All posts in “Watches”

This Affordable New Military Watch Is Even Better Than the Vintage Original

During wrist-testing for this review, just about everyone who saw the new Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical reacted with the same wide-eyed “wow” enthusiasm. How does such a small, simple watch do that? Originally built by Hamilton in the early 1970s for the British military, this is a faithful and remarkably well-executed reissue of a vintage watch commonly called the W10 — and if these experiences are any indication, it’s sure to be a hit.

Notable: The Khaki Pilot Pioneer recreates the historic Hamilton and CWC W10, (albeit in a smaller case size), but it also serves to generally reference Hamilton’s extensive history of military watches. On paper, 33mm or 34mm sounds small to those familiar with modern watch specifications — but measurements can be deceiving, as this watch proves by wearing exceptionally well. Without a screw-down crown, a water-resistance of 100m is pretty darn good and is consistent with the watch’s rugged backstory.

Who It’s For: The Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical will easily appeal to a wide audience. Arguably intended for enthusiasts and vintage fans, it’s equally attractive to those who appreciate it for its sturdy build and military pedigree — or just its stylish looks on the NATO strap. Its quality, specs, and price make the Khaki Pilot Pioneer easy to recommend to any of them, as long as an oversized wrist-presence isn’t a strict requirement.

Alternatives: Two watches in particular beg direct comparison to the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer. The first is from Hamilton itself with the Khaki Field Mechanical. It’s also based on a military-issued watch, uses the same hand-wound movement, and is moderately sized (38mm). A big difference, however, is that the Khaki Field in its most basic form doesn’t feel as refined, but it also costs significantly less than the Pilot Pioneer.

The other watch that’s notably comparable is from a lesser-known brand, CWC, which shares the W10 history with Hamilton. It produces a modern W10 of its own using an ETA 2824 automatic movement, measuring a bit larger at 38mm in a tonneau shape, and also costing a little less than Hamilton’s version.

Review

The story, in brief, goes that Hamilton was long a major supplier of watches to various militaries, from the time of its American origins right into its later era of Swiss production. The Khaki Pilot Pioneer’s background is rooted in watches made for the British from the late 1960s called the W10, and specifically one for the Royal Air Force. Like many other watches produced for governments and armed forces, they were ordered as military equipment with exact specifications dictating design traits, as well as durability, legibility, and accuracy features.

The W10 was first produced by a British company called Smiths until financial issues forced the government to begin procuring W10 watches from abroad. Along with CWC, Hamilton made the W10 from 1973 to 1976, and they featured the quite ’70s-looking tonneau case shape the brand has brought back in the 2019 Khaki Pilot Pioneer. With a very similar dial design, it is interesting that the earlier Smiths W10 watches were round — so the specs may have changed over time, or may not have specified a case shape.

The new Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer has maintained many features of the original W10s, from their case profile and raised mineral crystals to the use of manually wound movements. For 2019, the brand has used a similar font for its logo as the 1970s models, but left out the circled “T” beneath it (denoting the dial’s use of luminescent tritium) and the “broad arrow” symbol above 6 o’clock (which designated an item as British government property). It’s probably good they can be easily distinguished from exact replicas, after all.

At first glance, the beige (often called faux-aged) lume color makes this reissue look even more like a vintage model — and that’s no accident, as it’s clearly also leaning on that nostalgic retro charm that seems to drive much of the watch industry nowadays. Those beige elements on the dial all glow a crisp green in low light, though not quite as bright or as long as one would ideally hope for, while the Arabic numerals in white don’t. Straightforward readability is key to good watch design, and the textured black dial and anti-reflective-coated crystal are part of that.

The movement, of course, is updated as well, but the use of a manually wound option also seems intended to remain true to the vintage model, as well as to keep the finely brushed steel case nice and thin. Behind a solid case back, the H-50 is a basic version of the Swatch Group’s updated 80-hour-power-reserve movement family based on ETA calibers, but this one was apparently developed specially for Hamilton. The winding experience is notably solid, smooth, and pleasant.

The pragmatic dial design with its matte finish and excellent legibility go a long way in helping the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical stand out, but its vintage sizing is really what makes it look and feel special. While you can’t find many watches made today and marketed for men at this size, serious military looks don’t leave its masculinity in question (though it can also work well on women’s wrists). Anyway, the soldiers that wore 33mm watches in the 20th century wars were anything but sissies.

Verdict: It’s easy to name the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical as one of the best watches of 2019 under $1,000, though it will be interesting to see enthusiasts’ reactions, particularly to its size. While not representing an original design, the watch does offer something distinctive on the modern watch market, and maintaining the original size is arguably what makes it work so well.

Some might expect sapphire crystal and the convenience of an automatic movement at this price level, but the lack of these features can each be justified as appropriate for the vintage theme. The same could be said for an exhibition case back. You could get a vintage original, sure, but the new version offers a similar wearing experience, only improved with modern production and without the hassle of vintage maintenance. At a retail price at launch of $845 on grey textile NATO-style strap or $895 with a brown leather NATO, Hamilton has hit it out of the park with the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical.

KEY SPECS
Case Size: 33mm wide, 36mm lug-to-lug
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Manually wound Hamilton H-50
Power Reserve: 80 hours

3 Mechanical Jump Hour Watches With Digital Displays

Just because a watch is “digital” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s battery-powered. The term only refers to the type of display — in contrast to analog. Watches with digital or analog displays (or “ana-digi” hybrids) can be driven by any kind of movement, and long before quartz was common watchmakers were making mechanical watches with digital displays, resulting in some unique looks that have the added benefit of exceedingly easy to read.

The technical principle is more or less the same as familiar, traditional watches that use hands to point to stationary numbers around the dial. The difference is that the hands have been replaced by rotating discs, and watch designers often chose to display the numbers within windows (like how the date is typically shown on most modern watches). Using this design, the minutes are easy to read in a widened aperture, but the hour needs to be more clearly and precisely indicated. Therefore, the solution is a complication that causes the hour display to “jump” ahead each hour. You will sometimes see vintage watches with this kind of display called “direct read.”

The “jump hour” complication is now uncommon and therefore usually relegated to relatively high-end watches (an elegant example is here, and a more avant-garde example is here). The mechanism works simply by storing up energy that is then released on the hour to drive the gear forward. This system of discs and apertures gives watch designers a range of creative possibilities. Those below are each examples of different approaches, but yet others will use a digital display for the jumping hour combined with an analog minutes hand, for example. Best of all, there are many vintage examples from relatively unknown Swiss brands, often for some reasonable prices.

Tenor Dorly Direct-Read Digital

What We Like: This is a downright funky watch design from a more or less unknown brand called Tenor Dorly. It dates to around the 1970s and uses a Swiss automatic movement in an interesting two-tone, tank-like case. In the center of the dial are hours and minutes, and the date is displayed at 6 o’clock, much as on many traditional watches, but it all comes together as something quite avant-garde, Art-Deco, and cool. Then there’s that crazy steel bracelet that really will make you feel like you’re in The Jetsons.

From the Seller: This is a very large 36.5mm x 33mm in stainless steel with gold accents. The movement was just cleaned and is accurate.

Elgin Direct Read “Golf Ball”

What We Like: While it features a traditionally round case, this Elgin jump-hour watch is unique and interesting for a couple of reasons. First is its digital display, but it also has that unusual “dimpled” face from which it obviously get’s its “Golf Ball” nickname. It runs on a manual Elgin 717 movement with a 31mm gold-filled (10ct) case and dates to the 1950s.

From the Seller: All original except the crown. Its movement has been recently cleaned and oiled, and we have installed a new-old-stock crystal.

Lord Elgin “Direct Reader” Jump Hour

What We Like: From 1957 and in the same series as the “Golf Ball” above is this unusual Elgin jump-hour watch model that was made famous because of its association with the singer Elvis Presley. Elvis seemed to like funky, off-beat watches and cutting-edge tech, as he’s also known for wearing watches like the Hamilton Ventura. This example is powered by the American-made Elgin 719 manually wound movement and features a gold-filled case measuring 26mm wide — which will wear larger than it sounds due to its squarish silhouette.

From the Seller: Our head watchmaker has it winding, setting, and jumping just as it did in 1957.

These Are the 6 Watches We’re Obsessing Over in August 2019

As watch lovers, we spend our afternoons pitching, researching and writing stories, poring over the new timepieces coming in and out of our office, and hunting for deals on used and vintage pieces online. When a new watch comes across our radar, one that particularly resonates with our tastes, we can’t help but obsess over it. We talk about them, debate their relevance, orate on their greatness and rail against their faults. So, here’s a taste of that process — seven timepieces our watch-loving staff are obsessing over right at this very moment:

Hamilton W-10

Old-style military field watches were designed as simple, purposeful tools, but they’re somehow beautiful. Round is the more common look, but that makes the straightforward tonneau shape of the Hamilton W-10 watches produced for the British Ministry of Defense in the 1970s feel a bit unique — and a bit ’70s. Of course, it further offers a link to the greater history of Hamilton military watches. I would usually consider anything under 36mm to be kinda small, but somehow these just look and feel perfect. –Zen Love, Associate Staff Writer

Seiko Prospex LX SNR029J

I’ve owned a couple of Seikos, but I never fell in love with them. Maybe it was the way my dad forced them upon my wrist with impunity. But it’s been 20 years since then and all I can say is that Seiko has been catching my eye like never before. At this past Baselworld, Seiko introduced the SNR029J, a high-performance, deep sea diver. I’m no James Cameron (I can barely dive), but damn if I don’t love a meaty dive watch — a watch that warrants its function-over-form design. The best way I can describe it in the words I’m being allotted here is “robust,” and as it turns out, also the same way I’d describe my interest. –Eric Yang, Founder/CEO

Marathon General Purpose Military Mechanical

Tritium tubes. Swiss movement. Military purpose. These are the marketing terms we’ve come to associate with rugged and overbuilt watches. This vintage piece, with its diminutive size and plastic case, is far from that, yet at the same time checks all of the above boxes. I love that about this watch. Rather than embodying the current over-marketed version of ‘military gear’, it’s utility-driven in the way that a good deal of military equipment actually is; cheap and expendable. Coincidentally, that’s most of what my budget can allow right now anyway. –J.D. DiGiovanni, Assistant Editor, Editorial Operations

Rolex Datejust 1603

I never used to be a Datejust guy. I’m a longtime Sub owners and quite happy with my utilitarian watch, thank you very much. DJs were for my grandfather’s generation, I thought. Well, I’m finally coming around. There’s something about the idea of an everyday, dressy watch that’s this tough, this well made, that just can’t be ignored. (I mean, they’ve been in continuous production since 1945 for a reason.) This one’s got a gorgeous dial, an interesting engraving, and comes with papers. –Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

I’ve recently been going back and forth on my next daily wear watch and I think this checks all the boxes. It has genuine heritage with Hamilton’s military background, is a perfect size for my large wrists at 38mm, and has a vintage look that can be dressed up or down. There’s a reason why this watch is so highly acclaimed and there’s a good chance I will have already bought it by the time this is published. –Greg Tate, Campaign Manager

Seiko SNK803

Seiko’s introductory line of automatic field watches range from reference numbers SNK803 to SNK809. They are a perfect way to enjoy great watch design on your wrist everyday at a super affordable price point. I already have the army green version, SNK805. Now I want to add to the fun with the cream-dialed version, SNK803. At 37mm in diameter with an 18mm lug width, they’re beyond wearable and have become a shorthand way of indicating you’re a core watch enthusiast for less than $100. –Kyle Snarr, Head of Marketing

Panerai Introduces a New Automatic Movement In Thin, Wearable Cases

Panerai has seemingly endless variations of its classic design, often with subtle differences, but six new models from the brand offer several notable traits. With features including titanium cases, restrained sizes, and new movements, the slew of new Luminor Due models Panerai has introduced just might be some of the brand’s most wearable watches yet.

