Hands-On: the Vero Smokey ’44

Just a few short weeks ago, Vero introduced their officially-licensed Smokey the Bear watches that were inspired not only by the bear himself, but the era in which he came into existence. Today, we’re taking a look at the Smokey ’44. It’s inspired by the military watches of the 1940s, blended with a wildfire-themed color palette and a depiction of the friendly-but-stern bear right at 12 o’clock on the dial. This officially-licensed piece of Smokey swag is a great representation of both Vero as a brand and what Smokey the Bear stands for. Vero isn’t all talk either, being that 10% of all sales go directly back to the US Forest Service for conservation efforts. Let’s take a closer look, and remember — only you can prevent wildfires.


Hands-On: the Vero Smokey ’44

Stainless steel
Seiko NH38A automatic
Black, textured
Green SuperLuminova
Leather + canvas
Water Resistance
120 meters
38 x 46mm
Lug Width
Screw down
10 years


Clocking in at a comfortable 38mm, the case of the ’44 wears really well on my 6.75” wrist. There’s nothing overly notable about the case, and I say that in a good way. It’s a straightforward field watch with a sturdy case that inspires confidence that it’ll stand up to whatever you want to throw at it. With 120m of water resistance, the ’44 has more than enough protection from H2O for a swim and then some. I like how Vero chose to finish the case. Most of the components are treated to a satin finish, while the bezel and crown are polished. For me, it’s the perfect amount of polished accents that make the watch pop just a little bit when it catches the light. 

The generously-sized screw down crown features a fancy signature in the form of a tree logo. It’s finished really well, and stood out as something that deserved a mention. It’s one of the cooler crown designs I’ve seen in recent memory, and it’s a very cool touch on a sub-$500 watch. 

The ’44 does feel a little bit thick though, largely due to the slab sides of the case. 12mm isn’t crazy thick, but the rest of the dimensions leave the watch feeling a little bit stout. I don’t mind the stature of the case. It fits the outdoorsy vibe of the watch well, inspiring confidence in the watch’s durability. 

Dial + Hands

Right at the top of the dial, you’ll find the 79-year-old Smokey himself. I have to admit, for a bear who’s pushing eighty, he’s looking pretty good. Not even a hint of gray hair and his signature hat looks as crisp as ever. Vero has made their own take on Smokey, making him look a bit more modern, and I love the look. The Smokey head is sized nicely so as to not draw too much attention, but he’s always there when you want him to be. Right underneath, you’ll find the text “ONLY YOU” as a reminder that it is in fact only you who can prevent wildfires. Just above six, there’s a small tree logo to complete the look. Overall, the dial is styled like a World War II era field watch. A set of cathedral-esque hands point to the hours and minutes, while the seconds hand features a shovel-shaped counterbalance that I suppose a really tiny person could use to properly wet, stir, and cover their campfire to ensure that it’s safely extinguished. 

The hour indices are rendered in a period-accurate typeface that looks excellent on the black matte textured dial. They’re treated with SuperLuminova lume and glow green when the lights go out. A gilt-colored railroad track runs around the outside of the dial, while 13-24 hour markers are printed in red on the inside. The warm black dial, red accents, and gilt chapter ring really give a fiery look to the watch, while remaining subtle. I think it’s a great looking dial that pulls from an interesting era of watches with a well-done twist. 


Inside the ’44, you’ll find one of Seiko’s NH38A automatic movements. With a 41-hour power reserve, the movement is right in line with a large range of automatic movement offerings. The NH38A is a true no-date movement, so since there’s no date display on the dial, there’s no “phantom date” position for the crown. It’s a straightforward, easily-serviceable and widely known movement that makes sense inside of the ’44, given the price tag. The movement runs at 21,600 bph in 24 jewels. It’s capable of hacking the seconds hand so you can precisely set the time, as well as hand winding to get it started or keep it topped off when in your watch box. There’s not a whole lot more to say, other than it’s there and it works. 


Straps + Wearability

Inside the packaging, you’ll notice that the watch comes with two straps by default. A military style canvas strap and a thick and sturdy leather strap are both included with the watch, making it a solid value. I’d like to take a minute to comment on the packaging, since the unboxing experience was really pleasant. There’s a really cool outer sleeve that depicts Smokey (wearing a watch, of course) blasting through the forest in his kitted out Jeep. Once you remove the outer sleeve, a sturdy cardboard inner box is printed with a pattern featuring Smokey saving all sorts of wildlife and responsibly putting out campfires. When you finally get to the watch, it’s nestled in a gray felt insert, along with a clear and concise set of instructions, the additional strap, some spring bars, a few cool stickers, and a button. It’s a great kit that would make a really impressive gift. Kudos to Vero for making the unboxing experience a great one. 

You can choose from the two included strap options — a nice looking canvas mil-strap, or a sturdy leather option. Both feel high quality and won’t make you immediately want to run out and pick up a new strap, which is a lot more than many brands in the Vero’s price range can say. On the wrist, the stout 38mm watch is comfortable to wear. The reasonable 46mm lug-to-lug keeps the proportions comfortable on my 6.75” wrist. As you can tell from the photos, the slab sides do emphasize the thickness of the watch, but it’s by no means clunky. Overall, I found the strap options and wearability to both be a solid experience. 


If you’re a fan of the outdoors, conservation, or just some good old fashioned Americana, the Smokey ’44 from Vero is certainly worth a look. The theme was tastefully woven into the watch, and I really like how Vero took inspiration from military watches of the same year that Smokey was introduced. It’s one of the more tasteful character watches, and Vero did an excellent job.

At its core, the watch itself is quite solid too. There are no gimmicks here, you’re getting a quality watch with nice finishing, a class-leading 10-year no-nonsense warranty, and a strong set of specs. If you’re curious about the Smokey ’44, head over to Vero’s site to learn more and to check out the alternate version as well. Vero

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.