Mitch Mason is a new watch brand, and like many others is looking to get their start through a crowdfunding campaign, which launches September 1. Their first watch, the Chronicle, is a take on the classic field watch, increasingly a genre new watch brands are comfortable starting out in. Besides the dive watch, the field watch is perhaps the most well understood, versatile type of sports watch. There’s a certain ease in designing a field watch – the basic template has remained unchanged for decades. But there’s a challenge on the flip side of that equation: how do you stand out from the crowd? For Mitch Mason, the answer seems to be a funky case design, a variety of color choices, and a handset that’s not at all what you’d expect on a field watch.
Let’s start with the case, as it’s the least “field watch” thing about the Chronicle, in my opinion. A field watch, the many varieties of which Ed Jelley covered in a guide back in April, tends to have a rigorously simple design. A circular case without a lot of ornamentation or decoration. The Chronicle’s case is highly angular with several distinct facets. I’m reminded of Seiko and Grand Seiko designs and their intersecting, zaratsu polished edges. The Chronicle has a squared off appearance that’s much more common to the strange sports watches of the 70s than the tried and true field watch.
It’s the case’s dimensions that really tie it to field watch traditions. Measuring just 36.5mm in diameter, the Chronicle is right in line with vintage field watches and contemporary expressions of the genre like offerings from Hamilton, Oak & Oscar, and many others that come in at around 38mm or a little less. With a thickness of 12mm, the Chronicle, on paper, is a bit thick, but the angled lugs should help it wear close to the wrist, keeping it out of the way, which is where a field watch belongs.
The dial design borrows from certain aspects of the field watch vernacular, and breaks new ground in others. Arabic numerals at every hour are easily visible against a matte dial in one of four colors (blue, black, sand, or grey). The numerals are larger at the cardinal positions, smaller everywhere else. At a glance, the Chronicle’s layout could be called Explorer-esque, but there’s more happening here and, for better or worse, doesn’t possess the simplicity of a classic Explorer, or a field watch with numerals of the same size, and thus an easier symmetry. There’s definitely some distinct visual interest here, but it’s one of those love-it or hate-it design choices that will have some excited, and lose others before they can take in the Chronicle’s other interesting details.
To my eye, the most interesting of those details is the handset, specifically the hour hand, which reminds me of the King in a chess set. The hands are generally well executed and make for a highly legible dial. As stated above, four color choices are available. The blue and black dials have a sandwich design with brushed finishing and the Mitch Mason logo at 12:00. The sand and gray dials have printed numerals, no logo, and a simpler look. The sand and gray, for me, are the more balanced variants and read the most like a field watch, but of course this will come down to personal preference. Mitch Mason deserves credit for providing a handful of well selected options to customers without going overboard.
The Chronicle is powered by the Miyota 9039, an automatic movement that runs for 42 hours at full power. It’s a fine workhorse movement, and while it likely won’t keep chronometer grade time, it’s affordable and allows a brand like Mitch Mason to get their watch on the wrists of customers without making sacrifices to their own design vision. It also has 200 meters of water resistance, a screw down crown, and a sapphire crystal, ensuring it has the specs to compete with other sports watches in this somewhat crowded segment.