Detroit Watch Company M1-Woodward Chronograph Review

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One of the biggest urban success stories of the past few years is the ongoing Detroit Renaissance—once a shell of its former industrial self, the home of the American automobile is buzzing again with new life, culture, and yes, creation. Today’s watch, the Detroit Watch Co. M1-Woodward chronograph, is a perfect example of this revitalized spirit.

Conceived by founder and former Chrysler designer Patrick Ayoub and his wife, Amy, also a designer, the M1-Woodward aims to channel the motoring spirit of its namesake road. Like Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles or the Las Vegas Strip, Woodward Avenue has long been the pulsing symbolic heart of Detroit, from its historic beginnings as the first concrete mile of road in America to a reputation in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s as the world’s greatest street racing destination.

The M1-Woodward takes on the task of distilling this ethos through an eclectic mix of industrial and Art Deco design cues, proven mechanicals and a healthy dose of Michigander pride. Is it worth a look for those outside the Motor City? Let’s find out.

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$1850

Detroit Watch Company M1-Woodward Chronograph Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
Valjoux/ETA 7750
Dial
Black/blue/white/gray
Lume
Super0LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire with AR
Strap
Leather with deployant
Water Resistance
50m
Dimensions
44 x 50mm
Thickness
14.5mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Push-pull
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1850

Case

Viewed from above, the casework on display here is surprisingly simple, but with enough personality to give the M1-Woodward a distinctive form: all polished surfaces, with a narrow bezel and straight case sides. The attached lugs, however, add an unmistakable Art Deco element. Shaped by hard angles without a hint of curves, the unbeveled downward step on the outer edge is a classically American touch, calling to mind such disparate automotive elements as dashboard work on mid-‘30s LaSalles and the (admittedly Manhattan-based) Chrysler Building.

From the side, this stepped element is repeated in a two-level bezel, adding overall cohesion to the design and offering the only break in a very tall, very flat 14.5mm case. On the other hand, the view of this elementally simple case is broken up by an exquisite trio of pushers and crown.

The case has a noticeable Art Deco influence.
Note the stepped lugs.
A prominent fleur de lis symbol on the crown.

In particular, the main crown at three is a standout piece, offering a tight, crisp winding action alongside a truly excellent signature. Very Montblanc in its execution, Detroit Watch Company forgoes their Gothic “D” emblem here in favor of an enamel white-on-black fleur de lis, a symbol of their namesake city for centuries. It’s beautiful, glossy and a real focal point of the entire case on the wrist. The chrono pushers at two and four are a solid match as well, incorporating the same chunky gear pattern around the edges.

The M1-Woodward offers equally impressive signature work around back, with a handsome, sharply etched design featuring an original Woodward Avenue Highway M1 sign surrounded by a list of all ten cities Woodward Avenue passes through: (in no particular order) Detroit, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Pleasant Ridge, Ferndale, Highland Park, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Berkley and Pontiac.

There’s also an optional display back on offer, giving a window to the simple but attractive Cotês de Genève and signed rotor on the ETA 7750 powerplant.

Casebacks are (in my humble opinion) the place for theming to really go wild and come to the fore, and the design here manages to pack in a pile of cues and information while remaining elegantly uncluttered.

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Dial

The dial of the M1-Woodward, on the other hand, might best be described as pleasantly busy. There are a lot of interesting elements at play here: applied indices, Arabic numerals, railroad minutes, funky hands, contrasting sub-dials, and more.

It’s a bit difficult to know where to start talking about it all, so let’s get the potentially unpopular opinions out of the way first. It’s no secret to worn&wound regulars that I’m a chronograph nut, and I’ve got a particularly soft spot for tachymeters. Nearly useless though they may be, they lend an edge of racing cool to almost any watch they’re added to. That said, this watch in particular would be near perfect without it. It almost feels like an afterthought here; without the tachymeter in the picture, this dial feels almost like a Baume et Mercier Capeland in its balance. What’s more, removing the outer tachymeter ring would bring the case size down to a much more manageable (roughly) 41 millimeters.

With that out of the way, there’s a whole lot to love about the dial. Working our way inward from the edge, the railroad minutes track is punched up just enough with the inclusion of small polished button markers to make it a natural focal point–ideal for at-a-glance reading. While ordinarily the addition of Arabic numerals to what is already there would make this feel cluttered and overcomplicated, the proportions at play just work. It’s deeply reminiscent of 1920s and ‘30s dashboard gauges, a clear source of inspiration for Detroit Watch Company given the other industrial/Art Deco elements on display. If your design preferences skew more ornate, then this should definitely appeal to your sensibilities.

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The three sub-dials at 12, nine and six add some intriguing dimensionality to the dial, with the chrono sub-dials at the top and bottom recessed slightly and featuring light snailing for additional contrast. The running seconds at nine, on the other hand, is clearly demarcated from the rest with a raised platform and attractive silver pebbled surface (not all M1-Woodwards have this, however; some models have dial-colored running seconds).

The split handset on the M1-Woodward is a Detroit Watch Company hallmark, according to them drawing its inspiration from the nib of a fountain pen. They work surprisingly well with the automotive influence of the rest of the dial, and the angled polishing work helps them to shine brilliantly from any angle. The theme is continued in the sub-dial hands, with miniature versions in red for chrono functions and polished stainless for the running seconds. Completing the picture at three o’clock is the applied Detroit Watch Company “D” emblem, along with a day-date helping to balance the visual weight across the dial.

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Movement

The Detroit Watch Company M1-Woodward beats with the heart of an old stalwart: the Valjoux 7750, here supplied by ETA. The 7750 has been powering some of the most fascinating chronographs in the world for decades, and Detroit’s choice to go with the classic 7750 over a Miyota or Seiko movement adds some real provenance to the project. There’s a reason these things are ubiquitous–they’re solid, dependable and the simplest choice for a Swiss automatic chronograph.

Straps and Wearability

As far as straps go, the M1-Woodward is all leather with offerings in black, red, and two shades of brown. The strap itself is wonderful, plush and thick with a rich aroma. The contrast stitching and lining are both crisp and well executed, and overall play very well with the feel of the case and dial.

The deployant, while simple, is solidly constructed. The buckle in particular is a standout, with the Detroit Gothic “D” etched deeply and razor-sharp. It isn’t easy to think of a better fit for this watch than the stock strap. Alligator could be an interesting choice, but it’s not one that would work particularly well on a bracelet.

Detroit’s baroque “D” logo on the deployant.

 

A comfortable fit, albeit a slightly large one, on a 7-inch wrist.

In terms of wearability, the M1-Woodward belies its own size and complexity. While it certainly carries miles of wrist presence, wearing a bit on the chunky side, it works surprisingly well in more formal situations as well as t-shirt days. I’d still love to see this closer to 40 millimeters, however, for something a bit more ideal.

Conclusion

Overall, the Detroit Watch Company M1-Woodward is an impressive effort from the young brand. Like the city itself, the work they’re doing today holds promise for an even brighter future; I for one am very excited to see how their design language evolves from here. It’s a fitting tribute in that way, a flowering new company paying homage to a city and a road witnessing a new surge of vitality. At $1,850, it sits in a competitive bracket (most notably, one can get several similarly-spec’d chronographs from brands like Sinn), but with a Valjoux 7750 inside and a host of attractive elements, it’s worth serious consideration even for those outside the Motor City–especially if your aesthetic tilts towards the more baroque. Detroit Watch Company

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Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.
seanpaullorentzen
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