Posted on April 25 2022
It is a phrase that mine always uses and it's a nugget of wisdom that is worth revisiting. Because there is often more than one way of tackling a problem.
Yesterday I was wearing a military watch from the Canadian brand Marathon. It's small, heavy, features tritium illumination and costs the best part of £1000. It's a great watch.
Today I'm wearing another impressive Canadian watch with military inspiration. But the Momentum Wayfinder tackles the problem differently. It's larger, lightweight and has a fully lumed dial. And it costs less than £200.
Two very different watches that offer something similar. Tough, rugged timepieces designed for the outdoors.
Let's see how Momentum approached that brief.
Momentum Wayfinder GMT
Momentum Wayfinder GMT Watch Review
The comparison with fellow Canadians Marathon is more than a handy reference to two watches that I've worn recently. It highlighted something that interests me. How have different watch manufacturers responded to the same design challenges?
In quick succession, I had two watches that could demonstrate this. On paper, these watches were designed with the same challenges in mind.
But there was one major difference. While Marathon build watches to military specifications for government contracts, Momentum emphasises the active and casual lifestyle of civilians.
One watch was designed from a military blueprint and the other for physically active consumers. There's a lot of overlap, but enough difference to produce two distinct aesthetics.
Both watches are designed to be tough and legible. That much is obvious. And both watches are designed for the outdoors.
But where Marathon opted for a small and heavy stainless steel case, Momentum went larger and used lighter titanium. Where Marathon chose tritium tubes for illumination Momentum took the bold step of using a fully lumed dial.
Different ways of responding to the same problems.
So what is my first impression of the Momentum Wayfinder?
It's a good looking watch. The off-white dial and darker titanium case make an attractive combination. It's highly legible, with large black numerals - and a smaller 24hr scale.
It adheres to Momentum's house style with a crown at 4 o'clock and it has the addition of a GMT function. It's quartz-powered and has a sapphire crystal and 100M of water resistance. Overall, you get a lot of watch for your money. The Wayfinder costs less than £200.
The Momentum Wayfinder GMT Watch in Detail
For a relatively inexpensive watch, there's quite a bit to unpack about the design and construction of the Wayfinder.
Firstly, the build quality is on point. The case is a good example of the Wayfinder's finishing. And the case is the best place to start with this watch. It gives the watch one of its two big USPs.
The case and case back are both Titanium.
It's not a common metal to use at this price point and tends to be reserved for more pricey watches - more here.
Because it's more expensive to produce than stainless steel and has some real benefits over its rival. Without getting bogged down in the pros and cons of titanium it's worth noting its major advantages.
The biggest being its weight. Titanium is stronger than steel, despite being 40% lighter. When a watch is a tool unnecessary weight can be an inconvenience.
And in terms of durability, Titanium is corrosion-resistant. Finally, although this isn't a mainstream factor, titanium is extremely biocompatible. That means that it's non-toxic to the human body. It doesn't cause a negative reaction to the skin.
On a £200 watch, these features can be a major selling point.
The case itself is a simple design. There's a plain bezel and clean lines. Titanium is darker than steel and has a matt finish, that reinforces the rugged outdoors aesthetic.
It's 40mm wide, 48mm lug to lug and has a slim profile, being only 11mm thick. Like many of the watches in Momentum's collection, the crown has been positioned at 4 o'clock.
Stylistically, it's a good look.
But more importantly, it works ergonomically. When you're active and the watch is getting knocked about, it's a big plus if the crown doesn't dig into the back of your hand. It's a signed crown too, with the red accent being a nice touch. It's prominent, easy to turn and screws down.
That along with the slim case and lighter weight make this a very comfortable watch to wear.
The whole outer package is finished with a sapphire crystal. This has an anti-reflective coating, again helping to maintain the dial's legibility.
The second major USP of the Momentum Wayfinder is that dial.
You can't miss it. Literally, the dial is fully lumed and unmissable.
Rather than lume each number as you'd expect, Momentum has taken a different approach. The dial itself glows in the dark. The black numerals and hands are highly legible against it. It's the typical contrast reversed.
There are large, bold numbers for the 12hr scale, with the 12 and 6 being slightly enlarged. The second timezone follows the smaller inner 24hr scale. And the dial text is kept to a minimum. Like everything else on the watch, it feels practical rather than artistic.
