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Mr Jones Ascendent Review: Unusual & Eye-Catching British Watch

Posted on April 11 2022

Mr Jones Ascendent Watch Review

I love heritage and tradition.

So many of my favourite watches work because they are the culmination of decades of watchmaking knowledge. They're classic designs that have been worn by generations of watch fans.

The designs are proven and the functionality is tried and tested.

Then I came across the young British brand Mr Jones.

Their small, youthful team has skipped all of that and created watches that are unlike anything I've seen before. And I mean that literally - the watch in my hand has instructions that explain how to tell the time. It really is unlike any watch that I've had before.

I suspect that it'll give you a few surprises too.

Mr Jones Ascendent Watch Review

Mr Jones Watches - The Ascendent

  • 37mm Diameter
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel with PVD Coating
  • ST1721 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance
  • RRP £275

Mr Jones The Ascendent Watch Review


Mr Jones Watch review

When I began to unpack this watch I was reminded of a word I hadn't used since studying Sociology - carnivalesque. I'm probably using the word out of context, but it feels appropriate. The outer box has busy, fairground influenced art that includes quirky slogans.

'"The good horologist of balanced thoughts".

"Heroic do nothings".

"Midnight explorers".

But what intrigued me the most was the cut-out section that revealed the watch. It shows the case back. And it's not an exhibition back. It shows you the black PVD back.

Why?

I guess some of it is the fun eccentricity of the brand, but I suspect the main reason is that the case back prominently states "Designed by Marion Labbez". And that sums up a core tenet of the brand. Mr Jones Watches don't see watches as timekeeping tools. A quick look at the Meet Our Team area of their website shows a young, female-heavy team. These kids have phones for telling the time.

Instead, they put more emphasis on the watch as a piece of art. Art that is worn on your wrist. It's no surprise that a number of their team are noted as also being artists, designers and jewellery makers.

Mr Jones x Marion Labbez Watch

I like that. Before I get my hands on the watch I'm told who the designer is. Do you know who designed your favourite Rolex or Omega? Probably not.

What about the watch itself?

The Ascendent is one of the brand's most popular models. Assuming that we're judging this purely as a watch, the basics are fairly straightforward. It's a mid-sized automatic that is powered by a Chinese Sea-Gull ST1721 movement with a jump-hour complication (the watch itself is assembled in London). The case has a PVD coating and a sapphire crystal. The strap is a simple leather piece and their website does give you multiple strap options. There's token water resistance of 50M.

But remember, this isn't being marketed primarily as a timepiece. So let's take a closer look.

In Detail - The Ascendent Watch from Mr Jones


I know, I'm delaying discussing the dial. Bear with me, because there's a lot going on there and I want to do it justice.

First I want to cover the other elements of this unconventional watch.

The sizing is on the smaller end of modern watches. But at 37mm it's very comfortable for a dress watch. I've recently sung the praises of the 38mm Bulova Hack and thoroughly enjoyed wearing Timor's 36.5mm military watch. The lug to lug width is 46mm meaning it actually wears quite big for its size.

I assume that the Ascendent is a unisex watch, so the sizing is spot on.

Mr Jones Ascendent Watch Review

Unlike other areas of the watch, the case is fairly simple and conventional. Certainly, the most artistic elements are confined to the dial and the packaging. This spartan case is made of stainless steel and coated with black PVD - polished rather than a matt finish. The lugs are slim and hold an 18mm leather strap.

The strap features quick-release pins and the watch can be ordered with a selection of straps including mesh, leather and a vegan-friendly material.

A design feature that isn't apparent at first glance is the crown. Or should I say the crowns? There are two. The standard one at 3 o'clock is the functional crown and the opposite crown is the one signed with the brand logo. Again, a bit unconventional.

The case back includes the model and designer's details, prioritising both above an exhibition back. And that get's us to the movement.

When I first stumbled across Mr Jones Watches I wrongly assumed that they would use simple quartz movements. It was an easy mistake to make. Fashion watch brands normally opt for inexpensive battery-powered movements.

I guessed that playful and arty watches (most likely marketed to a younger demographic interested more in cutting-edge design than watchmaking heritage) would pay little attention to the watch's engine. It didn't seem too harsh to suppose that the inner workings of the watch would take a backseat to the intricate dial.

