Filson is a company out of Seattle, Washington known primarily for making high quality outdoor gear and clothing right here in the United States. In 2014, however, we ran into Filson at a place where we least expected to find them: Baselworld. They weren’t there as spectators, but were there to debut their first-ever collection of American-assembled watches, with four distinct styles in total. We were definitely intrigued with the prototypes, but we were also told the collection was subject to change.
Fast forward to late 2014, we were finally able to preview the full collection at Filson’s Great Jones Street store in New York City. Since Basel, Filson has reduced their collection to two main lines: the Mackinaw Field and Mackinaw Field Chronograph, and the Journeyman and Journeyman Chronograph. The watches, produced for Filson by sister company Shinola, aren’t just rebranded Shinolas. The collection pulls heavily from Filson’s brand ethos: from the colors to the materials, there is a certain level of familiarity and ruggedness built into the collection that one can clearly associate with the brand.
Mackinaw Field and Mackinaw Field Chronograph
The Mackinaw Field is Filson’s modern take on the classic field watch. It comes in a 43mm stainless steel case with a built-in water resistance of 20atm. While the dimensions might seem a tad on large, the dial makes good use of the added real estate. It features an attractive textured surface and large raised numerals that give it a slight 3-D effect. In typical field watch fashion, there is a second row of smaller numerals following a 24-hour scale. A bit atypical are the crosshairs at the center of the dial, not a common feature on field watches. There is also an extended date window that takes up quite a bit of space, but it’s not off-putting. The printing is extremely precise, and it should be noted that Shinola now makes their dials in-house. While it’s certainly not the most utilitarian field watch design I’ve encountered, the whole thing does feel well balanced. The dial is protected with a sapphire crystal.
The Mackinaw Field Chronograph doesn’t stray far from its 3-handed brother in terms of design. It simply does away with the larger date window and 24-hour scale to make room for the chronograph sub-dials. The design feels almost retro, especially when one considers the color choices. Both the 3-hander and the chronograph come in gray, black, cream (with black sub-dials), navy (with silver sub-dials), and green (with green tonal sub-dials). There is also a standalone silver chronograph with navy sub-dials.
The choices don’t end there. The Mackinaw Field comes in a number of different finishes, including brushed stainless steel, matte brass PVD, and a beautiful brushed gunmetal PVD. I was absolutely smitten with the gunmetal PVD finish, which I found surprisingly elegant, and I left the presentation wondering why more manufacturers don’t work with it.
Journeyman and Journeyman Chronograph
The Journeyman is a 44mm, barrel-cased sports watch that, like the Mackinaw Field, comes in two main configurations, only this time we get a GMT and a chronograph. The Journeyman boasts an explorer-like dial that’s actually quite attractive in person, and carries over a number of elements from the Mackinaw Field. The dial is textured, there are crosshairs at its center, and the indices and numerals are applied and raised, respectively. The date window appears right off the 4 o’clock marker. The Journeyman Chronograph replaces the GMT hand and crosshairs with 3 sub-dials, which eat away slightly at the 3, 6, and 9. Both configurations come in white, black, cream, and green.
Despite my attraction to the design, I do feel as though the Journeyman is a bit cluttered, a feeling likely emphasized by the added GMT function, and removing some extraneous text or the crosshairs might go a long way in opening up the space. Case in point, the Journeyman Chronograph feels a bit less packed, despite the implementation of sub-dials.
When it comes to both the Journeyman and the Journeyman Chronograph, the casework is probably where both watches truly shine. I’m a sucker for a well-proportioned cushion case, and the Journeyman case is just that. It also boasts some graceful sculpting, and it wears extremely well. The bezel, which might seem intriguing from afar, actually features some interesting construction. It is two-tiered, with a rotating outer world-timer ring and a fixed inner GMT bezel. The crown guards, prominent on the Journeyman, also double as pushers on the Journeyman Chronograph. And once again, case finishes include a stainless steel option, matte brass PVD, and a matte black PVD instead of gunmetal, all of which appeared well-finished.
There are a few other details worth mentioning on both the Mackinaw Field and Journeyman in each configuration. Turn any watch around and you’ll see a beautiful engraved case back laying out all the specs. Similarly, all crowns feature a little brass insert made to look like a shotgun shell. Sure it’s a bit superfluous, but I appreciate the attention to detail and the throwback to Filson’s roots.
Bracelets and Straps
Both the Mackinaw Field and the Journeyman come with several bracelet options. You can get the Mackinaw Field with either a bushed stainless steel bracelet or a brushed gunmetal PVD bracelet. Similarly, The Journeyman comes with either a brushed stainless steel bracelet, or a brushed matte black PVD bracelet. All bracelets feature fitted solid end links (something sorely missing from Shinola’s mainline) and butterfly deployant claps.
Beyond that, there are a slew of other strap options. NATO straps, bund straps, rubber straps, bridle leather straps, and even tin cloth straps (a nod to Filson’s most famous fabric) – you name it, and Filson likely has it. And speaking of nods to Filson, another element carried over from the brand’s mainline are the roller buckles found on some of the straps. They’re well thought out and speak to a true cohesiveness of design.
Movement and Price
As you may have already guessed, all watches in Filson’s freshman collection use quartz movements. For some, this is an automatic deal-breaker (pun-intended). The MSRP will also range from $625 (Mackinaw Field with a NATO strap) to $1,100 (Journeyman Chronograph in matte black PVD on matching bracelet). This pricing strategy might seem prohibitive to some when considering how competitive the sub-1K market can be. But I do think it is important to consider that these are American-assembled watches, and what that means in terms of added costs. And you’re also buying from companies known for their solid customer service, and they do offer a lifetime guarantee on all their timepieces. If the designs speak to you, these watches should certainly merit your consideration.
Available for pre-sale here: Filson Watches