All posts in “Watches”

Casio’s Affordable New Outdoor Watch Offers More Tech Than Ever

Casio’s Pro Trek sub-brand offers a lot of the same features and toughness as its brother-brand, G-Shock, but with more of a focus on pragmatic functionality — and a bit less of the brash attitude. Specifically, Pro Trek is intended for outdoor enthusiasts or professionals with a range of features that are genuinely useful, and the tech just keeps expanding. The newest Pro Trek line is the PRT-B50 series, and it introduces the latest technology, which includes an accelerometer and smartphone connectivity.

Casio counts the accelerometer among its sensors, bringing the number to four and resulting in the new Quad Sensor branding, which includes a compass, thermometer, and pressure sensor. The focus on the accelerometer isn’t about measuring speed, but rather about detecting accelerations in gravity, which is how your smartphone does things like count your steps — and that’s its intended purpose in the new Casio watches, which began introducing the technology this year in some G-Shock models.

Casio is good about keeping the uses of its smartphone connectivity to the the functionality you might actually want to use on a watch (rather than trying to be a full-featured smartphone on your wrist) — but there are certainly features here with a steep learning curve, and more than most people will use.

The new Pro Trek PRT-B50 watches come in three different versions at launch with designs and colorways that look as if made to match camping gear. In lightweight resin (fancy plastic) cases, they will wear comfortably as most Casio watches do despite significant measurements both in diameter and thickness. Each PRT-B50 version has a price of $200.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Timex Ironman Digital Watch ($98 $59)
Casio G-Shock GW7900-1 ($150)
Apple Watch Nike+ ($399)

This Is the Seiko Watch Made for Japanese Pilots During WWII

As Japan bitterly persevered toward the end of World War 2, young pilots were famously sent on suicide missions against Allied ships. It’s said that an early Seiko watch, properly known as the Seikosha Tensoku, was among their equipment. Often overlooked in the discussion of military watch history, these captivating but rare pilot’s instruments have some of the most interesting backstories in all the watch world.

While sometimes also referred to as Seikosha “Kamikaze” watches, the Tensoku was not specifically produced for Japan’s Special Attack Units that are now commonly known as kamikaze. The Tensoku watch is particularly associated with pilots of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which was the main Japanese combat aircraft in the Pacific War. These were the type of planes often used in the famous kamikaze attacks, but they were used for other purposes as well.

Produced from around 1940, the Tensoku watches were provided to the Japanese navy by Seikosha, an early name for Seiko before the branding its known by today was established. Tensoku is an abbreviation of tentai kansoku, meaning astronomical observation — very similar in meaning to the names their better-known German analogs made by A. Lange & Söhne, Laco, Stowa, Wempe, and IWC are known by. Those were known as Beobachtungsuhr (or “B-uhr“), which is translated literally as “observation watch.” These watches were important tools for aerial navigation and other applications.

Like their German counterparts, the Seikosha Tensoku is big even by modern standards, but massive compared to civilian wrist watches of their time. Not quite as giant as the 55mm-wide B-uhr, the Tensoku measures 48.5mm, which is quite large even for today’s wrists (except perhaps those accustomed to G-Shock and Breitling watches). Also like the B-uhr, they were supposedly often not worn on the wrist, but rather strapped to pilots’ thighs — or dangled from the neck.

As military-issued watches, these sizes were part of a range of specifications that dictated features typically including strict legibility, durability, accuracy, and other requirements. With minor differences between batches made over the years, most featured the same fluted bezel, Breguet-style hands, and large matte black dials with legible numerals and a sixty-minute scale at the periphery in red. Taken together, the Seikosha Tensoku watches have a unique and striking look among comparable military or aviation watches.

Examples of the Tensoku watch are known to have been powered by a few different hand-wound movements, mostly distinguished by the number of jewels they contained (15, and then later, simpler but more robust nine-jewel ones). The oversized “onion” shape of the crowns were big in order to remain usable while wearing the thick gloves necessary in the frighteningly unheated cockpits of the time.

Today, Seiko has risen extraordinarily to become Japan’s preeminent watchmaker and one of the most respected watch brands in the world, with an ardent following like that of few others. Many enthusiasts know that Seiko’s history can be traced to the late 1800s, but most attention and enthusiasm for vintage models today doesn’t look much further back than the 1960s and 1970s. Watches like the Tensoku reveal another aspect and deeper context to the modern brand that many people know so well.

This Wearable, Affordable New Chronograph Watch Packs a Seiko Automatic Movement

The French brand Yema continues to revive popular vintage models from the 1960s and 1970s with its latest watch, the handsome and relatively affordable Speedgraf. Featuring a new version of Seiko’s still uncommon automatic chronograph movement, this is a modern reinterpretation of a watch known as the Yema Daytona from around the mid ’60s. The brand seems to, once again, have done it right.

We are on record at Gear Patrol as enthusiastic about Yema’s past vintage reissues, like the Superman dive watch, and there’s no reason not to expect this one to be executed with a similar level of charm. With a “reverse panda dial” (white subdials on black main dial), a generally sporty, vintage aesthetic, and wearable dimensions of 39mm wide, what’s not to like? It’s stainless steel case is water-resistant to 100m with a screw-down crown and solid case back.

One of the most interesting elements of the new Speedgraf is its movement, the NE86. It’s a new version of the NE88 automatic chronograph movement (introduced in 2014) that has some features enthusiasts tend to appreciate like a column wheel and vertical clutch. The main difference from the NE88 is that the newer NE86 omits the chronograph’s hour counter for a cleaner, distinctly retro, look with just two subdials. The movement offers a date, but Yema has opted to leave it out for the Speedgraf — another choice enthusiasts tend to champion.

The NE86 doesn’t seem to have resulted in a slimmer case or other notable benefits, however, as its measurements are unchanged from the NE88. Chronographs, especially automatic ones, tend to be on the thick side, and the Speedgraf measures 15.5mm thick — though that includes the domed and raised sapphire crystal that’s shaped to reference the acrylic ones of vintage watches. The Yema Speedgraf’s movement offers running seconds at 9 o’clock, chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock, and a minimum 45-hour power reserve.

The Speedgraf dial further features a tachymeter scale and a telemeter scale for the chronograph — neither of which you will likely use, but which also don’t get in the way and look kind of cool. The bezel’s aluminum insert features a 60-minute scale and rotates in both directions. It comes on a “rally-style” leather strap to emphasize its motorsport-related purpose.

Preorders start on September 20th, 2019, with the first orders shipping in mid-December, and the Yema Speedgraf will be available for a price of $1,499.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Baltic Bicompax 001 Automatic Chronograph (~$611)
Maen Skymaster Swiss Automatic Chronograph (~$883)
Farer Segrave Automatic Chronograph ($1,950)

These Are the 20 Best Small Men’s Watches Under 40mm

There’s been much written about the “sweet spot” for watch sizes. Ten years ago, the conventional wisdom skewed between 40mm and 42mm. Today, things have widened a bit, to include watches down to around 38mm. Why the drop in millimeters?

