Hands-On Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 Manual Mechanical Chronograph

The Skinny

  • 40mm x 47mm x 12.6mm (excluding domed crystal)
  • Sellita SW501 M Bh manual winding mechanical chronograph (no date)
  • Water resistant to 50 meters
  • Precision: +0.5 sec/day (chrono off), +6 sec/day (chrono on), beat error 0.0ms
  • Year of release: 2021
  • $1511 (buy direct here)

Nezumi Goes Mechanical & Remains Classy

Friends and family of mine have owned and enjoyed Nezumi chronographs for years. These folks own affordable quartz models, which the Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 I’m considering here is not. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Nezumi has created this mechanical hand-wound chronograph housing a Swiss-made Sellita SW501-M movement, which can also be found in stainless steel chronographs such as Hanhart’s 417ES ($1850), Farer’s Moritz ($2100), Christopher Ward’s C65 ($1935), Oris’ Diver 65 Chrono ($4250), and Massena Labs’ Uni-Racer ($3495). This Nezumi costs just $1511, a very fair price. Let’s keep this relatively low price in mind, because it’s important to my understanding of the Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch.

I begin with price because according to the my friends, family, popular opinion, and the press, Nezumi has always offered super cool quartz chronographs which (to use the tired cliché) “punch way above their weight.” Who could argue? Nezumi chronographs cost only a few hundred dollars, look retro-chic, and are very well made. This has been the word about Nezumi ever since the brand hit the so-called indie watch scene in 2011, a moment when new brands offering affordable alternatives to overpriced classics were just getting hip. Since then, dozens of independent brands have come and mostly gone, but Nezumi has remained strong, prolific, interesting, and relevant.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Dial closeup macro.

But something else happened, which Nezumi didn’t intend. Their affordable chronographs started flipping for over 4x the retail price. Limited editions in conjunction with other brands like The Pink Panther and Porsche modifier RUF retailed for a few hundred dollars and soared well above four figures on the flipper market. I personally know flippers who snatched up Nezumi LEs, put them in a drawer, waited for the market to jump, and then flipped them for profit.

This was the second listing on eBay when I searched Nezumi.

I’ll go on record as one who dislikes flipping – especially in this lower tier where our hobby/passion is meant to be accessible and fun, not competitive and stressful. And I really don’t like it when brands use the flipping market to justify jacking up prices, which I consider a cynical move. Conversations about flipping pit watch enthusiasts against each other, and ultimately are meaningless and boring to those of us who don’t care about some random dude making a quick buck or about micro-market dynamics. I tend to tune that stuff out.

Yet, when confronted with a Nezumi costing $1511, I had to ask myself if Nezumi was reacting to the rising value of their watches on the flippers market. I’m so glad to report that, no, the brand is not capitulating to its own trendiness.

With the highly competitive pricing of the Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 as its first mechanical offering, Nezumi has upheld its reputation as a value-driven company. In fact, from what I can see, this mechanical Voiture is perhaps the least expensive chronograph currently available which houses the fine Sellita SW501-M manually-wound mechanical chronograph from Switzerland. Nezumi’s chill ethos and accessible pricing remain in tact, and, for me, that casts the brand and the watch in a favorable light.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Bezel closeup macro.

In my estimation, Nezumi is playing the long game, sticking to its vision, maintaining customer loyalty, and that’s always way more classy than classing up. (It also happens to resonate with the ethos here at Beyond The Dial, which I hope is similarly classy.) As the recent watch bubble deflates, or the watch craze takes a random downward turn, brands like Nezumi will not have to apologize for, or step back from, having leveraged the inflated flipper market. That’s good for us enthusiasts and collectors, but it’s also smart for long-term business.

Of course, there’s more to assessing the value of the Nezumi Voiture VM1S.201 than comparative pricing and brand ethos. The watch has to be pretty damn good – hopefully great – to get my attention. I’m rather delighted to report that I find this watch to be pretty damn great.