The Luminor Due line of watches have the iconic Panerai look but with a slimmer case and dress-watch-level water-resistance of 30m — somewhat in contrast with the brand’s history of tough, chunky military dive watches. Of six total new models, three are in brushed titanium with blue sunburst dials and beige-colored lume, each in a different size with 38mm, 42mm, and 45mm versions. The other three models are variously in steel or the brand’s “Goldtech” gold alloy with white dials and different sizes.

The new in-house P.900 movement features automatic winding, three days worth of power reserve, a seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock, and is relatively thin. Unfortunately, the new watches don’t feature display case backs to view the P900. All the new models use the P.900 except the 45mm titanium PAM00964, which uses the P.4002 with a micro rotor, power reserve indicator, and GMT function. Several of the new models measure just 38mm wide, and the thin movement helps keep the cases thin, making for an overall wearable dress watch with the iconic Panerai look.

If the ideal Panerai for you still doesn’t exist, just wait. The brand seems intent on making just about every imaginable variation, and there are now thankfully more options that are smaller, lighter, and automatic. The new Panerai Luminor Due watches are priced starting at $6,900 in steel at 38mm, a bit more in titanium at around $7,400 for the 38mm version, and going up from there to $20,500 for the Goldtech PAM01045.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
IWC Aquatimer Automatic Dive Watch ($6,400)
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Dive Watch ($6,550)
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Watch ($13,300)

This Unique Vintage Watch Offers a Complication You’ve Never Seen

It’s one of the most obscure, exotic, and fascinating vintage watches you’re likely to see anytime soon, and there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it. The Dalil Monte Carlo, as it’s properly known, has a very 1970s feel with a unique design and a feature set driven by the needs and interests of its intended audience. These are aesthetic and functional features not found on almost any other watch.

The Dalil watches are so obscure that today they can be found almost exclusively on eBay, and there’s not much information available on the company that made them. Not only do they have an intriguing look and story, but they’re Swiss Made automatics, usually rather affordable, and many examples are being sold in good condition as NOS (“new-old stock,” meaning they were made decades ago but never sold, often having remained in storage).

The Dalil Monte Carlo was produced in the 1970s for devout Muslims. The Muslim practice of praying five times per day in the direction of Mecca necessitates knowing which cardinal direction to face, and this offers an unusual opportunity for watchmakers to provide genuine utility. While some feature bold and offbeat 1970s cases and others have more classical designs, different versions of the Monte Carlo appear to offer different levels of functionality — but all include a compass mounted above the hands at the center of the dial.

The most complex examples have two rotating rings at the dial’s periphery, controlled by numbered crowns on the case side. The outer ring features different city names around the world (in Arabic, English, or French, according to the model), and the inner ring features Arabic phrases from the Koran and pips. The idea is to use the compass in combination with these features to find the direction of prayer from anywhere in the world. Inside is an A. Schild AS 2063 Swiss automatic movement, a common workhorse sourced by many well-known watch companies in its day, offering time and date with around 46 hours of power reserve.

Another useful function for Muslims would be marking prayer times throughout the day, which are based on astronomical phenomena like sunrise and sunset (which can change throughout the year) and are performed within a certain range of time, rather than an exact time. (Thus it’s useful for many Muslims to rely on a call to prayer to keep track of the appropriate prayer times.) Interestingly, Casio currently produces an Islamic Prayer Alarm watch with an Islamic Hijri calendar function as well as prayer alarms (normal Casio beeps) automatically calculated by inputting one’s coordinates.

The word dalil means “guide” or “reference” in Arabic, and according to the brand’s advertisements, “Dalil is the guide of the traveling Muslim.” The Dalil watches are an exceedingly interesting instance of horology intersecting with culture (and in this case, with religion) in a creative way. They might seem niche, but there are more potential devout Muslim customers in the world than, say, divers, pilots, or professional race car drivers — for whom there are myriad watches made every year.

This California Brand Is Making Affordable Field and Dive Watches for All

Wesley Kwok and Cullen Chen started their indie watch brand, Nodus, just two years ago. Since then, they’ve doubled their production and released a slew of successful — and fast-selling — tool watch models. You could credit this success with the tenacity of their business model, which rejected Kickstarter, relied on their own life savings, and required the two to build a strong supply chain among Asian parts producers. You could credit their excellent design, and their eye for what watch enthusiasts want (quality finishing, tool watch-utility, American-based assembly and highly regulated and accurate movements).

Or you could say the success was destined from the moment the two middle- and high-school buddies simultaneously gifted each other their first automatics.

“I got an SKX007, for him,” Kwok says. “And then he turns around and pulls out an Orient Ray for me.”

“Yeah, the perfect first dive watches,” Cullen says.

“I would say that’s when it really went downhill for us,” says Kwok. “Or uphill, depending on how you look at it.”

Uphill seems right. We recently sat down with the two near their home base in Los Angeles to talk about their inspirations, the challenges of starting and running a microbrand, tool watch design and more.

Q: How did you both get into watches?
A: Cullen Chen: I guess how everyone else gets into watches. You have one watch, and then you have that personality where you wanna dig deeper, and you start obsessing over it. I’m a very naturally obsessive person. It started out with computers and then guitars, and then I got my first watch, and it was downhill from there. This was back in college.

Q: What was your first watch?
A: CC: It was my high school graduation gift. It was a department store brand, a $200 watch. The first watch I ever wore in my life. I broke that when I was skateboarding. I got a Seiko quartz chronograph after that, and that’s what started my passion. I started modding Seikos, and that’s how I got into assembly.

I love Seikos. That was my first favorite brand. They’re so moddable. The community’s all out there. It was a fun thing to do in the side.

Wesley Kwok: And then for my high school graduation, my dad got me a Tissot quartz sport watch, the PRC200. Not really that special, no watch enthusiast would know what it is.

CC: It’s a department store brand.

WK: Yeah. But I loved it. The size was good, comfortable bracelet, the counterbalance on the seconds hand was the Tissot logo. You look deeper and deeper and find all these layers. I started peeling the onion back, and I never got to the bottom of it. There was always something new you could see in the watch.

So we got into it at the same time, but totally independently. We went out for dinner and I noticed he was wearing a watch. Then we ended up gifting each other our first automatics.

Q: And when did you decide to start your own watch brand?
A: WK: Originally we didn’t have plans to start a business. I moved out here to LA after I graduated college. I was working in the music industry. As a kid, I always knew I wanted to start something with him. I thought it was going to be a coffee shop, or something for fun.

Over I’m sure way too many beers, instead we decided to design a watch. We were like, it looks pretty good — think anyone would buy it? Then we wondered how much it would cost. So we went to Asia to visit these factories, and then put all these things together. It just started happening.

Q: You’ve been going for around two years now. And the number of watches you’ve put out already is phenomenal. Usually, with microbrands, that growth is much slower. I’m curious how you’ve gotten such a quick start out of the gate.
A: WK: As soon as we put the first one out — it’s since been discontinued, but it was called the Trieste — we’d already started work on the Avalon, and then as soon as that was done, we started on the Retrospect. So while we work on production and shipping and QC and that stuff, on the back end we were still working with our engineers to develop new stuff.

In everything that we do, we want to do it at least an order of magnitude better than the average. And one of those things, like you said, for all microbrands, is moving pretty slowly. So we wanted to show people that this is a real thing for us — we’re not just a mushroom brand. One way we did that was not going through Kickstarter. We put our own savings into this. But also to churn models out, to show that we’re serious about this.

Q: I’m curious about that discontinued watch, the Trieste, since it was your first. Why did you discontinue it?
A: WK: It was called the Trieste. We wanted something that was not offensive in any way — no cushion cases, the size has to be modest, 41mm, in terms of styling, we didn’t want it to be too vintage. It had to be no-nonsense, just a dressy diver. We used good movements: the STP111 as well as the NH35. Sapphire crystal, sapphire bezel insert. Colors were just burgundy, blue, and black. So it was very conservative. It was our way of testing the market, just to see if there was a demand for our design language, and for a watch that was designed and assembled in Los Angeles.

The idea was that if it didn’t resonate and sales were horrible, we’d close it all up. It was our low-risk way of burning through our life savings.

CC: It’s better than gambling it away.

Nodus Avalon

Q: And how much did it cost?
A: WK:It started at $300 to $500.

CC: $500 for the Swiss movement. So obviously our focus back then, to answer your question about how we grew quickly, was that we targeted first and foremost the watch enthusiast community. I was on the forums like every single day for three years before I started Nodus. So I knew what people wanted. So we targeted them. And we’re still a very watch enthusiast-exclusive brand. But we have seen a lot of growth toward first-time watch buyers. It’s all been organic growth, through penetrating that watch enthusiast crew, and then growing outside of that.

But that first watch was more of an homage than anything, compared to our other watches. It looked kinda like a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. That was one of our inspirations. Since that model, we’ve gone more toward our own original designs.

Q: Your watch designs are extremely versatile, and they seem to appeal to a wide audience. What would you say are your design hallmarks?

CC: We talk about this a lot: What is that unifying design element? Because it’s not like one concrete thing.

WK: When you think Rolex, you think Mercedes hands; Tudor, the snowflake hands.