I’d argue it’s largely about comfort. You see, the way a watch sits on the wrist is hugely affected by its diameter, which is mostly what we mean when we refer to a watch’s size. But there’s more going on here: the way a watch wears has just as much to do with its thickness, also measured in millimeters; and its lug-to-lug length, literally measuring from the tip of one set of lug to the other, has much to do with whether you want to take it off at the end of the day or sleep in it. And, generally, a watch with a smaller diameter width will also be slimmer, and have a shorter lug-to-lug length.

There are exceptions, of course. But they don’t sway me, personally. I have what you’d call average-sized wrists, and I wear a 35.5mm vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf every day. It’s great. The crown doesn’t dig into my hand, and, when I camp, I wear it to sleep, no problem. Here’s the other side of things, the one I think a lot of guys think about but don’t mention, when they talk about why they don’t wear small watches: No one has ever seen this watch, taken it into their hands, and said, “But it’s so small!” Men wore them this small throughout the middle of the 20th century, and I’m not buying that we’ve “moved on” from that size. Fashion is cyclical, after all.

The truth, I believe, is that any size between 35mm and 38mm offers plenty of size of legibility and simply looks good, even on a larger wrist. But don’t take my word for it. Try on any of these watches, all under 38mm in diameter, and you’ll see that a small watch might just be the best watch.


Casio F91W

Nerds Rule! The classic dweeb watch has become cool, proving that having thin wrists and being good at math can be perfectly sexy. Oh, and it costs less than twenty bucks. Eat your heart out, Bill Gates.
Case Size: 30mm x 30mm
Thickness: 8mm
Movement: Casio quartz
Price: $19

Bertucci A1R Field Comfort

The oft-overlooked tough watch brand makes many durable watches for outdoorsmen. The new A1R Field Comfort might be slightly thicker than many other watches on this list, but its polycarbonate 36mm case is incredibly light at just 1.3 ounces.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 12.2mm
Movement: Japanese quartz
Price: $55

Seiko 5

The Seiko 5 is as ubiquitous as it gets: it comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. This means you can find many of its iterations in case sizes below — and sometimes well below — 38mm. Some are meant for sport, some for diving, and some are more formal, but all deliver incredible value, such as this SNZG09K1 field watch.
Case Size: 36mm (varies)
Thickness: 12mm (varies)
Movement: Seiko automatic 7S36 (varies)
Price: $117 (varies)

Timex Marlin

Timex’s Marlin is a hell of a great watch to have around: it’s mid-century on a budget, available in a number of great colors (the silver dial is our favorite, especially on mesh), and, particularly for those with smaller wrists, it’s a great dressy watch to match with all sorts of looks.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: hand-wound mechanical
Price: $199

Mr Jones Cyclops

Small can be expressive, too. Such is the case with this alternative time-teller from Mr Jones, which eschews hands for a simple color-and-circle system.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 9mm
Movement: Ronda quartz 513
Price: $210

Seiko School Time

Seiko’s latest miniature wonder is a reprise of a line of watches made for schoolchildren in the 1970s. Unlike the Seiko 5, they’ve got a solar-charged quartz batteries. At 31.5mm, they’re just big enough to work on adult wrist, too.
Case Size: 31.5mm
Thickness: 7.7mm
Movement: Seiko V131 solar quartz
Price: $235

CWC G10

Here’s another military watch with some serious chops: the Cabot Watch Company has made mechanical and quartz watches for the British military since the 197-s. The G10 is a modern execution of a model from the 1980s, with a solid quartz movement and a slight cushion-shaped case.
Case size: 38mm (with crown; 36mm without)
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: ETA quartz 955.102
Price: ~$243

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical with Tritium

Speaking of military chops. Marathon’s MGP is built to military spec, with a thick sapphire crystal, tritium tubes for legibility in the dark, and an ultra-light, 34mm case made of ultra-light high-impact fiber.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic
Price: $360

MKII Hawkinge

Philadelphia-based MKII is a maker of much-sought-after homage watches. This one is inspired by the JLC and IWC MK 11, made for the British military between the 1940s and 1980s. This is actually MKII’s second version of the watch—Bill Yao shrank it from 40mm to just under 38mm to make it more wearable. And wait time (because you should be wondering) is just three weeks.
Case Size: 37.8mm (not including crown)
Thickness: 12.75mm
Movement: Japanese-made SII NE15 automatic
Price: $595

Shinola Guardian

The Runwell is synonymous with Shinola. But the oft-forgotten Guardian, with its rounded square case, has a more interesting look, and comes in a 36mm size.
Case Size: 36 x 36mm
Thickness: 10.8mm
Movement: Argonite 715 quartz
Price: $675

anOrdain Model 2

This Scottish company turned a lot of heads in 2018 with their enamel-dialed Model 1. The Model 2 is made for small-watch fans out there: It’s got the same beautiful dial colors, with a 36mm field-watch-style case.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: Sellita SW-210-1
Price: ~$1,160

Oris Divers Sixty-Five 36mm

The original Oris Divers Sixty-Five is a darling of the watch nerd community: the look, the price, the brand, are all near perfect. In 2018 they released a 36mm size, which is candy for smaller-wristed dive watch fans. They’ve got it in eight different configurations, all just as ready to be worn into the ocean — and even more suited under the jacket cuff — as the 40mm version.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 13mm
Movement: Oris 733 automatic (Sellita 200-1)
Price: $1,975+

Tudor Black Bay 36

The Tudor Black Bay dive watch, while sharp, clocks in at a chunky 41mm and almost 15mm of thickness (though the Tudor Black Bay 58, which is basically unobtanium, is smaller). Which is why Tudor (and Rolex) fans rejoiced in 2016, when Tudor released the Black Bay 36mm, which looks a lot like a modernized Rolex Explorer. How cool is it? Lady Gaga reps the damn thing.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.5mm
Movement: Tudor 2824 automatic
Price: $2,900

NOMOS Club Neomatik

NOMOS’s Club line dropped in 2018, offering slightly smaller size, traditional case shape, and decently affordable prices for the chic German brand. The Club Neomatik might be its best example: at 37mm and just 9.3mm thick, it’s got maximum comfort and ultra-clean design.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 9.3mm
Movement: NOMOS DUW 3001 automatic
Price: $3,160

Grand Seiko SBGR 251

You can point out that it’s pretty chunky (can one call a watch “phat”?) at 13.3mm thick. But this is about as small as Grand Seiko gets, and you can imagine all the mechanical magic they pack into its 37mm case.
Thickness: 13.3mm
Movement: Grand Seiko 9S65 automatic
Price: $3,800

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34

Folks in the know view vintage Oyster Precision models from the 1950s — and their 34mm diameter — as the ultimate value play. So why would you ignore the modern equivalent? That’s not the 36mm version of the Oyster Perpetual — it’s the 34mm.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11.7mm
Movement: Rolex 3130 automatic
Price: $5,050

IWC Pilot’s Automatic 36mm

As Jason Heaton noted back in 2016, the launch of the Pilot’s Automatic 36mm was the most genuine pilot’s watch from IWC in a while — for the first time, the dimensions of the watch were not blown up to a modern-sized 40mm. Instead, they stayed closer to the original. The result is a watch that your grandpa really would’ve worn.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.7mm
Movement: IWC 35111 automatic
Price: $5,150

