While Barry Cohen may not be a household name for most watch consumers, I can almost guarantee you know his work.
As the founder of Luminox back in 1989, Cohen established a brand that deftly integrated the ethos of the brand directly into the name: “Lumi” stood for illumination and “Nox” for night so the brand name meant it had superior night lume thanks to its self-illuminating tritium gas tubes.
Cohen sold the brand he founded for a variety of reasons. He returned with a new brand that would take the next logical steps in the design of a rugged sports watch that would not only look great – but would also make a strong value argument.
Priced aggressively from $450 to $525, ProTek watches are available in stainless steel, carbon composite, and surgical grade titanium cases, and all of them feature self-illuminating tritium tubes.
ProTek offers several dive watch variations that sport carbon composite or steel cases.
The Field Watch
Featured here, the 3000 Series Field watch is crafted in a slim (11mm), lightweight titanium case weighing only 48 grams in either a natural or black IP version.
All are capped with a flat sapphire crystal over a dial and hands enhanced with 3 colors of T-100 self-illuminating tubes.
These are the brightest self-illuminating tubes available and will emit their own radiance for up to twenty-five years without the need for exposure to external light to perform.
Rated and tested to a legitimate 100 meters of water resistance, the ProTek Series 3000 field watch can also be a casual-use water watch and is delivered with a waterproof Italian leather strap.
Clean dials in black, admiral blue, olive green and a silvery off-white are all easy to read. With a light weight of just over 48 grams (head-only), the watches are very comfortable on the wrist for extended use.
The threaded (screw-down) back is also crafted in titanium with a stylized “P” presented in deep relief, as it is on the double-gasket crown.
Inside the case is a Citizen/Miyota quartz movement with a four-year battery accurate to +/- 20 seconds per month. Retail price is $475 at www.watchgauge.com.
William Henry’s new Legacy timepiece collection, its first foray into wristwatches, features dials created from meteorite, fossilized mammoth tooth and other exotic materials.
Matt (William) Conable and his business partner Michael (Henry) Honack founded William Henry in 1997 with the belief that there was a potential consumer base for fine knives situated between the work of individual bladesmiths and mass production. They were right.
First, the Knives
Having practiced his knife-making art under his own name for almost a decade prior to launching the Oregon-based William Henry,Matt Conable developed an appreciation of exotic and unusual materials for his craft.
Today, William Henry incorporates exotic woods, fossilized dinosaur bone, mammoth tooth, semi-precious stones, corals and other unusual materials into handles. Frames, blades, bolsters and other metal elements are crafted in a variety of functional, semi-precious, and elegantly forged metals.
Unlike the results of mass production, William Henry’s knives combine the talents of expert individuals around the world to bring each designto life. Bladesmiths work Damascus and other exotic steels, metalsmiths create Mokume Gane while a host of specialist engravers work their craft to embellish handles and bolsters in their individual style.
I’ll admit that I often lament the overuse of “unique” when describing unusual designs, but each William Henry knife is in-fact unique. No two are exactly the same. The Damascus pattern, the grain of exotic woods, the striations of color in a fossilized mammoth tooth, or even the Widmanstatten patterns of meteorite all lend themselves to this distinctive individuality.
Next, the Accessories
Following the success of their blade-bearing beauties, Conable and company expanded the stable of offerings from knives to a host of other high-end men’s (and a few women’s) accessories including bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks, money clips, writinginstruments, and more.
In each product line, the ethos and feel of the William Henry design was clearly evident.
Seeing this evolution into new product lines I had always wondered – and had actually asked the leadership at William Henry “why not watches?” Vague answers intimated they were clearly considering the idea, but I never got a confirmation – until now.
Finally, the Watches
In reality, the connection between knives and watches is notthat great a leap. Both have ostensible functionality that justifies their existence, and both can be elevated beyond functionality and become works of art crafted in metal and other exotic materials.
