Posted on April 05 2019
For many of us interested in watches it’s been difficult to accept the recent trend for large, and often bold, timepieces. Designs that once would have only graced the wrist of a footballer or rapper are now available from Authorised Dealers in our local city.
There’s a lot of gold, rose gold and diamonds. And also a move towards unreadable dials on oversized watches.
At the opposite end was the competing trend for minimalist watches. That’s great when it’s a classically styled Bauhaus design, but not so interesting when it’s just another cheap Daniel Wellington clone.
What about something a bit more subtle? What if we want a watch that is understated? A tool watch that compliments and blends into our clothing rather than blinding our friends if it catches the light? Something that isn’t flash but isn’t boring either?
What about a man's watch that looks like it was designed for a man?
One trend we do like is the use of a black PVD coating.
Black watches can be traced back to the 1972 release of the Chronograph I by Porsche Designs, a company founded by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, designer of the iconic 911. However, these early black watches were prone to scratching. The solution came in the form of physical vapor deposition (PVD) which is much more resilient and used now on most black cased watches.
The pared down look of black watches works well for more rugged styles of watches, particularly military and aviation designs. However, we’ve tried to highlight here a variety of designs with the emphasis again being on more accessible watches.
Glycine Combat Sub GL0079
Glycine made their name in the watch world when they supplied US Air Force pilots with their Airman watch during the Vietnam War. Since 1967 this Swiss brand has produced a ‘Combat’ collection - currently featuring the classic, vintage, chrono and sub lines.
The Combat Sub range are classically designed divers watches very much in the Rolex Submariner heritage and come in quite a variety of designs. This model, dubbed ‘Ambush’, is one of a couple of PVD coated options. It has Glycine’s GL224 automatic movement, a 42mm case and sapphire crystal. As a functional divers watch it also has 200M WR and a screwdown crown.
Elliot Brown Canford 202-002-B04
Elliot Brown was founded by Ian Elliot, the creator of clothing brand Animal, and Alex Brown, Animal’s watch designer. The result is a brand that designs its watches with durability in mind. They’ve put their watches through a series of amusing tests to demonstrate the extremes that the watch can endure. This included hitting the watches with hammers, freezing them and leaving one at the bottom of Poole Harbour for six months.
The brand has grown rapidly and is now stocked in jewellers throughout Britain.
The Canford is a tough looking watch with a hint of an aviation aesthetic. It’s quite large at 44m and has a Swiss quartz movement. This black version has tan coloured hands and numbers which is a little unusual, but in keeping with other models in the Canford line.
Seiko Solar SNE239
We’ve featured Japanese giants Seiko a number of times already. They are among the biggest watch manufacturers on the planet. Founded in the late 1800's the company has progressed from its initial production of clocks to the forefront of wristwatch design and manufacturing. Along the way the company released the world's first quartz watch, the first quartz chronograph and introduced the innovative Kinetic models – a marriage of mechanical automatic watch features with quartz accuracy.
They have a number of PVD coated models but we’ve picked just the one to include on this list.
The Solar SNE239 is a fairly cheap, basic, but attractive watch. It’s slim, a modest 37mm in diameter and features Seiko’s Solar recharging technology. There’s a nice use of red in the design, including the red contrast stitching on the strap.
Reactor began in 2003 with the mission to create watches tougher and more durable than those currently on the market. They wanted to exceed the demands that were required of the athletes that they were going to target their watches at.
The result was the Reactor DNA - a set of features common to all Reactor watches. This includes among other things, a solid forged case, solid screw bars and a screwdown crown that is water resistant even when unscrewed.
In addition the company also boasts of its Never Dark technology. A mix of both Superluminova and Tritium that’s said to provide the ultimate illumination.
The Trident model uses this Never Dark feature and with the sold case, heavy bracelet (bolted into place) and thick case back, the watch is a substantial piece of kit. It does feel bullet proof - indeed, it’s been proven here to be literally bullet proof.
The watch isn’t as subtle as the Seiko above, or as colourful as some here, but that’s not its purpose. It was created to be the ultimate tool watch and it does that very well.
Swiss company MWC exist to produce authentic military watches and their collection includes most of the classic designs. The British G10 and W10, the American Vietnam Era styles and Submariner divers watches.
The Depthmaster is one of their newer lines and like the Reactor packs in more specs than the average wearer will ever need.
