and it offers an attractive design consisting of two or three registers, adding just the right amount of interest to the dial without being overwhelming or compromising the readability of more basic time and date functions. Still, the factor that probably makes the chronograph so widely liked is the sheer variety of models on the market, one that can suit any style and budget.

Though it’s possible, of course, to spend tens of thousands (or even millions) on a chronograph-equipped watch, for those with more Earthy budgets, there are far more affordable options like the Roue TPS or the Brew Retrograph, two models that perfectly exemplify the beauty of the chronograph. They come in at similar and completely attainable price points and are equipped with similar meca-quartz movements. Yet, they’re vastly different when it comes to style and the way they wear on the wrist. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to put the two models to the test, and this is what I found.

The Competition

Roue TPS

Notice the dual pulsation and tachymeter scales on the TPS’s dial

The Roue TPS is a classic racing chrono with a touch of midcentury design. It’s offered in three different colorways, each of which comes with both a silicon and a leather rally-style strap. Together, the mix of retro elements and contemporary materials results in a well-balanced and versatile take on the iconic chronograph.

Brew Retrograph

The Retrograph’s outer seconds scale is meant for timing the perfect espresso shot

The Brew Retrograph takes its own approach to incorporating design elements of chronographs, old and new. It features a unique cushion-shaped case as a nod to 1970s chronos like the TAG Heuer Monaco. The model is also available in three colorways complete with a premium Italian leather strap or a beads-of-rice bracelet (for $45 more).

The Test

Design

As an owner of a more traditional, round, triple-register chrono, I was instantly attracted to the Roue TPS. Like the model in my collection, the stainless steel TPS has that sumptuous weight to it that’s oh-so comforting. Slipping on the robust 40mm model immediately felt like home. I opted for what I consider to be the most interesting of the three colorways: the blue dial with yellow accents.

The TSP dial features triple-layer construction and printed lume

However, this is not your typical blue watch — it’s a particular shade of baby blue that has a nice warmth to it, especially when paired with the camel-colored leather strap. Alternatively, the grey silicon strap completely changes the look and feel of the watch, making it significantly sportier. Also notable is the domed crystal made of K1 mineral glass with anti-reflective coating on the inside and sapphire coating on the outside. This definitely adds a more substantial thickness and bulk to the model.

The Brew Retrograph is certainly a more standout design compared to what I think of when I conjure up the image of a typical chrono. Though I own a round watch, I often notice myself gravitating toward watches with more interesting shapes, like the Retrograph. It too has that luxurious weight as well as similarly robust proportions, measuring 38mm by 41.5mm.

The Retrograph’s dual counters consist of a running seconds sub-dial and a 24-hour indicator

For comparison’s sake, I also chose the cobalt variation of the Retrograph. That said, this is hardly a blue-on-blue comparison. The hue of the Retrograph is entirely different — it’s a cooler, dustier shade that can easily read as grey and serve as a neutral. This, in combination with the flat sapphire crystal and premium Italian leather strap, makes the Retrograph easier to dress up or down. Case and point: the Retrograph was my choice for Thanksgiving dinner whereas the TPS was better suited for jeans, a sweater, and leather high tops while browsing holiday window displays.

Functionality

The Roue TPS is truly a classic chrono when it comes to functionality — for the most part. First, you have three sub-dials: a 24-hour indicator at the three o’clock position, 60-minute counter at the nine o’clock position, and a running seconds register at the six o’clock position. Then you have a tachymeter scale around the dial, used to calculate speed and distance. However, there’s also a pulsometer scale, used to calculate pulse, and a prominent, bright yellow chronograph hand. Inside, you’ll find the Seiko VK63 chronograph hybrid meca-quartz movement. This combines the reliability and accuracy of quartz and with the satisfying action of a mechanical chronograph with its dry click and instant reset.

The sub-dial at 3 o’clock is 24-hour indicator, rather than a 24-hour counter.

Although I’m used to reading a watch with three registers in a color that contrasts with the dial, the Retrograph with its two registers in the same color as the dial is actually perfectly legible, particularly in low light, thanks to white indices and hands. In place of a third register, it offers the added bonus of a date window at the six o’clock position. Additionally, there’s something unique and thoughtful about the outer track.

The Retrograph’s cushion-shaped case is well proportioned at 38 x 41.5mm

As a brand, Brew’s designs draw from coffee culture, specifically the espresso machine (hence the name “Brew”). Where many vintage chronographs highlight a range of three-minute intervals to indicate when to insert a coin to add more time to a long-distance call, Brew has aptly highlighted the range between 25 and 35 seconds to indicate when the optimal espresso shot has been extracted. This serves as a useful feature for coffee fanatics and a rather clever nod to chronos past. All of this functionality is powered by the VK64 hybrid meca-quartz chronograph movement.

The Verdict

At the end of the day (or in my case, the extended holiday weekend), these may be two chronographs with a similar price point and similar movement, but they’re two totally different watches. The Roue offers a more classic take on the chronograph, which is a look and feel I’ve personally come to know and love. The unique colorway and different strap options give the otherwise traditional design just the right twist and versatility.

On the other hand, the Brew is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers a more uncommon case shape and a number of thoughtful touches. Overall, the Brew is undoubtedly easier to dress up or down based on the color palette and quality of the strap. These are two distinct watches for two distinct people or two distinct occasions — it’s up to you to decide which best suits you and your lifestyle.

Brew Watches and Roue Watches provided these products for review.

Disclaimer: The Brew Retrograph is available from the Gear Patrol Store, to which we linked in this post.

A Guide to Meca-Quartz Watches

The ease of quartz and the feel of mechanical. Read the Story

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Cait Bazemore

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