Hands-On With The Delft Watch Works Oostpoort

Share this story:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this year, filled as it’s been with limited edition collaborations, hype watches, instant sellouts, and the social media vitriol that goes along with all of it, has worn me out. It seems like every new release gets filtered through the lens of availability, status, value, and a bunch of other things that don’t really mean much once you actually have a watch on your wrist. It’s a little stressful, and it takes a lot of the fun out of the hobby if you can remember a time when this kind of behavior was a rarity, and not the norm. 

As if right on cue, into this objectively less than great environment comes Delft Watch Works. If you haven’t already, I invite you to check out my post from a few months back introducing the watch you see here, the Oostpoort, the brand’s debut. I had a sense writing about it before I had a chance to see it in the metal that there was something charming and unpretentious happening here, and I’m gratified to report that I think I was basically right on the money in my early assessment. Getting the chance to wear this watch around and live with it for a few weeks reminds me of a simpler time in the micro-brand world, when completely new discoveries like this were  common, and watch collectors on a budget didn’t have to worry about things like DNS attacks spoiling the launch of a new watch, or squabbles between brands and their clients spilling onto social media in a public way. These are dark times, folks. 

Advertisement
$849

Hands-On With The Delft Watch Works Oostpoort

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
STP 1-11
Dial
Translucent
Lume
None
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
5 ATM
Dimensions
40 x 47mm
Thickness
12.4mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$849

The Oostpoort, for the record, is readily available on the Delft Watch Works website. No lotteries, no waking up at odd hours, and no waiting a year to take delivery. In my experience, the people who run the brand are genuinely friendly, and happy to answer questions about a product they are rightly proud of. And that’s not an unimportant factor in deciding to buy a watch from a small brand. If you ever have a service issue, or a question, there’s a decent chance you’ll be talking to the person whose name is on the dial, or at least the person who hand picked the name on the dial. Anyone who has been to a Windup Watch Fair, for example, knows the value in interfacing directly with the people who design, produce, and sell the watches that end up on your wrist, and positive experiences here matter in a tangible way. 

Of course, none of that would really matter if the watch wasn’t interesting or appealing. For all the raves you might have about a customer experience, if the watch is flatly boring, it’s not going to see much time out of the watch box. Luckily, the hype watch trend isn’t the only one that the Oostpoort is bucking. This watch has a design that feels wholly original, with details that are well thought through and add considerable enjoyment to the wearing experience. It’s somewhat rare that we see a watch at this price point with the design chops of the Oostpoort. 

The clear highlight, for me, is the case. It measures 40mm, and while at first blush it felt a tad expansive for a watch of this style, I got used to the size fairly quickly and came to feel that it’s fairly well proportioned. I think a watch of this style (which is right on the line between casual/everyday and dressy) is always going to look and feel best at just a hair under 40mm, but this is a small quibble. At the end of the day, the case being a little larger than you expect it to be helps to highlight some of its best features.

At this price point (the Oostpoort is under $1,000 after currency conversion and VAT removal, if you’re in the US) it’s somewhat rare to find a case that really distinguishes itself. A lot of watches in this range have wildly creative dials that set themselves apart, but case design is trickier and represents a greater risk to a fledgling watch brand. There’s just not a huge appetite for case designs that are outside the norm in today’s climate, so the Oostpoort’s dramatically sculpted case flanks feel like a novel idea. From the top down, the Oostpoort reads as a fairly straightforward design, but as soon as you tilt your view and catch the case at an angle, you realize that the midcase has a significant concave impression, created by a wide, swirling, polished bevel. To really get the full impact of how scalloped the sides of the case are, you have to flip the watch over to view the case from behind. This reveals the lugs to be ultrathin spikes that would seem to come from a different watch than what you see from the time telling position. 

This case design is quite complex and adds a lot of visual interest to the watch when viewed from nearly any angle, but its real benefit is in making for an easy wearing experience. Cutting all that space out of the sides of the case makes the Oostpoort look and feel incredibly thin, even with a measurement of 12.4mm tall. That’s not exactly slim by most standards. In the real world, though, it wears a lot like what most people would expect from a dress watch. I found the entire footprint of the case to sit nice and flush to my wrist with a very low profile, so it was exceedingly easy to wear, and only the smallest wrist should fear the 40mm diameter. The lug to lug measurement of 47mm makes the Oostpoort feel more compact than you might expect.

Finishing is conservative and to the point, with a brushed satin finish at the tops of the lugs and lower section of the midcase, with the previously mentioned polished bevel separating the two. This transition is nice and crisp and serves its purpose of providing some definition to the case’s sculptured effect. It’s well executed, but the highlight is the shape itself, and not the finishing. The case is topped by a simple bezel with a brushed finish that matches the lugs, and a slightly domed sapphire crystal that meets the slope of the bezel perfectly, giving the watch a cohesive feel and adding to the impression that every millimeter was thoughtfully considered during the design process. 

