For as much as the watch world has opened up to newcomers in the past few years, it can still be difficult for the new enthusiast to find their place in the hobby. Especially for those working with a limited budget, finding that first great watch that fits your style and looks can still be a challenge. Our pair of watches for this review are both great examples of a true gateway timepiece done right, and coincidentally enough were designed by a first-time watch designer, too. The Matthew Humphries Design (MHD for short) CR1 and SQ1 are almost deceptively simple, automotive-inspired timepieces that may be perfect for the newcomer. But should the veteran enthusiast take notice as well?
MHD CR1/SQ1 Review
Tasteful simplicity is the order of the day for MHD’s cases. The CR1 and SQ1 feature nearly identical cases, both with an unbroken overall fine brushing. When viewed from above, the case sides are a continuous gentle curve flowing unbroken into the lugs. This smooth surface is only disturbed by a thin low bezel, anchoring the dial and keeping the case from feeling unfinished.
The theme of unbroken lines continues through the case sides, where the thick 11mm walls taper gracefully to the lug tips in another continuous curve. It’s a soft, clean look, and despite its elemental nature it works quite nicely. Along the right side are one of the only differentiating factors between the two cases: for the SQ1, a single narrow knurled crown at four; for the CR1 the same knurled crown at three flanked by identical-looking pushers at two and four.
The screw down crowns feel solid and easy to operate, and gives the CR1 and SQ1 a respectable 100 meters of water resistance. The chronograph pushers on the CR1, meanwhile, are undeniably quartz pushers—none of the crisp mechanical-feeling wizardry of a Seiko VK64 here. The pusher action would best be described as more of a keyboard feeling, but it gets the job done.
The dial of the MHD pair is where designer Matthew Humphries begins to show his personal flair. When he’s not designing watches, Humphries is an automotive designer. During his tenure at Morgan, he was responsible for such sporty retromodern creations as the AeroMax and the instant classic Morgan 3-Wheeler, and that lineage shows through in both the CR1 and SQ1.
The three hand SQ1 shows this the most readily. The painted hour registers are vibrant red marks against the white hashes of the minutes track, and the dashboard instrument look is further hammered home by a red sweep from eight to twelve, reminiscent of the redline indicator on a sporting tachometer. The dial is otherwise minimal, with a printed MHD logo at twelve balanced by the model name at six in a very Porsche-esque angular script. The handset is simple—black lume-filled batons accompanied by an extra long stick seconds hand. It’s a minimal formula, but bold and effective.
The CR1 expounds on that bold, minimal formula with some extra character touches. Chief among these are obviously the deeply recessed sub-dials with that same Porsche script at nine and three, housing chronograph minutes and running seconds, respectively. The white-dialed CR1 also adds a level of maturity to the design, replacing the vibrant red highlights of the SQ1 with subtler blacks and grays. The other defining characteristic of the CR1 is the unique windowed handset, ostensibly for easy legibility of the sub-dials at all times. While that’s never seemed to be a problem with any of my other chronographs, it does give the dial a more upscale, almost architectural feel.
Here we go. The elephant in the room. Yes, both the MHD SQ1 and CR1 are quartz powered. While there are obvious advantages in cost, accuracy and reliability, it does come with the once-a-second start-stop ticking motion. The Miyota 6s21 in the CR1 mitigates this somewhat with a 1/5 second chronograph sweep, but the quartz running seconds at three is a reminder of the battery-powered engine within. While quartz movements are perfectly serviceable, I’d be excited to see these two offered with an entry-level mechanical option in the future.
Straps and Wearability
There’s a good variety of straps available from MHD for the CR1 and SQ1, including six different varieties of big-hole rally strap (blue, tan, brown, black/black stitching, black/white stitching, and black/red stitching) and milanese bracelets. The straps themselves are impressive for the price, thick and soft with a rich, even color. The contrast stitching, especially on the black/red, is very well executed and really makes the red of the dial pop. Our testers didn’t include the milanese bracelet, but it’d be an interesting match-up with the case design. For a watch like this, however, I could also see an oyster or H-link bracelet looking very nice.
While clocking in at 42mm, the MHD pair feels quite a bit smaller on the wrist thanks to the continuous curve of the case and the relatively short lugs. On the flip side, the two have surprising wrist presence for only 11mm of thickness. This is probably a function of the slab-sided profile. In terms of versatility, the SQ1 is strictly a casual watch with its bright red flashes and racy design, but the more grown-up CR1 can slot into business casual if necessary.
The entry-level watch market is getting stronger all the time, and MHD has just brought forth two new contenders with the CR1 and SQ1. The impression they leave me with the most, however, is much like the impression my first gateway watch buy left me with, “what happens next?” The first generation of MHDs, more than anything else, are an excellent springboard for future designs. Humphries has laid down a clean and compelling design language that should translate nicely into more pieces in the future, hopefully including a mechanical.
Both models are currently available at approximately $264 for the SQ1 and $317 for the CR1. To purchase, visit MHD.