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Small

Yes, it was invented because wealthy British colonialists needed a way to protect their watches while playing polo…but we say it’ll survive because it comes in a small size that’s just right. That, and because it’s damn cool.
Case Size: 35.7 x 21mm (square)
Thickness: 7.4mm
Movement: JLC calibre 657
Price: $5,150

Citizen Eco-Drive One

The watch so thin they had to invent a new material to make its case. And, at just 37mm, it wears real small.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 1mm
Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive One
Price: ~$6,600

A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin

Yes, it’s only 37mm (large and in charge, for this list). But consider its 5.9mm thickness, and you’ll see that on the wrist, it wears small, and as the Deutsche would say, sehr schoen.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 5.9mm
Movement: Lange L093.1
Price: ~$17,200

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These Professional Dive Watches Are Completely Underrated

Back in the 1960s, Aquadive built dive watches, and only dive watches. These purpose-driven timepieces were standard fare among SCUBA divers who would see them in magazine ads, in local dive shops, or on the wrists of their fellow divers. Aquadive made a wide assortment of models, from snorkeling watches to enormous electronic models with oil-filled depth gauges for professional divers. But Aquadive, like so many other watch brands, didn’t survive the ascendency of electronic quartz watches. They went kaput in the 1980s.

In 2011, avid dive watch collector Rick Marei brought Aquadive back to life, first with watches built into new-old-stock cases he acquired along with the company. Those are all gone now, so today Aquadive produces its cases in Germany, and it sources its movements and performs assembly in Switzerland. The newly designed Aquadive Bathyscaphe is the brand’s current flagship model, and this new watch is loosely based on that large watch with the depth gauge, the legendary Aquadive Model 50.

The Aquadive Bathyscaphe measures 43mm across, but for fit you’ll want to know that it’s only 49mm from lug to lug, making this seemingly large watch wear quite comfortably even on small wrists. It’s 15mm tall, which is not small, but the height is mostly due to the tall bezel — which turns out to be an important feature. Expect a large and heavy diver, but one that will fit lots of folks comfortably.

With 1,000 meters of water resistance (3,330’), the Bathyscaphe is not fooling around. Sure, you don’t need all that capability as a casual SCUBA diver, but remember that extreme depths will test the seals of any watch. This one is going to hold steady.

Today’s dive watches are so often marketed as fashion statements that it’s become relatively rare for a company to design one as a straight-up, thoroughbred diving tool. The Aquadive Bathyscaphe is just such a rarity. It doesn’t look entirely out of place with a casual, rugged outfit (let’s say a work shirt, jeans, and boots), but the Bathyscaphe really begs to be worn in and around the water. Better yet, it loves to go deep, and it looks entirely at home snaking around the jagged edges of a sunken freighter, tunneling through a coral cave, or coming face-to-face with a shark.

Diving off the Dutch island Bonaire for a week, and again off of Grand Cayman for a few days (both in the Western Caribbean), the Bathyscaphe proved to be a most trusty companion underwater and above. I’ve scratched a couple sapphire watch crystals and banged up my share of bezels, and I’ve only done that while SCUBA diving. The abuse arises when hoisting heavy aluminum tanks into the back of pickup trucks, reaching an arm through a buoyancy compensation device (BCD) and straight into some hard bit of boat rigging, or lifting myself onto a concrete slab with 16 lbs. of lead weights around my waist as ocean waves blithely toss me to and fro. Some watches might look like badass divers, but they ultimately succumb to damage in real diving conditions. Meanwhile the Aquadive Bathyscaphe takes a serious beating unscathed.

The reason the Bathyscaphe is so rugged goes back to Aquadive’s history of designing exclusively purpose-built dive watches. Consider whether you’d prefer a Cadillac SUV or a Land Rover Defender for actual off-road driving. Right — you chose the Rover because that company had been perfecting tough, capable off-road vehicles when Cadillac was still building land yachts. You can’t fast-forward that evolution; it’s just too much hard-earned RnD -— year in, year out — for anyone to imitate.

And that’s exactly why you’d choose an Aquadive for diving. Its design is an accumulation of small improvements that add up to a seriously capable dive watch, and not some fashion statement. Though, ironically, the Aquadive’s bonafides as a tool make it an even cooler fashion statement for some of us. When you get bored with bitching and moaning about date window placement or an extra millimeter here and there, it’s refreshing to find a dive watch that reminds us that these are tools, not toys. Strap it on, stop fussing, and go do stuff.

What specifically makes the Aquadive Bathyscaphe so capable? First of all, it’s the case and bezel. The wide-flanged cushion case (not entirely unlike a Doxa SUB) creates a protective wall around the watch. Similarly, the tall beefy bezel and it’s ultra-hard ceramic insert protect the flat sapphire crystal. The mounting holes for the spring bars are deeply inset into the stout lugs, and the spring bars themselves are fat and inspire confidence. The provided Isofrane strap is a rubber affair that’s become an industry standard for reliability and comfort, either on your skin or over a wetsuit. Add in the 1,000 meters of water resistance, the unrivaled Super-LumiNova lume, and the proven ETA 2836-2 automatic movement, and we’re talking about a watch that’ll just waltz through daily abuses.

Underwater, the legibility of the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is unparalleled. Super-LumiNova is standard stuff, but I wonder if there’s a secret sauce here? It’s really, really bright. Swimming under the shadow of a wreck at 95 feet, the dial lit up like Times Square. And the amount of lume on the bezel makes it really easy to read exact timings at depth. Again, it’s all about performance.

Another important feature for diving performance is bezel action. When your hands are numb with cold, or bound up in neoprene, you’re going to want a bezel that’s easy to grip and turn, but not so easy that it’ll get moved around without your consent. I was suspicious of this one because the bezel slopes up toward the crystal, which has proven a slippery proposition on other watches. But the bezel on the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is tall, and the coin edge is super sharp, so it proves to be easy to grip and turn. Further, that sloping bezel is a safety measure of sorts, because a bezel that overhangs the case can latch onto rocks, or coral, or any of the countless obstacles we encounter when diving.

There’s no need to overthink the Aquadive Bathyscaphe. It’s a dedicated thoroughbred dive tool with a professional lineage that assures its legacy as such. For those who have come to love tool watches as tools, the Bathyscaphe will scratch that itch. For desk divers who just want a cool fashion accessory, perhaps the Bathyscaphe will have you reconsider fussy fashion concerns in favor of a serious tool with serious cred.

Numerous versions of the Aquadive are available beginning at $1,990 direct.

SCUBA Diving with the Aquadive Bathyscaphe Dive Watch

Back in the 1960s, Aquadive built dive watches, and only dive watches. These purpose-driven timepieces were standard fare among SCUBA divers who would see them in magazine ads, in local dive shops, or on the wrists of their fellow divers. Aquadive made a wide assortment of models, from snorkeling watches to enormous electronic models with oil-filled depth gauges for professional divers. But Aquadive, like so many other watch brands, didn’t survive the ascendency of electronic quartz watches. They went kaput in the 1980s.

