Since finding out about Red Bar, I have always been envious of the watch get-togethers that seem to be often organized in various parts of USA and Europe. Perhaps I have not found it yet, but there hasn’t been any over in this part of the world besides official events organized by HourGlass. Imagine my excitement when I found out that I was being sent on a work trip to USA the week just after Windup Watch Fair 2019 (Windup).
In the days leading up to Windup, I did some research and realized that this wasn’t really a get together a la Red Bar. It was, in fact, a watch fair (forgive my ignorance). Nevertheless, I was delighted by the brands that would be present. There weren’t any of the big conglomerate brands, no Rolex, Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet which were easily found in Singapore. In their place, you had smaller brands in the vein of Oris, Stowa and Christopher Ward; microbrands such as Monta, Nodus, Farer, Anordain and many more. Strap brands such as Everest and Crown & Buckle were also featured. These were brands that had only been 2-D images on the computer screen. As amazing as they looked, there was always the risk of being disappointed. This would change all that. What more, this would be an opportunity to meet the passionate people behind the brands.
It was with this sense of anticipation that I set off to Windup. I have to say upfront that I was not disappointed. In my extremely short 3 hours there (I could only visit Windup for an hour on Day 1 and 2 hours on Day 2), I had the opportunity to go hands-on with watches that I had been dying to try on and speak to people that I had only ever been able to speak to on Instagram. If I have any regrets, it was that I did not have more time there, and therefore did not have the opportunity to meet more people. Nevertheless, here are some of my highlights.
Monta is a brand that is based out of St Louis that was started by a few guys, Michael DiMartini, Justin Kraudel and David Barnes. In the past year, I have watched multiple YouTube videos and read online reviews on this brand and have heard nothing but good things. In particular, I had been attracted by the Triumph with its seemingly ideal proportions (for me at least) of 38.5mm by 46mm by 9.8mm. I also loved the case and dial that seemed inspired somewhat by the Aquanaut and Explorer 1 but was unique enough to be its own thing.
It should come as no surprise then that my first stop at Windup was Monta. This was further eased by Monta and Everest (the same guys started both) being the first brands that you saw when entering the venue. I have to admit, being my first time at such an event, I was a little apprehensive about the “protocols”. Should I start talking? Could I try the watches? Was I expected to buy one? However, Michael, one of the co-founders of the brand put me right at ease when he invited me to try on the watches. His passion for his watches was evident as he waxed on about the comprehensive consideration that went into the designs, primarily the Triumph since that was what my focus was on. After all, it’s not every day that you find a 150m water-resistant watch that was under 10mm in thickness. It was also nice to get confirmation that there was some Aquanaut inspiration in this watch with the slightly wider bezel and lugs.
It was clear that Michael was not just tooting his own though his claim that there was negligible quality differences between his Oceanking and a 15500 Royal Oak may have been a stretch. In particular, the Triumph is certainly a watch that worth far more than its US$1,550 would suggest. The mix of brushed and polished finishes was spot on and the sunburst dial a beauty to behold if not the easiest thing to photograph. There were also no compromises on the bracelet which is a common area for brands tend to cut corners on to manage costs. Size and weight, while subjective were perfect on my wrist. It took almost every fibre in my being to resist forking out for the Triumph there and then. Had I not just bought a couple recently, I would definitely be an owner right now.
Monta’s other pieces were also great looking watches especially the Atlas which is its latest GMT offering with almost identical dimensions to the Triumph (the only difference between an increase of 0.4mm in thickness and an extra GMT hand). I am not a fan though, of its bent GMT hand which to me is a cop-out for such a well thought out brand. I also like to point out that the dial colours are different from the Triumph and the silvery-white and charcoal dials are worthy of special mention. In summary, if you are still hesitating on pulling the trigger on any of Monta’s offerings you should go for it, assuming it fits your budgetary constraints.
Photo by @wes_kwok
To be honest, up until a few months ago, I had not heard of Nodus. However, after a review of the white dial steel bezel Contrail by Chris at Horology House, and quite a number of mentions by the Kat and Katlen over at Tenn and Two, I was intrigued. It certainly helped that the people working the booth; Jake (@jwit94) who I had gotten to know through Instagram, Cullen (@cullench) one of two co-founders, Wesley (@wes_kwok) the other co-founder and Cameron (@cameronlaz); were really fun people to talk to. Besides the watch photography, Grand Seiko GMTs, and a possible Nodus Asian Tour which I would be thrilled about, we of course spoke about Nodus watches.
There were certainly some interesting features in the various options of their line-ups. There were vibrant dials on the Retrospect (though I was disappointed I didn’t get to see the salmon sky), beautiful 12-hour bezels on the Contrail and of course the new Duality that has a really cool dial design. I was especially amazed when Jake pointed out to me that the Avalon, despite its 43mm size and 12.9mm thickness, the angular case sides made it look almost razor-thin. Talk about deceiving appearances.
