Hands On Review: The Serica 4512

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The Serica 4512 is a watch we’ve been following since we first caught wind of it last summer, with a first look at prototypes, along with their production ready designs. As pre-orders went live, we got the chance to spend some time with the final design of the watch (in California trim) to bring you a glimpse of life with the 4512, and provide a look at the Serica brand.

The 4512 is unique for a few reasons, which we’ll get into, but if you’re unfamiliar with the watch, here’s a quick rundown. This is a WWII era inspired watch, meaning that’s the template around which a modern take is derived. Think Dirty Dozen, but less mil-spec, and no small seconds. This is not a throwback watch, it feels modern and somewhat minimal in execution, and it’s gone through an evolution to get here. 

When we reviewed the prototypes last year, there was a single dial design, in white or black, and two handsets offered. The 4512 has been simplified, and is being offered for sale with a single handset, a single dial color, and 3 dial design variations. The biggest change, though, is the jump over to a Bonklip bracelet from leather options. It shifts the whole tone of the watch and resurrects a damn stylish take on the bracelet in the process. 

The 4512 is currently available for order, with deliveries expected to commence later this year.

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$650

Hands On Review: The Serica 4512

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
STP1-11
Dial
Lacquered Black
Lume
SuperLuminova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Bonklip Bracelet
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
37.7x47mm
Thickness
11.3mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$650

Serica

Serica is an upstart brand based in Paris, France, with a team of watch collectors and journalists, some of whom you may remember from an online Magazine called “Les Rhabilleurs”. They also count the eponymous Matt Hranek (of ‘A Man & His Watch’ and The WM Brown Project) amongst their ranks as an early ambassador. The team is also behind the strap manufacturer, Joseph Bonnie, the provider of the Bonklip bracelet found on the 4512 (more on that later). 

The idea behind Serica began, as these things do, with a debate over the current state of watches for collectors such as themselves. Frustrated by the fact that the only watches that housed their desired traits were priced north of $20k, they set out to bring those qualities to life in a more accessible fashion. Coupled with the focus on packaging as much utility as needed into a small, wearable footprint, and you have the seeds of the 4512. 

This isn’t limited to the 4512, however. I spoke with Jérôme Burgert, the co-founder and Creative Director of Serica, and he is eager to bring the Serica approach and aesthetic to new collections and complications. We look forward to sharing more news on that front in the near future.

The Dirty Dozen Connection

When the Serica watches were first shown, they leaned heavily into the WWII genre thematically, and don the letters W.W.W. (Wrist. Watch. Waterproof.) accordingly. The broad, brushed bezel and quaint case dimensions indeed evoke the feeling of the so-called Dirty Dozen watches, which we’ve discussed at length here. To classify the 4512 as a Dirty Dozen homage would be to do it a disservice, however. This is a watch that was conceived with the same principles in mind, to be easy to use, easy to wear, and capable of withstanding the rigors of all manner of physical activities. In production form, the 4512 stands on its own, separate from WWII inspired watches, as a modern watch that incorporates the same values that elevated war time tool watches. 

When asked about this aspect of the watch and the brand in general, Jérôme expressed their ethos of taking a minimal approach to building utility into their designs. Consider many of the over-engineered tool watches we’re presented with today and we are spoiled for choice. Watches that feature capabilities well beyond what any of us would approach, while technically impressive, invariably make compromises to practicality in their efforts to push the boundaries of their capabilities that much further. Serica takes a decisive contrast to that approach, and the 4512 is a prime example of being as capable as it needs to be (200m water resistance, steel case, sapphire crystal), without impeding the wearability and usability of the watch. It places the user above the stat sheet. That’s an approach that pays dividends in daily wear of the 4512, and something we’d like to see fleshed out further as the brand grows.

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The 4512

The 4512 in production form is subtle and distinguished. This is a watch that measures 37.7mm in diameter, with a 46.5mm lug to lug measurement. A slightly domed sapphire crystal makes for a thickness of 11.3mm. That thickness measurement may seem reasonable, and it is, but when combined with the aforementioned case dimensions, feels thicker and heavier than you’d expect. It works with the rest of the package though, as the watch packs a heavy aesthetic into its minimal confines. After spending some time with the watch, this is really the charm of the 4512. 

From the top, a flat bezel piece dominates the view, featuring a vertical brush that is key to the visual identity of the 4512. The bezel slopes to the case with a polished surface, contrasting against the lugs and case walls, which are also brushed. It’s a look shared by watches like the Grand Seiko SBGV245, and even the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and it stands out here for its use on a much smaller (and much cheaper) watch. It’s a finishing method that takes more care than solid surfaces, and an eye for design to properly balance the case and dial transition. 