In 2011, avid dive watch collector Rick Marei brought Aquadive back to life, first with watches built into new-old-stock cases he acquired along with the company. Those are all gone now, so today Aquadive produces its cases in Germany, and it sources its movements and performs assembly in Switzerland. The newly designed Aquadive Bathyscaphe is the brand’s current flagship model, and this new watch is loosely based on that large watch with the depth gauge, the legendary Aquadive Model 50.

The Aquadive Bathyscaphe measures 43mm across, but for fit you’ll want to know that it’s only 49mm from lug to lug, making this seemingly large watch wear quite comfortably even on small wrists. It’s 15mm tall, which is not small, but the height is mostly due to the tall bezel — which turns out to be an important feature. Expect a large and heavy diver, but one that will fit lots of folks comfortably.

With 1,000 meters of water resistance (3,330’), the Bathyscaphe is not fooling around. Sure, you don’t need all that capability as a casual SCUBA diver, but remember that extreme depths will test the seals of any watch. This one is going to hold steady.

Today’s dive watches are so often marketed as fashion statements that it’s become relatively rare for a company to design one as a straight-up, thoroughbred diving tool. The Aquadive Bathyscaphe is just such a rarity. It doesn’t look entirely out of place with a casual, rugged outfit (let’s say a work shirt, jeans, and boots), but the Bathyscaphe really begs to be worn in and around the water. Better yet, it loves to go deep, and it looks entirely at home snaking around the jagged edges of a sunken freighter, tunneling through a coral cave, or coming face-to-face with a shark.

Diving off the Dutch island Bonaire for a week, and again off of Grand Cayman for a few days (both in the Western Caribbean), the Bathyscaphe proved to be a most trusty companion underwater and above. I’ve scratched a couple sapphire watch crystals and banged up my share of bezels, and I’ve only done that while SCUBA diving. The abuse arises when hoisting heavy aluminum tanks into the back of pickup trucks, reaching an arm through a buoyancy compensation device (BCD) and straight into some hard bit of boat rigging, or lifting myself onto a concrete slab with 16 lbs. of lead weights around my waist as ocean waves blithely toss me to and fro. Some watches might look like badass divers, but they ultimately succumb to damage in real diving conditions. Meanwhile the Aquadive Bathyscaphe takes a serious beating unscathed.

The reason the Bathyscaphe is so rugged goes back to Aquadive’s history of designing exclusively purpose-built dive watches. Consider whether you’d prefer a Cadillac SUV or a Land Rover Defender for actual off-road driving. Right — you chose the Rover because that company had been perfecting tough, capable off-road vehicles when Cadillac was still building land yachts. You can’t fast-forward that evolution; it’s just too much hard-earned RnD -— year in, year out — for anyone to imitate.

And that’s exactly why you’d choose an Aquadive for diving. Its design is an accumulation of small improvements that add up to a seriously capable dive watch, and not some fashion statement. Though, ironically, the Aquadive’s bonafides as a tool make it an even cooler fashion statement for some of us. When you get bored with bitching and moaning about date window placement or an extra millimeter here and there, it’s refreshing to find a dive watch that reminds us that these are tools, not toys. Strap it on, stop fussing, and go do stuff.

What specifically makes the Aquadive Bathyscaphe so capable? First of all, it’s the case and bezel. The wide-flanged cushion case (not entirely unlike a Doxa SUB) creates a protective wall around the watch. Similarly, the tall beefy bezel and it’s ultra-hard ceramic insert protect the flat sapphire crystal. The mounting holes for the spring bars are deeply inset into the stout lugs, and the spring bars themselves are fat and inspire confidence. The provided Isofrane strap is a rubber affair that’s become an industry standard for reliability and comfort, either on your skin or over a wetsuit. Add in the 1,000 meters of water resistance, the unrivaled Super-LumiNova lume, and the proven ETA 2836-2 automatic movement, and we’re talking about a watch that’ll just waltz through daily abuses.

Underwater, the legibility of the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is unparalleled. Super-LumiNova is standard stuff, but I wonder if there’s a secret sauce here? It’s really, really bright. Swimming under the shadow of a wreck at 95 feet, the dial lit up like Times Square. And the amount of lume on the bezel makes it really easy to read exact timings at depth. Again, it’s all about performance.

Another important feature for diving performance is bezel action. When your hands are numb with cold, or bound up in neoprene, you’re going to want a bezel that’s easy to grip and turn, but not so easy that it’ll get moved around without your consent. I was suspicious of this one because the bezel slopes up toward the crystal, which has proven a slippery proposition on other watches. But the bezel on the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is tall, and the coin edge is super sharp, so it proves to be easy to grip and turn. Further, that sloping bezel is a safety measure of sorts, because a bezel that overhangs the case can latch onto rocks, or coral, or any of the countless obstacles we encounter when diving.

There’s no need to overthink the Aquadive Bathyscaphe. It’s a dedicated thoroughbred dive tool with a professional lineage that assures its legacy as such. For those who have come to love tool watches as tools, the Bathyscaphe will scratch that itch. For desk divers who just want a cool fashion accessory, perhaps the Bathyscaphe will have you reconsider fussy fashion concerns in favor of a serious tool with serious cred.

Numerous versions of the Aquadive are available beginning at $1,990 direct.

This Affordable, Field-Inspired Watch Celebrates Fossil Watches of the 1990s

Fossil’s Archival Series features limited-edition sets that recall early Fossil watches, the newest of which is the Defender. Featuring a 42mm brushed stainless steel case with 22mm lugs, the Defender is a throwback to a watch first introduced in the 1990s that featured both field and dive-inspired influences.

The new Defender ships in a handsome leather box with two straps — one a brown leather type with rubberized backing, and the second a green NATO strap — and, interestingly, three interchangeable “top rings.” These can’t be called “bezels” in the classic sense, as they don’t turn, but they provide the wearer with an opportunity to easily swap them out for a fun look. Two are diver-style count-up bezels (one in brushed steel and one in aluminum), and the third is a black steel compass bezel. The crown is a push-down type and is located at 4 o’clock, giving the watch a water-resistance of 100m.

If you’re on the lookout for an affordable field/diver-style watch or happen to have grown up in the 80s or 90s and have fond memories of Fossil, the quartz-powered Defender, which is available for $255 in select Fossil stores, could be the watch for you.

This New Affordable Field Watch Celebrates Fossil Watches of the 1990s

Fossil’s Archival Series features limited-edition sets that recall early Fossil watches, the newest of which is the Defender. Featuring a 42mm brushed stainless steel case with 22mm lugs, the Defender is a throwback to a watch first introduced in the 1990s that featured both field and dive-inspired influences.

The new Defender ships in a handsome leather box with two straps — one a brown leather type with rubberized backing, and the second a green NATO strap — and, interestingly, three interchangeable “top rings.” These can’t be called “bezels” in the classic sense, as they don’t turn, but they provide the wearer with an opportunity to easily swap them out for a fun look. Two are diver-style count-up bezels (one in brushed steel and one in aluminum), and the third is a black steel compass bezel. The crown is a push-down type and is located at 4 o’clock, giving the watch a water-resistance of 100m.

If you’re on the lookout for an affordable field/diver-style watch or happen to have grown up in the 80s or 90s and have fond memories of Fossil, the quartz-powered Defender, which is available for $255 in select Fossil stores, could be the watch for you.

