Automotive-inspired chronographs are everywhere these days. Autodromo, Straton, Helgray and even big dogs like Oris are getting in on the action. Most of these efforts draw from the same thematic pool, with racing or pure sportiness in mind–you can tell designers are looking at Ferrari, Porsche, or in the case of Oris, the Williams F1 team. There’s great inspiration to be had there, but there’s a whole automotive world beyond this focused field that most designers don’t draw from.Enter Moto Koure. This micro-brand newcomer has made something with their MK I Automatic that could only come from one combination of sport, comfort, and luxury: Jaguar. Named after the landmark Jaguar Mark I, the first true sports sedan, the MK I offers a great mix of these styles along with some classic ’70s chronograph inspiration that flows naturally throughout the piece. But is this all enough to justify the price tag, currently set at $944 for a mechanical NE88-powered chronograph? We took it for a hands-on spin to find out.
Hands On with the Moto Koure MK I Automatic
The Moto Koure MK I starts off with a rounded lugless rectangular case, almost an elongated TV-style block. Breaking up the blocky shape is a mix of polished and incredibly smooth brushed (Moto Koure themselves refer to it as a satin) finishes, along with a double-stepped polished bezel. The highly stylized crown sits at three o’clock, featuring both the Moto Koure combined “MK” signature and a deeply-cut tire tread pattern along the side. Not only is this a stylish touch, it also gives the crown a great grip, making it especially easy to operate.
Flanking this crown at two and four are elongated flat pushers running nearly the length of the case. These pushers give the case a much smoother profile than more traditional shaped pushers would. That said, the shape of these pushers does lead to some slightly mushy action at times.
Around back, the wide case back features a sharp engraving of the “MK” emblem surrounded by laurels and identifying text. The overall effect here is slick, somewhat left field, and brilliantly reminiscent of the ’70s standout Heuer Silverstone (one of my personal favorites) without seeming derivative.The dial then is a similar story, featuring a fascinating mix of layers and inspirations that come together to form a standout whole. The main layer is a vibrant sunburst, blue in our tester but also available in green, brown, and a champagne silver. Cutting through this is the “dashboard,” a wood-effect panel running the width of the dial and housing the two white sub-dials at nine and three. Moto Koure’s taken some flack for the laminate approach here, but in practice it looks great. Plus, it’s worth noting that the classic GT car dashboards it’s emulating weren’t always real wood either (my Pontiac’s sure isn’t, and I adore the thing).
While there’s an obvious dashboard instrument vibe running through that panel, there’s a similar contrast block on the classic Bulova 666 “Surfboard” that probably made an appearance on Moto Koure’s design boards as well. The quick-set date at six receives a similar treatment, with a narrow wood surround, chrome frame and eye-catching silver wheel.The hour indices are applied rectangles with an applied “MK” emblem at 12, above a limited edition plaque with the watch’s serial number. The handset is conventional but attractive, with lumed batons for hours and minutes, small lume-tipped arrows for the sub-dials, and a contrasting orange chrono seconds hand. This hand gives a nice pop of color to offset the blue of the dial and inject some sportiness into the mix.
Finishing off the dial is a slick inner bezel with two steps. On the inner side is a full minutes track, which is then surrounded by an outer tachymeter. This is a great bit of design, not only providing plenty of information in a small, neatly organized space but adding an extra layer of depth to an already multi-level dial.
Powering the MK I is the dependable Seiko NE88 chronograph movement. This has become a more common power plant for micro brands in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. With excellent accuracy, reliable internals and a smooth sweep, this is a solid choice by Moto Koure. (You can read more about this modern Seiko movement here.)
The Moto Koure MK I only comes with one strap option, but it’s a great one. Each of the four dial colors gets a matching big-hole rally strap. The leather carries some impressive highlights and lowlights as well as contrast stitching and orange edges. The light, flexible leather makes it an extremely comfortable strap as well. Just about the only gripe I have here is that the orange contrast piping could be a touch less bold, but it’s really grasping at straws.
In terms of wearability, as an all-dial watch it wears larger than the 40mm number would suggest, but it’s not at all ungraceful. There’s miles of presence, no doubt, but for a thick steel block it looks and feels remarkably refined. If you’re into the vintage style trend, this is a great fit for you–think Chelsea boots and leather jackets here.
Overall, it’s clear that Moto Koure is dancing to a slightly different drumbeat than most automotive-inspired brands. It’s more plush than that. This is no racer’s watch, but a Grand Tourer in the classic sense–all the performance you’ll ever need, in a package that’s comfortable enough to live with every day. At the current price of $944, it’s an impressive value, and certainly worth a look for any collector looking for a vintage-inflected chronograph with a unique style.