Despite all of the attractive offerings, one downside for me was that there was never really a watch that spoke to me personally, in the vein of the Monta Triumph. That was until I was shown the prototype for the upcoming Sector Field Watch. Given that it was only a prototype, pictures were prohibited, but the watch simply amazing. The dial had Arabic numerals with no date and had multiple layers to it there were demarcated by the chapter ring, numerals and hand stack area if memory doesn’t fail me. Sizing came in at 38mm (there is also a 39mm dive watch version) which is perfect for me. Nodus has been teasing this watch on its Instagram (@noduswatches) and on the final day of Windup, a wrist roll was posted of the watch. I hope that as many of you managed to catch a glimpse. Cameron has since posted a macro of the dial below and it’s a real beauty. I cannot wait for the launch of this watch, estimated to be launched around mid to late November so that shipments can be made in time for the end of year holiday season.
Picture by @cameronlaz
Oris is not a small brand by any stretch of the imagination and has been making waves in the watch industry in the past couple of years. Not only has Oris been releasing really popular pieces in the Oris 65 and participated in charitable collaborations, but they have also been developing their own in-house movement. In fact, they had just launched the latest version of it in the Oris’ Big Crown Propilot X which is a watch that I have been very keen to try on the wrist.
It was not the Oris Propilot X, however, that caught my eye when I first approached the Oris booth. Instead, it was a different Big Crown that drew my attention, the Oris Big Crown 1917 reissue. It had been released before I picked up this hobby in 2017 and for some reason, I never came across it before. Angela, from Oris, was kind enough to explain the pocket watch origins of the watch. Her enthusiasm was infectious and it was obvious that she loved the piece. In fact, according to her, part of the reason why Oris even brought the few remaining pieces was that clients often asked her at the fair about the Oris on her wrist.
It was not hard to see why this watch was so appealing. It was different visually from anything else in Oris’ lineup and is simple and classy with its grey grained textured dial, well-done faux vintage font and lume and alluring heat-blued cathedral hands. The straight lugs on the curvy round case were indeed reminiscent of lugs that were welded on a pocket watch though the dimensions have been downsized to 40mm to which is far more versatile in today’s context, (I do wish it was 38mm though). If anyone was in the market for a modern classic 3-hander with vintage cues, this would be a very strong contender.
In contrast, there is nothing classic about Oris’ brand new Propilot X. It is futuristic in design with its skeletonized dial, angled lugs and titanium case that goes together perfectly with the industrial feel of the watch. It is not a small watch at 44mm but I have to acknowledge that the relatively short lugs make the watch wear smaller on the wrist. In my opinion, it is a very interesting looking watch that is packed with fantastic specifications under the hood, I mean how many watches have a 12-day power reserve, though the price perhaps would be a sticking point for many potential buyers.
Crown & Buckle
Besides watches, I was also thrilled that I got to meet some of the people behind Crown & Buckle, a watch strap company. Crown & Buckle’s Black Label collection offers the best leather watch straps I have ever tried regardless of price, and I have tried many straps in the past two years. The straps have a faint aged look but feel smooth to the touch. They are extremely solid but so comfortably soft at the same time. The only downside is the fact that the current series, Season 4, doesn’t offer anything in black or greys. This is something that Veronica from Crown & Buckle explained was a result of not being satisfied with the samples that they received in those colours. It is reassuring that they do not sacrifice quality for the sake of offering more colourways even if it is arguably the most common colour for straps. I was also really happy to know that they are working on offering these colours in the next season i.e. Season 5.
The above 4 brands were the highlights of Windup 2019 for me. However, here are some quick-fire notable mentions as well.
anOrdain – anOrdain’s newly released Model 2s with textured enamel dials brings the whole collection to the next level.
Stowa – They brought their Marine watch with a small-seconds complication which comes in a newly launched size of 36mm and an enamel-esque dial.
Oak & Oscar – One of the few brands with a bi-directional 12-hour bezel on its Humboldt which is how it should be. The Ashland, a limited edition, is also a very interesting collaboration with Wilson. The link is tenuous but how cool is it to get your own baseball glove with a watch purchase?
Christopher Ward – I love the recently launched Military watches, particularly the Sandhurst. It is sized perfectly for my wrist without overly done faux vintage cues.
Farer – I do not know how I missed Farer’s recently released worldtimer which I regret not trying. The crown at 10 o’clock might have something to do with it that though. However, I was excited to try the Eldridge which is a chocolate dialled chronograph.
There were also brands such as Vero with its 36mm collaboration with Worn & Worn, Brew’s cushioned case chronographs that feature cushion sub-dials as well and many others that I, unfortunately, did not have the time to shoot or properly cover. I look forward to hearing your take in the comments.
Overall, Windup 2019 was an absolute blast. It is like a buffet for watch lovers if buffets came with really enthusiastic and open chefs and staff who would really get into all the geeky details of this hobby that we all love. At the end of the day, it was the people who made this fair such a memorable experience for me and as a bonus. I hope I get to go back again someday and would highly recommend it.
Here are some final favourite photos from my 2 days at Windup.