Introducing the Ardor & Forge Rothrock

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Ardor & Forge is a new brand founded by Zack Rackovan, an experienced graphic and industrial designer who has helped bring products to market for a variety of popular brands.  Inspired by the outdoors and the desire to create something new, his first watch, the Rothrock, arrives in the new year with some genuinely novel features. This isn’t a design that’s going to appeal to the masses, but that’s kind of the point. Rackovan wanted to create something wholly outside the current craze for vintage-inspired dive watches and chronos, homages to the stratospherically expensive, and so forth. Let’s dive in.


Ardor & Forge Rothrock

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Black, white, blue, green
  • Dimensions: 42 x 12.3mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal   
  • Water Resistance: 10 ATM
  • Crown: Screw down         
  • Movement: Seiko NH35 
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather lined canvas 
  • Price: $550
  • Reference Number: n/a
  • Expected Release: Pre-order now open

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Rackovan used the trails and views of Rothrock State Forest near his home in Pennsylvania as a starting point for the watch’s look and feel. The Rothrock was conceived as an EDC (everyday carry) friendly timepiece, which is a subculture within watches and gear that has really blossomed over the last few years, particularly with the rise of Instagram. If you follow accounts that post things like pocket knives, pens, wallets, notebooks, and, of course, watches in the so-called “flat lay” style, you’ll have a sense of the aesthetic Rackovan was shooting for, as well as a possible use case. “Everyday Carry,” as a design aesthetic, or a style, implies objects with a certain degree of toughness and utility. 

The Rothrock’s defining feature is its case. It has an aggressive stance that suggests it can live up to the tool watch goals of the brand’s founder, and the surface has been treated to give it what Rackovan calls a “sand-cast” texture. It’s unique, and gives the watch a worn-in feel, almost as if it has already been up to something before you’ve strapped it on. Without having seen the watch in the metal, it’s tough to say what kind of practical impact this treatment has on the wearing experience, or how it will hold up over time, but from looks alone, it’s harmonious with the other design choices Rackovan has made, and to me it kind of looks like a weathered stone. 

If the case is the star of the show here, the best supporting player is probably the use of oak accents throughout the watch. Now, using any type of wood in a watch is controversial and will spark debate. It can often come off gimmicky or worse, tacky. But we should remember that esteemed brands (Rolex among them) have, in the past, used treated wood in their dials, and those watches are often thought to be quite collectible and highly prized. The use of oak in the Rothrock is subtle and doesn’t scream for attention — you’ll find it as an inlay on the crown, in the rehaut, and fixed to the winding rotor.

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The Rothrock is available in a selection of dial and case colors. Blue and white dials come in a traditional stainless steel case with the aforementioned “sand-cast” treatment. There’s also a totally blacked out version, and an interesting green dialed variant, with a case in gold PVD to match the olive colored shade of the dial. This, for me, is the standout of the group — the color of the dial and case complement the brown of the oak really well.

I think Ardor & Forge deserves credit for bringing a product to market that’s distinct from what’s currently dominating the market. There really is a sea of vintage-inspired watches out there, and as well made as many of them are, after a while I think we all crave something new and different. Whether the Rothrock is your particular type of new and different is a very personal decision, but the fact that this watch exists is proof that there are brands out there executing at a high level who want to give enthusiasts new options. Ardor & Forge

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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