CC: But we’ve had people say, ‘Oh, that’s a Nodus watch.’ But I don’t know what exactly [defines our watches].

WK: There are certain things that do guide us in design. For example, having a clean, minimalist dial. We try to make a lot of the nonsense out of a watch. We want it to be clean and focused, as opposed to being flashy. We just want it to be functional.

There are a few things that I would say are the pillars of Nodus. One is that it is designed and assembled in L.A. Part of the reason it resonates with customers, I think, is that in the watch industry, especially the older brands are notorious for having terrible customer service. Certain big brands, I hear so many horror stories about how slow their turn-around time is. So having US-based operations allows us to do it within a week.

There’s a bit of romance behind it, that this was built down the road. And everything’s regulated in four positions, which I think is something people in the watch community like. Take someone off the street and they probably don’t know what that means. But one of the reasons the watch community latched on so closely to us is because we understand the things they want in a watch.

CC: And functionality. We wear our watches. Our designs are reflective of that.

Q: How do you get the word out?

CC: Selling direct, one of the downsides is that you don’t have a brick and mortar store that people can visit. So we try and go around the country every year with this “mothership” [Ed. Note: A Pelican case full of watches]. We go to watch get-togethers in major cities and try to meet people.

WK: We try to hit up the RedBar groups in each city we visit. We’re actually leaving in a few weeks, to go to Buffalo, Trenton, Toronto, and Ottawa.

CC: We just had one in LA a few weeks ago.

Q: I want to talk about price point. Some young American brands that were previously in the $500 range are doing Swiss movements, and other extras, that get the price up above $1,000. You haven’t done that yet. Is that part of the plan?
A: CC: There’s multiple reasons for our price point. We’ve been creeping up our prices the past few years, slowly. Because we’ve been upping our quality. But there is a sweet spot for these types of watches. That is the under $1,000 range.

WK: The word “Nodus” actually means “node,” or intersection, in Latin. It encompasses what our values are and our mission is. We wanted to offer the best of both worlds, whether that’s between vintage and modern design, whether that’s about quality and accessibility. Having this price point for us is a good way for us to show that we can still deliver all the quality that you want in a watch. We don’t wanna go over $1,000, and I don’t think we ever will.

At the beginning I think we under-priced ourselves, because we didn’t factor in the built-in-America part of it. And that adds to the cost. But now, I think around $400 to $700 is where we comfortably sit, and I don’t think I see that going up anytime soon.

A lot of small watch brands talk about cutting out the middle man, meaning brick and mortar operations. But the middle man we’re talking about is not that, it’s in the production side. All the big companies, even the Rolexes, they don’t go straight to the production facilities — they all go through these project management companies. That can add 50 to 70 percent of the total cost of the watch, and we cut that out.

That’s one benefit, but the other benefit is that we have a bigger idea of how the industry works. So we can come in and say, how do we try that a little bit differently? We’re not limited by the scope of operation of these middle men. So most of our investment last year was to really work out our supply chain so we can do this sort of stuff.

Q: How many watches a year are you making?
A: WK: It’s year two, so it’s hard to say, because it’s doubled every year. We’re working our way toward a thousand, though.

Q: And it seems like you’re selling out of everything.
A: CC: That’s also a challenge for us.

WK: You’d be surprised how stressful that is.

CC: Because we always wanna have inventory for people. And sometimes it’s not a good look to never have anything in stock. People wanna buy it when they see it.

Q: When you go out on tour and show people your watches, what sort of things are they saying about them?
A: WK: One thing we hear a lot is that it’s not an homage. I think the watch enthusiasts are getting a bit tired of the Sub homage. We personally have nothing against homages — I actually own a Sub homage, a Squale 1545 Heritage. I love it, it’s a great watch. But we saw this as a way to let our creative juices flow a little better. It felt more us to do this. And I think a lot of enthusiasts love that we’re able to take a risk with a design that’s not been tested or seen for 70 years.

Especially when we do tours in the US, they really love the whole American spirit behind it. Bringing as much of the work as we can back here without sacrificing the price or quality.

Something we talk about after every get-together, is that the people at that get-together gravitated toward one model but not the other ones. In Texas, everyone loved the Avalon, but the Contrail didn’t get much attention.

Q: This watch looks new.
A: WK: This is a prototype that comes out in December.

CC: It’s our dual-crown, an internal bezel that rotates.

WK: It’s called the Duality.

Q: What can you tell me about it?
A: CC: The whole idea was duality, so having two sides. So an overarching theme for this watch is things in pairs. Two crowns, two colors, two uses. It’s a dive watch, but it’ll also have a twelve-hour bezel variant, if you want to travel. This encompasses everything we’ve learned in the last two years. Every watch gets better. Because we’re constantly learning. Whether it’s finishing, a certain part that needs improvement. We’re always improving. This will be a culmination of what we’ve learned.

Q: How many millimeters is the diameter?
A: WK: Forty.

Q: Nice. It actually seems a little smaller. I was gonna say 38, 39.

A: WK: We actually have a 38mm watch coming out. There are three new models coming out this year. The Duality is one of them. The other two are part of a series we’re calling the Sector series, which is kind of an artistic demonstration on the versatility of a well-designed case. It’s gonna be a shared case, but a field or a dive variant. We see somewhere down the line doing a pilot and a dress watch, with the same DNA.

Q: It seems like we’re creeping toward fully made-in-America watches. But it also seems like that’s going to get expensive. Do you guys ever think about doing a fully American watch? How could you get it done at your price point?
A: WK: For us it’s less about where it’s made, and more about quality. In an ideal situation, yes, we’d bring as much as we can back to the U.S, just because it’s easier for us to have a handle on what’s going on when we can go into factories and have some part to play in the finishing, or whatever. The only problem we’ve found is that of all the CNC machines that we’ve found in the U.S, that can do what we want, the only thing they can do is cut the metal — the finishing really isn’t up to par, unless we can go to companies that already have U.S. operations. But then there’s another cost, not just because their wages are higher, but also because they’re a middle man. That takes away one of the pillars of Nodus, which is delivering value.

I guess the best way to look at it is, if we can do it by ourselves, if we ever have enough cash we can invest in some kind of machine, then we’d consider it. But only if we can guarantee that the quality will be as good as the stuff we are currently getting.

CC: It’s difficult. Because China’s been doing watch metalwork for 30, 40 years. And in America, there’s no one. They’ve had 40 years of experience doing that one thing. [In China] they can do it way better, for way cheaper, and way faster.

WK: What’s missing in the U.S. is really the skill set. There’s no one that can brush as well as the Chinese. Even the Swiss are outsourcing to China now because of that specific skill set.

CC: Seiko, for example, all their cases are made in China, or at least somewhere in Asia that’s not Japan. And it’s phenomenal case work.

Q: What watch brands, big or small, inspire you?
A: CC: We like a lot of them. Before we started this, we loved so many of these microbrands, who are now our quote-unquote competitors. But they’re really just friends. Brands like Helios, from Vancouver. Everyone knows them because they have phenomenal designs and quality. MKII in Philly.

WK: Bill Yao is, I don’t want to say a mentor. But he’s one of the original microbrands. He trail-blazed ten years ago. We were fanboys way before Nodus. So when we eventually got to meet him, beforehand we were so nervous. What are we gonna say? We idolized this guy for so many years.

We met up with him at Windup, and then met up to collaborate on something, and after the meetup we went out for dinner. And instead of holding his cards close to his chest, he was really open about everything, gave us pointers. Now I regularly get on the phone with him just to do a recap on what we’ve done, and he gives his opinion on what we should and shouldn’t do. He’s an incredibly gracious guy. He gets a bit of a bad rep sometimes because of the lead time on a lot of his watches. End of the day, if you don’t wanna wait, then don’t buy it. But he just gave us information that we couldn’t have gotten unless we’d done this for ten years.

Q: Are you collaborating with him on something right now?
A: WK: No, not now. Maybe we will someday down the line. I think he’s way too busy and we’re way too busy. But it’s something I’d like to talk about with him eventually.

CC: What’s your perception of collaborations. Do you want to see that more in this industry?

Q: It’s a super interesting idea, and it’s not happening right now. I understand why. I’m not running a microbrand, and I know how much work there is. But I do think, as a watch fan, yes — when you mentioned the word collaboration, my ears perked up. The combination of you guys and Bill Yao would probably come up with something really damn unique.

CC: We see so many collaborations in other markets, like beer, clothing. Why not these small watches?

WK: It’s something that’s been on our minds. We want to be one of the small brands that pushes collaboration. We don’t see being an independent watch company as trying to take down everyone else. Legitimacy is all we need to be a real business — to take it from where we are now to serious brand. To us, the only real way to get that legitimacy is if the entire industry, us and all our so-called “competitors,” get that legitimacy. Orion, Halios, MKII, Raven, EMG — all these brands are amazing. We all have to rise up together and try to get legitimacy, rather than trying to shit on each other, this ‘Buy mine, not his’ kind of thing.

These 3 Vintage Dress Watches Stand Out With Unique Case Shapes

A round dress watch with simple stick indices and an elegant design is classic for a reason, but the formal style can be much more than that. The tonneau and squarish shapes that were popular in the 1960s and ’70s — most commonly seen in the likes of sporty divers — are now experiencing a resurgence among modern watches with “vintage inspiration.” For more basic dress models, however, that slightly unusual, barrel-like (“tonneau”) case shape combined with vintage sizing can offer a standout wrist presence unlike almost anything else, even despite small sizing and otherwise conservative designs.

Each of the three watches below, from respected and prestigious brands, offers a slightly different take on this killer look — and they are all in the relatively affordable range.

King Seiko

What We Like: In decades past, King Seiko existed alongside the Grand Seiko tier of higher-end watches from the Japanese brand, but they are less known today because of Grand Seiko’s modern rise to prominence. This one from 1969 not only features the seductive combination of a very conservative dial design with the tonneau case shape, but also a linen-textured dial. A thin 38mm-wide case makes it essentially equivalent in size to many modern dress watches. On top of it all, the movement inside is one of Seiko’s “hi-beat” mechanical movements operating at 5Hz.

From the Seller: The case’s brushed surface is completely intact with one ding under the crown, and the polished surface has some scratches normal for a watch of this age.

Omega Geneve Automatic

What We Like: For not much more than the King Seiko above, you can get a beautiful Swiss-Made Omega from 1974 with an interesting and unique look. At 36mm wide, this has an unusual case shape that is almost rectangular but with curved edges and a “tv-shaped” dial. It results in a restrained but striking silhouette. Behind a screw-down case back, it has a beautifully finished Omega 1020 automatic movement.

