Hands-On with the Authentically American Trafford Crossroads

Earlier this year we featured a watch in our Micro-Brand Digest series from a Texas based brand called Trafford, which has just formally launched on Kickstarter as of last week. The watch is the Crossroads, and it represents a new American design language that is not (overtly) referential to any specific heritage. It’s carving its own route and reveals a surprising level of maturity for such a young brand, and while not perfect, we see plenty of potential in Trafford. Apparently, so do many of you. At the moment of writing, the Kickstarter has exceeded its $35,000 goal several times over. 

The Crossroads is not the first watch released by this young brand, but it is the first to embrace this particular design language. In 2020, the brand launched with a chronograph called the SOE Roadster, a vintage racing inspired watch that looked, well, like a vintage racing inspired chronograph. The Crossroads ventures off the well-beaten path into slightly trickier territory, with a square-ish case, curved crystal, and clean graphic dial that puts forth a mid-century modern American vibe across a selection of vibrant dial colors brought to life with their own bits of lore. The watch manages to mostly come together despite the unorthodox mold, and considering the price points start under $400, there’s plenty to appreciate.

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The most unusual element of the Crossroads is undoubtedly its case. From the top down, it presents as square with bowed out boundaries bringing it nearly into the realm of cushion shaped. Rounded edges and soft finishes create a demure tone that carries into the dial, and takes well to the textures and colors utilized elsewhere in the design. Turning the case you’ll notice a polished mid section that works its way into the lug design. How these different structures of the case come together around that lug feels somewhat unresolved, or slightly awkward. This area creates some tension between the surface finishes and the curvature at play, but it’s generally not something that will ruin your experience with the watch. 

Going back to the profile of the case, a gentle curve is apparent, and becomes most prominent in the crystal. The dial sits flat underneath, but you might find yourself doing a double take to make sure. It’s a neat effect and something not often seen at this price point given the difficulty of pulling off the production in a way you’d feel good about. I applaud Trafford for making it work so well with the Crossroads. 

The case measures 36mm wide by 38mm tall, which Trafford claims equates to a 40mm traditional circular watch. A claim we can test with a little geometry, to compare the area of each. A 36mm by 38mm measurements gives us an area of 1,368mm, while a circular watch with a diameter of 40mm gives an area of roughly 1,256.6mm (with A = π r2 and 4 digits of π), so it’s close, but the Crossroads does indeed read a smidge larger than a 40mm round watch, in fact, it’s closer to a 41mm round watch (A = 1,320.2mm). Side note, is the literal viewing area of a circular watch a slept on measurement?

Setting aside the numbers, the Crossroads wears very well thanks to the slight curvature of the case paired with the relatively short lug, making for a neat footprint on the wrist. Plus, the larger viewing area creates a vast and legible dial, which is a big part of the experience of this watch. I’d go so far as to say the dial is my favorite component of this watch, and that’s in no small part aided by the lovely colors, and the big, modern, san-serif Arabic numerals. 

This is a great looking dail, and it captures an Americana that’s reflected in the naming conventions of each of the 4 dial colors. The colors carry cultural significance to Texas, from where the brand hails. They include a dark blue/black called Mockingbird (named for the Texas songbird, and pictured here); a dark red called Cabernet (referencing Texas Hill Country); a teal called Agave (named for the Texas native Agave plant); and finally, a deep blue called Bluebonnet after the state’s flower. Each color is layered over a sunburst texture and fills in the inner and outer sections of the dial to dramatic effect. 

Utilizing these connections to the brand’s natural surroundings is an inspired choice that brings an obvious deeper meaning, similar to what we see Grand Seiko doing with textures and colors in their dials. I absolutely love the thought that went into these dials, and while the end result isn’t all that far off from what we’d expect in a collection like this, they establish a lore for the brand as a whole, taking it beyond the ‘what’ and into the ‘why’. 

Trafford is offering buyers the option to choose between a Seiko VH31 quartz powered movement for the Kickstarter price of $399, and Miyota 9035 automatic powered movement for $499. Retail prices will end up a bit higher when inventory starts landing sometime in early 2023, with deliveries expected to begin by April. You can learn more about the watch, and the story of Trafford directly from founder Nathan Trafford at the Crossroads Kickstarter right here. Keep an eye out for more of him, and of this brand in the near future.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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