Did someone order the salmon? It’s me. I did. And now I’m here to review it.
Not to brag, but my limited edition Baltic x Worn & Wound HMS is 61 of 100. Wait, can it even be a brag when the watch costs less than $400?
Baltic is a French micro-brand that started on Kickstarter in 2017. (Before you ask: Etienne Malec named Baltic Watches in honour of his horology-obsessed father and his Polish heritage.) Unlike most brands that have started on Kickstarter, Baltic has found favour with the watch world thanks to designs that show homage to eras and feelings more than specific brands or models. This collaboration with Worn & Wound – a blog dedicated to affordable, design-forward watches – makes perfect sense.
But before I get into reviewing the HMS, here’s something that puts my opinions into context: this is one of the most expensive watches I own. I mostly collect cheap vintage Soviet watches. I’m not looking at this and seeing a watch that costs less than a third of the Longines Heritage Classic; I’m looking at it and seeing a watch that costs twice as much as a NOS Raketa Copernicus.
The only watch I own that costs more than the HMS is my Full Metal 5000.
Kind of a weird modern collection, but ideal for the hypebeast on a budget. Anyway, back to the watch.
Let’s start with the obvious: Baltic’s managed an exquisite dial, with a level of finish that shouldn’t be available at this price point. The much-celebrated mix of sector finishes are delightful under a loupe; without one, the pebbled texture is more of a soft matte, and from a distance your mind registers the difference between the sectors without really knowing why. The overall effect is clean and legible, with a curvaceous font to boot.
The magic, though, is in the lines. The black borders between sections gives the dial a shocking amount of depth when viewed closely, especially when combined with distortion from the domed acrylic crystal. The dial feels thick in a pleasing way, despite the case’s relative thinness at 12.6mm. Not bad for a sub-$1000 automatic.
The attention to finishing doesn’t end with the dial: the mirrored hands somehow always find the light, even in a dark room, and the mirrored finish on the top of the bezel does the same. Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of words to say “Watch shiny!” But it’s not like anyone’s buying this watch for the movement.
Speaking of which, the Miyota 821A movement is… fine. Like when you ask for a Coke and the waitress responds “Is Pepsi okay?” That kind of fine. Again, my priciest watch is quartz, so it’s not like I’m a movement snob. I’m sure someone with a heftier collection is shouting “What do you expect out of a $400 watch?” Well, I expected the minute hand to jump less than my $50 vintage Raketa’s when I finish setting it, for starters. That said, what the Miyota lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in reliability.
The size feels good, but the 38mm case wears a little smaller than you’d expect for its stepped case, thanks to the track. I’m fine with that because the watch itself feels so dressy. I know some people complained that the lugs are too long, but the watch feels comfortable on my wrist, and the curved lugs flow beautifully into the case.
The “Dark Navy Blue Shell Cordovan” strap that gets so much print in the Worn & Wound announcement is a very high quality blue leather strap. If you like blue leather straps, it’s lovely. The most I can say about it is that it makes me wish Baltic had blued the seconds hand on this version of the HMS, as they do on the cream Bi-Compax. The strap’s not really my style, but the 20mm size means I’ve got plenty of options to try.
And honestly? I’m on week five of social distancing and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to dressing it up. I feel like I could put this on a tweed Kartel strap and be a long-lost member of the Thromby family in Knives Out, or I could find one in vintage chocolate leather and be transformed into a film noir detective.
This is an incredibly versatile dress watch that still feels comfortable when paired with my work-from-home pyjama pants. And the best part? Baltic’s commitment to watches that evoke feelings and not models means that every stolen glance at my wrist feels like a vacation in more ways than one.
Call it Stockholm (Or Paris? Warsaw?) Syndrome, but there’s no watch I’d rather be trapped with right now.
Eli’s an American living in London. She makes video games in order to pay for all of the watches and sneakers she collects. You can find her collection of reasonably priced watches and unreasonably priced sneakers at @sneakers_and_wrists on Instagram.