Oak & Oscar Burnham Review

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Over the last couple of years Oak & Oscar has slowly, but surely built up a solid following. Many brands do this, but what makes it particularly interesting in this case is that founder Chase Fancher started this process a couple years before actually having a watch for sale. In fact, we first met the Chicago native not on US soil, but in Basel, at one of the horrendously over-priced coffee bars within the shows halls. It was there that Chase first told us about his brand, his initial watch, the Burnham, and his goal to make something great.

Fast forward and Oak & Oscar have become one of the more talked about micro brands of the year. Between a strong following of friends and fans from the #watchfam and #redbarcrew scenes on instagram, his brand got off to a very strong start. He also participated in our Wind-Up: NYC event, where his booth was regularly full of intrigued watch enthusiasts.

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Before getting to the watch, part of what set Oak & Oscar apart was that he wasn’t trying to make the most affordable watch out there, mixing the most expensive components into a razor-thin-margined machine. Rather, he set out to make something luxurious in the same way a nice Filson briefcase is luxurious…something built well and meant to last. To that end, his approach was a bit different. His watch was developed slowly, which shows in the execution, and while the case components were manufactured overseas, he sourced various American partners to tie it all together. So, his leather strap is made in Indiana, his Nylon is from Crown & Buckle, his watch wallet is made in Chicago, and the watch itself is assembled in Ohio by Chris Wiegand/Lüm-Tec. Lastly, his movement is from Soprod, giving the insides Swiss-made credibility.

So, it’s this hodgepodge of people, places and things…which is more and more becoming the reality of watches. It’s not American-made, nor is it Asian-made. It’s a mix of things sourced from specialists in each thing, which is the modern way of doing things. What you get in the end, is a watch with a story that has been touched by many hands along the way. The accessories that join it a more like curated extras than standard parts, and their craft all stand out. So, when you see the $1,650 price tag, keep in mind that it’s more than just a watch with stock straps and packaging. Apart from that, what interested me is that Oak & Oscar are one of the few brands pursuing watches with a sort of American design language. It doesn’t look like a Swiss watch. It’s a bit more blunt, a bit warmer. As micro brands continue to pop up in the US, few have felt this way to me, which is something I think is lacking.

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$1650

Oak & Oscar Burnham Review

Case
316L Brushed Stainless Steel
Movement
Soprod A10
Dial
Matte Gray
Lume
BGW9 Superluminova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather and Nylon
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
42 x 50.5 mm
Thickness
12mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
7 x 3mm
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$1650

Case

For the Burnham, Oak & Oscar went with a very classic case shape. It’s got the lines of a pilot or field watch, giving it a robust build and masculine scale. At 42 x 50.5 x 12mm it’s a medium/large sports watch with a modest lug-to-lug, keeping it wearable. It’s a nice proportion that works. Clearly, the concept was to make an every day watch with some heft and size that, with the various leather goods that accompany it, will appeal to the workwear-wearing type. While I often prefer watches to teeter closer to 40mm (though I have plenty that are larger), conceptually it works with the Burnham. It’s a watch designed in a more “American” vernacular; it’s goes for toughness over elegance.

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So, with the shape, you’ll find thick lugs that taper in with a curve that follows the case profile. The sides are flat all around and given a brushed finish. On top is a stout bezel with an beveled edge, also all brushed. The finishing is worth note. While the same all around, it’s well executed. The brushing has a nice grain, perhaps a touch coarser than what you typically see, and the edges all around are nice and sharp.

At three is a screw down crown that measures 7 x 3mm, making it wide and flat. This works well with the case as the flatness prevents the crown from digging into your wrist. The crown sides are toothed in a typical fashion, making it easy to grab, and that flat outside surface is marked with Oak & Oscar’s symbol. It’s all well executed.

The case back features a display window, and a wide steel rim with various watch details and case-wrench marks. Perhaps the most significant is that of the serial number, xxx/300, indicating which of this fairly limited production you have. Through the window the Soprod A-10 is visible. It’s a very attractive movement with blued screws, perlage and a custom rotor with four cut-through stars nodding to the Chicago flag. Even the bearing in the center has concentric graining and blued screws. While the A-10 certainly adds cost to the overall package, it’s one of the nicer looking movements you’ll find in a watch under $2k.

