Review : Akura Wayfarer, “Made In Scotland* From”….316L Stainless Steel

*Ok so technically made in Hong Kong, and designed in Scotland, but that doesn’t work with the Irn Bru reference!!

Akura Time introduces a Kickstarter / Microbrand with their rugged ‘Wayfarer’ a watch for the Outdoor Adventurer type. Well OK, for Sofa-Surfers and Desk-Jockeys too 😀  Based in Dundee, Scotland.  But is it ‘made in Scotland from Girders’ (like in the Irn-Bru adverts of the 1980s)?

Wayfarer – A person who travels on foot.  Also an iconic design of Ray-Ban Sunglasses.

I was perusing Instagram about a month ago when I happened across an interesting looking watch and brand I had not heard of before, so being a fan of several Microbrands I hit the follow button.  I also had a chance to get a brief ‘hands-on’ at a recent RedBar Edinburgh event.  Where I met Philipp Schönfisch, the owner and designer.

Initial impressions:

What I liked straight out of the box.

Bearing in mind this was a prototype/concept-model I was loaned and not mine to keep (all that impartiality stuff, really, I’m just doing this review for the love of all things Horological and the Scottish Watches website.) there were nonetheless 2 straps are included which are both 22mm Quick-Release.

Colours included with this one were a Burgundy Leather with Black thread stitch and a Military Green Cordura with leather hole protectors and leather backing.

Quality of materials used for the straps and the finish on the pin buckles are excellent.  Polished metal & signed ‘Akura’ on the Leather one and brushed finish & signed on the Green Cordura. The Leather strap has an additional polished metal keeper along with leather keepers.

They actually fit me! (6.5-inch wrists) At last a strap that I didn’t have to go punching another hole into.  Not sure if you have a really large wrist size.  I guess you’d be down to the last hole.  Or using your own strap.

Onto the watch itself.

The Hand design

Proportions are spot on here.  The hour hand is short and meets the inner semi-stepped dial and hour markers. The minutes hand is easily distinguished as it is longer, thinner and reaches right out to the outer minutes/chapter ring.

The Seconds hand is my favourite for many reasons. Mainly that the entire hand is lumed. Now I know this isn’t a big deal for some but I have loved the seconds hand on my Hamilton Khaki Mechanical for this very reason, so much so that it has become a bit of an obsession. I know, I’m a weirdo.  It is also the longest of the hands and reaches right out to the outer internal Compass ring. I think it’s to do with having dive watches with lume.   At night, I want to know my watch is still running without having to wait for a non-lumed seconds hand to pass a lumed indices or hold it to my ear.

More on that internal compass bezel later.

This is something else that I have a slight, no major obsession about too. It is something that maybe others give little thought about, and that is a long seconds hand that touches the outer chapter ring.  When you see it sweeping around and compare it to a stubby, stunted seconds hand. It’s like, it just looks wrong and you can’t see where the seconds hand is pointing at accurately when setting a watch. Am I alone on this one? Probably, but its one of those things that can’t be unseen once you notice it.  So thank you Philipp for satisfying all of my weird seconds hand fetishes.

Another thing to note on the hands design.  There are subtle differences between the Hour and Minutes hands that are quite fun. You’d need a keen eye or Loupe to see this. The lume is broken up into two sections by tiny shapes that are like male and female jigsaw pieces at the tips of the hands. The tail-end of each of the hands are opposed.  Concave on one and convex on the other, so one looks like a Sword, the other like an Arrowhead.

The Dial Design

Lots of subtle details and fairly unique designs that will have you noticing it for days. These include;

Outer chapter markers….

Compass ring with both bearing indicators (N, NE, E etc) and 05, 10, 20, 25, 35, 40, 50 & 55 minute numerals which are also all lumed.

