The D1 Milano Atlas is a nicely made, albeit pricey, automatic everyday watch.
Horology enthusiasts will quickly notice a clear inspiration for the design language employed by D1 Milano. It’s fair to say that the style-defining square case and rounded inner-dial was popularized by the Patek Philippe Nautilus, but it’s equally as fair to say that the two-tone brushed and polished steel case is equally as eye-catching on the Atlas.
Even more so when you consider there are a few zeroes tied to the price disparity between the Atlas and the Nautilus.
The deep blue dial features an orange outer ring and seconds hand, with the minute/hour hands and indices done in polished steel. Aside from the date window and brand livery, the dial is otherwise uncluttered. The lack of clutter, along with the sapphire crystal and steel bracelet, make the Atlas a great option for an everyday automatic watch.
However, the Atlas is held back by its lofty price, which is posted at $625 as of the time of this review. That’s quite a lot of money for a watch powered by an entry-level NH35 automatic movement. This is especially true when you can find nearly identical versions of the watch on Alibaba for well under $100. It is important to note that those Alibaba specials appear to be ‘knock-offs’ of the D1 Milano design language (that they have Milano in the name is a big hint).
But, assuming you’re okay with the price of admission, how good of a watch is the Atlas? Let’s find out.
D1 Milano Atlas Specifications
- Model: D1-ATBJ04
- MSRP: $625
- Case Diameter: 41.5 mm
- Alternate Models: n/a
- Movement: Automatic, Seiko NH35
- Complications: Date Display
- Power Reserve: Est. 42 hours
- Water Resistance: 50 m / 165 ft
- Crystal Material: Sapphire
Long Live the Square Case
I love square and rectangular cases. All of the men’s watches from D1 Milano use this rectangular case, and just as I enjoyed it on the last D1 Milano skeleton watch I reviewed, I enjoy it here.
A square or rectangular case is, by default, going to claim a bit more wrist presence than a traditional round watch. A 41.5 mm round watch is on the large-size of average, whereas a 41.5 mm square watch – such as the Atlas – is going to feel much larger than its round counterparts.
Thankfully, the Atlas is just 11 mm thick and so, while it isn’t a small watch from a real estate perspective, at least it’s more of a bungalow than it is a condo building.
The case itself is very acceptably finished, with the brushed and polished areas separated by clearly defined lines and good quality machining. It gives the case a very posh overall appeal, as the two-tone bezel’s polished sides reflect the world around them – a notable contrast to the muted and uniform texture of the brushed finishing surrounding them!
Inside the rectangular case is the round dial, which is colored a deep blue and has a texture akin to good-quality construction paper. The resulting matte-texture allows the orange outer ring and polished hands/indices to really pop off the dial.
D1 Milano did, however, make one curious design decision that’s been driving me bananas since my eye caught it during the photo post-production process. And what drives me even more bananas is that what I’m seeing is not a defect – it’s a design decision.
What am I on about? The crooked 3 o’clock hour marker, of course!
I thought that perhaps this was a design standard adopted by other brands than just D1 Milano and that I simply hadn’t noticed it until now, so I meticulously checked my 65ish-strong collection and the Atlas was the only watch with polished indices where the 3 o’clock indice was angled vs. square with the rest of the indices.
Hello again, My old Friend
Powering the Atlas is the Seiko NH35, a plucky automatic movement that is widely used by microbrands the world over because it is a simple, robust, and good-value movement. In other words, microbrands know that the NH35 is generally “good enough” for an affordably priced microbrand watch.
Per Caliber Corner, the NH35 sports specs that ought to be enough for all but the most discerning of automatic movement enthusiasts. It features about 42 hours of power reserve, beats at 21,600 bph, bi-directional winding, hand-winding, a date display, and a hacking function. For most people, the NH35 is a perfectly fine, albeit relatively standard, automatic movement and absolutely an acceptable choice for a daily-wearer.
The case-back is engraved with some brand livery, a serial number, and the WR rating. It is, unfortunately, a closed case-back and, in this case, that’s a letdown as how D1 Milano has chosen to utilize the case-back space is very ho-hum.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with the case-back as it is, but compared to what other brands have sent along on watches using similar (or identical) movements that are priced considerably less than the Atlas, it’s a bit of a letdown.
Exhibit A: the gorgeous case-back of the recently-reviewed and much-less-expensive Chronicle by Mitch Mason.
Exhibit B: the Dan Henry 1970, which is also sporting a Seiko NH35.
My point is, given the premium price of the Atlas, it’d have been nice to see some more attention paid to the case-back given the spartan nature of the dial and case itself.
With the right lighting, the Atlas is a real looker!
Unfortunately, the dial is utterly devoid of any lume. So, if your chosen theme for the day involves mood lighting, the Atlas may not be the ideal accompaniment. Then again, with the light dialed in just so, the Atlas becomes a bit of a supermodel, proving that a textured deep blue dial with orange accents can indeed look fantastic.
The indices and hands appear to be of good quality, as they do not have any visible blemishes in their finishing and as a result, they take to just about any angle. For this photographer, the Atlas proved to be a comfortable subject behind the lens.
Being able to almost-effortlessly take photos like the macro shot above is extremely satisfying, and the Atlas is more than happy to play its part. Were the indices and hands less presentable, the above photo would have been a post-production nightmare (what is dust, and what is an actual imperfection in the watch – who knows!).
But the Atlas lends itself to macro photography by virtue of being well-made and being able to confidently stand up to close inspection.
Not a bad watch, but one with price problem
Ugh, I hate how negative that headline sounds but it’s true. If the Atlas was priced under $500, the value proposition would be a no-brainer. But at $625, I have to take a step back. Consider that for the same money you can get a Swiss-made Hamilton, Tissot, LIV, and any number of microbrand watches using the same or better-spec’d movement and materials.
And while the Atlas is a good-looking watch with a sporty dial and good quality finishing, it also lacks visual drama and isn’t setting new trends from the design department.
Granted, D1 Milano has at least seen to fit the Atlas with a premium bracelet with butterfly clasp, sapphire, and a decent auto. But, $625 seems a tall order for a microbrand watch that hails from an Italian-designed, Chinese-manufactured lineage and has an off-angle 3 o’clock marker to boot. I don’t think that the D1 Milano brand has the cachet necessary to justify the premium.
But, if the price isn’t a detractor for you, there’s a lot in the Atlas to like.
D1 Milano Atlas Automatic Photo Gallery