If there was an overarching issue with new watches, especially when speaking about ones found on Kickstarter, it’s that a lot of the designs are generic. Minor variations on a theme with only subtle details making one exciting and another dull. With that said, when a watch comes along that is truly different it tends to be met with either praise or strong dislike. Between the two situations, the latter is certainly the better, as it implies a market where brands are spending time to develop new concepts and aesthetics, rather than attempting to bank on a trend.
Newcomer, Visitor Watch Co., is certainly such a brand. Launching today, November 3rd, at 8pm (click here to go to the campaign) on Kickstarter, Visitor’s first watch will catch you off guard. It’s not that it is trying to reinvent the wheel, or be weird for weirdness sake, but rather is based on an aesthetic that is a departure from the norm, as the name of the watch suggests. Titled the “Calligraph Duneshore”, the watch mixes a unique design vocabulary with expected functional elements to create something quite different. As said, the watch will be loved by some and not by others, but what I found intriguing about it is that the design is less derived from other watches or objects, but rather something more gestural and organic. The resulting watches have deceptively complex geometry with details that are almost alien in nature.
The case of the Duneshore (Calligraph is the series) is unlike any I’ve seen before. In the simplest terms, it’s a cushion case measuring 44 x 51 x 13.69mm. That said, the actual form is very dynamic, with very dramatic curves, creating something that doesn’t really wear like other designs. Perhaps the simplest example of this is that the thickness of the watch really ranges from 11.75 – 13.69mm, since the case back is convex, including having a curved display window, so it sits flat on the wrist.
To attempt to breakdown the design, essentially there is a central cylinder, which penetrates a “cushion” central case. The cushion, however, is a series of undulating wave/dune shapes, cresting at the corners, blunting on the sides. This is particularly dramatic from the side, as you can see how the thickness of the central case changes greatly along each wave. Lugs then protrude out, tapering to a thin tube, for an almost baroque detail. Interestingly, the crown is set in the side just a bit, giving it some protection. Flipping the watch over, the curved display case back shows off the Miyota 9015 inside. I was extremely glad to see that the typically overly blank rotor was used for some interesting decoration.
Overall the case has a sculptural quality to it that speaks to something that resulted from a handmade process, as though the shape was found by the designer pressing and cutting away at a medium. It also clearly refers to their stated inspiration, the landscape of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The machining, which couldn’t be simple, is also well executed, creating sharp edges all around. This is essential in making the form effective, glistening and glinting in all directions. Remarkably, the case was also able to get a 100m water resistance rating, thanks to the 2.5mm sapphire and screw-down crown, increasing its versatility.
The dial is simpler, but nevertheless unique, and almost strange. It consists of a matte colored sandwich dial in Blue Slate, Beach and Forest Ore. On top are applied, lumed indices; circles at 12, 3, 6 and 9, and elongated droplet shapes for the other hours. There are cut-through dots for the individual minutes/seconds between the applied markers, adding some texture. On the dial surface is then a crosshair from 9-3, 12-6, a date window at 3 and a Visitor logo above that. The crosshairs are a nice element that use up the negative space and reinforce the dial’s symmetry. The date and logo feel a bit out of place however. The date is a bit too abrupt, perhaps needing a circular window, and the logo is sort of floating away.
The hands return to the dramatic, with inspiration taken from calligraphy pens. The hour and minutes are really unlike any I’ve seen before, coming across as whimsical and ornate. The hour hand is shorter, with a narrow stem that widens to a quill shape with lume filling. The minute hand is longer, with a large diamond with indented sides, reminiscent of a fountain pen’s tip. The second hand is a stick shape with a decorative counterweight. While I’m not sure if I love how complex both minute and hour hands are, I do appreciate their uniqueness. Perhaps if only one were ornate, while the other were more subdued, it would have been more effective, and a bit less busy.
The colors chosen for the dials have a nice earthiness to them that is immediately appealing. The Slate Blue is dark and handsome, just far enough away from black or navy to be its own shade. Beach is a warm khaki for a brighter option, but one that is far more subdued than white. Forest Ore I’ve only seen in photos, but appears to be a deep, dark forest green, once again supplying an alternative to black.
On the wrist, the Calligraph Duneshore wears well, feeling smaller than its dimensions would suggest. That said, it has a lot of presence, especially given its unique design. It’s definitely a different experience to wear than other watches, not fitting into pre-existing aesthetics. I found at times it looked formal and at others very casual and playful. Overall, I would consider it a business casual watch, one that pairs with most clothing, though certainly adds a decorative element to your outfit.
The Calligraph Duneshore will be available for pre-order on kickstarter for $480 for early-birds, then $500 followed by $520, with full retail in the $650 range post-campaign. So, if this watch peaked your interest, make sure to hit them up on KS. If not, I think you’d agree from an originality standpoint, Visitor is one to keep an eye on. It’s not often that we find a brand that is really doing things their own way, bucking the trends and taking a risk. And, I haven’t even touched upon this somehow, but doing so at a good value. Even at $650 for something with no off the shelf parts, a thick sapphire, complicated machining and tooling and a Miyota 9015, it’s a solid deal… for $480 – $520, it’s a great one.