Posted on June 17 2021
It could be a brand story or the tale of a specific watch. It could be the first watch in space or the watch favoured by Winston Churchill.
Great watches often have a great backstory.
Original Grain has a unique take on this concept.
It's the materials that their watches are made from that begin the story. As they put it, "what if materials could talk?"
They reclaim wood and repurpose it by crafting it into watches. The wood is being reused and given a new lease of life. It's an exciting new way to build watches and worth a closer look.
The Original Grain Brand Story
Original Grain was created in the Pacific Northwest and is infused with the region's culture. This is an area known for its environmentalism and cannabis use.
It's the region that gave us Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. It has the second most bicycle-friendly city in the world and was one of the birthplaces of the hippie movement.
In this environment, two brothers set out to create a new watch brand. The concept was simple. To create sustainable watches built from wood and steel. They'd reuse old whisky barrels and stadium seats.
To create these watches they'd need traditional craftsmen. They'd use old wood and old woodworking techniques. Original Grain watches would be handcrafted the old way.
These old ways of working with wood and metal mean that no two Original Grain watches are the same. The wood has character and the steel shows wear. Like Out of Order watches, it feels like your wearing a watch that has already had a life.
And they give back too. That's important to me. They work with organisations that plant trees and so far have helped plant more than half a million.
The 6 Best Original Grain Watches
Original Grain watches are quirky. The mixture of reclaimed wood and steel has lead to some distinctive designs. I want to show you the six best.
They're all affordable and have a mixture of features, materials and finishes. Let's start with my favourite.
This is Original Grain's take on the racing chronograph. It's inspired by the iconic Ford GT40. For me, this is the best watch from the brand.
The Grainmaster is a beautiful blend of wood, steel and leather. The wood is included throughout the design. There's a wooden tachymeter and wood embedded in the case.
The mix of colours - blue, brown and silver - makes for quite a distinctive watch. And at 45mm it's a substantial piece.
While the dial is busy, it's not cluttered. And it's definitely authentic. It looks and feels like a retro chronograph.
At the time of writing, this watch is a few hundred dollars. That's for a unique design from a brand with a giving back program. The specs are good too - a sapphire crystal and a Japanese chronograph movement.
I'd start here with Original Grain.
Original Grain Grainmaster
The second watch that I want to highlight is another chronograph. This time a more modern take.
The Alterra is marketed as a durable outdoors watch. A watch with a chronograph and date features. It looks the part. It's 44m wide and has a chunky stainless steel case.
The use of wood is more obvious here than in the Grainmaster. And of the different versions, I prefer this model that uses Burlwood. It's an unusual wood that creates interesting patterns.
The wood is built into the dial and inlaid into the steel bracelet, as in the video above. The contrast really works for me and I particularly like the pale wooden bezel against the black dial.
Again, the specs are decent. Another Japanese chronograph with a sapphire crystal and 100M of water resistance.
If you like the chronograph aesthetic, but would prefer to go all-in on the wood, take a closer look at the Alterra.
Original Grain Alterra Chrono
This model is inspired by whisky barrels and contrasts two materials. The first is the wood. It's Koa, a Hawaiian wood used in the past for wood carvings and traditional canoes.
That wood is paired with stonewashed steel. Yes, that's steel that has been washed with stone and artificially aged. The finished watch is attractive and a great example of the brand's ethos.
The Barrel name is appropriate too. This is a 46mm watch. Original Grain stress that this is for buyers who want a large dial.
If that size isn't an issue, this is a fairly priced quartz watch. It's not a bargain if you're just looking at the specs - a quartz movement and a mineral crystal for example.
But as an original, well thought out design? Yes, it's a unique watch made from uncommon materials.
If Original Grain can be summed up in one watch - the Barrel is that watch.
Original Grain Barrel Koa
The use of wood is subtle here. And I'd argue that it should be. This is a pilot's watch with a GMT feature. It's not typical of the brand, or other wooden watches.
The wood isn't obvious. It's there in the case - small dots on the bezel and around the case sides. But this isn't really a wood watch.
Instead, it has a sandblasted case and a rich green dial. The watch is finished off with a leather strap.
But the more you look, the more you'll notice the wood. There is some inlaid in the crown. There is also some of the Walnut on the case back too.
So the wood is there - the design is partly inspired by wooden propellers. But this is first and foremost an aviation piece.
I like that. It will have a versatility that some of the other wooden watches won't. And that could be your reason for taking a closer look at the Pilot-Zulu.
Original Grain Pilot-Zulu
This is Original Grain's interpretation of the classic dress watch. It's refined and colourful.
Again, it's a straightforward quartz watch that is memorable because of the clever use of materials. With this model, that means a deep red rosewood dial, bezel and bracelet inlays.
There's a domed sapphire crystal that adds a slight vintage touch and rounds out the design.
It's 43mm - on the larger end of what I like for a dress watch. But it's not oversized.
The Classic has a sophistication that is the opposite of the stonewashed finish of the Barrel. It's brushed and polished, with a dial more reminiscent of antique furniture than the wood used to store spirits.
This is the brand's formal watch. It's the model that you'd wear on your wedding day rather than a weekend hike.
Original Grain Classic
The final watch that I'd like to highlight continues the theme. It's smart, colourful and not a typical wooden watch.
Although it references minimalism, it's not a minimalist watch either. It's pared-down, but still has a lot going on.
The first feature that you'll notice is the sub-dial. That's a second timezone and is controlled by the second crown. The crowns are inlaid with mahogany, as are the indices.
The case is stainless steel and compliments the blue dial. It's another smart watch, more versatile than the Classic, but not particularly sporty either.
The use of wood is exquisite, with the bracelet hiding the mahogany centre links. That's something I always value in watches. Features that only the owner is usually aware of.
And that's why I selected this watch. It gets better the more that you look at it.
Original Grain Sport Minimal
Watches tell a story. It could be their creator's story or their countries history.
Original Grain has used its materials to tell a story. They've repurposed old wood. Wood from whisky barrels and stadium seats. They've matched that with steel - often steel that they've aged.
The results are very distinctive. They've created watches that reflect the ethos of the founders and the culture of the Pacific Northwest.
So the watches tell many stories. Or as they say in their marketing material, your timepiece is a piece of time.
Of course, they're not perfect.
I have a preference for mechanical watches over quartz models. But this is a brand doing something different. And they're doing it ethically and sustainably.
I know that some of these modern brands can trigger watch fans. So tell me your thoughts below. Let me know what you think about fashionable wooden watches.