All in all, it’s a well done case with solid execution. My one gripe is that it is very common looking. Yes, it works, but it doesn’t speak to any signature design concept or aesthetic. And while custom and made to order, there is no real sense of that, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, but this isn’t an inexpensive timepiece. For me, the more I spend, the more unique elements I want.

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Dial

The dial of the Burnham is a unique spin on a field watch, that simultaneously feels classic and new. Whereas the case might have felt a bit too classic, the dial takes familiar elements, alters them, dresses them up and creates an aesthetic that feels more unique to the brand. The first thing one notices about the dial is the color. It’s a medium almost neutral gray, which is relatively uncommon, especially for a matte surface. Typically grays are more metallic, silver or sunburst in nature. It’s a cool color that I found very appealing.

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The second thing is that’s it’s a sandwich dial, meaning that there is a layer of lume underneath a top surface of cut-through shapes. Sandwich dials are cool and not used all that often. You’ll find them on Panerais and watches that want to look like Pans, but far less commonly on a field or typical sport watch. It further evokes a military feel, as the numbers must be executed in stencil style, with bridges connecting the counters (think center of a zero) to the main body of the type, otherwise they would fall away. It also immediately adds some depth and texture to a dial.

The primary index then consists of cut-though numerals in a custom typeface. The numbers are large enough to be very legible, but not over-sized. The typeface is very nice. It’s a bit soft and mid-century, giving the type a warmer and friendlier feel. This is particularly noticeable on the “9”, whose loop doesn’t quite close, and the rounded ends of the numerals. I think this was a wise choice, as something more rectilinear and modern would have made the watch cold, and frankly speak less to the “American” aesthetic the watch fits within.

The dial has an interesting set of grooves that create a circle in its center. They are aesthetic, but do a great job of breaking up the dial, which could have felt too expansive. Within the area the circle makes are Oak & Oscar logos on the 12 side, “Burnham” and “automatic” on the 6 side. The text is very limited and quite small so it doesn’t feel obtrusive. I like that this is a physical groove, rather than a printed circle. Both would have achieved the partitioning of the dial it creates, but the groove is more interesting, adding the to dials texture.

At 6, there is a date window that breaks the circle in the center. They added just a touch of buffering on either side of the window, preventing it from feeling crowded. The window is quite slender, and shows a custom white text on a matching gray date disk. I love that the disc was customized for the dial. It integrates into the dial much better, and is simply a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked, but so often is. The positioning of the date works well too. Often on larger watches, the date feels like it is too far towards the center. Here, because of various elements, the date feels very intentionally placed. They also eliminated the 6 numeral, replacing it with a smaller rectangle, giving the date more room, but not leaving the area too blank. Overall a well balanced execution.

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The outer edge of the dial features a wide chapter ring in matching gray. On the surface is a minute/second index of small white lines that get thicker every 5 units. At 15, 30 and 45 are larger white rectangles, and at 0/60 is a blunted triangle. These give the dial a slight crosshair feel. The index adds to the legibility of the dial, adding in to-the-minute accuracy, but overall I think it’s the weakest element of the dial. Seeing what was done with texture on the surface, it seems like a missed opportunity to simply printed on the chapter ring. The white marks also look a bit cheap or plastic, with the larger marks having the slightest bit of gray showing through. Further, they are not lume, and don’t match the tone of the lume under the dial, which is slightly off-white. Making at least the larger quarter-hour marks lumed would have been a nice touch.

The hour and minute hands are slender, tapering swords in dark gray, subtly contrasting the dial below. I was glad to see they were a unique design for the watch, rather than something more typical field or pilot. Both are lumed. The seconds hand is a long thin stick with a flat, blunted tip. The reverse side is quite long as well, and features the Oak & Oscar barrel symbol as a counter weight. Perhaps the most notable feature is the color, which is a bright orange. Being the only color on the dial, and a loud one at that, it stands out a lot, but works, so long as you like orange. On cool detail is that the logo on the back of the seconds hand lines up with the logo on the dial, creating a sort of eclipse effect.