Three Vintage Omega Watches Available Right Now

The range of compelling vintage Omega watches out there for the gettin’ is simply mind-boggling. From sub-$1,000 Seamasters from the ’50s and ’60s to provenance-confirmed, genuine-issue SBS and RAF dive watches and chronographs, there’s quite literally a vintage Omega, complete with in-house movement, to suit any budget.

Below are three beautiful and very different Omega watches, but we highly recommend you make your way over to Watchrecon to get a sense of what’s out there. It’s a rabbit hole you may never find your way out of.

Omega Seamaster Vintage Automatic Wristwatch 2576-13

What We Like: It doesn’t get much better than an iconic Seamaster, this one having been born just 4 years after the introduction of the original in 1948. This particular example, ref. 2576-13, features an early bumper automatic movement, a 34.5mm steel case and a gorgeous dial with oversized sub-seconds register. What’s more, it’s got a cool case back engraving for 25 years’ faithful service — in German, no less. Außerordentlich!

From the Seller:
Overall, the watch is in very good condition. Dial and hands are in very good condition. The hands appear to have been professionally relumed. The dials shows original radium. The watch case appears to be unpolished, or polished once very lightly. The case remains thick with equally thick lugs.

Omega Constellation ref. 2852.12SC

What We Like: The Constellation flies right under the radar — it’s quite possibly one of the coolest of all vintage watches, let alone vintage Omegas, and yet relatively few are aware of its existence. This one ticks all the boxes — it features a handsome pie-pan dial, a Chronometer-certified movement, a beads-of-rice bracelet, and, best of all, the original chronometer papers confirming the watch’s sale in Interlaken in 1959.

From the Seller: The case is in excellent condition overall, showing light wear consistent with age and use and no signs of prior polishing. Luminous silver pie-pan dial is in great condition with rich even patina and light spotting. Luminous dauphine handset shows matching patination. Signed crown.

Single Button Royal Canadian Air Force Chronograph Ref. 34/62

What We Like: Alright, not remotely affordable, but still cool as hell. What we have here is a single-pusher chronograph issued to the Royal Canadian Air Force, dating to 1960. (These watches uniquely featured a single pusher to control start, stop and reset.) Made by several companies, they featured the Lemania caliber 2221 handwound movement. Unfortunately someone polished off the RCAF numbers on the back of this one’s case back, but this doesn’t detract much from the watch’s overall appeal.

From the Seller: Excellent case with light wear from use. The watch comes with a LÉMANIA caliber 2221 hacking movement. The original RCAF numbers have been polished off by the original owner. Excellent Arabic number chronograph dial that has aged to a creamy hue. The watch comes with the original matching hands.

Everything You Need to Know to Buy a Rolex Datejust

A Mid-Century Modern Classic

Like the Fender Stratocaster and the Porsche 911, the Rolex Datejust was so elegantly conceived and executed during the mid-20th Century that it has remained in production to this day, more or less in its original form. And like the Strat and the 911, the Datejust has undergone development as new ideas, materials, and technologies emerged, but the basic design has been remarkably stable. These companies knew not to mess too much with a classic.

The Fender Stratocaster, the Porsche 911, and the Rolex Datejust remain largely the same product they were when introduced in the middle of the 20th Century, incorporating modern technology over the years without abandoning the basic form and incredible vibe of the original designs.

And, yes, the notion that the Rolex Datejust is the Strat or the 911 of watches is exactly the point. The Datejust has been a brand icon for Rolex ever since it came out in 1945, and today — just like the Strat and 911 — the Datejust looks so current, so fresh, that it’s easy to forget that these watches were initially designed over 70 years ago.

1945-1953: The 4xxx Series Datejust

Since the 1920s, decades before the Datejust, Rolex had been successfully selling their Oyster Perpetual watches; “Oyster” because the watches were watertight like an oyster, and “Perpetual” because they automatically wound themselves, thus seeming to run perpetually.

To celebrate the firm’s 40th Anniversary in 1945, Rolex produced reference 4467, an Oyster Perpetual with a date complication, and they called it The Datejust. The Datejust was the very first waterproof, automatic wristwatch to incorporate a date window, and this mechanism changed dates very close to midnight (unlike most date complications which take hours to change over).

The original Datejust 4467 from 1945 possess nearly all the earmarks of the modern version. The most conspicuously missing feature is the cyclops date magnifier that would become a telltail of the Rolex brand in 1953. The very first Datejust was released to help commemorate Rolex’s 40th anniversary.

We’ve heard two versions of where the name ‘Datejust’ comes from: that the date changes just before midnight, and that the date is always “just”, as in correctly displayed. Either story makes sense.

The 1945 Datejust was also the first Rolex to include the now famous five-link Jubilee bracelet, thusly named because Rolex was celebrating its 40th anniversary.

For about a decade, Rolex continued to produce the Datejust with their Caliber 7xx movements. The shape of these movements required the rear case to bulge out, much like many other Rolex models of the era, and these watches are affectionately called “bubblebacks.” Collectors should be warned that Rolex no longer produces parts for, nor services, Datejusts from this era. Engaging a third party watchmaker who specializes in maintaining bubblebacks can be costly.

The Early Datejust at a Glance
-“Waterproof”
-Automatic-winding movement, with date changing close to midnight; no quickset date
-Delicately fluted bezel
-Jubilee bracelet
-7xx Series movements (no longer serviced by Rolex, parts hard to get)
-“Bubbleback” case
-Yellow gold only
-“Pie pan” dial (slopes down at the outer edge)
-36mm

1954-5: The Birth of the 6xxx Series Datejust

In 1954, the word “Datejust” began to appear on the dial. The updated movement switched the date exactly at midnight, rather than just before. Also in 1954, Rolex began introducing the “cyclops” magnifying lens to the Datejust (it was invented in 1953), and by 1955 Rolex included chunkier fluting on the bezel. The name on the dial, the cyclops, and the new bezel style combined to turn the Datejust into Rolex’s most potent icon.

This Datejust Reference 6305 from 1955 includes “Datejust” on the dial, a more boldly fluted bezel, cyclops date magnification lens, and a waffle dial. Image courtesy of HQ Milton.

The 6xxx Series Datejusts at a Glance
-“Waterproof”
-Automatic-winding movement, with date changing instantaneously at midnight
-Boldly fluted bezel
-Jubilee bracelet
-7xx Series movements (no longer serviced by Rolex)
-“Bubbleback” case
-“Datejust” printed on dial
-Cyclops date magnifier
-Case metals include yellow gold, white gold, and two-tone Rolesor (steel + gold)
-“Pie pan” dial (slopes down at the outer edge)
-36mm

1957: Rolex Begins to Phase Out the Bubble Back

Around 1957, Rolex began outfitting Datejusts with the short-lived Caliber 1065 movement. This unit used a newly designed rotor that allowed the case back to be flat, thus bringing the bubbleback era to an end. It wasn’t a hugely significant change in 1957, but for today’s collectors the Caliber 1065 movement indicates an important line in Datejust history because service and parts are far more accessible today than they are for bubblebacks.

The Caliber 1065 movement inside a 1958 Datejust Reference 6605. For today’s collectors, this movement marks the starting point for easier service and parts sourcing.

1958: The 160x Series

Around 1958, Rolex began to introduce the Caliber 1560 movement, and by 1960 the Datejust had shifted wholly to this movement to become the 160x Series, which would endure until 1979. Around 1966, Rolex began introducing Caliber 1570, which beat at a slightly higher frequency, but the updated movement didn’t change the Datejust line in any essential way until around 1972, when the movement incorporated a hacking function that stopped the second’s hand while setting the time, allowing for accurate synchronization with a reference time source.

Other key features that started to appear around this time were the stick hands and stick markers (these would vary slightly over the years, but have endured). With these features, the Datejust took on the familiar appearance that has served as the aesthetic template for Datejusts ever since.

Understanding the reference numbers for the 160x series Datejusts is quite simple: a 1600 will sport a smooth bezel; 1601 a fluted gold bezel; 1603 a stainless steel “engine turned” bezel (the latter features very fine radial etchings). What isn’t simple is that Rolex offered a wide range of metals for the case and bezel (from all steel to solid yellow, rose, and white gold, to tow-tone), and the dial colors and patterns were even more varied. In other words, Rolex riffed prolifically with the 160x series.

The author’s personal 1603 Datejust from 1972 sports an “engine turned” stainless steel bezel, a “pie-pan” dial (sloped down at the edges) and is 36mm. Being a 1972 model, the 1570 movement hacks. The long lugs assure that it wears like a modern watch. Photo: Allen Farmelo.

The 160X Series Datejusts at a Glance
-“Waterproof”
-Caliber 1560 or 1570 movements, automatic winding, instantaneous date change at midnight, no quickset date, hacking (1972 forward)
-Boldly fluted gold bezels, or “engine turned” stainless steel bezels
-Jubilee bracelet (5-link style), or Oyster bracelet (3-link style)
-Flat case back
-“Datejust” printed on dial
-Case metals include yellow gold, white gold, two-tone Rolesor (steel + gold), and steel only models
-“Pie pan” dial (slopes down at the outer edge)
-36mm

1977: The Oyster Quartz Datejust

Datejusts with quartz movements existed in a kind of parallel universe that lasted for around 25 years. Rolex began developing the in-house Oyster Quartz Caliber 5035 movement around 1972, releasing the first Oyster Quartz Datejusts in 1977. Certainly not Rolex’s most popular technology among today’s collectors, the OysterQuartz Datejusts are still serviceable, provide dead-accurate timekeeping, and — at least among watch collectors — can be interesting conversation pieces. They also have angular lugs with a distinct 1970s vibe. Reference numbers are 17xxx.

With its faceted lugs and bracelet, this 1977 OysterQuartz epitomizes the 17xxx Series Datejust.

1979-1988: The 160xx Series Datejust with Quickset, Smooth Sweep, and a Flat Dial

Around 1979, Rolex began installing the Caliber 3035 mechanical movement into the Datejust, setting off a run that lasted until 1988. A quickset function for the date was a big improvement. Quickset dates are so common today that it may be difficult to appreciate how significant this feature was at the time; anyone requiring proof only need set the date on a watch without quickset, a seemingly endless endeavor.

The Caliber 3035 beats 28,000 times per hour, which equates to eight ticks per second. This rate has since become the industry standard for mechanical watches, and it produces the almost-smooth sweep of the seconds hand that, for some time, was one way to identify a genuine Rolex.

Aesthetically, the only significant change was that Datejust dials were now completely flat. The long-standing pie-pan dials have yet to return to the Datejust.

At a glance, this 1985 Datejust 16013 would be difficult to distinguish from the previous 160x series until you witnessed the seconds hand making its smooth 8-ticks per second sweep around the dial. The two other indications would be that you could quickly set the date without changing the time, and the flat dial.

1979-88 16xxx Series Datejusts at a Glance
-“Waterproof”
-Caliber 3135 movements, automatic winding, instantaneous date change at midnight, quickset date, hacking
-Boldly fluted gold bezels, or “engine turned” stainless steel bezels
-Jubilee bracelet (5-link style), or Oyster bracelet (3-link style)
-Flat case back
-“Datejust” printed on dial
-Case metals include yellow gold, white gold, two-tone Rolesor (steel + gold), and all steel models
-Dial is flat to the edges (the “pie pan” dial was phased out)
-36mm

1988 — Present: The Modern Datejust

In 1988, Rolex introduced the Caliber 3235 to the 36mm Datejust, and this movement currently powers both the 36mm and the 41mm Datejusts. This movement is now loaded with proprietary amagnetic materials and lubricants, and, due to these improvements, currently outperforms the COSC Certification standard. The 41mm Datejust came out in 2016 in gold, and in 2017 Rolex brought out the first steel versions.

Rolex has nudged the aesthetics of the Datejust forward every so slightly since 1988, but these changes are hardly worth mentioning because the design has been so stable for so long. Gone are the “engine turned” steel bezels; you’ll have to go for a smooth bezel if you’d like a steel Datejust. The watches are simply more accurate and more durable versions of one of the most stable designs in watchmaking.

The current Rolex Datejust is available in a wide range of configurations, Above is a 36mm Rolesor rose gold and steel with a diamond-set Roman numeral dial.

About the Turn-O-Graph (a.k.a. “Thunderbird”) Datejust

In 1953, Rolex offered the first wristwatches with rotating timing bezels. One of them, dubbed the Turn-o-Graph, was issued by the U.S. Air Force, thus making these the first true Rolex tool watch as well as their first true military issue watch. Rolex marketed these watches to the US as “Thunderbirds,” named after the US Air Force squadron that used them, and before long they joined the Datejust family.

During the ‘oughts, Rolex brought the Turn-O-Graph back into the Datejust line, and these 36mm watches sold crisply to those seeking a perfect sport-dress balance. They’re not entirely hard to find — especially those later models — and they really do stand out.

A Turn-O-Graph Reference 116264 from 2004.
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This Affordable, Blacked Out Timepiece Is Half-Dive Watch, Half-Streetwear

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This Affordable Automatic Watch Has One of the Most Stunning Dials We’ve Seen

An “affordable Chinese watch” doesn’t sound unique, but this young brand has a statement to make about the watch industry and the perception of Chinese watchmaking. Atelier Wen wants to show you, rather than tell you, the kind of quality that China is capable of, with a stunning debut collection of porcelain dial watches. Yes, it’s also about the value proposition, but founded by two Frenchmen, there’s more to the brand’s story than that — and there are few other companies out there offering the same combination of features.

Case Diameter: 39mm
Case Depth: 11.7mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Liaoning Peacock SL-3006 automatic
Price: $720

Notable: Atelier Wen’s white porcelain dial has a visual pop and unique look that stands out, with super-sharp, crystal-clear legibility at all times. It’s not only beautiful, but adds an element of technical interest to the whole package and is a tasteful way that emphasizes the brand’s Chinese-made concept. They are further making a statement with relatively extensive transparency about its various Chinese suppliers, and this widens the watch’s range of talking points. On top of that, overall feel and construction is satisfying and solid, and the price point is attractive.