From the Seller: Overall the watch is in NOS condition. The recently serviced watch works perfectly.

Zenith 1960s

What We Like: Zenith had a number of funky case shapes in the 1960s and ’70s, and they offer another great take on the tonneau dress watch style here. With a brilliant blue dial and blocky indices that give it a real ’60s charm, this example is powered by a Zenith automatic movement. At 36mm wide, it’s “vintage sized” but is sure to stand out on the wrist.

From the Seller: The watch is new-old-stock with the protective cover still on the case. Movement runs great.

This American Brand Just Introduced Its Boldest, Most Affordable Watch

Shinola is a rising name as an American maker of gear, including watches, as well as for its mission of bringing manufacturing back to Detroit. Affordable and stylish has long been part of the brand’s approach, and the new Detrola collection of colorful and fashionable watches is Shinola’s most affordable line yet.

The Detrola collection, debuting today, is a new take on Shinola’s signature watch design. High-grade resin cases make the Detrola lightweight and durable but also offes nearly endless color options — and many of the new models are intensely vibrant. Readers should be reminded that while “resin” is a nicer way of saying “plastic,” plastics science has come a long way, and it offers a range of practical properties — in addition to (often) being economical to produce. The particular resin Shinola used is called TR90.

TR90 can also be transparent, and a very cool touch is that the case backs for some of the new Detrola models offer a view of the quartz movement inside. Made from Swiss parts, the Argonite 705 movement is assembled by Shinola in Detroit and housed in a steel core. At launch, there are seven total variants available, each in different colors with 43mm cases water-resistant to 50m. A scratch-resistant K1 mineral crystal tops it off, and each watch comes on a quick-release silicon band.

Priced at $395, the new Shinola Detrola is limited to 250 units per variant and available directly from the brand.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Timex X Todd Snyder Military Watch ($138)
Junghans Max Bill Quartz ($495)
Defakto Vektor (~$739)

This Iconic American Brand Just Introduced Its Boldest, Most Affordable Watch Yet

Shinola is a rising name as an American maker of gear, including watches, as well as for its mission of bringing manufacturing back to Detroit. Affordable and stylish has long been part of the brand’s approach, and the new Detrola collection of colorful and fashionable watches is Shinola’s most affordable line yet.

The Detrola collection, debuting today, is a new take on Shinola’s signature watch design. High-grade resin cases make the Detrola lightweight and durable but also offes nearly endless color options — and many of the new models are intensely vibrant. Readers should be reminded that while “resin” is a nicer way of saying “plastic,” plastics science has come a long way, and it offers a range of practical properties — in addition to (often) being economical to produce. The particular resin Shinola used is called TR90.

TR90 can also be transparent, and a very cool touch is that the case backs for some of the new Detrola models offer a view of the quartz movement inside. Made from Swiss parts, the Argonite 705 movement is assembled by Shinola in Detroit and housed in a steel core. At launch, there are seven total variants available, each in different colors with 43mm cases water-resistant to 50m. A scratch-resistant K1 mineral crystal tops it off, and each watch comes on a quick-release silicon band.

Priced at $395, the new Shinola Detrola is limited to 250 units per variant and available directly from the brand.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Timex X Todd Snyder Military Watch ($138)
Junghans Max Bill Quartz ($495)
Defakto Vektor (~$739)

This Sporty Zenith Chronograph Watch Recreates a Vintage Icon

In 1969, alongside other watchmaking milestones, Zenith introduced the famous El Primero chronograph movement. It was featured in several watches that year, and its modern form still powers Zenith watches — including some that are fairly consistent with the best-known early models. For the movement’s 50th anniversary this year, Zenith has already released faithful reissues of the A386 and an even more retro-styled A384 Revival.

Now, with input from the folks at the watch enthusiast website Hodinkee, the brand has revived a distinctive El Primero from 1969, known as the G381 Revival Limited Edition in its 2019 incarnation. Sold exclusively through Zenith’s online shop, it’s meant to be about as accurate a recreation as possible, right down to the 38mm sizing of the 1969 original — which was on the large side for the time, but is comfortable for wrists accustomed to modern sizes today.

Coming in an 18K yellow gold case that’s 50m water-resistant, the dial features contrasty “panda”-style (black on white) subdials and gold highlights. It’s powered by the modern El Primero 400 automatic chronograph movement, which operates at a high frequency of 5Hz and offers around 50 hours of power reserve. Unlike the watches of decades ago, the movement is on display via a sapphire crystal case back.

The new Zenith El Primero Revival G381 Limited Edition is only being produced in a run of 50 pieces, for a price of $19,200 each.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
TAG Heuer Heritage Calibre Heuer 02 Chronograph Watch ($5,300)
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch ($5,350)
IWC Portugieser Chronograph Watch ($7,600)

These Are the Most Expensive Watches Ever Produced

At a certain point — say, around the million dollar-mark — a watch transcends “exorbitantly expensive” and moves into its own category of horological insanity. There’s no common name for this category of watches, but the general theme is, “Who in the hell would pay that much for a watch?” Someone who buys race horses like they’re a pack of gum at the checkout counter; someone whose yachts tow little yachts behind them, for entering lagoons that are too small for the primary yachts. In short: someone to whom money doesn’t mean that much, or anything at all.

Which means there’s an argument to be made that the following watches are not worth all that much — at least to their owners. Most likely, they are another item in a vast collection, locked away in some vault deep underground, never to be worn.

But that’s not fun to think about. What’s fun to think about is if they were somehow yours. You would wear them, wouldn’t you? You’d give them their place in the sun, and when someone asked you if that was the world-famous watch that had been stolen from an underground vault in Geneva, you’d shrug and say, “What, this old thing? I picked it up off eBay for a $300 bucks. Pretty cool though, huh?”

Richard Mille RM 56-02 Sapphire — $2 million

The Swiss ultra-luxury brand is relatively new for this category, founded in 2001 by watchmaker Richard Mille. What it lacks in centuries of snobbery, it makes up for in absurd abstraction and high-tech wizardry. (The brand’s website manages to proclaim this somehow “a pragmatic approach.”) The 56-02 Sapphire was created in 2014, after the brand’s first sapphire-cased watch was deemed not cool enough, apparently. Its case is milled from a solid block of sapphire; of course, its movement includes a tourbillon — because why not.

Rolex Daytona ref. 6239 “Paul Newman” — $17.7M

How about the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction? That’d be the Rolex Daytona reference 6239 owned by Paul Newman. It was given to him by his wife, its case back inscribed with the very cool note to “Drive Carefully, Me.” Even cooler: Newman later handed it to his daughter’s boyfriend, James Cox, as a gift, when Cox said he didn’t own a watch. Given Newman’s cool cachet, it wasn’t all that surprising when the watch hammered for $17+M including the buyer’s premium.

Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in Steel — $11+M

The watch that Paul Newman’s Daytona topped was another one in steel: the Patek Philippe 1518 perpetual calendar and chronograph. This was the first perpetual calendar and chronograph ever made in series, and only four examples were produced in steel. During World War II, no less, when most people were busy killing one another.

Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication — $24M

If you think wristwatches are expensive, just wait till you get into pocketwatches. This one, also from Patek, costs the same as 12 of the Richard Mille watches — which, to remind you, are straight up made out of sapphire. It was owned by Henry Graves, Jr, a NYC banker and one of the most important watch collectors of all time, and includes 24 complications. Which, you know, might be a bit much, but is fun as hell.

A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication — $2.6M

Enough with the Swiss! You want something sexy, and new, and, well, German. For blowing loads of dough, there’s only one Deutsche brand: A. Lange & Söhne. Their Grand Complication, unveiled in 2013, includes a perpetual calendar, split-seconds chronograph, and all the other bells and whistles (literally — it has a three chiming complications). Its 50mm case is made not of sapphire or plain old steel, but rose gold. If you’re dropping a couple million, isn’t that really what you want, anyway?

Vacheron Constantin Kallista — $11M

You’re not buying all these watches for yourself, are you? If you need something for your special lady friend (or mom), check out the Kallista, which Vacheron made in 1979. Back then, it — and its 118 emerald-cut diamonds — was worth $5 million. Today, call it a cool $11 million.

George Daniels “Space Traveler” Watch

George Daniels, the most famous independent watchmaker of the 20th century, was heralded as a watchmaking genius. This “Space Traveler” watch is proof. He created a watch with two trains, to better calculate both mean-solar time (calculated using the sun) and sidereal time (calculated using the motion of the earth). The result, he liked to say, was a watch that a traveler to Mars would covet. Hopefully that traveller have some cash left over after he buys his ticket.

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Seiko’s Incredibly Badass ‘Predator’ Dive Watch Is Back in Black

If being strapped to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strapping wrist as he fires bazookas doesn’t make a watch badass and fun, what does? Originally issued in the 1980s, the ana-digi dive watch became famous after featuring in several Schwarzenegger action films including Predator and Commando, earning the nickname “the Arnie” from fans. Even without that association, the Seiko Prospex Solar Diver has a tough, serious look, and now it’s back for 2019 with a new SNJ028 model exclusive to Seiko USA.

Seiko first announced the Arnie’s return at Baselworld this year with a couple of colorways, but now it’s finally available on the Seiko USA site with a new version. Measuring a muscular 47.8mm wide, it’s even bigger than the one from the ’80s, and this one includes solar charging in its Seiko H851 quartz movement. The new version features a matte black case and other elements like the pushers, while the bezel and highlights on the dial are in gold.

Bold and imposing, the Seiko Prospex SNJ028 is naturally engineered to be rugged with a 200m water-resistance suitable for diving and the protective outer shroud found on many Seiko dive watches. The digital display at 12 o’clock is used for various functions controlled by multiple crowns and pushers, resulting in it looking as though its functions were barely able to be contained by the design. These include useful things like a stopwatch, dual time zones, alarms and calendar data.

The new Seiko Prospex Solar Diver SNJ028 “Arnie” comes on a silicone strap and is available exclusively online from Seiko USA for a price of $550.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Orient Mako II Diver ($124)
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver ($125)
Seiko Automatic Diver SKX007K ($269)

This Small Brand’s Watches Aren’t Cheap. But They More Than Justify Their Price

In 2015, we wrote that Nick Harris was “modding his way into American watchmaking.” Four years later, Harris has leapfrogged from Seiko modding to crowdfunding his first original watch, to completing watchmaking school at Seattle’s Watch Technology Institute, to continuing his work as an independent watchmaker with his brand, Orion Watches. “I’m trying to bring watch manufacturing back to the United States, using supply chains as a means to an end, to make a difference in the watch world,” he told me recently.

