Introducing the Arcus Exos – a New Direction for the Canadian Startup

I enjoy rooting for the underdog. This has, perhaps, been an underlying theme at Worn & Wound. It’s just too easy to always always be in the stands for the big brands that everyone likes and are really at no risk of failing (though, tbh, we do that plenty too). So, when a young brand comes around that is doing something interesting but perhaps to no fanfare, I take notice.

Such was the case with Arcus Watches from Calgary, Canada. In 2021 I stumbled across a post of theirs on Instagram, as these things tend to happen these days, and knew I had to dig in more. The watch, called the Tropos, was nice enough looking, but what caught my eye was that it was a monopusher chronograph with a sub $1k price tag. In order to achieve this, Arcus, for their first watch, modified Seagull ST1901 movements with in-house components. I’m still impressed by that. Check out the review here.

The Tropos
The Mesos

They followed the Tropos with the Mesos, which took the modifications one step further. In addition to being an ST19-based monopusher, they re-jiggered the mechanism to just start, and reset, but with the ability to hold before release, like a vintage Omega Chronostop. The idea is that you start the chrono and when you finish the activity, you hit and hold the button again, recording your time. Then you release to zero it out. Novel if perhaps not very useful, but the fact that they made it in-house is what really impressed me. Even more so, they only charged $599 for it. Read the Mesos review here.

A microbrand making affordable in-house modified mechanical chronographs with decent designs, Arcus was exactly the kind of brand that gets me excited about watches. But, sadly, this story has a bittersweet ending. You see, neither of those two watches ended up getting passed the prototype stage, as they never hit their required pre-order numbers to go to production. I guess the idea of modified Seagull movements is a bit more niche than I would have hoped (but, not too surprising either). The downside of rooting for the underdog is that they don’t always make it.

Despite these setbacks, Arcus did not shutter their business, rather they took the opportunity to reinvent themselves and their strategy beginning with their new release, the Exos. Rather than focusing on modifying Seagull movements to make affordable chronos with unique functions but perhaps generic looks, they’ve turned to higher-end (comparatively), small-batch watches with some in-house components and an attempt at a signature style. Thankfully though, there is still a movement modification at play as well but now based on the Sellita SW330 GMT.

The case of the Exos is a svelte 39 x 46.5 x 10.5mm with a 20mm lug-width. It’s a competent if traditional design with nice brushing on the case sides and full polish on the tops of the lugs and bezel. Things get more interesting as you move to the dial, which is manufactured in-house in Calgary. There are two main parts to the dial, the surface that is made of grade 2 titanium, and a raised index made from steel with a clever design. The surface is brushed and then anodized to a deep purple, in this instance. The texture of the brushing is well-pronounced.

The raised index is a ring of metal with lines cut through at the hour, but rather than going straight out, they curve. At three, six, and nine, the cuts create triangles, while at twelve, the triangle is a bit larger. While it looks like a single piece of material that was perhaps milled to create features, the pieces are individually milled and applied, and then brushed together for a consistent finish. This is all done in-house, and as per the brand, no small feat of assembly as any error in the application is highly noticeable.

It’s a nice design that effectively adds a unique style to the watch that Arcus can call their own while achieving some legibility. The way the lines cut through creates an appealing sense of motion to the dial as well. Below twelve is Arcus’ logo, which is a silhouette of a mountain, and also milled, applied, and finished in-house. Taken as a whole, the dial is appealingly open, allowing the focus to be on the color and finish, with some excitement still to be found in the unique index design.

The hands are made in-house as well. The hour and minute hands are a variation on a Dauphine shape with a large circle by the central axis. The are brushed to an even finish and come to a very fine point. The seconds hand is a thin stick with a long counterweight, also brushed. I do wish there was a touch more dimensionality to the hands, as they feel a bit flat compared to the dial, but it’s impressive that they are made in-house regardless, and the shapes of the hands work with the design.

As said before, the Exos does in fact feature a modified Sellita SW330 GMT automatic. As you’ve likely already realized, the Exos does not feature four hands, as per the standard arrangement of a GMT. Rather, the movement has been reconfigured to have a local jumping hour hand when the crown is in the first position. Given that the SW330 is a “caller” GMT, this modification is not as simple as just removing the 24-hour hand. Parts needed to be modified, removed, or made new to change the functionality.

In terms of production and pricing, Arcus is planning to make just 10 Exos’ per color, with the first batch being in purple and blue, priced at $1,250. While a higher price than their previous endeavors, this is still a remarkable value for what they are doing. $1,250 is a decent price for a mass-produced watch with a SW330, let alone one with an in-house dial and hands. Add in the movement modification, and it’s really in a class of its own.

If you look at Arcus’ website, you’ll see that there was a previous version of the Exos with a bronze-colored dial that shows where they are headed as a brand and what they are capable of. A one-off watch, it was largely made in-house and featured a similar dial as the one seen here, but a 904L case made in the brand’s shop. It was powered by a Sellita SW210 that had been heavily reworked with a single plate design and a new bridge, all hand finished with a polished, beveled edge. The case, hands, and index were all black polished too. That watch sold for 7,500 CAD.

With the Exos, Arcus has moved away from the typical startup microbrand model, which didn’t work for them anyway, and into the “micro indie” space, which Zach Kazan discussed in this article. Essentially, a new generation of brands offering a slice of Haute-Horology at more approachable prices. While I still think the Tropos and Mesos were pretty remarkable watches, this new version of Arcus seems like a better fit for their capabilities and doesn’t require the pre-order model to fund. Arcus

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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