CASE DIAMETER: 38MM x 41.5MMCASE THICKNESS: 10.4MMLUG WIDTH: 22MMCRYSTAL: SAPPHIRE GLASSCASE MATERIAL: STAINLESS STEEL 316LCASEBACK: STAINLESS STEEL 316LSTRAP: 22MM, BEADS OF RICE, STAINLESS STEEL BRACELETSTRAP: 22MM, LEATHER, QUICK RELEASE (Includes both leather band & metal bracelet)DIAL: TEAL SUNBURST, C3 SUPERLUMINOVAWATER RESISTANCE: 5ATM (50 METERS)MOVEMENT: VK64 HYBRID MECA-QUARTZ CHRONOGRAPH
There is a lot to unpack here. The first thing to jump off the page to me is the case size. First thought is wow that is a bit small for me, everything else in my personal collection is over 40mm so 38mm definitely at a glance can seem small. What this does not portray though is the proportion of the case that is dial, virtually all of it. What this does is enhance through the wearers perspective the size of the watch while on the wrist. The next is the lug to lug dimension of 41.5mm. My every day watch has a L2L of 50mm. This may be one of the few instances I am a fan of the hooded lugs. For those who do not know, hooded lugs are when the case protrudes over the lug holes, this allows for the end of the band to hide beneath the top of the case.
By pairing the hooded lugs with a 22mm strap you effectively artificially increase the length of the watch by tricking your eyes when you look down at your wrist. The case blends incredibly well into the strap/band. All of this plays to a common theme with the Brew, an exceptional attention to detail by the designer Jonathan Ferrer.
The heart of this watch is VK64 Hyrbid Meca-Quartz chronograph. This is a movement produced in Japan by the great and powerful Seiko. This won’t be an article about the VK64 but what I will do is give a brief layman terms overview of how this differs from a regular quartz chrono or a fully mechanical movement. Essentially, the movement is powered by a battery, however, the chronograph function is a set of gears as if it were mechanical. These gears are powered by the battery in the watch. This allows for a pho-mechanical look while using the chronograph feature. The second center second hand begins with the push of the top chronograph button and sweeps across the dial as if mechanical rather than the classic quartz ticking. When reset, the second hand snaps back to zero with a ferocity that is borderline worrisome. This, in my opinion is far superior to the slow sweep back to zero that a traditional quartz chronograph will have. The additional benefit is an overall thickness reduction relative to one of the lower cost automatic chronograph movements like a Seiko NE88. The other benefit is… ya know, the watch would need to triple in retail price to accommodate an automatic as well.
The case of the Retrograph is 38mm x 41.5mm brushed finished 316L steel top and bottom with a strip of polished steel on all sides and a sliver of polished steel surrounding the the sapphire crystal. This small amount of polished case adds a tremendous amount of light play and provides a great separation from dial to case. Almost acting as a fixed bezel would.
The case back is completely brushed with Brew engraved along with type of steel, movement, and crystal. It is fastened to the watch with 4 screws. When viewed from directly above the polished strip surrounding the crystal has fantastic light play, but where this watch really shines is when there is a slight angle between the viewer and the case. The polished edged of the case gives just enough reflection of the surrounding environment to add colour and contrast against the brushed bevelled edges of the top of the case.
The crown of the watch is not screwed down and has oval indentations that circle the crown. There is also an engraving of a bean on the crown… somewhat resembling a coffee bean. Per the designers words, these indentations on the crown were inspired by high end espresso machines.
The two pushers are cylindrical, the inner cylinder a hair smaller in diameter than the outer cylinder. These are recessed into the case the angle that they are entering the case allow the outer edge of the pusher to match the edge of the case. If this bores you that is fine, the main take away is this type of detail is a manifestation of the designer pouring over the small seemingly insignificant aspects of the watch.
