Hands-On: the D1 Milano Polycarbon Sketch

At this point in my watch collecting journey, most of my purchases are considered. They are often the result of months, or even years, of planning, or simply waiting until the planets align and the rarest of pieces comes up for sale. However, I’m gleeful to see that sometimes I can still be blindsided by a new release and find that my fingers have entered my card details even before my brain has realized what’s happening. That’s how the Polycarbon ‘Sketch’ from D1 Milano ended up in my watch box. It’s cheap and cheerful, but is it good value? After a close examination, I’m still happy.

Looking at D1 Milano’s online catalog of watches, most play heavily on the current integrated-bracelet sports watch trend, and it would be fair to say that some models are influenced rather heavily by other luxury watches. The Polycarbon series, for example, features an 8-sided bezel and overall vibe that definitely brings a specific, more expensive, watch to mind. What has drawn me to this particular variant though, is not the likeness it bears to anything else, but the immediate impact it has and individuality it displays. It just so happens that the case, bezel and bracelet lines on show here, whether original or not, make a great canvas for the sketch effect that D1 Milano has embellished it with.


Hands-On: the D1 Milano Polycarbon Sketch

Polycarbonate, soft-touch coating
Seiko VJ21
Matte black
Polycarbonate, soft-touch coating
Water Resistance
40.5 x 50mm
Lug Width

Getting straight to the point, D1 Milano has created a watch which appears two-dimensional much of the time thanks to the matte black finish and broad white strokes that sit just within each edge and corner of the watch case. The very roughly sketched dial and skeleton hands complete the look. It’s surprisingly easy for this watch to mess with your depth perception and to question just how real it is. If you’ve ever seen photos of the Greem Café in Seoul, South Korea, then you’ll be familiar with the cartoon look that can be created from three dimensional objects, but unless you’ve been there in person, this watch might be the closest you’ll get to experiencing it.

The dial of the ‘Sketch’ would be simple, or even dull, if it was accurately and crisply printed. A matte black surface features only a thick white outer border with a double index at 12 o’clock and single indices elsewhere. There is no minute track and, thanks to the imprecise nature of the sketched markers, setting the time accurately can be a bother. I can’t quite work out whether the dial is ever so slightly misaligned, if the second hand is missing the markers, or whether that’s all part of the illusion. With a Seiko quartz VJ21 movement inside, I shouldn’t have to set it often anyway. An automatic version would be really cool to see, but I can easily get on board with a cheap quartz movement in a watch that I will likely only throw on once in a while, rather than being hit with the hike in price that a mechanical movement would attract.

As the name might suggest, the watch is made from Polycarbonate, which is an impact resistant form of plastic. When used here, the case and bracelet become tactile and lightweight. The artificial, or toy-like, aura is heightened further when you pick the watch up. It doesn’t feel like a real watch, in terms of touch or weight. On the wrist that substantial lack of heft is welcome. Despite a diameter of just over 40mm, excluding the push-pull crown, the Polycarbon ‘Sketch’ is sizable on the wrist. The bracelet starts at 27mm wide, quickly tapering down to 19mm at the butterfly clasp. The crown, case back and clasp are all PVD coated steel. It’s anyone’s guess how well the striking white lines are going to hold up, or equally how good or bad it might look if they do start to show some serious wear.

The integrated lug and bracelet setup means there’s fairly little flexibility in the first full link on either side, which pushes the lug to lug length up from 50mm to nearer 58mm, but those semi-rigid links are heavily angled downwards as they begin the bracelet’s passage around the wrist. For a fairly average wrist such as mine (right around 7 inches), this is where those links would naturally sit anyway, and the case and bracelet conform nicely to my wrist shape. Wrists that are substantially smaller or larger, will probably see some overhang or an uncomfortably restrictive fit respectively. A significant portion of the 8.8mm thickness appears to be above the dial, with the black chapter ring creating a real sense of depth.

During the couple of days waiting for dispatch and delivery I was dubious about whether the actual product would look just as unreal as the renders (or were they photographs? It’s very hard to tell). In its packaging, or on my desk, the illusion is extremely successful. On the wrist it still works, and perhaps looks ever more jarring with my fleshy form also in the frame. As you’ll no doubt note from the photos, it is large, but not overbearing or clunky. It makes a statement, but it sure is supposed to. This “chalkboard” white-on-black variant is one of two ‘Sketch’ models produced – the other being black lines drawn on a white case, which is even more in keeping with the sketch theme and the Greem Café inspiration. That configuration is perhaps louder that I could handle.

I’d be lying if I said the watch was perfect. An automatic movement, sapphire crystal, minute markers, micro-adjustment on the clasp, and better articulation on the first bracelet link are all things that might appear on my wish list for a version 2, if such a thing were to come in the future. On the other hand, the watch is so quirky that retaining a low price point is important for making this watch so appealing. The first batch of watches is currently showing as sold out, but hopefully more will become available in due course. Keep an eye out at the D1 Milano website right here.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.