For William Henry’s new Legacy timepiece collection, its first foray into wristwatches, five variations (see below) perfectly exemplify the spirit of William Henry.
From the brand: “William Henry is a studio that tells stories through timeless pieces, and our first watch designis a testament to that intention. The Legacy watch collection is a perfect blend of form and function, built around the extraordinary materials that have defined us.”
Entering the luxury watch market can be a risky thing. Unlike jewelry – or even knives – mechanical watches house a complex engine perfected and refined over hundreds of years by trial and error.
For their own launch watches, William Henry chose to go with the Sellita SW 400, a Swiss automatic time & date (only) movement without extraneous functions or complications, allowing the full impact of the rare materials to take center-stage. All else being equal, the SW 400 is a slightly larger version of the SW 200 and fits very nicely into the 42mm case without looking lost in the see-through back.
These high-grade movements are housed in grade 5 titanium, Damascus steel, and even Moku-Ti (Damascus titanium) – clearly putting the metallurgical roots and experience of the William Henry brand on full display. These watches are also built to high standards and are water resistant to 100 meters, regardless of the case material.
Under the sapphire crystals, each dial represents more than just color, pattern, and texture. They actually embody time in several different ways:
The Superconductor dial is a wafer of a modern material originally created as a particle accelerator moving protons and electrons to 99.997% the speed of light. It just so happens that the cross-section of this space-age material presents an intriguing pattern born from technology, and never used for its aesthetic value – until now.
The Moku-Ti dial combines ancient metalworking techniques in a mélange of modern materials and historical metalsmithing where the Damascus style layering of metals dating back to 1,500 BC are applied to the more modern titanium, a metal not really in widespread use until the 1900s.
Traveling a bit further back on the William Henry materials time-line, we find the one model sporting a Mammoth Tooth dial. Crafted from the fossilized teeth of these extinct giants, the amazing dials on these watches show color and grain that belie the source of the material and are at least 10,000 years old – when the last large herds of Wooly Mammoth roamed the planet.
The next series jumps back several orders of magnitude to fossilized dinosaur bone dating back 100-200 million years. When initially exhumed from the ground, the fossilized bone looks fairly mundane; much like a rusted rock. When shaped, sanded, polished, and finished, striations of dark grey create patterns over a varicolored Martian-red background in an ethereal expression of natural artistry brought to life through modern craftsmanship.
Traveling even further back to the very beginnings of our universe in our William Henry “Wayback” machine we find the meteorite dials. Not without precedent in the watchmaking pantheon, meteorite dials embody the ancient travelers of the cosmos that have seen billions and billions (thanks Carl) of years go by.
William Henry’s own dials display the iconic Widmanstätten patterns within a contrasting and colorful Moku-Ti case. This creates a vibrant counterpoint to the monochromatic Thomson structures of the dial.
Each William Henry timepiece represents a merger of materials, design, and engineering that integrates a totemic representation of time into timekeeping itself.
This limited-edition Legacy Meteorite model features a dial crafted from pure meteorite, a remarkable interstellar remnant dating back billions of years and discovered here on Earth. The fine crystalline pattern, in metal, is unlike anything else we’ve ever seen, and offers a window back to an earlier era in the story of our universe.
The dial is housed in a forged Moku-Ti case, built with ninety layers of four alloys of aerospace grade titanium. This tapestry in metal is crafted by a master smith in Ukraine specifically for this William Henry watch case, which requires heat to reveal the final pattern.
The watch is finished with a sapphire crystal and exhibition back revealing the Swiss automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve. Water resistance is rated to 100 meters, and the hand-crafted leather strap features a custom stainless deployant clasp for easy wear and adjustment.
The Fossil Dinosaur Bone Dial
This limited-edition Legacy Dinosaur model features a dial crafted from dinosaur bone; an extraordinary fossil material that ranges from 100 to 200 million years old.