Advertisement

The dial of the Oostpoort is far from an afterthought, but it doesn’t have the immediate impact that the case does, at least for me. A close visual inspection, however, reveals a rewarding level of detail. The Oostpoort dial is multi-layered, with a brushed outer ring that’s home to the minute and hour markers sitting on top of a translucent piece that reveals a blurred vision of the movement underneath, including the date disc. The large translucent section has a window cut at the 4:30 spot to reveal an unobscured view of the current date. Now, a lot of people have a lot of things to say about 4:30 date windows. While they aren’t necessarily my favorite spot for a date window on a dial, I certainly don’t have the knee-jerk negative reaction that many seem to when a new watch with a 4:30 date is unveiled. Plus, I think there’s a legitimately good reason to have a date at 4:30 on the Oostpoort.

That reason, in my view, is the hour markers. Delft Watch Works is using simple polished sticks, but they’ve been positioned such that they’re cantilevered over the lower translucent layer. This creates a great sense of depth on the dial, and placing a date window at either 3:00 or 6:00 would have necessitated the removal of one of these markers. For all the complaints that are likely to come about the date window breaking the symmetry of the dial, in my estimation the more important bit of symmetry is in having 12 hour markers in an uninterrupted ring around the dial. That said, if you prefer, DWW also makes the Oostpoort with blue and gray dials, neither of which include a date at all. Unless you have a strong preference for a cloudy view of the movement, one of these options with a solid color dial might be the way to go. 

If the Oostpoort’s dial has a weak link, I have to point toward the handset. The hour and minute hands have a rounded conical shape that immediately brings to mind the style used throughout the recent run of Ming releases (which itself is a riff on hands used by F.P. Journe). It’s not that the shape is unappealing – in fact it has an organic and natural quality to it that I think is objectively pretty nice – but the rest of the watch feels so original, it’s a bit of a bummer that the hands immediately made me think of something else. 

The fact that the hands are skeletonized unfortunately leads to some minor legibility issues on the Oostpoort. I found that at certain angles, particularly in lower light situations, the hands could sometimes get a little lost in the translucent section of the dial. They’re polished around the edges, so in brightly lit areas (and outdoors) it’s easy enough to get your bearings, but I found myself wishing for a black outline, or a lume fill, on more than one occasion. 

Advertisement

The movement used in the Oostpoort is the STP 1-11. STP is a Swiss movement manufacturer owned by the Fossil Group, and the STP 1-11 movement is a clone of the ETA 2824. It’s visible through a display caseback, but there’s not a lot to write home about in the way of movement finishing. The rotor has been customized with Geneva stripes and the Delft Watch Works logo, and there’s plenty of perlage on the movement plates, but this is a workhorse movement to its core. It’s increasingly common for watches at this price point to be fitted with open casebacks, I think with the idea that displaying the movement is something of a conversation starter, or that it will be a point of fascination for new enthusiasts dipping their toes into mechanical watches for the first time. That’s all well and good, but if it means shaving half a millimeter off the case’s thickness, I’ll take a closed caseback on a watch like this every time. It seems like even more of a missed opportunity for Delft Watch Works here, as they draw attention to their personalization capabilities on their website, and the text surrounding the glass back is attractively lasered in relief. A blank caseback as a canvas for personalization on a watch like this is enticing, and I personally hope that DWW (and other brands) offer services like this in the future. 

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the case. When I have this watch on my wrist, it’s hard not to sneak a look at it from the side, and I find myself smiling as I observe its unusual stance, thanks to those concave divots. There’s something almost mantis-like about the way it perches over the wrist, and the flowing lines that extend the full length of the midcase, from one lug to the other, are aesthetically appealing in a really pure way. Michiel Holthinrichs, the designer of this watch and the watches made under his eponymous brand, seems to be in the midst of developing a signature design language, and it’s exciting to think about what watches bearing his name might look like a decade or more from now. It’s easy enough to imagine looking back at 2021 from some point not too far into the future as a time when it was never easier to access a Holthinrichs designed watch at a sub $1,000 price point. 

That said, I sincerely hope that watches like this remain easily accessible to the curious enthusiast. Holthinrichs’s 3-D printed watches start around the $7,500 mark, a fair price for a watch made with such uncompromising design. It also makes the Oostpoort feel like a screaming bargain, as it shares so many of the qualities that make the Holthinrichs watches special if you look at these things as pure design objects. What’s nice about the Oostpoort is that it offers quite a bit of that personality while remaining its own thing, and easily approachable. There’s an awful lot of grumbling within the hobby right now about access, whether it’s in the context of limited editions or inflated prices on the secondary market. My grumble back is that Delft Watch Works is right here, offering clear and unique design vision from a watchmaker on the rise at a fair price, and the watches are shipping at this very moment. As anyone who follows the space knows: it might not always be this way. Delft Watch Works

Images from this post:
Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
Categories: