Posted on May 16 2022
As a child, he'd take me to Santa Pod to watch drag racing. On a winter's evening when it was too cold to play out, he'd get me and my brother to build model cars. Or race each other on the Scalextric track.
And we had to be the only children in the North East of England who got dropped off at school in a Cadillac.
By the time I was an adult I'd had enough of cars.
Then I married a woman with a family as obsessed with cars as my dad. Her parents, aunts and uncles, would even drive to Monaco to watch the Grand Prix.
But only one thing interested me about this. Her uncle's car. It was beautifully designed - full of curves and vintage charm. I was surprised to find out that it was a contemporary car and not a restored vintage model.
And I'd not heard of the manufacturer.
So I read up on Morgan cars, intrigued by the small British brand.
Fast forward several years and I came across MHD Watches. A watch company set up by the designer of Morgan's Aeromax, Supersports and 3 wheeler models.
I've followed the company for a while now, but only recently did I get my hands on a watch of theirs. So let's take a closer look at the MHD Streamliner.
MHD Watches Streamliner Automatic
MHD Streamliner Automatic Watch Review
The Streamliner has an automotive aesthetic that takes obvious inspiration from the graceful curves of Morgan cars.
How could it not?
The USP of the brand is that the same hand that designed the Morgan Aeromax car also designed this watch.
The founder, Matthew Humphries, is the brand.
You're not shopping for an MHD watch because you like wearing the same watch as your friends. You're here because Matthew was Head of Design at the Morgan Motor Company at 21. He's taken his talent for design and his experience with sports cars and applied that to watches.
And the result?
The Streamliner is a very impressive watch.
It has a pleasing mix of vintage features and industrial styling. Even now, after spending a few weeks with the watch, I can't quite decide if it's a retro-looking or modern piece. It hints at both.
It's compact and well proportioned and feels slightly heavier than I was expecting. Not heavy, just reassuringly weighty. It has a reliable Japanese automatic movement, a sapphire crystal and an Italian leather racing strap.
But what I love most about the Streamliner is something that it shares with the Lilienthal Berlin watch that I recently reviewed. Like the German model, the Streamliner has achieved an attractive simplicity through complicated attention to detail.
Once you're told what to look for that becomes apparent. You'll begin to appreciate the less obvious elements of the design.
My first impression, as expected, was of a tasteful and graceful automotive-influenced piece.
But on closer inspection, I began to notice the details. The different finishing's of the case, the layers of the dial and the compact dimensions that make the watch so wearable.
And that's what makes this watch a winner. The successful blend of many small touches. Together they create a coherent design that is authentic. It does feel like the same hand that drew the smooth and flowing lines of the Aeromax also laid down on paper the flowing lines of the Streamliner.
Let's unpack those smaller details, so you can really appreciate this great British watch.
MHD Streamliner Automatic Watch in Detail
The appeal of smaller watch brands is the accessibility of the founders. There's often a sense that as a customer you're only one step removed from the company. The MHD warranty card, for example, is signed by Matthew Humphries and I'd contacted him directly to get a watch to review.
But with the Streamliner, MHD took that customer and designer proximity to a new level.
In July 2020 Humphries began 'Project 2021'. This involved a conversation with his customers about his next watch design. Their feedback, and the various iterations of the watch, resulted in the Streamliner.
So this model is designed by Humphries, but filtered through the brand's fans.
It's unsurprising to find that the case is mid-sized. At 40mm it's around the diameter that seems to be most popular with watch buyers. And the aesthetic is reminiscent of the 1930s, with Raymond Loewy's streamliner trains being cited as an influence.
In practice, that means a smooth, curved case with sloped lugs that keep the lug-to-lug size down to a comfortable 47mm. It's a fairly distinctive design, with the black DLC coated fins on the side being particularly noticeable.
The case sides are brushed and the top is polished. The plain bezel looks like a piece of machinery - or a car part - and is bolted down in the style of an Audemars Piguet.