The ‘high red’ dinosaur bone is considered the finest in the world and is found in the American southwest. Initially it has a similar appearance to rock, but after the painstaking process of crafting a precision dial, the beautiful hues and patterns are revealed. Surrounding the ancient dial is a forged Damascus case built with 300 layers of stainless-steel alloys and etched to reveal the individual patterns.
The Wooly Mammoth Tooth Dial
Color and grain are the earmarks of the dial crafted from fossil mammoth tooth. This relic of the giant that last roamed the Earth 10,000 years ago is occasionally discovered on the sea floor or riverbeds. When used for decoration, each tooth or remnant must dry for about 2 years before William Henry can begin to work with it.
Vacuum stabilized with resin, the finished dial reveals unique patterns and colors that have been waiting (at least) 10,000 years to become a timeless story on your wrist. The dial is housed in a forged Damascus case, built with 300 layers of stainless-steel alloys and acid-etched to reveal the flowing patterns of the contrasting metals.
The case on the Legacy Mammoth is finished with a sapphire crystal and exhibition back revealing the Swiss automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve. Water resistance is rated to 10 ATM/100 meters, and the hand-crafted crocodile leather strap features a custom stainless deployant clasp for easy wear and adjustment.
The Moku-Ti Dial
This Legacy Moku-Ti watch (also limited) features a dial crafted from Moku-Ti, a complex tapestry in titanium. The metal is created by forging eighty-four separate layers of four different alloys of aerospace grade titanium into a finely patterned billet.
This exquisitely detailed material is forged specifically for this project by one master artist located in Ukraine. After a detailed diamond polish, William Henry uses carefully applied heat to reveal the different alloys and final pattern in the dial ensconced within its titanium case.
The Superconductor Dial
This limited-edition Legacy Superconductor model features a dial crafted from Superconductor; a copper-niobium composite originally intended to become wire in a massive particle accelerator. The project was never completed, and this exotic patterned material was never drawn down to its final dimension.
Very little of it exists, and we have enough to make a limited number of watch dials. The dial is housed in a titanium case with black DLC coating, with a sapphire crystal and exhibition back revealing the Swiss automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve.
This feature appears in the Spring 2023 issue of iW Magazine, where it includes an interview with William Henry co-founder Matt William Conable.
Like so many watch enthusiasts, brothers Jonnie and Jeff LaMotte had a vision to create a watch of their own – and unlike the vast majority of dreamers, the brothers LaMotte have brought their dream to life.
Crafted with a less-is-more approach, the Balboa by the California-based LaMotte Watch Company embraces a design that is crisp and clean without excess – anything.
When you open the (California-sourced) packaging, the LaMotte Balboa is not a shock-watch with a rampant rainbow of colors, nor will you in awe of a massive 50mm case better suited for a desk clock than a watch. What you will see is a right-sized watch with a subtlety that can be underwhelming at first – but grows on you the more closely you look and the more you wear it.
At 39mm the 316L stainless Steel Balboa is easy to wear as the mid-size case rides very nicely on the wrist without reminding you that it’s on your arm every minute of the day. When you do roll your wrist to check the time, the hand-made leather strap leads the eye to the applied numerals standing tall as they rise from the silver circular grained dial.
Like the hands, the numerals are enhanced with X1 Superluminova that glows an electric blue for ease of reading in low light conditions. Both the front and the back have flat sapphire crystals, and each watch is individually pressure tested to 10atm.
Worth noting is that these watches achieve a 10atm rating without the need for a screw-down crown, thanks in large part to a double gasket system engineered into the stem/crown.
Built in partnership with the Arizona-based watchmaking company FTS, the Balboa is also one of the early adopters of the recently released Americhron 7000 series of automatic winding movements.
Unlike so many other “new” movements, the Americhron 7000 is not a clone of any other movement and is-fact a new design that embraces time-tested engineering in its own unique layout. Beating at 28,800 with a power reserve of just under forty hours, the Americhron has a traditional lever escapement, is anti-magnetic and shock resistant per ISO standards, and comes with a five-year warranty.