I was pleased to be proven wrong.

Mr Jones Watch Review
Instead, the Ascendent features a Seagull ST1721 automatic movement. If you're unfamiliar with it, this is a mechanical movement with a jump-hour function and over 40hrs of power reserve.

Although I'll get back to the British craftsmanship of this watch, it's worth taking a minute to answer your potential queries about the movement.

I've made no secret of my interest in Chinese watches. As I've been keen to point out, you tend to get what you pay for. The example I often use is that you shouldn't judge American cuisine on Mcdonald's. Equally, you shouldn't base your opinion of Chinese watchmaking on a fake Rolex you bought for £30.

Remember, the Mr Jones Ascendent is nearer to £300.

So it uses a Seagull movement. And for me, Seagull is my favourite Chinese brand. Their quality is proven. They're the brand best-known for building watches for the Chinese air force.

Without going into the details (there's more here) - Seagull traces its roots back to the 1950s. It's one of China's big three watch factories. In fact, it's now the biggest - making it one of the largest watch producers in the world. And since the late 1990s, Seagull has only built mechanical watches.

So the Ascendent has a simple PVD case and a reliable mechanical movement.

But of course, you're here because of the dial.

And it's exquisite.

I don't say that lightly. Whether I can easily read the time is up for debate, but as a piece of art, the dial is stunning. The more I look at the dial and the more that I learn about it - the more I like it.

This watch is one of four designed by Marion Labbez, each referencing an element. This model represents earth, with a large pine tree and mountains being the main design points.

Let's break that down a little.

Marion states that she wants this watch to inspire you to "explore, discover, climb, travel". The mountain represents your personal mountain - a challenge to be faced.

Within that, you have a horizon - used to tell the time - and rotating stars and a moon. The process used to create this moving landscape features techniques new to me. Marion Labbez is a London-based French woman who specialises in verse eglomise. This involves gilding metal and painting onto the reverse of glass.

With that in mind, she has taken Japanese landscapes as her inspiration and used gilded palladium - with two different textures - to create the layers on the dial.

It's a busy dial that takes more than a little getting used to. But it starts to make sense once you understand the overall aim. Essentially it has layers - some reflective - and a small window at the top that displays the hour. The lowest layer rotates and you use the stars and moon (and their position in regard to the horizon) to tell the time.

It's probably better if this guy explains it.



To put this review in context it's worth taking a brief look at the brand too.

A Brief Note About Mr Jones Watches


Mr Jones is the company founder. And Crispin Jones created a watch company that places more emphasis on watchmaking that tells a story rather than watchmaking that tells the time.

It's an intriguing concept and seems to be working well for a brand that was only established in 2007. Crispin is born and bred in London and the brand is still London based. Both their manufacturing facility and store are in the city.

Central to the brand's ethos is a constant process of collaborating with artists and illustrators. So the watches tend to be quirky and original. Despite that, there's still a clear house style.

Of particular interest to watch geeks is the brand's hands-on approach to watch assembly. Take the Ascendent for example. Each watch glass has been individually printed and then hand-assembled. It's one of the main reasons that I was first drawn to the brand. Their Instagram page shows videos of their small team spray painting or printing dials and building watches on a small scale.

Like Bremont, they're reintroducing elements of watchmaking back into Britain. While Bremont and Christopher Ward are producing rugged divers and military watches, Mr Jones is focusing on colourful and humorous models. They're also more affordable.

Mr Jones The Ascendent Watch Review

Conclusion


The Mr Jones Ascendent is a conversation starter. I've not seen a watch like it.

There are elements that are familiar. Like the one-handed watches from Luch, telling the exact time isn't this watch's priority. And like other artistic collaborations, it's colourful and playful.

But the Ascendent stands out among affordable mechanical watches. It's very different to the offerings of the bigger brands. The design for example is original and meaningful. And the use of layers and textures creates a beautiful dial. Although it was difficult for me to do justice to it in my photographs.

Like most unique watches, this won't be for everyone. While wearing it I didn't really make an effort to use it to tell the time. But as the brand is keen to point out, this watch tells a story. It's about conquering the mountain in front of you, physical or psychological. And I like that.

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