Who It’s For: Seasoned enthusiasts will appreciate the automatic movement inside and the technical challenges of producing porcelain dials. They will also appreciate the looks, but so will just about anyone else — from fashion-conscious millennials to those who can simply admire a beautiful object of any kind. A retail price of $720 is relatively approachable for beginning and budget-conscious watch fans, but experienced collectors will be attracted to the value and product too. Styling, however, is on the formal side, so those who exclusively wear sport watches will probably look elsewhere.

Alternatives: There are a lot of options at Atelier Wen’s price point, but not many with porcelain dials, and the brand is offering strong value for its quality and features. That said, there are some comparisons to be drawn from a couple of other brands.

Porcelain and enamel are chemically different (porcelain is a type of ceramic), but they are both difficult and expensive to produce and result in elegant dial executions. They are generally considered a premium feature found on higher-end watches. Out of Scotland, anOrdain is offering in-house produced enamel dial watches with Swiss automatic movements for a pretty reasonable price of ~$1,042.

Seiko’s Presage line also includes a range of watches with enamel dials starting around the same as Anordain’s at $1,170, but watches with porcelain dials are more still, starting around $1,700.

Finally, a brand called Celadon is of note not for porcelain dials, but for its “Made in China with pride” brand concept and restrained, tasteful approach at a similar price point as Atelier Wen.

Review

A proudly made-in-China watch with an elegant porcelain dial is not the whole story of the Atelier Wen watches. Behind its features and specs is the entrepreneurship of two young Frenchmen — and a brand concept that is like a commentary on current watch industry issues.

It’s no secret that many (most) “Swiss Made” watches are in no small part reliant on the industrial capacity and lower cost of Chinese production. That means the Chinese watchmaking industry should get at least some credit for the quality that Swiss watches are lauded for, but the opposite is often the case. China has the ability to produce high-quality products, but is still battling not totally unfounded stigma associated with inexpensive, mass-produced products.

The general rise of value-focused microbrand watches in recent years is in many ways reflective of consumers’ disillusionment with the opaque Swiss industry. Atelier Wen is not the only such microbrand to offer extensive transparency, but they are one of the few that make a point of advertising being wholly made in China. This approach seems to work well in tandem with what is a clear interest of the founders in Chinese culture (the word wén refers to “culture” in Chinese and is pronounced much like “one?” in English).

Both in their early 20s, Robin Tallendier and Wilfried Buiron launched the company on Kickstarter in 2018. The New York Times reports that the two college friends both studied abroad in Beijing as business students and developed contacts in the watch industry there. Atelier Wen uses eight factories across the country, with final assembly and quality control performed by Fiyta in Shenzhen.

The automatic movement inside, of particular interest to many watch enthusiasts, is produced by the Liaoning Watch Factory, otherwise known by its more recent product rebranding as Peacock. The brand is not well known internationally, but they do some impressive work and are capable of producing complicated, well-finished movements.

With a 41-hour power reserve, the automatic SL-3006 movement is pretty simple and said to be based on an ETA 2824-2 clone, but with some notable modifications for Atelier Wen: the seconds are displayed in a subdial at 6 o’clock; the date mechanism has been removed so there is no “phantom” click at midnight and no useless crown position for it; and the movements are said to be tested for one month. The somewhat stiff feel of the crown when winding the movement manually is one of the few elements of the watch that stands out as needing some improvement.

There is no display window to view the movement, and instead the solid case back features a pretty darn cool high relief-embossed motif of the Chinese mythical animal called a Kunpeng, according to the brand. In mostly polished stainless steel with the tops of the lugs brushed, the case measures 39mm wide and 11.7mm thick, and is water-resistant to 50m. A thin bezel leaves the dial room to spread out and wear prominently.

The beautiful porcelain dial speaks for itself, but is undoubtedly best appreciated in person, with a level of contrast and texture quite unlike any other material. The text and lines are sharp, crisp, and of a brilliant blue against soft white on the model called Hao. Under an antireflective-coated, double-domed sapphire crystal, legibility is excellent.

The use of porcelain references Chinese culture and history, the material itself sometimes called china. Examples of “proto-porcelain” ceramics date to the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC), and the blue and white motif echoed on the Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao is an iconic symbol of the country that many people around the world recognize. While the brand was conceived by Frenchmen, the designers are two young Chinese, Li Mingliang and Liu Yuguan.

The periphery of the dial features a minute track that is clearly reminiscent of Chinese latticework, and there are two Chinese characters in the seconds subdial. They refer to dawn and dusk hours in the ancient Chinese method of dividing the day, so they are not relevant to the seconds and, rather, ornamental. Atelier Wen debuted with two models, the Hao (reviewed here) and the Ji. The blue-dialed Ji model has a different dial design but similar approach.

The Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao is an overall impressive product, and even the leather strap options it ships on are refined, featuring a buckle with mixed brushed and polished finishes (thumbs up for the blue “salmon”-textured one in particular). Clearly on the formal, conservative side stylistically, it nonetheless offers a bold and modern presence for a dress watch. With evident quality, this Chinese watch is impressive for its price and its porcelain dial is a delight to experience on the wrist.

Verdict: The Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao makes an impression on first encounter but is further impressive to wear over time. The stunning texture and colors of the dial are revealed under different lighting situations. While the dial is the highlight, it’s backed up by good quality in other components, and the brand has a personality and something to say — as well as a commendable mission of championing and celebrating the best of Chinese culture. All that makes its price of $720 seem pretty reasonable and attractive.

What Others Are Saying

• “From the outset Atelier Wen are looking to create a watch and a brand that represents the very best of China, its artistry, and its expertise… The first duo of watches demonstrate bags of authentic character, and the overall attention to detail and quality is impressive.” — Brad Holmes, Worn & Wound

• “As an independent maker with a porcelain dial priced at U$720, we are hard pressed to think of co-inhabitants in the landscape.” — Peter Chong, Deployant

Twenty Small Men’s Watches Under 40mm That You Should Consider

There’s been much written about the “sweet spot” for watch sizes. Ten years ago, the conventional wisdom skewed between 40mm and 42mm. Today, things have widened a bit, to include watches down to around 38mm. Why the drop in millimeters?

I’d argue it’s largely about comfort. You see, the way a watch sits on the wrist is hugely affected by its diameter, which is mostly what we mean when we refer to a watch’s size. But there’s more going on here: the way a watch wears has just as much to do with its thickness, also measured in millimeters; and its lug-to-lug length, literally measuring from the tip of one set of lug to the other, has much to do with whether you want to take it off at the end of the day or sleep in it. And, generally, a watch with a smaller diameter width will also be slimmer, and have a shorter lug-to-lug length.

There are exceptions, of course. But they don’t sway me, personally. I have what you’d call average-sized wrists, and I wear a 35.5mm vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf every day. It’s great. The crown doesn’t dig into my hand, and, when I camp, I wear it to sleep, no problem. Here’s the other side of things, the one I think a lot of guys think about but don’t mention, when they talk about why they don’t wear small watches: No one has ever seen this watch, taken it into their hands, and said, “But it’s so small!” Men wore them this small throughout the middle of the 20th century, and I’m not buying that we’ve “moved on” from that size. Fashion is cyclical, after all.