Designed to be service-friendly, the Americhron 7000 can be serviced and repaired by any qualified watchmaker that can work on traditional automatic winding movements.
Each LaMotte is individually tested for chronometry and certified as meeting or exceeding factory specifications for accuracy. On top of the five-year warranty on the movement, the LaMotte brothers have also decided to offer an eight-year warranty against manufacturing defect.
Thanks to the monochromatic mien of the Balboa, LaMotte’s first release feels right at home when active, for casual times, or even dressed-up for a night on the town and picks up on whatever couture you put around it – from a Speedo to a tuxedo.
Limited to only fifty individually numbered watches, the Balboa will retail at $895 and is delivered with two straps and a certification card signed by the watchmaker who built, tested, and certified that particular watch.
Two trends that are not necessarily new have been seriously amplified in recent times. One is the “Lemming” collector, the other is the “Collab” watch.
The first is pretty clear. At the high-end or at more affordable price-points, many watch buyers are almost afraid to miss their chance at acquiring the current hot watch. Whether a luxurious and hard-to-acquire SKU from one of the big names, or a run on a particular micro-brand, the watch collector crowd seems to be in full-on bandwagon mode in recent years.
FOMO drives not only active and engaged watch enthusiasts, but also acts as a magnet to the investment crowd – who may or may not even like the design of the particular monetary device.
Let’s be honest, this is how a lot of buyers view a fine timepiece.
Both types of lemmings drive prices artificially high and promote these hard to buy watches to a Grail/Unicorn status that only exacerbates the rampant pricing. The last buyers in line buy at ridiculously inflated prices and may not have much room left for the price to spike. But they do get bragging rights of owning a watch that they know others covet. Paying too much for it is almost a totem of their status.
This is when the heavy hitters with more ego and money than sense keep the unicorn express running full speed ahead. Sooner or later prices inevitably settle on the majority of these watches, whether through satiating the market (which Rolex and Patek NEVER want to do) with enough product, or when the bottom falls out as the house of cards collapses.
The other trend, collaboration watches, is just screaming ahead at full speed.
Historically a retailer might partner with a watch brand for a special dial or to simply have their logo stamped on a traditional model. Occasionally other entities (COMEX comes to mind) that purchased a larger batch of watches were granted the space on the dial by Rolex or others for their logo to reside.
In today’s watch market hardly a week goes by when I don’t see a press release for some new joint effort in watches. Whether a musician, designer, graffiti artist, skateboarder, surfer, free climber, or even (yuck) an influencer that no one has heard of but has a “huge” following, it seems that every other press release I receive includes some kind of partnership beyond the watch.
I can’t wait for the hot new green dials of the new Pickle Ball watch sponsorship by brand “X.”
While some of these make sense and are natural combinations, others scream of desperation. Desperation to attract an audience via the collaborator, desperation to take an aging design and breathe new life into it, desperation not to be left behind (see lemmings) in the new era of collabs, and desperation to remain relevant in an ever more crowded field of wristwatch options.
Szanto has extended its Heritage Aviator retro pilot watch series to include midnight blue and green dials.
From its inception California-based Szanto has focused on modern interpretations of retro types and these core fundamentals show through in the Heritage Aviator series.
With easy-to-read dials and an emphasis on the minutes, the new watches embrace current color trends while maintaining their technical chops.
Both new Heritage Aviator versions feature brushed stainless-steel cases water resistant to 100 meters, even without a screw-down crown. Rather, Szanto made a great choice by using a push/pull onion style safety crown that will not allow the watch to start running unless the crown is fully pushed in to the case.
A healthy dose of SuperLuminova on the hands and indices make this series easy-to-read day or night and accuracy is ensured with a Japanese Miyota quartz movement under the new dials, which themselves are protected under a hardened mineral crystal. The 41mm case is held in place with a genuine leather strap. Price: $225.