Harris’s most recent watch, the Calamity, is a dive watch, with colorful accents in blue, green, or black — but that’s where the microbrand dive cliches end. It’s thin, at 10.5mm thick minus the curved crystal; Harris designed a curved case back for comfortable wear; and inside is the ETA 2892, a thin, premium-priced movement. Then there’s the cost: at $1,495, it signaled a major step in Harris’s watchmaking, namely, taking on the big-boy boutique brands like Oris, Monta, Oak & Oscar, Doxa and others.

“People were telling me, You can’t do it, it’s too expensive, the market won’t bear it. But I did it anyway,” he says.

But the Calamity was just the start. Harris has big plans to break new ground in the microbrand segment. His work at Orion signals a new generation of watchmakers born and bred in America, and taking, for the first time in a long time, a look at what it’ll take to bring watchmaking fully back to the country. We sat down with him to talk about the momentum behind American watchmaking, Seiko modding, watch school, his own designs and what’s next for Orion.

The Interview

Q: What did modding Seikos teach you about the watch business?
A: It taught me to value my stuff fairly. For a lot of the time I was selling Seikos, I was undercharging. It also taught me a little bit of the psychology of who’s buying a watch at what price point, and how they approach watches. People who generally approach watches from zero dollars up are gonna look at value differently than people who approach watches from thousands of dollars down. As I’ve slowly increased prices on my watches, I’ve learned all about that, and what people expect depending on where they’re coming from.

Q: Did modding help you develop your design aesthetic?
A: It let me explore a lot of materials and design aesthetics. When I make something now, there’s a minimum quantity of like, 500 pieces. So when I was doing all one-off stuff, it let me explore any idea that I had, as opposed to being locked into a certain design. Exotic materials, I love that. I love engraved stuff. And doing mods let me explore those as a form of watch design. You have to be more patient when you’re producing things at a higher volume, in terms of how crazy you’re going to get with your watch designs.

Q: What inspired the style of the first watch that you made under your own brand, the Orion 1?
A: I was inspired by vintage watches. I have really tiny wrists, and that automatically bars a lot of modern watches from me. So I’ve always loved vintage watches because of the funky, risky approaches to design — and because they’re just a lot of fun. But the big drawback is that they’re often more fragile, delicate, not very water-resistant.

Orion was born out of fun, whacky vintage styles, but funky with modern components. The Orion 1 was this dressy, tough tank of a watch. Someone described it as an undercover field watch, and that’s exactly what it was.

Q: I’ve always been impressed by your design sense, which is always unique. How did you develop that?
A: I was going to go to school for industrial design, but I dropped out. I’m pretty critical of a lot of things, in a design sense.

When I got into watches, with the Orion 1 and Seiko mods… I don’t wanna say I was ignorant, but I didn’t delve into the culture of [watch design] too much. So I was isolated.

[When you’re not isolated], there are expectations and certain design senses and genres that you can get locked into. It’s a weird headspace. Because it’s like, you get inoculated by things. That’s reflected in your design sense. If you grow up around Rolexes, and you love Rolexes, and you design a watch, it’s probably going to be very influenced by Rolex. Or if you have some preconceived notion of what a pilot’s watch is supposed to look like, then when you go and design a pilot’s watch, it’ll have some resemblance to what you think a pilot’s watch is supposed to look like, which is based on pre-existing designs.

So with the Orion 1, I was pretty isolated from all these notions of what design was supposed to be. I had this weird fusion of dressy and field watch, even though I wouldn’t have given it those names. I tried to bring that to my design.

Q: How have you evolved as a designer since watchmaking school?
A: At watchmaking school, I definitely learned to appreciate a lot more of the technical stuff. There are certain technical challenges and designs that arise that I appreciate now—mostly different types of finishing and techniques used on movements. It helped with becoming more and more familiar with design language in the watch world. So when I design new watches, I’m trying to find a medium between what people expect or recognize, versus my own wild card ideas that aren’t too influenced by the status quo of the watch design industry.

Q: It seems like one of your themes is subverting expectations for a style, and pairing design elements that haven’t been paired before.
A: I try to introduce something new design-wise now. The Calamity is a super-thin dive watch, because that’s something that’s pretty limited in the watch space now. Especially at certain price points, there are watches that don’t exist.

Also, I like giving things a little bit of flair when it’s not expected. You see this in the Calamity, the ones with the matte bezel inserts. They’re pretty low profile, but then you’ve got small little accents and polished bezels and applied indices that are all shiny. It’s like a little treat. It’s like a little bit of sugar on a savory dish. It makes it like, mwah. [finger kiss.]

As opposed to when you have something and the entire case is polished and you’ve got this super glossy dial—it’s like having a drink that has too much sugar in it, and it doesn’t taste good.

Q: Do any specific watches come to mind?
A: The new-ish Omega Seamaster 300 pops into my mind. A wonderful design, but too many polished surfaces, polished bracelet center links and faux vintage lume just break a good design that would have been exceptional with some restraint. In fact, some people have even sent me their bracelet to brush the polished section out.

Q: What microbrands do you admire right now?
A: That list is always changing. Lately, Holthinrich watches out of the Netherlands. He’s doing really cool 3D printed metal pieces. Great finishing, a lot of really great, honest horology in his watches. And it’s beautiful, original design. Those watches are gorgeous, and I think his goal is good. There’s also Brellum watches. He’s out of Switzerland. Sebastien is doing wonderfully designed watches, working on bringing out new movements. It’s original design, quality work, and he’s selling direct from his website to keep his prices competitive for what he’s offering.

Q: The cool thing about your world is that a lot of people seem to be doing interesting things like that.
A: I love seeing it when people try to go above and beyond in some capacity, and do something different. Because I think there are a lot of brands out there that are kinda making a watch to make a watch, I don’t think it answers any design questions, or is something that’s innovative at all.

Q: How has the Calamity sold? What have you learned?
A: I knew it was gonna be a challenge. I essentially started Orion with no money, and that was a challenge too. With the Calamity, people were telling me, You can’t do it, it’s too expensive, the market won’t bear it. But I did it anyway. I knew it was going to meet an entirely new demographic, because the people who would be interested would only have a little crossover – generally the people buying 500 dollar watches aren’t the same people buying 1,500 dollar watches. It was a lot of work to get those watches out. There was a totally different buying personality at that price point. That was a completely new experience.

But it went really well. I had such a positive overwhelming response from customers with the Calamity. Usually when you get an email, it’s like, Oh no… but people were getting these watches and were really happy with them. I wasn’t expecting it.

But it was a lot of work and continues to be a lot of work.

Q: What can you tell me about upcoming Orion watches?
A: I had a new manufacturer for the Orion 2, and I wanted to up the quality and do Swiss made. Make a really exceptional entry-level luxury watch, you know? But I had some issues with that manufacturer, and I wasn’t happy with the prototypes. So I’m redoing those and finding a new manufacturer to execute that to my vision.

Then there’s the Hellcat, which is like a pilot’s watch. It’s already designed. I got a friend started on that. The 2892 movement in the Calamity, it’s super expensive, but it’s also super thin and accurate and helped me make an awesome watch. The cheaper the movement, the thicker things get. The Miyota 9015 is going to power the Hellcat. That’s kind of the thin affordable movement. It’s going to have a curved case back. The case is going to look like the Calamity without the crown guards, and it’s going to have a smooth bezel. It should be 10.5mm thick, 39mm, and it’s got a big ole crown, fun dial colors, and should have some gilt on the dial. Some sunburst dials. Talk about too sweet—these watches are gonna be excessive. For the people who are like, I want chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse on top. It’s gonna be gratuitous and excessive, but hopefully in a really enjoyable way. Not in a diamond-encrusted way.

Q: I frequently hear you talk about designing a watch that wears really well. How do you do that?
A: Case design is one of my favorite things to do. Kyle Rymarchuk helps me a lot, and he’s off doing some of his own stuff now too. But we both love case design. Case design is often forgotten in favor of hands and dials, but it’s important. It’s a wonderful canvas to design on, with a lot of space and angles. And it’s the part of the watch that interfaces with your body. That’s super important.

What makes a watch wear well? That’s gotta be lug length and lug profile and then something like thickness. A thin watch isn’t inherently comfortable. The taper of the lug and length of the lug are both big parts of what makes a watch comfortable. There’s a lot of different wrist types out there. A lot of men’s watches are designed for between a 6.5- to 7-inch wrist, and all the outliers are left with watches that might fit them weird. The original Black Bays, they look amazing from the top down, but they are all slab-sided monstrosities. They don’t have much downturn in the lugs, and the lugs will stick out and they wear weird if you’ve got a slightly smaller wrist. If you’ve got the right sized wrist, the watch sits on top of your wrist, on a plane almost, and you won’t be bothered by it.

NOMOS, on the other hand, the Tangente — it’s got a super thin case, like 8mm thick. But that lug length is super long and super flat, so again, unless you have a like 6.75 inch wrist, that watch is going to sit weird on your wrist. Also, if you’ve got a bony wrist, it’s going to sit weird on your wrist. So flat watches are not very comfortable. You have a thin and flat watch, it’s not very comfortable. Thin watches are more comfortable because they’re less top-heavy. A thick watch that’s top-heavy tends to fall to one side or the other. You become aware of it when it moves around. And some people like that. But in terms of comfort, having a watch that doesn’t’ yank around too much is a good thing.

There can beautiful watches, that when you go to put on a watch you don’t grab it because you don’t like how it feels. And that was a big driving influence for a lot of my designs as well, because I’d be drawn to these watches, and I’d buy a watch or almost buy a watch, and it would just feel terrible on my wrist, and to me that was a huge problem. And I also have a tiny wrist. But that was a problem that I wanted to help solve with some of my designs. I became hyper aware of what makes a watch comfortable.

Q: What’s next for Orion Watches?
A: I’ve been talking with Josh Shapiro, who’s making a lot of stuff in America. We’ve been talking, and might try in the future to machine a lot of stuff here in the States, starting with dials, and approaching cases, which are more complicated than dials.

Q: What’s your favorite watch of all time?
A: I’m really into Grand Seiko lately. Some of their new watches, like the SBGK005, are just super spicy.

Q: What does that mean?
A: The finishing on Grand Seiko is incredible. It punches way above its price point. In photos they look kinda ho-hum, but when you see in person you’re just like, Good lord! The dials, the hands, the cases, it’s all immaculate and wonderful. I respect it because it’s technically challenging and good work.