The hour markers are bold and distinct making up a large portion of the dial. This gives it a great symmetry and legibility.  They also link into a metal concentric-circled-inner chapter ring. In the central dial, there is a raised squared wave pattern.  This wave pattern is found in other areas of the watch too. The logo and writing on the dial are just right. Not too much and so large as to distract. I especially like the minimalistic compass point-like circular Akura logo & text. All that is needed is there, the name of the watch ‘Wayfarer’ followed by ‘Automatic’ in red.

Finally, the Date window is at the 6 O’clock position (thumbs up for this as it helps with symmetry) and is colour matched black to fit in with the dial. Even the Dial window is an Isosceles Trapezoid shape rather than just being a simple square or circle.

Everything is lathered in multiple layers of Super Luminova BGW9 and I mean everything.  It’s like a little orbital city at night 🙂

The Case Design

Attention to detail is also carried through to the case design with subtleties that are perhaps missed on initial inspection.  I appreciate that Kickstarter and Microbrands can be somewhere for new and unique designs to be tried out.  Some are borrowing from the past and some are coming up with their own.  There is a tendency to play it safe by some, with designs clearly inspired by the big brands like Rolex, Omega, and Panerai etc.  I can understand why, they have the iconic shapes and looks.  These days though they are more seen of as homages rather than having a distinct design. Not that I am knocking homages.

I guess there are only so many ways to design a watch after all, without it becoming so outlandish that you need a manual with you to just tell the time.  Remember those Binary display watches of the 2000s? If you have to effectively assemble code in your head just to tell someone at the Bus stop what time it is, well is it a watch or a novelty at that stage?

 

Sorry I went a bit off topic there.  Back to the Wayfarer.

First of all lets get dimensions out of the way. It’s a 316L Stainless Steel case coming in at;

– 41mm width (Without the crown)

– 48.5mm Lug to Lug length

– 10mm Thick (including the crystal which sits flush with the bezel)

– Lug width of 22mm

The case is finely brushed on the tops and the sides. Except for a narrow band of polish on the side of the bezel. The rear of the case and caseback are all polished. The side of the case between the lugs even has a small semi-circle sculpted out. So your nice leather strap doesn’t rub and catch on a sharp edge. They really have thought this through.

The case shape is quite unique and has plunging curved lugs so it even fits my boney 6.5-inch wrist. Helped in part by a bevelled edge to the underside of the lugs & case. There are crown guards protecting the main crown at the 3 O’ Clock and are sculpted into a rounded tapering point.  There is a smaller crown at the 4 O’ Clock position that is used to rotate the inner Compass bezel. This inner bezel is bi-directional rather like the Seiko line of ‘Alpinist’ watches. However unlike the Seiko this is not likely to move like the Seiko Alpinist’s one does (Drives us watch photographers / OCD sufferers mad.  As even if you breathe on the crown it moves from the 12 O’ Clock position). The Akura has 120 clicks so you can set it and not accidentally brush the crown and have it move.

It has a Water Resistance of 100m with a screw-down crown and screw-down caseback. It is touted as “A Mountaineering inspired tool-watch”. So for me 100m WR is fine. Why would you need more?

Powered by a Citizen Miyota 9015 movement which has a beat rate of 28,800bph for a smooth sweeping seconds, hacks, handwinds and has a 42 hour power reserve.  I like this choice of movement and is not just another Seiko NH35 typically chosen by most Microbrands. Not that there is anything wrong with the Seiko movement.  It’s just that, it is a bit common and has a slower beat rate(21,600bph) and so a jerkier sweep of the seconds hand.  Just another of my personal preferences.

This is all housed in a Sapphire crystal sandwich. One Sapphire crystal on the top with an inner AR coating and the other as an exhibition case back(non-coated) so you can see the movement and the customised rotor. The rotor has the Akura square wave pattern printed on the rotor and the rotor has been shaped along the diameter in a squared wave motif (like on the central stepped dial). There is even a small circle cut out of the centre of the Akura logo so you can see even more of the movement. I like to align it with one of the 24 jewels in the movement 🙂

The Negatives?

