Introducing Horae—Customizable (Quartz and Mechanical) Watches That Don’t Break the Bank

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It seems impossible to me that a micro-brand can offer Patek Phillip-esque watches for as little as $125 and not be laughed off the block, yet here I am considering lovely Breguet Arabic numerals vs. standard batons vs. Roman numbers, movements with multiple complications, and dials that combine brushing, frosting, and polishing—all from a Kickstarting micro-brand called Horae.

Reference numbers are another clue that Horae is modeling their brand to some degree after Patek, using “Ref. 65901” through “65904” for their initial four models: (65901) Two Hander, (65902) Complete Calendar, (65903) Chronograph, and (65904) Automatic.Horae’s cases and dials point even more directly to Patek. At 38mm wide and 44mm lug-to-lug for their whole lineup, Horae has hit Patek’s average size square on. Take a look at classics like the 37mm Patek 5196P Calatrava or even the Grand Complication 41mm 5703P, and the common design language becomes clear: plain bezels atop alternating brushed and polished cases that give way to stout, traditional lugs and unremarkable crowns—classic Patek stuff.

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Horae’s dials are similarly Patek-esque; there are varying finishes in concentric circles topped with highly polished appliqué markers and legible-yet-subtle sub-dials and date windows. Now check Horae’s chronograph pushers against a Patek 5170R, their telemeter and pulsometer scale against a Patek 5975, their six o’clock date window against a 5146J, and so on.None of this imitation is negative, however, and it’s helpful to remember how referential (if not always deferential) most beloved micro-brands are toward their inspirations. What’s novel with Horae is the deep bow to Patek specifically, and I commend them for having the guts to delve into that legendary design heritage and riff.

Horae does distinguish its brand subtly and effectively. They forgo a logo in the typical spot beneath 12 o’clock and, instead, have inserted a stretched, trapezoidal “H” within the minute-ring at six o’clock. The effect is near anonymity.Horae is launching four references simultaneously via Kickstarter. Each is highly customizable with numerous dial, handset, strap and cases finish options, but Horae also offers “curated designs,” which are pre-configured watches named after cocktails like the Manhattan (rose gold case, black dial, rose gold Breguet numerals) or Aviation (blue dial, steel case, gold hands and markers) or the almost blacked-out Sazerac. We’ve seen cocktail nomenclature before, but here it helps emit an elegant, evening-wear vibe. Intentional or not, Horae has also offered a viable alternative to the recently expanded Seiko Cocktail Time collection.Of Horae’s four initial offerings, the Complete Calendar (Ref. 65902) is the least expected. Built around a Miyota 6P80 quartz movement, this watch offers a triple calendar complication along with a moon phase window. Starting at just $220 (Earlybird $165), Horae put their money in the right places, as a mechanical, four-complication movement would be prohibitive.

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The Chronograph (Ref. 65903) uses a quartz Seiko Epson YM91A movement, which offers a sweep central seconds counter and two vertically aligned sub dials. By customizing you can end up with something similar to an Undone watch; however, you can also end up with something like Horae’s pre-configured Gibson model, a decidedly dressy “doctor’s watch” that combines a pulsation scale with bright steel Breguet numerals on a silver dial.

The Two Hander (Ref. 65901) has no date, no sub dial, no seconds hand, and only baton markers. If it weren’t so damn well done, the Two Hander might be boring. The quartz Miyota GL20 movement boasts a five-year battery life (a benefit of not pushing a seconds hand around), and, for those who might be wary of sporting a quartz movement, there’s no jumping seconds hand to give you away.In contrast to its three siblings, the Automatic (Ref. 65904) is outfitted with a Miyota 9015 self-winding movement, a sapphire box crystal (the rest are acrylic), and a clear case back. Despite the Automatic delivering more of what watch-heads seem to want, this model winds up the least imaginative among Horae’s four offerings. On the other hand, the Automatic may come closer to the Patek ideal than the other three references, as the Miyota movement does deliver the genuine glide of a high-beat escapement. For me, however, the relatively rare four-complication quartz moonphase for $220 ($165 Earlybird) is more exciting than an automatic for $435 ($325 Earlybird).

Horae’s Kickstarter campaign is now well underway. The campaign ends March 7th, 2018.

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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