Q: Any other favorites?
A: I don’t know… I don’t think about watches that much. [Laughs.]

How to Buy a Rolex Watch

Why Rolex is so popular after nearly a century, especially now that so many other excellent watch brands are around, is a legitimate question. A Rolex is partially assembled by hand, and partially by machine, and certainly one can find more affordable watches that are ostensibly just as accurate, handsome and sturdy. So how does Rolex continue to stay on top of the Swiss mechanical watch game?

On the surface, one has to accept that Rolex has effortlessly maintained its place among today’s most recognizable status symbols, cutting across cultures and geography as a truly global brand. It’s hard to watch a tennis match, yachting regatta, auto race, or golf tournament without the Rolex crown pasted all over it, and famous actors, musicians, and regularly politicians sport Rolexes. Good luck getting through a major airport without seeing a Rolex clock, reminding you of the brand’s ubiquity.

Certainly Rolex’s brand cachet motivates a good portion of sales, but it doesn’t account for the fact that Rolex watches — old and new alike — are a surprisingly great value, and incredibly well made. When all of Rolex’s proprietary mechanical technology, cutting-edge materials, and timeless designs are accounted for, Rolex has always made excellent watches that simply don’t cost as much as their equivalents from other brands (with Omega billed as a perennial exception). The solid value of a Rolex is a little hard to see at first glance (they are certainly not inexpensive), but after shopping around for equivalents, most agree that Rolex is doing things right — including, in some cases, with regard to pricing. Rolex’s steel sports watches exhibit value better than many others, and that’s made them especially hard to get.

Buying a Rolex: Sounds Simple, But Not Always
Buying a new Rolex can be a complicated endeavor because Rolex intentionally shorts demand on more than a few models (especially steel sports models), thus creating years-long waitlists at authorized Rolex dealers. Getting on those lists is itself a challenge requiring investment of time and money. Buying a pre-owned Rolex is also a complicated endeavor because there are myriad details that can be significant in determining the value and desirability of any individual watch — plus you’ll have to evaluate the watch’s condition, inside and out.

How to Buy a New Rolex

Walk into any authorized Rolex dealer, and you’re going to see a lot of Datejusts, Day-Dates, Oyster Perpetuals, perhaps a Milgaus, maybe an Air-King, and usually a fresh batch of Cellini dress watches in a wide range of sizes and colors. You’ll always see a swath of women’s models. You might see a few sport watches in precious metals like a Skydweller, a Yachtmaster or even a Submariner; or you might not. Prices on new Rolexes are typically non-negotiable, and if you find what you like among the Rolexes on offer, then it’s a fairly straightforward purchase.

The Problem With Steel

What you won’t see at an authorized Rolex dealer these days are steel sport watches — Daytonas, Submariners, Seadwellers, Skydwellers, GMT Masters, Explorer I and II in steel are nowhere to be found. From the legendary Parisian dealer Bucherer to the lovely Betteridge Jewelers in Vail, Colorado and Greenwich, Connecticut, to the Rolex boutique on Madison Ave in NYC, we (mostly) haven’t seen a steel Rolex sports on display for at least a couple of years. If you’re pushy, as we were recently in Paris, you might convince the salesperson to pull a steel Rolex sports watch out of the safe just to check it out, but even that is a rare privilege, perhaps afforded only to pushy journalists.

Why is that steel Rolex in the safe? And who’s gonna get to purchase it?

The Idea of the Waitlist

It’s in the safe waiting for whomever is next on the dealer’s waitlist for that model. Getting on that list isn’t easy. At Betteridge Jewelers in Greenwich Connecticut (a town full of hedge fund-types and, thus, gorgeous watch boutiques), my request to get on the waitlist for a steel Skydweller was politely rejected. “Well, those models are going to go to people who have a long-standing relationship with the owner.” “Could I get on the list?” I asked. “We have a gold one I can show you,” came the well-rehearsed answer. Not even a pushy watch journalist was going to simply waltz onto that list.

Authorized dealers are not allowed to jack up the prices on any Rolex, an interesting point when you consider that a percentage of folks lucky enough to get a new steel Rolex sports watch immediately flip them for multiples of the sticker price. However, it would seem that most authorized Rolex dealers shun flippers, considering association with these profiteers bad for business, and alienating to those seeking a good relationship with an authorized Rolex dealer.

Getting on the List

And so, the reality of getting a current model year steel Rolex sports watch involves either building a relationship with a known flipper (which we don’t recommend; see above), or building a positive, long-term, close relationship with an authorized Rolex dealer (which we highly recommend to those hungry for late model steel Rolexes).

Building a relationship with an authorized Rolex dealer will likely involve becoming a regular customer — and browsing won’t cut it; you have to make purchases. All this may smack of nepotism, but it’s really just an extension of mutual loyalty between retailer and customer, akin to getting a table at an impossible-to-book restaurant, getting inked by a renowned tattoo artist, or being fitted by a celebrated tailor. Persistence, patience, and loyalty can eventually earn you access to the waitlist. And then, you’ll wait.

“Most authorized Rolex dealers shun flippers, considering association with these profiteers bad for business, and alienating to those seeking a good relationship with an A.D.”

How to Buy a Pre-Owned Rolex

Whatever the age, you’re going to want to know a number of things about any pre-owned Rolex in order to get exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price. We certainly won’t be the first to say “condition is everything,” but it most certainly (almost) is. Though every seller of pre-owned watches seems to break a watch’s condition into their own stratified rating system, the following ranking is a decent way to assess what you’re looking at.

New Old Stock and Box-Fresh Rolexes

Obviously the best condition a watch can be in is new condition, and, though rare, it’s not entirely impossible to find older models yet to be sold, or which were sold and have sat unused (think “inappropriate gift,” etc.). Interestingly, even unopened watch boxes can be environments in which patina and/or corrosion develop, so even a New Old Stock Rolex requires some assessment before purchase.

Mint Condition

These will have been used, but they have not been abused or altered in any way. They typically are newer and show no signs of wear or patina. Rolex’s alloys — especially the modern Oystersteel — can withstand years of use without showing much damage. A gold Rolex is more susceptible to scratches and dents, as are older steel models. Thus, mint Rolexes tend to be newer and steel.

Used & Unpolished

These watches will show signs of use, like scratches and dents, but have not been polished. Polishing is a process that changes the dimensions of the watch case to varying degrees by shaving off metal, often rounding previously sharp corners and connection points. Serious collectors generally avoid polished Rolexes, but everyone has their own threshold. There’s no hard rule here.

Used & Polished

These watches may appear to be in better condition than an unpolished watch, but they may cost you less because they’re not 100% original. Again, feelings about polishing are purely subjective, and the amount of metal removed may be a factor in working out the price — purists prefer unpolished watches.

“Polishing is a process that changes the dimensions of the watch case to varying degrees by shaving off metal, often rounding previously sharp corners and connection points.”

Fixer-Upper

When a watch is water-damaged, run over by a car, left in a chemically toxic environment, or otherwise beat to shit, it may be a candidate for restoration. Generally we would recommend that only an experienced collector or enthusiast who understands what’s involved take on such a project. Nailing a fair price for the watch is tricky at best, as is estimating restoration costs. It’s a good practice, at the very least, for the beginner to avoid watches whose parts have been updated or replaced, as this can significantly affect the value of a Rolex (or any) watch.

Box & Papers (Full Set)

Whatever the condition of the Rolex, original box (inner and outer) and papers (original punched sales card; warranty information; etc.) will assure a higher price. You may not care about these items, and that’s fine, but know that any documentation (especially service records) is desirable, and there’s a particular love for original receipts with the serial number on them because they verify the origins of the watch.

In watch nerd parlance, a watch with the original box and papers is called a “full set,” though sometimes a particular dealer might only consider a watch a “full set” if both inner and outer boxes are present along with all paperwork and all accouterments that originally came with the timepiece (Rolex Oyster-cased watches ship with a small anchor, for example).

How to Vet a Pre-Owned Rolex

Choose Your Rolex Model and Year

Sounds simple, but with the myriad small alterations Rolex makes year to year, this may be trickier than you first imagine. (Also keep in mind that Rolex watches are made in batches, meaning that a watch whose serial number indicates a production date of 1989 may, for instance, have actually been produced in late 1988). Talk to experts whenever possible; refer to Rolex resources (many collector’s books exist, though they’re pricey); use the internet judiciously when researching, and vet your sources.

Decide Upon What Condition Your Rolex Has to Be In For You to Purchase It.

Does it need to be perfect (unused or mint), or can you tolerate some wear? Are you comfortable with some polishing, or are you a purist who demands an unpolished Rolex?

Establish a Price Range

One of the best ways to check current market prices is to check recently completed auctions on eBay. Looking at classified listings on online sales forums can be helpful, too, as they’re often left in place after the sale. Lastly, there are a number of excellent dealers who sell pre-own Rolexes, including Crown and Caliber and Bob’s Watches, and their pricing is typically fair and consistent, if slightly higher than what you’d pay to an individual seller.

Find Examples, and Target Your Specific Rolex

If you’re lucky, there will be a few examples of what you’re looking for available at one time, and you can hone in on the one that best matches your requirements and desires. If you’re seeking a less common example, you may find yourself on an extended hunt.

Buy The Seller

Whether your target Rolex is with an individual or a dealer, do not make the purchase until you’ve gotten to know the seller. Many seller feedback systems exist. eBay’s is proven, and Etsy’s is great, too (you’d be surprised how many Rolexes show up on Etsy). Most forums have a way to gauge a seller’s reputation. You may even ask and individual or a dealer for references. If possible, get the seller on the phone or meet in person to get a vibe reading. If you sense any shadiness, move on.

Vet The Rolex’s External Condition

If the dealer passes muster, then it’s time to vet the watch itself. The condition of the case, dial, hands, and so on is typically not up for debate. If you’re not seeing the watch in person, then ask for photos from multiple angles, demand hi-resolution images so you can zoom in, and ask any questions (no matter how dumb they sound) if you’re not sure about what you’re seeing.

Vet the Rolex’s Mechanical Condition

Most mechanical watches need to go through service every 5-7 years (though modern lubricants and non-metallic materials are extending service intervals). Unfortunately, many watches do not receive regular service. Any service records are going to add assurance, but likely also raise the price. If there are no service records, then ask the seller for the service history. If a service was done properly, the movement would have been disassembled to some degree, cleaned, rebuilt, and lubricated, and there should be a receipt from the service center detailing the work performed

The type of work done during a service can range from “checked over,” to “regulated” to “cleaned and lubed” (which is an iffy answer), to “fully disassembled and rebuilt.” If any parts were replaced, ask if they used genuine Rolex parts; if they did not, there is actually a legal precedent in the US Courts that requires that (a) third-party Rolex parts be stamped as not original, and (b) the parts be marked “third party” on any service receipts. If all else fails, get images of the movement, and show them to a trusted watchmaker for their evaluation, or get a watch with a satisfaction guarantee period and have it looked over.

