When you look at watches all-day everyday, as many of us do, what makes one watch stand out from others tends to be subtle, but significant details. A nice font here, a cool curve there, it’s the little things that make one more special than the others. That’s not to say they all look the same, but generally speaking, watches are all based on a handful of conventions, and with the limited amount of movements available for affordable watch brands, major design leaps, like those seen in haute pieces, are simply out of the question. Yet, within this seemingly confined space, there is still room for pleasant surprises.
Seals is a new brand based out of California that is about to launch their first line of watches, the Model A, on Kickstarter. It’s a watch with elements that are familiar, but enough creativity and styling to make it stand out, especially in the under $1000 category. As their site points out, the design draws on some manly classics for its inspiration; tanks from the 1940’s and café racer motorcycles. Both are themes we’ve seen before, but there is another inspiration element here that ties them together; Gerald Genta.
While their literature doesn’t speak of it, the trained eyes of watch-enthusiasts will immediately pick up the DNA of Genta’s aesthetic in the case of the Model A. Quintessential 70’s sport watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Phillippe Nautilus and, most closely, the IWC Ingenieur are present. Now, this can be dangerous ground for a brand to tread as one step too close to those designs will be met with the ire of collectors, and occasionally said brands. However, I find Model A plays off of those watches, but has enough of its own shape to be different.
And, I don’t want to understate this, the case is gorgeous. It measures 41 x 50 (to the end of the integrated lug, more on that later) x 12.5mm and has a shape that is as elegant as it is masculine. It’s also not quite like anything I’ve seen before. From above, it’s a slab sided barrel that flows smoothly into the strap, with a tight radius at 9 and 6. The bezel defines the geometry more, and hints at Genta, with an almost hexagonal shape. But, it’s not a hexagon either, rounding out on the sides, and coming to a point above 12 and below 6. It’s its own shape, one that has a 70’s flair, but also speaks to the tanks that brand draws from. It’s a stout form that seems strong, adding a visual queue that case is very solid. The finishing is well done here too, with a full-polished edge and a vertically brushed top surface.
On the right side are screwed in crown guards that gradually raise up. This detail does seem closely related to the Ingenieur case, but also like the logical guard design for this case shape. The thin, but easy to grasp screw-down crown nestles between them, feeling fully protected. Looking at the case from the side, you can see how the lugs were designed for an integrated strap design, with scooped out portions where the strap sits and pivots. I have mixed feelings on integrated straps as they have proprietary fittings, making swapping straps very limited. That said, from a design perspective, they give a watch a very finished look and sculpted feel.
Stepping in, the dial of the Model A is simple and clean, with a more modern look than the case. The white version is a bit deceptively named, as the surface is actually a very light brushed silver. this was a good choice as it gives the dial more texture, and ties it in with the substantially massive case. On the surface is a single index of applied skeletonized trapezoids, all equal in size, save the marker at three which is cut off for the date. The look touches on various things, a bit dive, a bit dress, but all together gives the watch an upscale look.
On the edge of the dial is a tall chapter ring with a simple minute/seconds index. This is a clearly a more sporty touch, adding legibility. The hour and minute hands are wide, straight swords that are partially skeletonized, matching the applied markers. On the inner edge of the cutout portions are thin lines of lume, which is an interesting and modern detail.
The flow of the case into the strap is well executed and slick looking, making the watch wear well. It ties everything together, and makes the watch grab the wrist. The design does add to the lug-to-lug length, however, as there is a metal link that goes into the lugs that the strap then attaches to. At 51mm, it’s long enough to exclude small wrists, though I found it tolerable on my 7″ wrist. The strap itself is quite nice as well. It’s a calf skin with croc patterning, and a nice padded construction.
On the wrist, the watch looks great. The size makes it noticeable, bold and strong, but it’s not an oversized watch. Rather, it has a lot of mass and metal that add to its presence. It’s clearly a sport watch, but the finishing, case geometry and dial elements add refinement. It’s in that sort of “gentleman’s” sport watch genre that is simultaneously rugged and elegant. It’s also pretty versatile, looking good with both casual and business attire.
Powering the Seals Model A is a Miyota 9015 automatic, giving it a smooth 28,800 bph sweep, hacking seconds and a solid power reserve. With that inside, the value for this watch seems good. All original design, good finishing and a very solid build, coming together at $740. It’s also a limited edition, with only 100 of each of the four styles (White / Stainless, Black / Stainless, Slate / Slate PVD, Black / Black PVD) being made. So, if you’re looking for a masculine, but refined sports watch with a 70’s vibe to it, head over to Kickstarter when their project is live to help support Seals. Naturally, good deals can be had, up to $250 off the watch to incentivize donations.