It almost goes without saying, but most wood watches on the market are awful. The execution is often one where all metal components are replaced with wood, resulting in watches that look and feel cheap. They also tend to be horribly derivative (wooden Submariner homage, anyone?), and one gets the sense that all these brands just contract the same factory to cobble together watches from a bin of identical parts.
But there are some companies using wood sparingly in their designs, and in doing so achieve beautiful end products. MMT, which we wrote about last week, is a prime example of such a brand. We were really impressed with their R-series, a collection of minimally designed watches accentuated with beautiful walnut bezels. The use of wood there was quite frankly a breath of fresh air, giving new life to an aesthetic that has been tarred in the past couple of years through an overabundance of awful Kickstarter launches promising to deliver the next great minimalist watch.
Grovemade is a small company out of Portland, Oregon that has grown quite a following with their wonderfully crafted wood accessories. Not long ago, they released a collection of watches that hits all the right beats from a design perspective, and you guessed it, there’s wood involved.
Grovemade began in 2009 with Joe Mansfield and Ken Tomita, the former working in digital art and laser engraving and the latter a fabricator and furniture designer. The two came together to start a design-driven firm merging their specialties and interests. In the six years that they’ve been in operation, Grovemade has built up a beautiful catalogue of artisanal goods mixing metal, wood, and leather, designed and manufactured in-house and finished by hand. For their watch collection, Grovemade teamed up with Stefan Andrén, the former Design Director for Nike TechLab with a background in designing wearables for the brand.
The collection features two styles–one square and one round–both of which are available in lighter Eastern Hardrock Maple or darker Oregon Claro Walnut. The round variant is 40mm in diameter, and the square is 39.1mm across. Both have a thickness of 10.5mm and a 21mm lug width. Considering these are lugless designs, the dimensions should accommodate a healthy range of wrists. From the top down, you’ll see a wood face with twelve circular windows. The wood element is actually a cap, affixed to a crystal over the dial. Through the apertures on the cap, you can observe an orange sphere advance across the dial indicating the hours, and a white crescent traveling along the base of each aperture to indicate minutes. It’s an incredibly pleasing design that brings to mind watches from the likes of Ochs Und Junior and a.b. art, but the execution is wholly unique.
The construction on these pieces is deceptively complicated. A Chinese factory handles the manufacture and assembly of the watch module, which includes the large paddle hands and the dial, the Miyota 5Y26 quartz movement, the stainless steel mid-case, and the acrylic crystal. The acrylic is a custom design, with tubes at each hour engineered to carry light down to the face. With these finished modules, the Grovemande team in Portland then machines, finishes, and attaches a stainless steel chassis containing the internal lugs. Due to the top-load design, there is a battery hatch on the back not unlike the ones you find on vintage military watches for easy access. The wood caps are CNC milled in Grovemade’s workshop, where they are also hand sanded and oiled before being epoxied to the case. The leather straps are laser cut in-house, as well.
We often criticize watch companies for not being original enough, and for good reason. There are a lot of stale designs coming from the watch world–from brands big and small, affordable and luxury. The Wood collection from Grovemade breaks that mold. Sure, Grovemade isn’t a true watch brand and yes, these watches are quartz, but at $239 that’s not really the point. For that price, you’re paying for a great design, and the intricate manufacturing process with American hand finishing is icing on the cake.
To purchase, head over to Grovemade