Seek a Warranty and/or Satisfaction Guarantee

Many pre-owned Rolex dealers will offer you a warranty. Make sure they’re specific about what it covers and for how long. If buying from an individual, some online sellers (via eBay especially) will offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee period for you to get the watch in hand and have it checked out.

Wheel, Deal & Buy Your Rolex

In most cultures, the price of a used item is up for negotiation, and in most cases you can expect to pay at least slightly less than whatever the asking price is for a pre-owned Rolex. For the most part, given that you have a handle on the condition and trust the seller, the prices for pre-owned Rolexes are pretty stable. Don’t expect to get an incredible deal, but don’t expect to get gouged either. Offering to pay cash will often allow you to shave off some cost from the final sale price, as it saves the dealer having to pay credit card processing fees.

Victorinox For Hodinkee Watchmaker Swiss Army Knife

There’s perhaps no better place to learn about new, vintage or downright exciting watches than the digital or physical pages of Hodinkee or the Hodinkee Magazine. The brand’s Midas touch has expanded over the years…

These 3 Vintage Dress Watches Are Perfectly Sized

Big, bold watches have their time and place, just as smaller classical ones do — you don’t have to resolutely favor one or the other (though many people do). After years of case sizes ballooning to often eye-rolling extremes, tastes and trends are swinging back in the other direction. Now, with vintage reissues the hottest thing in the current watch market, more brands are producing modern rereleases of vintage watches in sizes faithful or close to the originals.

Sub-38mm has long been considered small for modern men’s watches, but measurements don’t always tell the whole story. Other factors like case shape and thickness, the length of the lugs, size of the dial, and overall design of a watch can cause it to wear more or less prominently. Pro tip: a NATO or Bund-style strap can help give any watch a little more presence. If you’re not already a fan of the style, you just might be surprised how well a 34mm watch wears, proportionally framed by your wrist instead of eclipsing it. Below are three beautiful examples, each a bold 34mm wide, that offer as much style as they do comfort.

Benrus Manual Dress Watch

What We Like: This Benrus watch has a classical look, but simultaneously a unique and distinctive design. The sculpted bezel and lugs are particularly elegant, and the dial with its syringe-shaped hands and faceted markers complement these perfectly. Dating to the 1950s, it’s got a gold-filled case, and inside is a manually wound Swiss movement. A domed crystal and overall thickness of just 9mm give the watch an interesting shape, and it’ll surely stand out on the wrist without relying on its actual size.

From the Seller: The watch is in great shape; winding, setting, and telling time just as it did back in 1955.

Tudor Oysterdate Ref. 74033

What We Like: Tudor can get away with borrowing well-known design cues from Rolex because, well, it’s a Rolex brand. This two-tone Oysterdate model references its big brother in several ways, from its name to its fluted bezel, but dang if it ain’t pretty in and of itself. The Tudor name is nothing to sneer at either for this price, and the reference 74033 should pack a visual punch on the wrist.

From the Seller: Overall condition is good. Dial has no major flaws; hands do show some aging.

LeCoultre “Skeleton Lug”

What We Like: With one of the most prestigious names in watchmaking on its dial, this unique little dress watch is just really cool in myriad ways. In a 14k yellow gold case, it’s got an elegant dial design, but what really stands out are its skeletonized lugs. This is a rare feature, but the lugs further show an unusual shape when viewed from the side, as they are thinner where they attach at the case. Inside is the LeCoultre 480CW manually wound movement that the brand used in a range of watches from around the same 1950s era as this example.

From the Seller: Case is in excellent condition overall with normal signs of age and wear. Non luminous dial is in great condition with even patina throughout.

These Are The Crazy Things Watch Dials Have Been Made Of

Porcelain, enamel, carbon fiber, meteorite, mother-of-pearl, onyx, aventurine… boring! They all sound exotic and have attractive applications but are, in fact, relatively common watch-dial materials. Watch companies that want to stand out have to get creative sometimes.

The dial is where the show is, and without the same technical and durability constraints of other watch components, it’s one place where watchmakers have some freedom to experiment with unconventional materials that won’t be used elsewhere in a watch. Safely beneath a crystal, a dial can be made from a wide range of things, from the banal to the bizarre (although working with almost any material entails its own challenges).

Most commonly, plated brass forms the base of the dial — to which various finishes can be applied or upon which art can be displayed. Other materials are sometimes simply reinforced by a copper plate underneath. Clear lacquer is often used to protect it, and opaque synthetic lacquer can give it color — or watchmakers can use more difficult and premium techniques, such as those that involve enamel. Other metals can also do the trick, from steel to silver and gold, as well as various kinds of stone.

To get the attention of seen-it-all watch collectors, though, an unusual dial material can help. Avant-garde independent watchmaker Artya, for example, made a watch dial using coprolite, which is a fancy-sounding word for fossilized dinosaur shit. Meteorite has also become more popular as a watch dial material because it has both an interesting look and story.

Here are some other unexpected materials that out-of-the-box-thinking watchmakers have used as dials.

Paper: Citizen Chronomaster

The Citizen Chronomaster‘s dial is actually made from different materials in multiple layers, but what you see is the soft texture of Japanese paper. Considered a traditional craft of Japan, it is typically produced by hand using local plant fibers. On the Chronomaster, it’s sandwiched between a layer of solar panels and a clear disc to protect it. The clear disc gives the logos and text printed on it a floating, three-dimensional effect. It’s one way for Citizen emphasize its remarkably accurate watch and give it a higher-end appeal.

Wood: Breitling Premier B01 Bentley Centenary

There’s nothing quite like the texture and emotional connection of wood, and it has found its way into watchmaking in various forms. Wood dial watches are not unheard of at all, even having featured on the Rolex President, but they remain relatively rare. The dials of the Breitling Premier watch for luxury carmaker Bentley use elm burl with a wonderfully dark and rich wood grain meant to reference elements of a Bentley’s interior.

Eggshell: Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Mosaic

High-end brands like Jaquet Droz are where you’ll find more experimentation with exotic materials and techniques. Eggshell sometimes describes a color, but here it’s actual quail egg shells cracked into thousands of pieces and then selected for color to create an artistic micro-mosaic — in an African elephant motif. It takes a craftsman around 200 hours to produce this unique piece of art, and the completed design is covered with a layer of clear lacquer. The technique comes from a Vietnamese art form that uses duck egg shells.

Denim: Hublot Classic Fusion Jeans

Denim dial? Why not. Hublot is one brand that makes a point of using polarizing design choices and unconventional materials — other such examples include a Classic Fusion with a leather dial. The Classic Fusion Jeans watch uses a blue denim dial that appears to almost be part of the matching denim strap. Not sure if it’ll develop a fade with “whiskers” like your favorite pair of selvedge denim (or if you’d want it to), but it’s sure to catch the eye as a familiar look in an unexpected place.

Coins: Corum Coin

The material of the coin itself isn’t the focus here, though some are still notable as precious metals. What’s more interesting is the familiar look of a coin employed as a watch dial. A number of watch companies have taken this approach over the years, but none is known for it today like Corum, which maintains a permanent collection of Coin watches amongst its offerings. For use as watch dials, silver and gold coins are often horizontally bisected to thin them. Notable also is that the watch’s case sides are given a “coin edge” finish to make the whole package feel cohesive.

Fordite: TAG Heuer x Bamford Carrera Calibre 5

“Fordite” is actually just dried paint. But it comes from layers built up in car factories’ paint bays over years — in this instance, specifically cars painted at the Ford factory between the 1970s and 1990s. When sliced, it reveals colorful strata in unique, organic-looking patterns that never exactly repeat. These particular watches are the result of a collaboration between TAG Heuer and the brand’s official “customizer” Bamford Watch Department.

Salvaged Airplane Metal: Tockr D-Day C-47

Texas-based independent brand Tockr makes watches with dials made out of aluminum, such as the Tockr D-Day C-47. But it’s not just any aluminum. It’s metal salvaged from a WW2 paratrooper transport plane, and the patina is readily evident. The unique way the metal has aged is now preserved under sapphire crystal, and each dial is unique — some featuring extensive wear and others with traces of actual stamped lettering.

This Auction Features Some Exceptional Vintage Rolex Watches

Beginning today at 10AM, bidding opens on 18 incredible (mostly vintage Rolex) watches in an auction curated by California-based Bob’s Watches and Sotheby’s. The auction, called Watches Online: The Driver’s Collection, is themed around the concept of the driving watch, though many of these lots have admittedly nothing to do with driving or automotive culture. But they’re beautiful vintage Rolexes, so who cares.

The pièce de résistance is a Rolex ref. 6538 “Big Crown” Submariner, perhaps best known as the watch worn by Sean Connery in the beginning of “Dr. No.” (The watch pairs rather well with the 1965 Aston Martin DB5 that’s being auctioned by RM Sotheby’s on August 15th, which was one of two DB5s actually used on the set of “Thunderball.”)

But getting back to this 6538. This isn’t the actualy watch worn by Connery on set, but it’s a damn pretty example of a relatively rare reference that was produced for only four years. Known by its now-iconic “big crown,” which measures 8mm in diameter, the 6538 typically features a 2-line dial devoid of chronometer certification. This particular example, however, is an even rarer 4-line dial, indicating that this model is COSC-certified. The dial itself has also turned a beautiful “tropical” brown — technically a defect of the paint used on these dials, this “tropical” hue has become extremely prized by collectors. The watch hits the auction block on August 15th, with an estimate of between $180,000-$280,000.

But wait — there’s more. Amongst the 17 other watches are some gorgeous vintage models, and some (relatively) modern ones, including the now-highly sought after 50th anniversary Submariner with green bezel. Other favorites include a 6263 Daytona and a 1675 GMT Master — check ’em out below, and be sure to visit the Sotheby’s website to see all the lots and to bid, should you so desire.

Watches Online: The Driver’s Collection will be open for bidding exclusively online from 14–20 August with the full sale on view at Monterey from 15–17 August.

