Posted on July 08 2021
And when they're not? When watches are worn as tools?
Then the trend has been to wear a smartwatch for physical activity.
It makes sense. A smartwatch can tell the exact time - to the second - and let you know tide patterns if you're surfing. It could include GPS or track your fitness.
But many watch fans find them soulless.
For the most part, they're unattractive. And they don't have the mechanical engines that we find appealing.
That's why there is still a place for brands like Boldr. Brands that make tough mechanical watches that are built for adventure.
Let's take a closer look at this young Singaporean company.
The History of Boldr Watches
Boldr is a young microbrand from Singapore. Their history might be brief, but it starts on the right foot. It starts with an act of honesty.
Boldr first launched on Kickstarter with a smartwatch. They hit their target and it looked to be a success. Until they realised they may have some delays with their technology.
They chose to end the campaign.
No delays or disappointments with the watch. Importantly, no charges either. The campaign had over $100k pledged at that point. But they chose to cancel the campaign rather than deliver less than they'd promised.
They then came back stronger with a new campaign.
The new watch, the Boldr Journey, was an attractive meca-quartz chronograph. This second campaign was successful and the brand was up and running.
Since then they've developed a house style. Their watches tend to be rugged designs, often with angular cases. They're not afraid of colour and have a selection of watches that blend military styling with modern colouring.
The company consists of a small team who boast of the personal service that they offer. On paper, this is a great looking brand.
Where are Boldr Watches Made?
Most microbrands are made in China. I'm assuming that Boldr is the same as they don't state otherwise.
If they were made elsewhere we'd know. As you'll have noticed with other articles, I'm confident that watches made in China can be of excellent quality.
Are Bolder Watches Good Quality?
The consensus is that Boldr watches are of good quality.
Speaking of the Boldr Expedition the Worn and Wound website said "it’s an incredible value, almost to the point of being too good to be true".
And Ben's Watch Club was just as enthusiastic "these field watches keep getting better".
There's no reason why Boldr watches shouldn't be of good quality. As I noted, most smaller brands use the same manufacturers. And often the same components.
The specifications of Boldr watches are very good. They often use less common materials and have favoured bronze and titanium cases.
As for movements, they've used a variety. In some models, they've opted for Swiss automatic movements. But like most microbrands, the majority of their watches are powered by reliable Japanese engines.
To be functional tool watches, Boldr needs to have some basic standards. So as you'd expect, they usually protect the dials with a sapphire crystal and have legitimate water resistance.
On a personal note, it's nice to see that a lot of their watches are modestly sized. That's very practical if your watch is designed for the outdoors, or built 'for the adventures of the world' as the brand states.
The 5 Best Boldr Watches
With that in mind, here are the best five Boldr watches. I've selected the watches based on design, specifications and value for money.
My list is representative of the brand and hopefully, you'll find one that is right for you.
The Expedition Dune 7 sums up Boldr. It's an attractive field watch with a tough, angular case and a Swiss automatic movement.
It has style and quality. There is colour, brand identity and two crowns. When taken together this all makes for a very impressive watch.
Let's look at the details.
It's inspired by one of the highest sand dunes in the world. And the colouring reflects this. It has a sand coloured dial and strap. It's all very legible and spartan, and it feels like an expedition watch.
There is also a touch of supercompressor aesthetics here too. It has double crowns. It's a bold look, but it works well. That second crown rotates the inner compass bezel.
And the crowns are heavy-duty and knurled, reinforcing the tool watch vibe.
The movement is a Swiss automatic from Sellita and there is a double domed sapphire crystal and 200M of water resistance. So it doesn't just look like a tough outdoors watch. It has the specs to do the job.
For me, this is Boldr at its best.
Boldr Expedition Dune 7
The Odyssey Freediver is Boldr's dive watch. It takes Boldr's DNA and repackages it in a format suitable for underwater adventures.
It works for me, although it's taken them a few iterations to get to this point.
This latest release of the Odyssey is trimmed down to 40mm. The angular case is comfortably sized and chunky without being cumbersome.
