Watch Review : Hamtun H2

There are certain materials which hold a strange magic over me. Titanium is foremost among those. Many years ago, I was given a titanium watch by my grandfather and it was unlike anything I had held up to this point. Light and warm to the touch, it reminded me of an egg of a rare bird.

Many, many years later I was surfing around YouTube when a video by Jody from JOMW popped up presenting the Hamtun H2. In the video the watch sounded like the amalgamation of all the characteristics I was looking for in a watch. It was almost too good to be true; it ticked many of the boxes I had listed in my mind, promising to tick the rest in the future. So now let’s dive in and find out if there was a bad awakening in the end or if the dream continues.

On the outside:

To get the basic specs out of the way, we are talking about a titanium dive watch with a unidirectional 60 minute bezel, 41mm diameter, 48 lug to lug and almost 14 mm thick. The bezel is made of ceramic and the crystal is sapphire, inside the case is a Seiko NH35 or Sellita SW200.

The usual spec list in the affordable microbrand range.

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I think the big talking point here is the material. The entire watch is made from grade 2 Titanium, which, at the time, was something special. In the beginning of 2019 there were not too many titanium divers, especially at this price point. Since then there has been a great influx of affordable titanium divers, but this shall be a matter of discussion for another day.

The H2 comes with a full titanium case, caseback, bracelet and clasp and also bezel, except for the insert. Unlike my first brush with the material, this watch does not feel as light and breezy as there is a lot more titanium here. The heft is not uncomfortable, certainly not as heavy as a steel diver of the same size would be, but it is noticeable. It doesn’t feel like you are wearing a wisp of nothing on the wrist is what I’m saying. Design-wise the H2 shows its colors as a tool watch, being all straight edges and no-nonsense angles. It doesn’t feel intimidating though, just a straight and basic design.

The watch comes on a three-link bracelet, reminiscent of a certain mollusk-named band, their name shall not be uttered here. The top of the bracelet has longitudinal brushing and the links really appear to be made up of three separate parts, although the ones I have taken out remained as a unit. The clasp is a double pusher clasp with a keeper, made of stamped titanium. And I will have more to say on that later on. The case has short and stubby lugs, a well guarded, signed crown at 4 o’clock and is vertically brushed all over. The lugs are drilled and the endlinks are solid, but there is no quick release springbar.

The bezel comes with nice looking scallops around its edge, but it is not really grippy. The insert is matted ceramic and very nicely lumed. The watch face is definitely handsome, probably the best feature on this watch. After some time looking at it however, it does seem like it is a bit too large. Shave a millimeter or two off and it would look better in my opinion. The printing is as crisp as anything I have seen and the layout and text is nice. Markers are applied and deeply filled with BGW9 Super LumiNova.

The edge of the markers are blackened but not as black as pictures make it out to be and they are polished along the edge. There is a stepped cut-out for the date and a minute track printed on the rehaut chapter ring. Lastly on the outside, the hands have a deeply black border and again a lot of lume on them. Also, the seconds hand matches the color of the Kraken print on the dial, a teal kind of blue.

What I think:

Let’s start at a place which I normally wouldn’t include in a review. Packaging and delivery. Some day in early February of 2020 a package showed up in the middle of my closed driveway, a few meters away from the gate. Like, smack in the middle, on the ground, torn open on one side. Someone must have thrown it in there like it was a live hand grenade. I was also not impressed by the fact that the watch was only protected by a leather pouch and a bit of bubble wrap. I’m usually not so fussy with delivery, but this was a bit much for my blood, and the impact couldn’t have been good for the movement. On this note, anyone wanna buy a slightly used H2? Runs great, like fresh from the factory. Never dropped (at least I have never seen it being thrown around).

On the wrist the watch wears great. There are three micro adjust holes in the clasp and I did find a good fit. But as there are only three and no half links, your mileage may vary. The watch has the male endlink variant, so a bigger effective lug to lug, but all in all it doesn’t wear huge, even on my skinny wrist. A 30% reduction in weight helps mightily with fit, as it compensates for some unfavourable geometry of one’s wrist, I presume.

Legibility is great as it should be for a diver, even though this is only a desk diver. Also, at night this thing has lume for days (pun only slightly intended), comparable to my Seiko, which actually is a certified diver. I have written a review on that too if you are interested; wink wink, nudge nudge.

Watch Review : Seiko SPB081J1 – Great Blue Hole

Off the wrist the Kraken is not so impressive I have to say. The case finishing left a lot of sharp edges, especially on the underside of the watch. Not enough to hurt, but it is not a premium feeling holding the watch in hand. The links of the bracelet are really sturdy feeling with screws holding them together, but the big let down of this part of the watch is the clasp. The keeper flaps around even when closed and the stamped sheet metal of the clasp just feels cheap. I understand that there is a limitation on the machining possible with titanium but the clasp of my 20 year old titanium watch my grandfather gave me is much better, and the price of the two watches was comparable.

