If I were to ask you to picture a wrist watch, perhaps you’d picture an iconic design like a Submariner, your personal favorite watch or maybe even what you are wearing at the moment. In any of those cases, you are likely imagining a metal case with a crystal of some sort above a dial with at least 2 (or perhaps 1) hands. All of them, whether by Patek or by Timex use the same conventions for displaying time, and aesthetics that while possible wildly different use similar vocabularies of markers, shapes, textures, etc… Well, occasionally a watch comes out that breaks, at least partially, from the norm to create something truly different. Often, these watches are different for the sake of being different, but the Eone Bradley was designed for a very specific reason.
Before getting into the watch itself, it’s worth knowing the background story and where the name comes from. Watches for the blind have not been refined since.. well, now. There basically are watches that speak, which is very indiscreet, or watches with flip open dials and brail like markers to allow a sort of tactile reading, but based on the norms of a visual display. Hyungsoo Kim, founder and CEO of Eone Time, sought out to create a better solution. Through case studies and working with the blind, Kim and his designers came up with the innovative solution you see today. A timepiece in the round that utilizes large ball bearings and magnetic tracks to display time. Through Kickstarter, they funded the project (many times over, asking for 40k and getting nearly 600k) which is now widely available.
The Bradley is named after Bradley Snyder, a veteran who lost his sight in active combat in Afghanistan. Rather than giving in to his disability, he rose to the challenge and went on to win two gold medals and one silver for swimming in the 2012 Paralympics. Clearly, his is a story of perseverance and strength that everyone can resonate with. In their very well edited kickstarter video, they speak to Bradley, who talks to the importance of self-reliance in his life, and how every solution that allows him to do something without asking for help is very important to him.
Why the Bradley is so successful is not just because it is a better solution for a timepiece for the blind, which is to say, a timepiece that can be read by your fingers whether you are sighted or not, but also because it is a beautiful and fascinating object. It’s clearly a watch from a far, but doesn’t stick to many of the standard watch conventions. Namely, the dial and the case are a single, sculptural unit that is active on both the top and the sides. As such, you both feel and see it fully.
And it’s not just a novelty for those with vision. As they also point out in their KS video, being able to tell the time without looking at a watch comes in handy. Whether in a meeting, in school or having a boring conversation with a friend/loved one, looking at your watch can be seen as rude (unfortunately for us watch-nerds, looking at our watches is a reflex, being done often when the time isn’t a concern as per the Watch Curmudgeon’s Glance article, so we might still be at a loss). With some practice, the time can be told by discreetly feeling the watch under a table.
When above the table, it’s also quite a conversation starter. The 40mm titanium case is mysterious and architectural, with raised lips, slots and grooves, articulating lugs and the occasional glint of light from a ball bearing. It begs to be touched. The matte dark grey of the titanium looks silky smooth, while the polished index that stands off the top appears sharp, letting you know the edges can be felt. The grooves on the top and the sides, which guide the bearings, cast amazing shadows that break across the surface… in short, it’s entrancing. If you told me this was a watch designed by Richard Serra, I’d believe it.
Essentially, it works like a two handed watch, but rather than the hands being on the dial, you have a minute bearing on the top and an hour bearing running along the side. At a glance, it might seem like a puzzle, but it’s quite easy to read visually once you acclimate to the concept. That said, there is something “backwards” feeling about the hour on the outside and minute inside. Reading it by touch is a whole other thing. It’s very hard for me to not look, but upon forcing myself several times to close my eyes and try, I started to get a feel for it (no pun intended). The way you locate the bearings based on the 12 marker, counting markers around… it has a clear logic to it. That said, it’s tricky and would require practice to do casually or quickly. While I can’t speak for the blind, I would assume that if you are adept at brail/using touch to identify things, it would be easier to pickup.
The Bradley is about 13mm tall, but feels taller as you don’t just see it from the top. That said, it wear comfortably thanks to articulating lugs that conform to your wrist and adjust to natural movement. It’s also exceptionally light thanks to the titanium case and quartz movement inside. Despite everything that is going on visually, it still comes through as restrained and minimal. The grey is austere and soothing, the minute bearing is oddly contemplative sitting in its channel and the markers stand above like little sentinels. There is no ticking of a second hand, so it’s silent and without perceptible motion.
Because it’s so atypical looking, it doesn’t fit into dress, sport, etc categories. As such, I think it can be worn pretty much where ever, so long as you’re ready for people to ask you about it. The Bradley has multiple strap options, and a few choices there in. It’s available with either a steel mesh, or a canvas, almost military strap, which comes in beige, black, green, blue and yellow. Considering it’s only $10 more, I’d say go for the mesh. It’s elegant and well made, works with the all metal look of the watch and dresses it up a bit. And since the lugs are 20mm with spring-bars, you can always swap in a third party strap.
The Eone Bradley is a rare example of problem solving and aesthetics working together. There are tons, I mean tons, of inexpensive watches with weird dials all vying for spotlight. Many are attractive and even more are clever, but few have purpose. The fact that this watch was born out of a very real issue and solves it elegantly, while happening to be gorgeous makes it exceptionally successful design, and stand out from all of those other pieces. For us WIS with our collections of fairly classical watches, this is obviously a challenging design, but after wearing it for some time, is one I could easily see owning. Sometimes having something totally modern and different, while being tasteful, is an enjoyable break. Naturally, the Bradley is also very well constructed, which must have been a challenge given the design. Coming in at $275 on fabric, $285 on mesh and $315 for the blacked out version, the Bradley is also fairly priced.
Big thanks to TwistedTime.com for lending us the sample watch for this article.