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Before we talk about the new Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition, I think it’s worthwhile to partake in a quick refresher of a few things we might have forgotten about depending on how long ago we took high school chemistry. Carbon, atomic number 6 on the periodic table, is a nonmetallic chemical element whose atoms can bond together in numerous ways. The graphite in your pencil? Carbon. The diamond at the center of that engagement ring you’re saving for and definitely not thinking about buying a watch instead? Carbon. And, of course, carbon is found in significant quantities within coal, and is largely responsible for powering humanity through the industrial revolution, for better or worse. It’s also the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass, lagging behind only hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Considering you can’t very easily make a watch from a gas, and carbon is seemingly everywhere, I have mixed feelings when it comes to celebrating carbon watches as rare or special, but, well, here we are.
Regardless of the rarity or relative difficulty in making a watch case out of carbon, to many fans of tactical sports watches, it has a cool aesthetic that transcends chemistry, and that’s how I think we should evaluate this new member of the I.N.O.X. family. The I.N.O.X., you’ll recall, is Victorinox’s extremely overbuilt tough watch – you can think of it as something of a competitor to the G-Shock, but the I.N.O.X. tends to present as more of a classic “watch” than a tech forward gadget. Famously, the I.N.O.X. is the watch that can be thrown out of a window, run over by a tank, set on fire, and cast into a black hole while still keeping time and for the most part not be destroyed.
Ok, I made up the bit about the black hole. But the I.N.O.X. promotional video on the Victorinox website does show the watch engulfed in flames at one point, and it really is subject to 130 tests to ensure durability. It’s tough.
The limited edition seen here is made from a carbon composite case in a sporty black, and utilizes a titanium caseback to keep weight down and structural integrity high. The dial is fully lumed and features a camouflage pattern, playing up the tactical qualities of the I.N.O.X., which are inherent in the line in even the standard versions, so this feels like an attempt to turn the tool watch dial up to 11. My favorite feature of this watch, and of any I.N.O.X. so equipped, is the paracord strap. These are comfortable, functional, quite strong, and pretty unique in the watch world. It’s a great match for the I.N.O.X. and, in my opinion, is the best way to wear it.
At 43mm, this I.N.O.X. is large and imposing, but that’s part of the charm. Notably, the Carbon Limited Edition is powered by a quartz movement, which I think is the way to go with an I.N.O.X. I reviewed the mechanical version earlier this year, and while it’s well made for the money, the bulk and weight that’s added with an automatic caliber, as well as the added measure of delicacy, seems to fly in the face of the purpose of the I.N.O.X. as a rough and tumble tool that can take a beating. With a worry free quartz movement, you can feel free to fire your I.N.O.X. out of a cannon or bash it with a hammer and not be overly concerned about its ability to withstand some abuse.
On the other hand, the retail price for the Carbon Limited Edition is $1,100, which is $250 more than the mechanical version I reviewed in February, making it a tough ask to cast the thing into a fire pit, regardless of what the promotional videos show you. (Note, however, that the LE set does include the matching pocket knife seen here). That’s a substantial premium for the carbon case, so this one might be strictly for Victorinox and chemistry enthusiasts. But regardless of price, this is a fun limited edition for fans of pure tool watches who are looking for a unique alternative to a G-Shock. Victorinox