Ross is said to be working on a better clasp with a divers extension, but as it has not arrived yet, and judging on what you read online it probably never will. Another problem with the bracelet is that it rattles a lot when moving, and I suspect the clasp is to blame for 95% of the noise. Also the part of the links facing each other show severe discoloration due to heat oxidation of the titanium. Likely this happened during the machining. It is ok, but shows that attention to detail only went so far with the build.

Since the watch is made of grade 2 titanium, which is softer than steel, the watch comes with a hard coating to prevent scratches. My watch came prescratched on one of the end links though, so someone really tried hard to test the coating. Also it was not so great when unboxing the Kraken after waiting for a year to have a big scratch be one of the first things you are looking at. However, “I” have not managed to scratch it so far, so the coating seems to be working great; now. There is a little gap between the lugs and the endlinks, not too noticeable, but my OCD keeps pulling my eye to this gap and it slides about half a millimeter to either side. On the plus side, the brushing on the bracelet is really nice, on the clasp it is ok but different from the bracelet and brushing on the case is again good but again a little different to the rest. Furthermore, on the side of the case the tool marks of machining seem to come through in harsh lighting . Could be an optical illusion caused by the fine brushing, but it kinda just looks like an end mill surface finish.

The crown action was really stiff when I got the watch. It has gotten better, but it is still not comfortable to wind the watch after it has run down. Sharp edges on the crown and guards as well as the amount of force required to tighten the crown makes it more than a little uncomfortable to manually wind the watch. I emailed Ross about this but it never went anywhere, and it is getting better now so I didn’t bother to follow up. OCD and being lazy make for strange bedfellows.

The bezel has a lot of play in it in any direction, up/down as well as in rotational direction. Judging from the comments it is luck of the draw, some of them are excellent and others wobble like mine or even more. When I leave it alone the alignment is great though, so I tend to just not play with the bezel. Overall the alignment of bezel, rehaut and dial is spot on, which is nice. Also the geek inside of me really likes the bezel mechanics, as it uses ball bearings instead of the more common spring-ratchet system. In practice, there is no difference that I could find, but it is cool just knowing about this. What I don’t like is the font of the bezel text, but that is just an opinion

The finishing of the dial and hands leaves nothing to be desired, everything is spot on. There is just a little gap on the outside between the date wheel on the outside of the date window. If you look straight on, there is a sliver of black visible. Apparently there were watches with a lot of black, mine is just on the border of noticeable.

Application of lume is even and good on both the indices and hands.

The movement is off the shelf, so there is not so much to talk about. Mine keeps good time and Hamtun had a watchmaker adjust them if they were out of spec, but there is a lot of rotor wobble considering the amount of material in the case and I can’t shake the thought in the back of my head that it has taken some damage in shipping. Again, anyone wanna buy a Kraken? Runs like clockwork.

Conclusion?

Well, I think in this case it is not just the watch I have to judge but also the path that led me to the watch, the Kickstarter campaign by Hamtun. So come back to part two of this review to hear about political unrest, a maker experiencing personal loss and how man is a wolf to other men. There’s gonna be drama, baby.

Part 2: The Kickstarter

I think a disclaimer is in order. This is not a play by play account of what happened, but a condensed version of what I have experienced in this campaign. Also, as I invested in this project, I am not an impartial observer of the whole proceedings. So take my writings here with this knowledge in mind. Also, don’t sue me, this is opinion not fact and for entertainment purposes only.

It all started with a video by Jody of Just one more watch fame in early February 2019. In the back of my head, I was running around with a list of features, titanium, diver, ceramic bezel, on the go adjustable bracelet, white dial, Swiss movement, and the H2 seemed to fit the bill. Moreover, I really liked the design, and even though it didn’t have the adjustable clasp, it was one of the stretch goals. So it was within the realm of possibility this would happen. So I kept my eye on the campaign to get a nice early bird special since those prices were extra sharp. I was hoping to be one of the 50 lucky bastards to get one. Well, as I wasn’t the only one thinking that, as it turned out, on the hour the campaign went live all hell broke loose. I tried to get into the 50 but as I was pressing the button they were all gone. I was lucky enough to get into the next tier but I think that was mostly because Ross decided to increase the allotments as he was seeing such a big interest. With the initial boom, the project raised 100000 pounds in just 4 minutes. It was crazy. But if this were a movie about now you would be hearing the quiet dun dun dun of evil approaching in the background.

During the month-long funding phase all stretch goals were achieved, which included bonus straps, different dial colors, meteorite dials, different bezel options and the design of an adjustable clasp. I couldn’t have been happier, as the adjustable clasp was one thing I was hoping for.

DUN DUN DUN.

The timeline in the campaign would have the watch in our hands by late August of the same year and at the start of the campaign everything was fine and dandy, with regular updates until the point the campaign was funded. Once this happened the frequency of updates slowed down, but I think this is mostly due to the fact that instead of 6 models (white, black and blue with Seiko or Sellita) Hamtun offered a lot more (yellow and teal, meteorite and no date, different bezels for all the options,..) so somewhere in the region of 20 different flavors. Couple this with an increase from around 500 pieces (which was the number given in an update) to 1800 pieces and you can see how the complexity of the project increased dramatically.

