Posted on April 14 2023
Because I wasn't sure I'd like it.
I know, that's just the way reviews work. You like some watches and there'll be others that don't cut it. But this was different.
The pictures of the watch looked great and it ticked several boxes of what I'd want if I were shopping for an affordable steel sports watch. It was a watch that I really wanted to like.
But the biggie for me was the founder's enthusiasm for his brand and this particular model. He'd assured me that I would like it. He seemed to be confident that I'd take to the watch and I really didn't want to be disappointed.
So when two watches arrived, I unpacked them with a little trepidation - made worse by his personalised note suggesting that I "enjoy them a lot".
The Northgate Club 40 more than lived up to my expectations. I sat looking at my new watches and had an idea - how about a second opinion just to be sure?
Northgate Club 40 Cool Black/St. Barth Azur
Northgate Club 40 Review
I was seeking a second opinion about Northgate's watches because I had a few names floating around in my head. You've probably got them in your head too.
Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.
That was the first reason that I was drawn to the Northgate Club 40. Its bold aesthetic reminded me of the world's best luxury steel sports watches, a fact that the brand hints at when it says on the website that its watches "are inspired by the early Space watches of the 1960 and 1970s".
My friend, who has owned Patek Philippe's and Audemars Piguet's, looked at the watch and summed up the design in a nutshell. He said, "a Royal Oak case, a Rolex Oyster Perpetual dial and a Nautilus bracelet". This wasn't said in a disparaging manner and the Club 40 certainly isn't a homage to any of these watches. Instead, it's an acknowledgement of the style of watch that has inspired Northgate's design.
It's a specific look from the 1970s, with both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus having the same designer. And it's that distinctive look that Northgate's founder Willem Kamerman has channelled into the Club 40 and its sister watch the Club 34.
But this wasn't the only reason that I wanted a second opinion on the two watches in front of me. What I wanted to know was whether I was correct in my appreciation of the Northgate. Graeme picked the watches up and was clearly impressed. He picked them up several times and really was impressed.
And that sums up this watch - the finishing is first class. It's a quartz watch that features an eye-catching octagonal bezel and an integrated stainless steel bracelet. It offers a similar styling to some very well-known steel sports watches and has a spartan dial. There's no date window, no second hand and the dial text is simply the brand name and the LXRYSPRT moniker.
The design elements are tried and tested and both myself and Graeme appreciate the look. But it's the execution that matters here - can a little-known Dutch company sell a steel sports watch for a few hundred euros that grabs the attention of watch geeks?
The answer is yes. I needn't have worried about unpacking the Northgate Club 40. Willem Kamerman was right, I was going to love this one.
The Northgate Club 40 Watch in Detail
There's no doubt that Graeme and I had the same initial reaction to the Club 40 - we were both pleasantly surprised. You're going to see me say this a lot. I'd specifically chosen the black model - dubbed Cool Black - and the St. Barth Azur, which I think of as turquoise or Tiffany Blue because these colourways show two sides of the watch. The black presents a traditional and conservative aesthetic and the turquoise offers a modern on-trend style. As you'll see, there's also a slight variation in the dial layout too.
What both watches have in common is the distinctive case. Forged from stainless steel, and with a 40mm diameter, it's the major selling point for the Club 40. The fixed octagonal bezel is eye-catching and features a heavy brushed finish that gives the watch an industrial look. The bezel is reminiscent of the Royal Oak, but without the visible screws of the AP, it's obviously not meant to recreate the watch in its entirety.
The build quality and attention to detail that impressed us so much is apparent in the polished bezel edge. The contrast between the two finishes separates the dial from the case and increases the watch's visual appeal. It's those small touches that make this watch a success in its own right.
That obvious quality continues on the rest of the case with the lines being clean and crisp and the heavy polishing again reinforcing the sports watch chic. As with the more famous luxury models, the finesse of the Club 40 isn't obvious at first glance. The success of the design becomes apparent the more you wear the watch.
In part, that is due to the size. 40mm watches are versatile and very wearable, and this quartz-powered model also benefits from its slim profile.
It's only 7mm thick.
The crown - which I was surprised to note screws down - is discreet and feels like it's there to set the time rather than as a specific design feature. I like that, it once more reinforces the idea that this watch is a tool.
The ultra-thin construction is definitely a plus and negates any additional weight of the stainless steel bracelet. That bracelet is of course integrated, like those other two watch models that keep popping into my head.
So I have to note that the bracelet gives a nod to Patek Philippe's Nautilus. It follows a similar design and tapers towards the butterfly clasp. At the risk of repeating myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see that both watches came with additional links and an adjustment tool.
And what about those dials?
We've had the Royal Oak bezel and the Nautilus bracelet, so let's examine the dial. It has a simple look, obviously enhanced by the array of colourful options (there are ten colours available ranging from blues and black to orange or yellow).
As Graeme pointed out, the dial resembles a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. But that's not exactly unique, there are only so many popular styles of dial available and watch fans usually prefer something that they're already familiar with. On the Tiffany blue variation, the similarities are more apparent, particularly with the Swiss giants also offering the Oyster Perpetual in this colour. It has a vibrant look, simple white markers and Superluminova BWG9.
There's no date window or second hand - no bad thing as I've never really been a fan of ticking quartz hands.
I found the dial text interesting, not only because it is kept to a minimum, but because of the LXRYSPRT label. I took this as a playful acknowledgement of the watch's design lineage. It's worth pointing out here, that Northgate's founder is an industry veteran behind the Blancier brand and its unique watch-building workshops
As expected, the Club 40 has a sapphire crystal with an AR coating.
Turning the watch over you're presented with a case that screws down at the corners and is engraved with the brand's logo. Ok, this is the last time - I was also pleasantly surprised to see a quick-release feature on the bracelet.
As mentioned, the Northgate Club 40 is powered by a Swiss-made quartz movement (the final piece of dial text notes this) and boasts 100M of water resistance.
Despite the obvious similarities with some iconic watches, the Northgate Club 40 succeeds for two main reasons. The first is that the style, while recognisable, actually takes design cues from a number of historical sources and comes up with something fairly unique. It's not a homage to a particular watch, instead, it references a whole style and period of time.
Secondly, the execution is brilliant. The watch looks and feels better than I'd expect of a watch at this price point. I assume that's partly due to Northgate's founder Willem Kamerman's long involvement in the watch industry and his understanding of customer expectations.
If you crave the sporty elegance of the Nautilus or Royal Oak, but like the rest of us want a realistic daily wearer, then the Club 40 ticks the boxes. And no doubt the 34mm female version does the same. It's a handsome watch that offers a unique look at a very affordable price.