The Depthmaster features a massive 1000M water rating and the range has a variety of case, dial and movement options. Towards the the top end they have this PVD model with a Seiko NH35A automatic movement and Superluminova illumination. Unlike the Elliot Brown that has a polished finish, MWC have opted for a matt black case. This watch comes in at 44mm with a chunky 24mm strap.
Bulova Special Edition Luna Pilot
American manufacturer Bulova have a fine heritage dating back to the late 1800s when Joseph Bulova opened his first store.
Of interest here is the company's involvement with the moon landings.This occurred during 1971’s Apollo 15 mission. Commander Dave Scott damaged his official Omega Speedmaster during EVA-2, a lunar walk. During EVA-3 he wore a backup Bulova chronograph prototype that he’d agreed to test out for a friend. This was the only privately owned watch to reach the moon’s surface.
Bulova have recently created a modern quartz version of this watch, the Lunar Pilot Chronograph. This modern replica has the specifications you’d expect, a high performance quartz movement, stainless steel case and 50m water resistance. The dial is quite busy, but that adds to the vintage charm, and the black leather NATO strap hints at the military history of the brand.
Scurfa Diver One
Sunderland, UK based Scurfa Watches are a husband and wife team. Paul Scurfield is a professional saturation diver working in the North Sea who began producing small quantities of high quality divers watches to be used by himself and colleagues.
Rebuffing the attention of Authorised Dealers Paul has made the decision to limit watch production to a level that’s manageable for the small team.The emphasis here is very much on functional, clear divers watches - with both quartz and automatic versions available.
A couple of the Diver One models include a great use of colour and this variation uses a bold orange on the hands. This quartz diver has a domed sapphire crystal, 300M WR, a screwdown crown and 20mm rubber strap.
Nite Marquess 201
Nite was created in 2003 when Roger Green sunk his lifes savings into this new venture. The first watches were released the following year and a year later he was supplying the SAS.By 2006 the company was using GTLS for it’s illumination, a defining feature of the brand.
Nite then embarked on it’s direct-to-customer sales strategy and now sells exclusively online from its own website.The brand made a name producing rugged military style watches in the vein of US brand Luminox and the Swiss MWC.
The Marquess however, is a slim watch that can be worn formally. It’s powered by a Swiss quartz movement and comes on a leather strap. As well as the PVD coating on the case and buckle, the watch has a sapphire crystal and GTLS illumination. A nice addition is the blue second hand - the only bit of colour on the watch.
Ellington Timepiece Amare
Ellington Timepiece are an anomaly on this list.
A new brand founded by a young woman.
North East based Teri Ellington created her first collection of watches in 2018 and named those intial watches after her dog Sheba. The first collection sold out within 10 months and was featured in the local press and sold through House of Fraser.
In contrast to the more masculine and rugged watches featured here, Ellington Timepiece target both women and men. The Amare colection features both women’s and men’s lines.
The men’s Amare is available in three finishes. Stainless steel, Gold and the Black that is featured here. It’s essentially a modestly priced fashion watch - quartz, with 50M WR and a 40mm diameter. The subdials feature the day, date and hours.
Orient Ray Raven II
The Orient brand is part of the Japanese Seiko Group, so like the better known brand they make well regarded quality watches with their own inhouse movements.
We looked their popular Mako diver here, and again we’ve chosen one of the brands divers to highlight.The Ray is very similar to the Mako - with the only real differences being cosmetic.
Both models have now been upgraded to mark II which in this case includes the removal of the additional day setting button. The cool sounding Ray Raven is the blacked out version and has all the specs you’d want in an affordable desk diver. There’s a full stainless steel case and bracelet, 200M water resistance and Orient’s Caliber F69 automatic movement - again a part of the upgrade since the earlier version.
American fashion brand Fossil, from their inception, have specialised in producing reasonably priced retro styled watches. Like Seiko, Fossil have a range of PVD offerings. Here we’ve chosen to have a look at one of the black minimalist watches.
Firstly, you will notice that the whole watch is blacked out. There are a couple of variations of their black minimalist models, with a blue seconds hand for example, but this is our favourite. Like the Seiko this is, as expected, a slim watch - coming in at 8mm thick. It’s actually quite large, with a diameter of 44mm.
Everything about the watch is understated including the sub-seconds hand and the indices. The lack of any colour means that the watch will match almost any outfit.
A cheap, reliable and stylish quartz watch - what’s not to like?