The lume on the Burnham is great. The under-layer and hands use BGW9 superluminova, which glows a bright, ice blue. It’s well applied and quite strong.

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Movement

Beating within the Burnham is a Soprod SOP A-10, or Alternance 10. This Swiss-made automatic movement is a less often seen, but likely increasing in popularity, alternative to ETA automatics. Often thought of as an replacement for the ETA 2892, the A-10 is however not a clone, like Sellita movements. They also are completely independent from Swatch group, being part of the Festina group, and source escapements from within the groups holdings (source).

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The A-10 itself is a 25-jewel automatic with hacking, hand winding, date, 42 hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. In my experience with the watch and the movement, it’s dependable, keeping good time and having a solid power reserve. It sets the same as an ETA would, so no surprises there. As mentioned before, it’s a beautifully decorated movement, that is equivalent to ETA “Top-grade” at least.

Straps and Wearability

The Burnham comes with two straps; an American-made leather strap by WoodNSteel and a nylon strap from Crown & Buckle. The leather strap is a really nice piece that brings some hand-craft to the watch. The 22mm strap is made of a tan Horween leather that has a very attractive tone which complements the gray and orange of the dial. It’s straight cut, with burnished and waxed edges, something you more often see on belts, a single large keeper and off white tacks by the lugs and buckle. I quite like the shape of the end of the strap, which tapers slightly and then squares off with rounded corners. Looking at the strap from the side, you can appreciate the construction. By the lugs, there are extra wedges of leather increasing the strap’s thickness by the lugs. Not a simple thing to make. It’s no surprise that when bought separately, the straps go for $120. Needless to say, it’s also very comfortable.

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Additionally, the watch comes with a navy blue, thick nylon pass through strap. While the leather might be the star, it’s nice that it comes with this additional option for warmer weather or light use in water. The strap isn’t stock either, featuring bright orange stitching to tie in with the watch.

On the wrist, the Burnham wears nicely. It’s definitely largish but not too much so. I’d say it’s at its limit before becoming oversized. That said, it’s not very thick at 12mm, which gets spread out across the 42mm, keeping it low on the wrist. Visually, it’s appealing. It comes off more understated than might be expected. The gray is low-key, and the case has no bells or whistles that jump out. The orange of the seconds hand is the only thing that garners a bit more attention.

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It honestly feels a lot like wearing a flieger, though the style is definitely different. As said, it has this sort of American feeling, which I fing appealing. Wearing this with a Woolrich over shirt, an oxford, some denim and Red Wing boots feels like a complete outfit. I wouldn’t personally wear it with formal attire, though I suppose a tweed blazer could work, and that gray dial will work with pretty much any color you pair it with.

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Packaging

Accompanying the Burnham is a gorgeous watch wallet made by Defy MFG Co of Chicago, IL. Made of the same Horween leather as the strap, and lined with thick gray felt, it’s a great addition to the watch that adds value, luxury and continues the sense of craft from the strap. It’s essentially a big rectangle that folds in half, then secures shut with a flap and two studs. On the inside, one side is just felt, while the other contains staggered pockets. In theory, one could carry up to 4 watches inside. It’s very nicely sewn and finished with painted edges all around.

Conclusion

The Oak & Oscar Burnham is a very solid first offering from the brand. Chase successfully created a watch that speaks to more to his interests and passions than something that just fits a trend. In a sea of micro brands, that sets them apart. But more than that, they clearly went for this sense of luxury that is defined by quality goods rather than opulence. The curated items that surround the watch have a beautiful materiality to them that speaks to this goal. The watch itself is then an understated, well-made piece that is meant to endure and be cherished more than to be shown off. While using a Soprod A-10 likely increased the cost of the watch substantially, having a renowned, high-end movement inside plays to this as well.

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At $1,650, the Burnham is not cheap. It’s competing with watches from many established Swiss brands, such as the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot. I compare the two as they both riff on similar concepts, and are priced nearly the same, though have very different executions. But, what I’ll give Oak & Oscar credit for is creating a package that feels a lot more personal. The strap and wallet for one, but also the limited nature of the watch. Throw in that Chase himself goes out and meets people, and you can get a deeper connection with this watch than you can from a large brand.