Great Design & Lovely Execution

A Compact 40mm Case

Forty-millimeter watches are a dodgy enterprise because they can wear huge or small. I’m not personally into huge watches, and the Nezumi wears really nicely for me – more like 38mm watch on my wrist. I assume this is down to the design of the lugs, which swiftly curve downward. From the side, the lugs are squat, but – unlike a Tudor Black Bay, for example – curvaceously so. That’s pretty uncommon.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Profile shot.

The brushing and polishing is top notch, and the edge-work (where surfaces meet) are on par with watches costing much more. I won’t call these edges Grand-Seiko-sharp, but they’re quite good.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Wrist shot.

Lovely Tachymeter Bezel

The bezel has a nice overhang, and the inner case is polished, giving this watch a decidedly retro vibe. Printing on the aluminum bezel insert (which is retro on purpose) is incredibly sharp, giving the watch a strong sense of high quality. I’d add that the proportions of the tachymeter scale are nicely balanced, such that there’s nothing odd or unexpected there, which sets up the dial for a successful framing.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Closeup.
Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Hero shot.

Funky Yet Legible Dial

It should be obvious that the dial is the main show, as it should be on a chronograph. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy the Omega Speedmaster is that the subdials are hard to distinguish from the main dial. I swear, if the Speedmaster hadn’t gone to the moon, we’d have little interest in it. The Voiture dial uses a playful, funky layout that makes reading all functions a breeze.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Closeup.

If I have one complaint, it might be that the chronograph data is not all the same color (note that the 30-minute totalizer at 3-o’clock and the 12-hour totalizer at 6-o’clock are not the same. It’s a small trade-off in accomplishing the uncompromised symmetry of this dial, however, and we can assume that rearranging the layout would have demanded a level of mechanical modification or ground-up manufacturing that’s way beyond the price point Nezumi has hit with the Voiture VM1S-201. The lack of a date is most welcomed for clarity and symmetry, and it’s great that there’s no phantom date mechanism looming beneath the dial.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch.

The matte paint on the dial is a trademark Nezumi feature, and I wouldn’t call the beige markings fauxtina in this context. Maybe it was meant to look aged, I don’t know, but it strikes me as a nice colorway and not fauxtina. Lume is very good, and the orange seconds hand with the Nezume ‘N’ logo as the counter balance is downright snazzy. I also appreciate the simplicity and mellowness of the minute and hour hands, which allow the important chronograph information to rise to the surface.

It really is just a great dial. Fun, cool, stylish, legible, retro, engaging.

A Bracelet From Yesteryear

The five-link bracelet is really good, but in a very retro way. First of all, it’s just a little less heavy than many newer bracelets, which is a good thing in my opinion, as it makes the watch feel like a vintage chronograph on wrist. I find heavier bracelets can be like cuffs, and prefer this lighter, slightly looser affair. The clasp feels like its right off a vintage Rolex, and that’s just super. The bracelet’s vintage vibe seems entirely intentional. It’s super fun, comfortable and even a little funky – just like the dial. This goes a long way toward making this watch feel whole.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Bracelet.
Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Clasp.
Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Clasp open.

I’ve shown above that the movement ran well within COSC specifications, which is going to make for an even more satisfying experience using this watch. The pushers on the example I have were well tuned, such that both felt equally crisp and light. When using a chronograph, the pusher action how how we access a tactile experience of the movement, so this matters a lot. I found that this movement added a lot to my experience of the Voiture.

Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch. Caseback.
Nezumi Voiture Ref. VM1S.201 mechanical chronograph watch.

A Final Thought on Quartz vs. Mechanical Nezumi Chronographs

I’m just going to say it: When it came to Nezumi, I had always been a mechanical snob. I’m actually cool with quartz watches, and even own and enjoy a couple quartz chronographs. My sticking point with Nezumi was that the watch felt too good for me to accept a quartz movement – which is a silly thing to think, and a little embarrassing to admit. Alas, the excellent design and execution led me to believe that the movement should be just as nice and fancy as the rest of the watch. With the Sellita here, that problem has been solved for me.

But friends and family smarter than I have enjoyed their Nezumi quartz chronographs for years, while I waited a decade for Nezumi to release their first mechanical watch. That’s been my loss, clearly, but I can wholeheartedly say that going mechanical opens a very promising new chapter for Nezumi.