I like it. The impression is of a utilitarian piece, with militaristic influences. But the yellowed dial also feels playful also slightly quirky. It's a pleasing mix.
The GMT feature does mean that there are four hands rather than the traditional three. And those hands are reminiscent of traditional military timepieces and have a syringe style. So there's a slight hint of vintage there.
There's also a neat date window at 3 o'clock and I like that it is positioned at the side of the 3 rather than over the top.
Momentum has opted for a Swiss quartz GMT movement. It's a very reliable engine from Ronda. The calibre 515.24H. It doesn't have the cache of Marathon's automatic movement, but that is one of the reasons why the Wayfinder is much more affordable.
And of course, quartz movements tend to be more resistant to accidental damage.
Continuing the theme of a watch that is light and very wearable, the strap on mine is natural rubber. In a nice touch, the holes are only half punched through - from the back. Only the hole that you decide to use will be visible from the front of the watch.
Taking that as a whole, the Wayfinder GMT is a very practical watch. It's well-produced and designed for those with active lifestyles. It hints at military inspiration, but with enough of its own DNA to still be eye-catching.
A Brief History of Momentum Watches
Like most young watch brands, the Momentum story is fairly straightforward.
Momentum is a brand owned by Vancouver based St. Moritz Watch Corp. They originally began producing watches in the 1980s. As well as their own designs, they also created watches for their clients. It’s a very similar story to Szanto watches in California and Iron Annie watches in Germany.
The St Moritz company gradually moved away from producing watches for third parties. Instead, they focused on their own brand, now called Momentum. From the outset, Momentum focused on tough and reliable sports watches. As they put it on their website - "As life becomes more active and a more casual style becomes the norm, our straightforward designs, with outstanding waterproof performance and no-BS pricing, resonate more and more with active people everywhere".
By aiming at this particular niche they were able to expand and gained a reputation for selling watches designed for watersports and diving. They are now stocked by Canadian and European dealers and have service centres in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
Are Momentum Watches Any Good?
I’d suggest that they are - this being based on wearing both the Wayfinder and Steelix models. To get a better idea about built quality it's worth taking a quick look at the DNA of a typical Momentum watch.
And as I noted above, Momentum does have a bit of a house style.
The watches tend to have a military edge to them - The Wayfinder being an obvious example. They often have plain silver bezels and simple black or white dials. Models like the Steelix, M50 and Atlas boast large, bold numerals. The finishing is good and the dials look crisp.
Most of the colour schemes are black or white, with the occasional touch of blue or red.
A feature that often stands out - and something that gives the Wayfinder its distinctive character is the offset crown. It’s not an unusual feature, but it’s not that common either. It is certainly eye-catching and gives a lot of the Momentum stable a recognisable appearance. And of course, it's there for ergonomic reasons, ensuring that the watches are comfortable.
Importantly, this styling is matched with a Canadian assembly process. The brand is still housed in Vancouver and imports movements from the areas that you’d expect. Quartz movements tend to be Swiss-made and the smaller number of automatic models are powered by Japanese engines.
So they assemble watches in Canada with parts from big-name manufacturers like Seiko, ETA and Ronda.
The result is a watch range that is designed to be durable - with cases made from Stainless Steel, or in the case of this Wayfinder variant, titanium. They will have either sapphire or mineral crystals. Momentum makes a real effort to ensure that their watches have good water resistance. For a field watch like the Wayfinder that is 100M and for a dive watch 200M.
The Momentum Wayfinder is an intriguing watch. It successfully mixes a field watch aesthetic with a modern urban look. Combined with the lightweight titanium case and fully lumed dial, it makes for a rugged yet versatile piece.
And this is all achieved in a watch that costs less than £200.
The basics that you need in a reliable outdoors watch are all there. It has 100M of water resistance, a sapphire crystal and a substantial screw-down crown.
But it's the details that really help make this watch a great buy.
The lumed dial is an uncommon feature, and it gives the watch a distinctive appearance. And the ergonomic design of the crown - that is practical and also much less common than a 3 o'clock crown.
The movement is a real positive too. It's Swiss-made - with a second timezone.
It means that the Wayfinder is a very functional watch. It does a lot for the money. It's light but tough. Very legible and comfortable to wear. And with a corrosion-resistant case, a quartz movement and Canadian assembly, it should stand the test of time.