And that creates the intriguing look that I really like.
The watch has a vintage charm, but with an industrial edge. It takes the graceful curves and adds elements that suggest that the Streamliner is still a tool. Something mirrored in the world's most iconic car designs.
As I noted, the Streamliner is well proportioned.
At 22mm, the strap is a little larger than I'd expected, but it does limit the thickness of the lugs. It's another small detail - a millimetre off each lug - that enhances the overall design.
The front view of the case is finished off by a simple, knurled crown. It's not a rugged piece, designed to take bumps, so there are no crown guards.
The automotive styling is most apparent on the dial.
Referencing a dashboard, the dial manages to be both complex and utilitarian. It's worth taking a minute to go through the elements that make up, what at first glance, seems like a relatively straightforward dial.
On this variant, MHD has opted for a simple colour palette. A black dial that contrasts with the steel case and hands. There's a little flair, with the sub-dial hands and second hand being red. But there's a lot more going on than that.
There are four pieces to the dial.
First, there's a black chapter ring with white markings - fairly standard. Next, there's a sandwich dial layout that you may have seen utilised by Panerai and others. This means that there's a lumed lower dial and a black upper dial. The upper dial has cut out slots that reveal the lower dial's lume. Incidentally, the cut-out sections on the upper dial match the lumed sections on the hands - again a well-thought-out part of the design.
Finally, there's a central raised section to the dial that includes the logo. And of course, there's the 24hr sub-dial at 6 o'clock and the power reserve indicator - styled like a fuel gauge - at 12 o'clock.
The whole dial has a sunburst effect and there's a contrasting date window in the traditional 3 o'clock position.
See what I mean about the complexity of this simple-looking watch?
I've tried to pin down how Matthew achieved this and the best way I can describe it is that he's minimized the impact of each feature.
So the watch has two sub-dials, but they match the dial colour. It has markers rather than numerals that simplify the layout. And the dial text is kept to a minimum - there's no country of origin, water rating or movement type noted.
The Streamliner pays homage to car design, but it doesn't have the busyness of a Rolex Daytona or the sportiness of TAG's F1. Instead, the dial resembles a dashboard. And by doing that it retains a spartan vibe.
I don't want to use a word like frugal to describe the watch. Maybe 'economical' is better. MHD is giving you complications - a date, a power reserve and a 24hr hand - but they're doing it carefully.
This is reinforced when you turn the watch over. The black case sides wrap around the back and, like the bezel, the case back also has a slight industrial edge.
The exhibition back displays the Miyota 9132 movement. It's a good movement used by Junkers and others.
Across the case back is a plate that notes the model name and the watch's unique number. The Streamliner is limited to 200 pieces of each colourway.
Rounding out the design is the leather strap.
In keeping with the motoring influence, the strap has racing-style cutouts. The watch that I have has two straps and they're easily changed as both feature quick release spring bars.
So keen was I to get my hands on the watch that I skipped the packaging. The MHD Streamliner comes in a fairly typical black box, held within a tasteful outer box. The highlight for me is the booklet, signed and numbered by the watch's designer.
Aside from the good build quality and specs, the MHD Streamliner has two major selling points.
The first, and most obvious, is that this watch was created by a well-renowned car designer. As the brand points out, this isn't an association between a car manufacturer and a watch brand.
Instead, this is 'the same pen designing a watch that designed a car'
If you're a fan of Morgan cars, here's a watch that gives more than a nod to the same aesthetic.
But the Streamliner is more than just an automotive-inspired watch. It has its own DNA. And that is the other reason that this model will appeal to watch geeks.
The design feels fresh and unique to MHD.
Those unusual design points - the black fins around the side, the layered dial etc - give this watch a distinctive look. I can't quite decide if that is a retro-vibe or a more utilitarian and industrial feel.
Either way, it made the Streamliner a very satisfying watch to wear and a great watch to review.