Well, I will be honest and say, after having the watch for over a week on my right wrist, as a companion watch to my almost daily rotation on my left. I am finding it hard to find faults. Except for ones that could be down to one’s personal preferences and not necessarily flaws in the execution of it’s design.

After all there is no such thing as the ‘perfect Watch’.  It is an almost impossible task to design anything that will appeal to everyone.  I do applaud Philipp for approaching this in the way that he has.  He has been in constant feedback with his potential customers, bouncing ideas back and forth, taking votes on features to stay or go and taking onboard as much requests as he can.  You’d think with something like this design Philosophy via Social Media, you would end up with a complete mess of a thing.  A watch designed by committee if you will.  But fair play and credit to Philipp and his manufacturers.  I think for a first model in the range he has tackled it head on and come up with something unique but familiar at the same time.

Also included is a 2 Year Warranty and a 90 day returns policy.

However, I would be doing him, me and you a disservice if I didn’t mention some niggles which he is already addressing. So I will just list them below;

The crowns, although they have a hexagonal shape, they have an outer circular and polished edge. This makes them difficult to get a grip of. Now, had they just been hexagonal to the outer edge or even just traditionally knurled.  I think this would have been better for gripping (especially the main screw-down crown). Philipp has informed me they are looking to have a wider crown to give more material to get a grip of but I’m not convinced.  The other smaller crown for the Compass bezel is also a bit fiddly with it being hard to get to with the tips of your fingers being blocked somewhat by the crown guards.  On the flip side this may help prevent accidental turning of the crown.

I noticed that at the 12 O’ Clock position on this Prototype that there was ‘WR 100m’ in tiny writing. But also the WR rating was inscribed on the metal portion of the caseback. Philipp says that has now been replaced with a lumed ‘bar’ to denote the 12 O’ Clock position more.

The other tiny niggle I have is with the overall size. It does look like a larger watch due to the bezel being quite thin.  So it does make the dial appear quite large.  Again, in no way a design flaw if anything it’s a design flaw in my wrist and just a personal preference.  The 40mm-42mm is a great case size for fitting a large range of wrist sizes. I really am splitting hairs here and feel like I am finding something that is a non-issue.  I would be interested to see if my opinions change when I have to send the Prototype watch back and I would like to see what the final product is like.  Perhaps with some time away and a comeback with a new improved version will alter my thinking. One thought is that 20mm lug with thicker lugs to maybe reign the dial in a little?

Amendment:

Wait, sorry just got mailed a Pre-release Prototype with a blue dial, red accents on solid endlink polished & brushed bracelet. Stronger lume on this one with more to be applied by final product.

A finer case finish means a polished edge has now been applied to the top flanges of the lugs, this leads along to the crown guards where there is now a wider circumference crown in steel. I believe the compass ring crown is larger as well. Or at least is easier to grip being steel?

It feels more complete on the bracelet. A nod towards a Royal Oak appearance perhaps? It’s done rather well. The end link fits tight and flush against the case. The last link does not articulate much and so increases the lug to lug length to beyond my wrist size.  However it is well constructed and there is also a solid milled hinged metal clasp. Not a cheap pressed metal like some Seiko and others. The clasp also has a deep etched lettering and the Akura Logo. Links are east to remove with simple pin screws. Finally the clasp has three levels of micro-adjusting holes.

Certainly a noticeable improvement over the other two prototypes I had to compare with. Maybe an ‘Alpinist Alternative’ that some larger wristed may have found the Seiko too small? (hint hint @Rickticktalk)

Overall I like it, but it will be interesting to see if the design stands the test of time.

So if you are interested there is a website https://akuratime.com/  One to keep an eye on, there might be an early bird discount.  I think it’s great to see watches like this coming from Scottish designers and manufacturers.  I wish Akura every success and maybe in a few years we’ll see ‘Scottish Made’ at the bottom of a dial to remind us of the old Dundee Timex factory days 😉