The bezel and crown are both heavily knurled to make turning them easy. And the bright red ceramic bezel is paired with a deeper red gradient dial.
The result is a stunning watch. It's both handsome and practical.
Like the Expedition, the specs are where they need to be for the job the watch is built for. So it has 300M of water resistance. The crown screws down and there's a heavy-duty bracelet.
A nice touch is the quirky Kraken motif on the case back.
Boldr builds watches for adventurers. If your adventures take you into the sea, this is the Boldr watch for you.
Boldr Odyssey Freediver 288
Titanium is corrosion-resistant and 40% lighter than steel. It's ideal for watches. Particularly for watches designed to be worn outdoors.
The Venture Wayfarer is a straightforward field watch built from a full titanium case.
The darker titanium contrasts with the light textured dial. The hands and numerals are also dark and make for very easy timekeeping.
There's a small sub-dial at 9 o'clock that gives the 24hr time making this a versatile piece.
The styling is on point. It's what I want from a field watch. Simplicity, focus on the watches purpose and everything light and comfortable.
So the titanium case keeps the watch light, despite the Japanese mechanical movement. And the canvas strap lightens the package even more.
And then there's the size.
The case is 38mm wide. I'm wearing my Bulova Hack a lot at the minute and I appreciate the smaller case size. It's worked for Bulova and it'll work for Boldr too.
This is a practical watch. It's light and legible. With 200M of water resistance, you can take this watch anywhere.
Boldr Venture Wayfarer Khaki
The Field Medic takes some of the styling of the Venture and applies that to a Panda dial watch. It's a distinctive look that has hints of a vintage racing chronograph.
At heart, this is still a very practical watch. The Medic name is there for a reason. This special edition watch - inspired by health professionals during Covid - can be used to measure a pulse.
But you'll probably never use that feature. So what about the watches appearance?
The case is pure Boldr. It's titanium and has clean lines. The dial is a different story. This reminds me of a classic motorsports watch. It has contrasting sub-dials and red accents and hands.
The marriage of styles works well for me.
Of course, the extra features mean that this isn't a mechanical model. Instead, it's powered by Seiko's VK64 Mecaquartz movement. So it does have some mechanical parts but is a quartz watch.
Like the Wayfarer, this is also a light watch. Again, the case is made from titanium, and again it is 38mm.
As I've said, there is a mix of styles here. The racing-style dial and the field watch case. There is also the pulsometer - that alone is an unusual feature.
Does the mix of styles work? I'd suggest that they do. This is a good-looking and rugged watch.
Boldr Field Medic II
The final watch that I'd like to present is remincent of Rolex's iconic Batman watch.
It's not a homage, and it doesn't try to mimic the Rolex GMT Master II, but the Swiss watch is the first thing that comes to mind.
So why is that?
The answer is the black and blue bezel, and to a lesser degree the GMT hand. The case, hands, dial and even the strap, are all Boldrs own.
But I'd still suggest that this would make a cracking alternative to the Rolex if you're shopping on a budget.
You get a lot of watch with the Globetrotter. It has a Swiss automatic movement, 300M of water resistance and a substantial 44mm case.
That's at the top end of what I find comfortable and quite a departure from Boldr's field watches. But GMT watches tend to be aviation pieces, designed for the air rather than the sea or field.
And this is an attractive GMT watch, enhanced by the Batman colour scheme. If 38mm titanium watches are too small and too light, take a closer look at the Globetrotter.
Boldr Globetrotter GMT Batman
There's still a place for rugged mechanical watches.
Modern technology can do a lot of jobs better than an analogue watch. But not all of us find smart watches appealing.
If you're like me, you might actively dislike most of them.
Brands like Boldr create watches for people with an active lifestyle. Men who want to wear a watch, not a computer, on their wrists.
By sticking to this theme, and with a strong brand ethos, they've developed a house style. Many of the watches in Boldr's lineup are recognisable as Boldr watches.
I like that.
I like the clear vision and I like that it's informed the brands aesthetic.
So take a closer look at some of the watches on my list. Let me know in the comments what you think, and hopefully you'll like their watches as much as I do.