The truth, I believe, is that any size between 35mm and 38mm offers plenty of size of legibility and simply looks good, even on a larger wrist. But don’t take my word for it. Try on any of these watches, all under 38mm in diameter, and you’ll see that a small watch might just be the best watch.


Casio F91W

Nerds Rule! The classic dweeb watch has become cool, proving that having thin wrists and being good at math can be perfectly sexy. Oh, and it costs less than twenty bucks. Eat your heart out, Bill Gates.
Case Size: 30mm x 30mm
Thickness: 8mm
Movement: Casio quartz
Price: $19

Bertucci A1R Field Comfort

The oft-overlooked tough watch brand makes many durable watches for outdoorsmen. The new A1R Field Comfort might be slightly thicker than many other watches on this list, but its polycarbonate 36mm case is incredibly light at just 1.3 ounces.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 12.2mm
Movement: Japanese quartz
Price: $55

Seiko 5

The Seiko 5 is as ubiquitous as it gets: it comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. This means you can find many of its iterations in case sizes below — and sometimes well below — 38mm. Take, for instance, this little baller of a watch: a gold-tone stainless steel dress watch, with a pie-pan bezel, and all the flash of a gold submariner, at 35.5mm, and a cost that makes the Rolex’s seem positively outrageous by comparison.
Case Size: 35.5mm (varies)
Thickness: 8mm (varies)
Movement: Seiko automatic 7N43 (varies)
Price: $148 (varies)

Timex Marlin

Timex’s Marlin is a hell of a great watch to have around: it’s mid-century on a budget, available in a number of great colors (the silver dial is our favorite, especially on mesh), and, particularly for those with smaller wrists, it’s a great dressy watch to match with all sorts of looks.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: hand-wound mechanical
Price: $199

Mr Jones Cyclops

Small can be expressive, too. Such is the case with this alternative time-teller from Mr Jones, which eschews hands for a simple color-and-circle system.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 9mm
Movement: Ronda quartz 513
Price: $210

Seiko School Time

Seiko’s latest miniature wonder is a reprise of a line of watches made for schoolchildren in the 1970s. Unlike the Seiko 5, they’ve got a solar-charged quartz batteries. At 31.5mm, they’re just big enough to work on adult wrist, too.
Case Size: 31.5mm
Thickness: 7.7mm
Movement: Seiko V131 solar quartz
Price: $235

CWC G10

Here’s another military watch with some serious chops: the Cabot Watch Company has made mechanical and quartz watches for the British military since the 197-s. The G10 is a modern execution of a model from the 1980s, with a solid quartz movement and a slight cushion-shaped case.
Case size: 38mm (with crown; 36mm without)
Thickness: 10mm
Movement: ETA quartz 955.102
Price: ~$243

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical with Tritium

Speaking of military chops. Marathon’s MGP is built to military spec, with a thick sapphire crystal, tritium tubes for legibility in the dark, and an ultra-light, 34mm case made of ultra-light high-impact fiber.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic
Price: $360

MKII Hawkinge

Philadelphia-based MKII is a maker of much-sought-after homage watches. This one is inspired by the JLC and IWC MK 11, made for the British military between the 1940s and 1980s. This is actually MKII’s second version of the watch—Bill Yao shrank it from 40mm to just under 38mm to make it more wearable. And wait time (because you should be wondering) is just three weeks.
Case Size: 37.8mm (not including crown)
Thickness: 12.75mm
Movement: Japanese-made SII NE15 automatic
Price: $595

Shinola Guardian

The Runwell is synonymous with Shinola. But the oft-forgotten Guardian, with its rounded square case, has a more interesting look, and comes in a 36mm size.
Case Size: 36 x 36mm
Thickness: 10.8mm
Movement: Argonite 715 quartz
Price: $675

anOrdain Model 2

This Scottish company turned a lot of heads in 2018 with their enamel-dialed Model 1. The Model 2 is made for small-watch fans out there: It’s got the same beautiful dial colors, with a 36mm field-watch-style case.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 11mm
Movement: Sellita SW-210-1
Price: ~$1,160

Oris Divers Sixty-Five 36mm

The original Oris Divers Sixty-Five is a darling of the watch nerd community: the look, the price, the brand, are all near perfect. In 2018 they released a 36mm size, which is candy for smaller-wristed dive watch fans. They’ve got it in eight different configurations, all just as ready to be worn into the ocean — and even more suited under the jacket cuff — as the 40mm version.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 13mm
Movement: Oris 733 automatic (Sellita 200-1)
Price: $1,975+

Tudor Black Bay 36

The Tudor Black Bay dive watch, while sharp, clocks in at a chunky 41mm and almost 15mm of thickness (though the Tudor Black Bay 58, which is basically unobtanium, is smaller). Which is why Tudor (and Rolex) fans rejoiced in 2016, when Tudor released the Black Bay 36mm, which looks a lot like a modernized Rolex Explorer. How cool is it? Lady Gaga reps the damn thing.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.5mm
Movement: Tudor 2824 automatic
Price: $2,900

NOMOS Club Neomatik

NOMOS’s Club line dropped in 2018, offering slightly smaller size, traditional case shape, and decently affordable prices for the chic German brand. The Club Neomatik might be its best example: at 37mm and just 9.3mm thick, it’s got maximum comfort and ultra-clean design.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 9.3mm
Movement: NOMOS DUW 3001 automatic
Price: $3,160

Grand Seiko SBGR 251

You can point out that it’s pretty chunky (can one call a watch “phat”?) at 13.3mm thick. But this is about as small as Grand Seiko gets, and you can imagine all the mechanical magic they pack into its 37mm case.
Thickness: 13.3mm
Movement: Grand Seiko 9S65 automatic
Price: $3,800

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34

Folks in the know view vintage Oyster Precision models from the 1950s — and their 34mm diameter — as the ultimate value play. So why would you ignore the modern equivalent? That’s not the 36mm version of the Oyster Perpetual — it’s the 34mm.
Case Size: 34mm
Thickness: 11.7mm
Movement: Rolex 3130 automatic
Price: $5,050

IWC Pilot’s Automatic 36mm

As Jason Heaton noted back in 2016, the launch of the Pilot’s Automatic 36mm was the most genuine pilot’s watch from IWC in a while — for the first time, the dimensions of the watch were not blown up to a modern-sized 40mm. Instead, they stayed closer to the original. The result is a watch that your grandpa really would’ve worn.
Case Size: 36mm
Thickness: 10.7mm
Movement: IWC 35111 automatic
Price: $5,150

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Small

Yes, it was invented because wealthy British colonialists needed a way to protect their watches while playing polo…but we say it’ll survive because it comes in a small size that’s just right. That, and because it’s damn cool.
Case Size: 35.7 x 21mm (square)
Thickness: 7.4mm
Movement: JLC calibre 657
Price: $5,150

Citizen Eco-Drive One

The watch so thin they had to invent a new material to make its case. And, at just 37mm, it wears real small.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 1mm
Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive One
Price: ~$6,600

A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin

Yes, it’s only 37mm (large and in charge, for this list). But consider its 5.9mm thickness, and you’ll see that on the wrist, it wears small, and as the Deutsche would say, sehr schoen.
Case Size: 37mm
Thickness: 5.9mm
Movement: Lange L093.1
Price: ~$17,200

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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.