6538 “Big Crown” Submariner by Rolex Estimate: $180,000-$280,000

Submariner ref. 16610LV 50th Anniversary by Rolex Estimate: $12,000-$18,000

Submariner ref. 1680 MK4 Dial by Rolex Estimate: $15,000-$25,000

GMT Master ref. 1675 by Rolex Estimate: $12,000-$18,000

Daytona ref. 6263 “Sigma” Dial by Rolex Estimate: $70,000-$90,000

Handsome Mechanical Watches for Less Than $500? Look No Further Than Lorier

“Mechanical Watches for Under $500″ — now that’s a headline that catches your attention. “How is it possible, who’s making them, or where could I buy one?” Natural follow up questions.

Let’s start with “who” — Lorier is an up-and-coming New York City-based boutique watch company making affordable mechanical watches. Husband and wife duo Lorenzo and Lauren Ortega are the masterminds behind Lorier, and we had the pleasure of sitting down with them to learn a bit more about what inspired the brand, and just how they’re making these accessible, mechanical timepieces.

Interview

Vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molesti Photo by John Doe.

Q: With no prior watchmaking experience, what sparked you all to take the bold leap of starting your own watch company?
A: We wanted to make something for people like us. Watches today are mostly made to be status symbols or collector’s items (and they’re priced accordingly). We were public school teachers, so watches could never really fill that role, nor did we want them to. For us, they’re wonderful objects that, just by virtue of being worn every day, can come to represent so much more: memories, histories, personalities.

What brought this from the back of our minds into reality was Lorenzo’s dress watch flooding in the shower on the way to a wedding. His other watch was a Seiko diver, which was a little too casual for the occasion. When we got home, he started to look for something he could actually wear every day, everywhere, and with anything. It had to be handsome while being rugged and low-maintenance. It also had to be affordable – we were on a teacher’s budget, and we were just uncomfortable wearing something worth thousands on our wrists. We couldn’t find anything that met our criteria.

We’d already spent years dreaming about what our ideal watch might look like (as most watch nerds do), and the time felt right to actually make it. It was summer, so we had plenty of time to research and plan. We’d finished paying off our student loans and finally had some money saved. The more our designs came together, the more we were convinced we had to go all-in on our idea.

It was a huge gamble for us; we literally bet everything we had on it! There were times when it really felt crazy: in the first year, we were teaching during the day and coming home to work on the business at night. But we had that much faith in each other, and we knew there were other people who felt the same way about watches as we do, looking for the same thing we were.

Q: As a husband-wife team, how do you divide and conquer the responsibilities of the business?
A: We do as much as we can ourselves to keep prices as low as possible: design, quality control, photography, building and maintaining the website, customer service, order fulfillment. Larger companies would have separate people or departments for each of those areas, but for us, those separate departments are all compartmentalized in our heads! It’s a challenge, but we’re happy to do it. We’re both uncompromising in our vision and expectations, so we see it as an advantage to have as much control as we do.

We’ve been together for a decade now, which is the majority of our adulthood and a third of our lives. We’re fortunate to know each other well enough to understand our strengths and be upfront about what we’d rather not do. As business has picked up and there are more demands on our time, we’ve learned that we need to be intentional about conserving our mental and emotional energy. Each of us has areas that stress us out the least, and those are the centers from which we operate. Lorenzo’s happy place is design, and he prefers to avoid dealing with money and numbers. Lauren finds comfort and order in daily operations and doesn’t have the patience needed for photography. But there really aren’t any hard lines. We each provide input and help each other with every aspect of the business.

Q: How did you decide on the name Lorier for your brand and subsequently the names Neptune, Hydra, and Falcon for the current models in your catalog?
A: We wanted a name that would have personal significance as well as connect to something greater. “Lorier” is actually an Old French word for “laurel,” which is the root of both our first names. It’s also a nod to Lorenzo’s formative years spent speaking French in Geneva, Switzerland. In terms of universal significance, there are values associated with the laurel – honor, excellence, and victory.

The names for our models come from the spirit we want them to evoke. Our flagship diver is brimming with references to the golden age of watch design, so we couldn’t think of a more fitting name than Neptune. Referencing mythology draws on this idea of being time-tested, lasting, and classic. As god of the sea, Neptune conjures up images of the ocean and its power – perfect for the quintessential diver.

The Hydra is more aggressively designed and has more complications (the date, the multi-functional bezel markers), so it made sense to reference the mythical, multi-headed sea monster. There’s also the double meaning, with hydra/hydro being the root for so many words associated with water, so it works on several levels.

The inspiration for the Falcon was watches worn by midcentury adventurers, which would be considered dress watches nowadays. So the bird of prey felt fitting with this spirit of going far and wide – elegant yet hardy. The diamond texture of the dial was a vintage feature we wanted to revive, but it also acts as a tangible reference in how it mimics the pattern of feathers.

Q: Your watches have a distinctly retro aesthetic — which vintage models were particularly inspiring as you created your designs?
A: To be a little nerdy about references, here’s a non-exhaustive list: for the Neptune, Rolex Submariner 6538, Omega Seamaster CK2913, and Titus Calypsomatic 7085. The Hydra: Breitling Superocean 1004, Omega PloProf, and Zodiac Seawolf 702-946. And the Falcon: Rolex references 1016, 6305, 5015, 6541, and the vintage Seiko Alpinist.

We wanted to use design to bring back the spirit of these icons: they were perfectly placed at the intersection of aesthetics, affordability, reliability, and utility. If you look at old catalogs, even big luxury brands made watches that were fairly accessible, so people actually went out and used them! The design language reflects this era where everything felt possible. Nowadays, the concept of heritage is commoditized and monetized to an almost ridiculous degree. It’s really disappointing! Yes, you can buy history, but it’s better to make your own.

We wanted to recreate that romance but without the pretense: make a watch affordable enough that you wouldn’t be afraid to wear it every day and everywhere and handsome enough you’d want to. The goal is to be able to make real memories with it – something no amount of money can or should pay for.

We try to stay as true to this philosophy as we can, even if it doesn’t make the most sense business-wise. For example, we went through a lot of trouble to make a diver with a classic plexiglass crystal, even though most brands use sapphire nowadays. It actually would’ve cost less to manufacture a case with the latter, plus it’s far more marketable. But when we had a sapphire prototype commissioned, it ended up feeling sterile. It was a big lesson in putting principles over specs. Plexi better suits our romantic sensibilities: it’s more impact resistant, and yes, it scratches, but you can buff out and polish off any wear-and-tear. It also has this clearer, warmer, and more enchanting look, which is a big part of what separates vintage references from modern ones that tend to look glassy and reflective in comparison.

Soul and romance don’t show up on the spec sheet, but we’re OK with that. We’ve had some owners come back to us and say they love how our watches remind them of their father’s, or even their grandfather’s – that’s pretty much all we can ask for!

Vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molesti Photo by John Doe.

Q: Can you give us any hints as to what’s next for Lorier?
A: There are definitely some more complications we want to play with. We have a hand-winding chronograph coming out later this year, and if we could find a good, affordable movement, we’d love to produce a GMT.

That said, our larger, long-term mission is to share and spread the love of mechanical watches. Every time we show our mechanical movements to friends, their response is “this is so cool. How did I not know this exists?” Even though watches have worked this way for hundreds of years! And it is cool! Mechanical watches are this perfect blend of design, engineering, and sentimentality – there’s a permanence about them that stands out when so much else is made to be thrown away. That’s something a lot of people are looking for, and really, something that more of us should be able to enjoy. In the near future, we’re going to be enthusiast-focused, but eventually, we’d like to make models that are even more accessible in terms of design and price.

This Eye-Catching Vintage Dive Watch Deserves a Reissue

A distinctive watch design works best if it’s rooted in a genuine purpose and story. In the current climate of vintage rerelease fever, modern brands are plumbing their archives for just that magic combination of elements. We think that Mido’s fascinating Powerwind “Rainbow” 5907 dive watch from the 1960s has that special sauce and deserves a comeback. One look at this colorful diver tells you it’s a bit different, but the reason for its unique style might not be readily apparent — unless you are a certified SCUBA diver.

Mido today sits quietly near the budget end of the Swatch Group’s range of luxury watch brands. Its independent history before the Quartz Crisis, however, includes some notable achievements and interesting watches that are often overlooked. The Multifort, for instance, was an early example of an impressively robust watch that was said to be anti-magnetic, shock-resistant, and water-resistant back in 1934 — the latter feature was thanks to the brand’s own patented “Aquadura” cork gasket to help seal the crown from water ingress.

Photo: Matthew Bain Inc.

Dive watches evolved across the industry, and the colorful reference 5907 discussed here (also known by a couple of different names such as “Rainbow Diver” or “Powerwind 1000”) was part of the Ocean Star series introduced in 1959. Using Swiss movements based on ebauches from A. Schild, the “Powerwind” designation on the dial refers to an efficient automatic winding system the brand developed in 1954 that required far fewer components than the typical automatic mechanism of the time. So, this dive watch brought together multiple significant features and was rated to a respectable 300m (around 1,000ft) of water-resistance.

You probably don’t even have to know how to read all the markings on its colorful dial to find the Mido 5907 appealing, but understanding what we’re looking at adds another layer of interest. The dial features a diving decompression chart, which lets the diver know how long he needs to decompress for given the depth and length of his dive in minutes.

In meters (or feet, depending on the model), each ring shows the appropriate decompression times depending on the depth and length of one’s dive. The outer ring in blue is the deepest, at 40m (despite the watch’s deeper rating for water-resistance). So, for example, after 25 minutes at 30m, you have to stop and decompress for 5 minutes before surfacing, as indicated on the green ring (essentially, one simply floats at the prescribed depth). Back during heyday of diving, decompression stops were typically done at 5 meters no matter the depth of the dive — today, this method is somewhat antiquated and dangerous, and a more complex system governs decompression stop and depth calculation.

Photo: Matthew Bain Inc.

Mido wasn’t the only brand to make dive watches featuring decompression charts on the dial. The Fortis Marinemaster with a super-compressor-style case and the Vulcain Nautical Cricket with a mechanical alarm that could be heard underwater are a couple of examples that each introduced other cool features. The busy dials also give those watches an interesting look, but most such watches weren’t quite as eye-catching as the vibrant Mido 5907.

Never mind that the visible color spectrum disappears as you go deeper underwater — the dials look awesome on land. The Mido Rainbow Diver 5907 is relatively obscure but not totally unknown, and it can go for thousands of dollars on the vintage market in decent condition (as of 2019, fine examples can trade for over $10,000). Given a rare chance for the brand stand out in the crowded vintage dive watch market, Mido would be crazy not to bring back this awesome specimen.