In other parts of the world a murder in Taiwan incited a legislative change in Hong Kongs extradition laws which led to protesters clashing with government forces in the streets of Hongkong. This whole topic is wildly complicated and too much to explain for a short review that is mainly made for entertainment purposes but Asian regional politics did have quite an impact on a British kickstarter campaign, and the watch industry at large. As it turns out, a lot of stuff is made in China with the involvement of Hongkong, especially in the watch industry. Who’d have guessed, with all the “Swiss made” been flung around. On top of the increased complexity, unrest in the part of the world where the manufacturing takes place surprisingly did not accelerate the timeline. Insert surprised Pikachu face here.

Also a personal loss by Ross delayed the project, but even though people were saying they empathised, the cries of “where is my watch” were just as loud as ever. He had and still has my sympathy for his loss, at least.

Moving on in the timeline in September Ross made a trip to Hongkong but the eagle eyed among you will have spotted that September comes after August, when we should have received the watch. Some people were not happy, to say the least. Also, there were no pictures of the watches up to this point, which supposedly were in production already. In fact we didn’t see pictures of the dials until October and at this point I was concerned. The surveys for people deciding which watch they want should have closed around June but they were still open. My reason for being concerned was along the lines of “how would anything ship, if you are not sure what to ship to the people, or more concerning, what to produce even”. In hindsight I think it is the same principle with election projections, you don’t need to know everyone’s choice, just a sufficient percentage and hope those are equally distributed.

Anyway, there was talk that Ross was not producing watches but taking the money and running. Maybe not straight talk, but there definitely was insinuation. The comment section got quite toxic at this point, with a lot of people arguing. There was a split among those writing in the comments, some advocating to give Hamtun the time they need to produce a good product, while the others were asking for more updates and pictures and insinuating we were being scammed even louder. But there was the promise we would have the watch by Christmas with 99,999% certainty.

Well, December came and went (there were even more delays with assembly and QC) and in January we received the good news that the watches would be shipping soon. I was not so hopeful, as there was this little thing on the horizon, some virus of unspecified origin. China was shutting down and I was convinced this would impact the timeline even further. But low and behold, the watches started shipping.

And it was a shitshow. In an admirable attempt to get the product out as fast as possible the watches were shipped by different companies as soon as they became available. And as no tracking information was given, one could not know if his/her watch was on the way and people were not handling it well. They used all kinds of metrics to determine their watch should be on the way (I’m in the UK, I only have a white dial NH35, it should be here already. How come this dude in Spain already has his?!?!!111!) But as there was no way of knowing what had shipped there was no way of knowing what had shipped.

This was when my watch finally arrived, in the middle of my driveway, like the driver was kicking it in an attempt at a conversion. The watch was starting after some winding and a few moments of tension, so all was well that ends well?

I reduced reading the comments significantly after getting my watch, but I felt there were a lot of posts about QC issues and broken watches. Also missing items in shipping and so on. During the shipping a whole case of meteorite dial Krakens went missing, so that was no fun for anyone. For Ross on the one hand, as he had to source new pieces and swallow the cost of those as well as the very impatient backers on the other hand, who had to wait even longer.
I had some QC issues myself, you can read about it in part one. But communication never went anywhere, partly on my lack of following through and I assume because Ross was swamped with mails and claims at that time. So that’s that.

As for the stretch goal of the clasp I was looking forward to, there have been some made and distributed, but I and many others think we won’t get some of those. In my mind that ship has sailed. But I did get the watch and it still works which is nice.

As for the other platforms and projects Ross is involved in, the Indiegogo people have claimed they have not received the product, and the H3 people are pissed and some are threatening legal action. Most don’t believe they will see the watch, as far as I can tell from the comments. People are saying Ross took the money and ran and they are looking to get reimbursed. But that is all hearsay, not my legal opinion so don’t sue me. Coming full circle back to Jody from JOMW, he has taken down the video of the H2, it seems. At least I can’t find it anymore. Take that as you will.

Now the last question, where did we end up?

I have bought and received a watch. It may not contain all the bells and whistles I was expecting but it keeps time and works as a watch. Others have not been so fortunate it seems, or at least not until now. Maybe my H2 will rise in value because of this, a curiosity and cautionary tale packed in a wrist watch for an affordable price. But I don’t think so.

And big picture? Is Kickstarter inherently flawed? Or are microbrands dangerous to invest your money in? I don’t think so, there is always going to be a project on Kickstarter with hiccups. Choose your projects wisely. I, for one, picked the Kraken because Ross genuinely seemed to care about watches. He had produced them before and relied on design and specs to sell his product rather than a story or tie in with a place. Still it didn’t work flawlessly, so be prepared to suffer through the process.

As for microbrands, some disappear and some work great. Halios or Lorier are examples for great brands with great value retention. Sometimes you don’t know beforehand. That being said, Hamtun is still around as of writing this. Although some say the homepage has been taken down it works for me so I assume the company still exists. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of the brand disappearing or that it could take longer to get an answer, buy a nice watch from an established brand. There is plenty of choice there as well.
So in the end, nothing is certain, even good looking Kickstarter campaigns can fail. The only certainty is time is moving on, and some of us have watches to record it and some don’t.