I almost can’t believe what I’m about to write… A brand has come out with a wood cased watch that I actually like! Now, I love the concept of wooden cases… watches that utilize the natural warmth and grain of the material to create timepieces that are each unique by nature. Granted they will always be more fragile than metal, but there is something charming about a piece of hardwood strapped to your wrist… And there’s a logic to it. I wear leather on my feet, denim on my legs and cotton on my torso, so why not continue the natural materials to my watch? Why not have a watch that weathers?
Unfortunately, few brands have ever done it right. I can’t tell you, and sorry for being a jerk about this, how many brands send us emails every week with a new wooden watch they are about to launch… Every time I see “wood” in the subject line I get a bit excited to see what’s inside, just to be met with images of the same disappointing clunky, chunky, generic watches. You know the ones… they always are based on divers, some distant cousin of a submariner, with ghastly bezels, cheap looking bracelets and dials that seem like an afterthought… I honestly think there must be one factory in China selling these to people out of a catalog; a sort of ready-made-brand.
Ok… enough of that, after all, today I’m very excited to show you a brand that has bucked the trend and created a beautiful watch by any standard, wood or not. MMT (not to be confused with the “smart watch” platform) watches, whose extremely elegant and minimal pocket watches we’ve covered before, have jumped into wrist mounted timepieces for the first time with their new “R” series. A series that not only utilizes wood, but also expertly achieves a minimal aesthetic and has some clever design details, making them not a novelty, but genuinely attractive and well considered timepieces.
MMT are no strangers to wood, as their pocket watches have always featured it, so they know how to properly design using the material. First off, the cases are not fully wood… In fact, they really are metal cases with wooden bezels, but they are designed such that from overhead, they might appear as though they are wooden slabs. The lugless case is a smooth piece of rounded walnut from edge to edge, save a steel or rose gold pvd ring around the dial. Those with a keen eye might have already noticed something is missing… there are no crowns on the R series. Rather, the ISAswiss quartz movement is set via a recessed button on the back, which jogs the hands forward.
Looking at the watches from the side, you can see how well considered the case design is. The metal chassis cuts under, leaving space for the strap to be hidden, while emphasizing the wood above. Then there is a metal lip that leads into the walnut bezel, which provides a nice contrast when seen at an angle. The walnut itself then raises up and gently curves with a broad radius, which is continued by the domed mineral crystal, creating a fluid surface. There are two case versions, steel and rose gold, which despite the limited amount of metal visible create notably different effects. The steel is colder, contrasting the warmth of the wood for something more stark. The rose gold is warm as well, resonating with the walnut for a softer feel.
Of course, none of that would matter if the dials didn’t work, but thankfully MMT chose two minimal design, sticking with their brand aesthetic, that complement the cases perfectly. The R16 and R17 models feature gorgeous radially brushed silver dials to pair with their steel cases with black printed markers. The R16 simply has thin lines that are much longer at the hour and silver hands that recede into the dial. It’s restrained to a point of being nearly meditative. The R17 adds numerals per hour on an inner ring and black hands for a more graphic look.
The R31 and R34 (not sure why the numbers jump) have the same layouts as the R16 and R17 respectively, but to work with the rose gold case, are on soft off-white dials. The R31 then has black hands while the R34 has rose gold. Honestly, there isn’t a wrong choice in the bunch and I applaud MMT for not including dates as they would have disrupted the layouts, and not including seconds hands as the tick of the quartz would have been jarring on such minimal designs.
All of the styles are 43mm in the round, which given the lugless design and proportions of the bezel to the dial, makes sense. Having not worn one myself, I am going off of the brand’s wrist shots, but they look like they wear small. With no lugs, the 43mm will feel fine going across, and with no crown, small towards your hand. The bezels are very thick too, so the dial itself is likely mid 30’s in diameter, which one wouldn’t want to get smaller.
Aesthetically… my goodness, these are attractive. There minimal dials bare similarities to Bauhaus watches, though not so close as to be derivative (lines are lines after all), and the wood takes them into a whole new direction. Walnut is a particularly gorgeous wood with deep golden browns off set by small, dark brown grain. It’s dynamic and intriguing, but not flashy. The subtle metal details finish the case off, adding some sense of structure. Brown or black leather straps continue the warmth of the wood around the wrist. In terms of color and style, they are fairly neutral and will look good with anything. Their size will make them feel proper in causal settings, yet there restrained designs will look great with some more formal attire.
So, there you have it. A wooden watch I don’t just like, but kind of love. The MMT R Series just get so many things right. From the use of wood, to their sublime dials, there is nothing that misses… Well, I know it will be said if I don’t say it myself, so a mechanical version would be killer… Throw in a Peseux 7001, get that sub-seconds at six, recess the crown in some clever way, and you have a $1,000 wood bezel watch that I bet would do well. In the meantime, at $339, the R Series are well priced considering the unique designs and refined aesthetics.
Even better, while still active, if you pick one up via their indiegogo campaign (which is fully funded and then some), you can get an R Series for $180, which is kind of hard to pass up.