This brings me to my favorite detail of the case, the proportions. If you were to draw a line around the outside of the case, take that line and scale it down, you will get the outside line of the dial. If you do it again, you will get the outside line of the sub dials. This was intentional, the proportions of the watch were designed to match perfectly, sure this is something that perhaps you will think does not mean much. The reality is the human brain can pick up on stuff like this whether you are conscious of it or not. There is a certain way the world looks and our brain has been accustomed to pick up on patterns and irregularities, this is the reason when you see someone with a nose job if it is not perfect you immediately go “hmm… something is not quite right, but I’m not sure what” You have the opposite effect when you look at the brew. It is unreasonably pleasant, nothing out of place. It is as though after one billion tries, out in the wild, the watch fell together completely naturally and that’s what your brain picks up on.
The Retrograph has a beautiful teal sunburst dial. The hands and indices contrast the dial beautifully with a white. The hour chronograph second hand is a slightly different teal hue that allows it to stand apart from both the dial and hands. There are hash marks up to 7 are split into sub seconds 2 per second. This is in lue of a traditional tachymeter. The sub second markers are for you to properly time an espresso. To me, this is part of the romanticism with this watch. For a long time the watch industry has fetishized the idea of tool watches. The reality though, is none of us are taking our Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner for a quick tour of Vietnam. I absolutely adore the idea of reimagining the idea of a classic tool watch but for the purposes of modern life. Sure, you may not be diving to depths that would require an HEV but I bet you like coffee.
My biggest complaint about the dial is the set up of the sub dials for minutes. The dial has markers at 15, 30, and 45. My gripe about the markers is typically, if I am using a chronograph on my watch it is for something 10 minutes and under. Because of the marker being 15 minutes and placed at the 3pm location, reading off either 5 minutes or
10 minutes is very difficult. This is something I can live with and the watch is extremely legible otherwise, however, it is something I notice every single time I use the chronograph.
The finishing on the dial and hands is fantastic for this price range. One of the biggest tells to me is viewing the watch up close on the hands. When you do that with the Brew you will be extremely impressed. It is clear that Jonathan cares about this and took the time and effort to excel here.
In the box comes two options for straps, a leather quick release band along with a stainless steel BOR bracelet. The bracelet has straight end links to accommodate the hooded lugs. I enjoy this feature because it means I can put it on other watches with 22mm lug widths. The BOR are solid and the clasp is sufficient. I would say the bracelet is superior to any micro brand BOR I have had in the metal, especially when you consider this is not a dive watch. The band articulates well around the wrist and the big difference maker is the band has individual beads as opposed to solid links that some cheaper BOR have.
The leather has gotten the bulk of the wrist time for me and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. Typically even if a watch comes with a leather strap, rarely do I wear it. My thought process is if I am going to wear it on leather I’ll go through the extra effort of strap finding exactly what I want. The fact that I have not done that with this watch speaks to both the quality of the strap and how well it matches the watch. The quick release pins are becoming increasingly popular as of late. I understand the ease of use and why they are convenient, but I do enjoy having an extra pair of spring bars that I could use with other straps.
The Brew Retrograph is a fantastic watch that to me is facing nonexistent competition. They are doing something special and different, all while encompassing the things enthusiasts care about, extreme attention to detail. I can’t recommend the watch enough, if you are in the market for something different especially at a price point that won’t break the bank. The biggest critiques if we get to see a new version of this model would be the markings on the sub dials. This subtle change would increase the legibility and add to the enjoyability of using the chronograph. The other huge positive about this watch if you are me, is it is an absolute joy to photograph. My interest in photography has developed right along side my interest in watches and has become a huge part of the hobby. All-in-all hats off to Jonathan at Brew and I look forward to potentially owning another Brew in the future.
Frank is a contributing writer who spends his days fighting gravity and architects as a structural engineer. He lives in Colorado and spends his free time climbing, diving, and with general mountaineering activities. He can be found on instagram @frendymgee for more watch photography.