There are three dial variations available on the 4512: the Commando, the WMB, and the California, which we are featuring here. The Commando and the WMB both utilize a full set of Arabic numerals around the dial, with a 24 hour scale for military time reference running inside the hours. The Commando gets an open minute track, while the WMB gets a railroad track chapter ring with lume dots, and is the closest to the prototypes we saw last year. The California gets a, you guessed it, California dial, meaning Arabic numerals on the top half on the dial, and Roman numerals on the bottom. Each gets the same set of brushed steel hands, a squat broad arrow hour hand, a long sword minute hand, and an even longer seconds hand. The long minute hand works well on the Commando thanks to its open minute track, but on the California and WMB, it extends into the chapter ring an amount that may trigger your OCD.

Comando at left, WMB at right

The dial is lacquered black in all variations. With high contrast markings, and lume plots at the cardinal hours, this is a highly legible watch. The lume itself isn’t great, but works in a pinch. The proportions work well and as a whole the dial is one of the strongest parts of the watch.

The Bonklip

The steel Bonklip bracelet that accompanies the 4512 is the single most unique element of the watch. Not only is the bracelet visually distinctive, its construction and design make it quite comfortable in daily wear. The bracelet is affixed to the case via steel tube end pieces rather than solid end links, and consists of thin links that move freely between their connection points. The bracelet loops back on itself, creating a loop through which the hand is passed. Depending on the size of the bracelet you opt for (it comes in standard and extra long), getting your wrist through the loop can be tricky. My hand just fits through a standard bracelet, which works perfectly on my 7.25 inch wrist. Once it’s through, you simply pull it to the desired tightness, and flip the clasp in between two links to secure. It sounds more complex than it is, and if you’re still unclear check out the video of it in action from Joseph Bonnie:

The Bonklip is not unique to the 4512. In fact, its roots date back to the late ‘20s, where it could be found on a variety of watches, including RAF and British military issued watches from the ‘40s through the ‘60s. When the patent expired in the ‘50s, a variety of manufacturers developed their own versions, including the likes of Gay Freres and JB Champion, and the Bonklip enjoyed appearances on watches from IWC, Rolex, and Mido. Joseph Bonnie brought the Bonklip back after a decades long hiatus, and is available as a stand alone product as well as the default bracelet on the 4512. While it is a throwback, its appearance brings more of a mid-century modern style to the 4512 that, when combined with the head of the watch, defies easy classification when it comes to assigning a genre, or even wardrobe pairings.

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On The Wrist

The Bonklip bracelet and small case dimensions make the 4512 a pretty easy watch to wear, but it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Though the footprint is small, there’s more heft to the watch than you’d expect, and the Bonklip bracelet is ultra lightweight, so it doesn’t really disperse the weight of the head across the wrist. This doesn’t make it uncomfortable, but it does wear differently than you might imagine. 

The bracelet drapes across the wrist, and feels like a piece of soft fabric in use. The thin links mean you can finely adjust the fitment on the wrist, making quick adjustments due to the weather or activity a breeze. The oversized crown can be mounted on either side of the case depending on your preference, or your dominant hand. This is a feature we’d love to see more of from other brands on their dateless offering. 

If the Bonklip just isn’t your thing, or you like to mix things up, the 4512 looks the business on leather or NATO options. Note that the lug width is 20mm, which looks thick against the small case, so your choice of strap or bracelet will have a big effect on the overall look and vibe of the watch. 

The Movement

Serica is using the manually wound caliber STP1-11 with 45 hours of reserve, a hacking seconds feature, and +/- 6 seconds/day of accuracy. STP is Swiss Technology Production, the Fossil Group’s in-house Swiss movement manufacturer. Don’t let the Fossil Group throw you, this is a proper Swiss manufacturer that was purchased by Fossil Group in 2012 for use within their portfolio of brand’s automatic offerings, from Burberry to Zodiac. 

The STP1-11 found here is using the barrel from the automatic variant of the movement, with the automatic winding system removed to protect the mainspring from overwinding. The crown is screw down, and winding provides satisfying clicks and enough feedback to feel just how much tension you’re building up in the mainspring. Accuracy was well within spec in our time with the watch.

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Price & Conclusions

The Serica 4512 is priced at $650 regardless of your dial choice or crown configuration. It’s available for order now with deliveries beginning later this year. There are plenty of other WWII era watches being made these days from the likes of Smiths and Timor, but it’s difficult to lump the Serica in with them. A watch with a similar level of originality and singular design focus is the Autodromo Group B on bracelet. It’s very different stylistically, but there’s a sense of a vision coming to life here in a unique way that I see in both watches. They both seem to defy the neat bound of existing genres, and both may require a bit of thought when pairing with an outfit. In both cases, the bracelets push the watch into new territory. 

Overall, the 4512 is a remarkable little watch. Not for its impressive complication or even its fit and finish, but for the vision it represents, and the design and style it brings to life. It’s unexpected, it’s subtle, it’s intricate: it represents so much of what we love about independent watch brands, small and large. There’s an ethos at work here that we’d love to see expanded in new directions, meaning we are excited by the potential we see represented in the 4512. Whether or not that happens, this is a great watch that is easy to wear, easy to use, is priced reasonably, and won’t blend in a crowd.

Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.