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Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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  • chenpofu

    Maybe this watch looks better in person, but from the photos it seems kinda boring. A Nomos Club is not much more than this, and is a much better looking and more interesting watch in my opinion.

    • The_Repentant_Curmudgeon

      I really like the watch, but when you mentioned Nomos…well, you reminded me of a great, great looking watch.

  • The more I’ve seen this watch on Instagram, the more I’ve come to really like the details and style of the watch. I can appreciate the price, do not feel it’s overpriced at all, but it’s out of my price range. I have yet to be able to hold it or strap it on my wrist, but some day I’m sure I will. I find the watch to be well designed and attractive.

    I love the center grooves and would love to see them used in future models as some sort of power reserve or even a calendar/moonphase somehow.

  • jasonjwwilliams

    I’ve honestly never understood the hype over this watch. The dial looks really cheap to me, like its made of gray dollar-store plastic stencil. Maybe it looks better in person, but I think the dial photographs horribly. The back and movement look very nicely finished, but I’d spend $1650 on a lot of other watches before this one.

    • Maximilian Gazebo

      My thoughts exactly

  • Svetoslav Popov

    well, I don’t know …

  • Danny Ren

    I like it.. I just wished it was under 40mm and have some polishing to the case.

  • Никита

    This watch started to grow on me, the more I see it the more I like little details like stars in the rotor, warm grey sandwich dial, straps and package. I am fan of Soprod movements, they have great finish and performance, but this one looks too small for that case. Burnham with its 42mm could easily house Unitas 6497/8, but I would prefer it to be 39-40 mm. The pricing seems a bit high, at 1650$ I can see many competitors: USA-based like Weiss, germans like NOMOS Club or Stowa Partitio, which is 2x cheaper; lots of swiss and japanese with more sophisticated finishing. But cannot deny – the watch has some charming warmth about it, very few watches give me same feeling.

    • bjs314

      Weiss watches are also over-priced and uninspired. But like Weiss, Oak & Oscar found a few rich kids who “blessed the brand” and everyone else fell in line.

      As I always say, in a couple of years you won’t be able to sell one of these watches pre-owned for even half of what you paid for them. Hell, in the case of the Oak & Oscar, I truly believe you won’t be able to resell them at all. If there’s anyway to determine the value and staying power of a brand, its to look at people’s interest after its been in the marketplace for a few years.

      These watches are like Justin Beiber songs – they sound great for the first 15 minutes. But two years later you’re wondering how you liked it enough to buy your very own copy.

      • Никита

        I usually don’t think about reselling watches I purchase – I try to find ones to keep me attracted for a long time. Well, maybe it doesn’t always happen this way, but I try to find long-term watches. Regarding being overprices – I do agree, there are some better offers there from well-established companies. I can see examples from Longines, Stowa, Seiko. Maybe some used Omega. But its not so badly overpriced! Panerai with default ETA6497/8 for 5,000$ is overpriced IMO. Many british brands are heavily overpriced, don’t you think? Pinion watches offer simple 3-hander on ETA2824 for $3,000$; Schofield offer watches based on same Soprod A10 for 6,200$; Bremont offers simple 3-handers on ETa2824 for over 4,000$. So it all depends on how you look at it. But anyway its a bit overpriced, I agree.

  • TrevorXM

    The only thing I don’t like about this watch is the phony name of Oak & Oscar. Why didn’t he just call it Chase Fancher? It’s a name with more class and authenticity — a contemporary first name and an unusual last. I just couldn’t buy a watch with such a contrived name staring at me each time I look at the dial. Otherwise this is a very likeable casual watch with a lot of appeal and some character.

  • Andrew Smith

    The price is much too high when you have so many options out there.

  • Holden Brant

    for $400-500 more, i could buy a vintage Speedmaster in decent condition…

  • Josh Cruz

    Recently bought a Tag Heuer Aqua Racer 300M with ceramic bezel at this price range. I get that to penetrate the brutally cruel watch market, one has to offer at a decent price range. However, that’s also what makes it a tough market, with a really nice Oris big crown series selling at just a little over a thousand dollars brand new.