The argument that mechanical timepieces are completely impractical in the modern world is the oldest, most overplayed cliché in watch journalism. But if that’s the case—and I won’t get into it too deeply here—then why not embrace the impracticality of it all? Watchmaking remains one of the purest, most focused design exercises for a product designer regardless of a watch’s (at least functionally) unnecessary nature. 22 Design dove headfirst into this realm of pure design with the 4th Dimension Concrete Watch Minimal Edition. There’s an ultramodern architectural feel at play here, further accentuated by the unusual concrete dial surface. But how does it stack up as an actual timepiece? Let’s dig in.
Hands-On with the 4th Dimension Concrete Watch Minimal Edition from 22 Design Studio
Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning—the 22 Design 4th Dimension is seriously thick. While the case measures 14.5mm deep, its slab-sided and truncated cone shape coupled with a completely flat crystal and case back with no wrist-hugging curve makes it appear and wear much taller. Setting it next to a comparably tall case with beveling and contours makes this even more apparent.
However, for all its mountainous height, it’s not unattractive. The case sides feature even horizontal brushing all around, and the undercut bevel near the bottom helps the 45mm lugless diameter from feeling enormously wide as well as tall. Equally minimal is the crown at three o’clock—a mid-sized octagonal bolt without a signature. The only real interruption of this utterly stark minimalism is the text around the display case back, offering a generous view of the workhorse Sellita power plant.This trend of form-before-function minimal modernism continues to the dial, where the watch shows off its signature dish. This one of a kind, spiral staircase dial doesn’t just look like a piece of architecture, it really is. Made of specially cured concrete, this dial feels moody, futuristic and wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art gallery. Without indices, it’s up to each step of the staircase to serve as markers, something that works surprisingly well in even low light conditions. The 4th Dimension is eminently legible for such a pared-down design, but at the end of the day this dial is all about appearances. The extreme height of the case starts to make sense in the context of this almost comically tall dial, and it leaves a nicely brushed rehaut that feels a mile deep on the bottom step.
The hands are adapted to this abyssal depth as well, sprouting upward from a central hub at the bottom layer of the dial before sharply bending outwards to their more traditional positions. This offers even more unique light and shadow play in changing conditions, something I often caught myself stopping to admire.
Ironically, the only major issue with the Minimal Edition’s dial is that it’s not quite minimal enough—the date window thrusts upward from the three o’clock “step” like an old-fashioned well, interrupting the steady flow of the staircase and offering a somewhat jarring profile from an angle. The hole of this well plunges down to expose a large segment of the date wheel and a sliver of the movement itself—almost an open heart. However, it suffers for its indecision: too wide for a date window, but not wide enough to show anything of substance in the movement, it comes off feeling almost sloppy in the midst of the architectural order of the rest of the dial.
A no-date would have served this watch far better. Similarly, the watch would be attractive with a sterile dial, but the bas-relief 22 emblem fits into the overall aesthetic nicely without nearly the same disruption as the date.
Inside this cavernous case lies a familiar engine: the venerable Sellita SW200-1. With ETA’s gradual withdrawal from the movement market, Sellita has moved to pick up much of that slack, and has become the preeminent choice for those looking for an affordable Swiss three-hander. The particular example inside the 22 Design 4th Dimension is blatantly functional in the face of the design-driven exterior, featuring no real decoration to speak of. It’s a simple steel edifice, but it’s always a joy to see the beating heart of a balance wheel at work. In terms of functionality, it has the usual laundry list of features: 26 jewels, a 28,800 bph sweep, and a 38-hour power reserve. It’s perfectly solid for the money.
22 Design offers the 4th Dimension Minimal Edition on a suitably minimal black leather strap, with matching black stitching. The thick calf leather is supple and comfortable here, but it’s in the details that this strap sets itself apart. Etched into the inner lining is 22’s emblem on one side and “Time, the 4th dimension” on the other. An interesting choice for an etching, to be sure, and a nice tie-in to the model designation. The subtle “22” etching on the side of the buckle deserves special mention as well, as a clean and unobtrusive piece of branding.
Now as far as wearability goes, the 4th Dimension is a mixed bag. At a lugless round 45 millimeters, the case actually wears impressively compact, feeling more around the 42 mark on the wrist. On the other hand, the piece is still unbelievably tall, making it hard to fit under shirt and jacket cuffs. Wrist presence, then, is predictably massive, but as a watch so devoid of flash that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Realistically, however, the uniform brushed surface seems like a magnet for scratches and with its incredible height it’s only a matter of time before that conical case bashes into something.
Overall then, the 22 Design 4th Dimension Concrete Watch Minimal Edition is a mixed bag. There’s no denying the 4th Dimension is an interesting concept with some stellar execution in places. It is, however, a design exercise first and foremost—a paragon of form over function.
Do I like it? Very much so. Would this ever be a daily wearer? Not on your life. This piece makes sense, then, more as a piece of functional sculpture than a watch. It’s a lovely one at that, but outside of the occasional special event it just feels like a box queen. At $760, it’s in rather competitive territory, but for a watch this unique there really is no substitute. 22 Design