Hands-On with the Seals Watch Co Model C Field Explorer

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Military watch enthusiasts are a particular crowd. We tend to enjoy a watch design in which form follows function, robustness is paramount, and extraneous details are thrown away in favor of strength, legibility, and usability.

The Model C, the newest offering currently available for pre-order from Seals Watch Company, a micro-brand based in California, takes many of its design cues from these types of watches, and also from the tank itself, the universal symbol of military might if ever there was one.

Editor’s note: the watches shown here are prototypes.

$525

Hands-On with the Seals Watch Co Model C Field Explorer

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
STP1-11
Dial
Black (matte)
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
40.5mm x 48.5mm
Thickness
10.4mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Hexagonal screw-down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$525

The watch itself is a 40.5mm (crown excluded), automatic three-hander, “built it in the spirit of vintage military timepieces” (from the Seals website). Featuring a hexagonal, 316L stainless steel case measuring 48.5mm lug-to-lug and available in several finishes, the watch feels sturdy and true to its design inspiration, the main battle tank. I was sent two variants of the Model C, one featuring a brushed (sides and back) and polished (bezel) case, and the other featuring an entirely blasted case, though a “vintage” option will also be available. The screw-down crown is a highly grippable hexagonal shape and features the company’s “S” logo, which is a nice touch, though I was admittedly a bit dismayed that the stem felt slightly wobbly with the crown pulled out for winding and setting. The wire-style lugs take 22mm spring bars.

The signed, hexagonal crown.
The signed, hexagonal crown.
You can really see the mixed finishing here.

Though my review models had black dials, a “German blue” variant will also be available at shipping time. Both dials feature the brushed Seals logo, an elevated railroad-style ring with individual minute markings and thicker hashmarks at the five-minute demarcations in Super-Luminova, and both 12 and 24-hour indices. The 24-hour track is small and printed in white, while the main indices feature a combination of Arabic numbers, hashmarks at three, six, and nine, and a triangle at 12. All of the main indices as well as the baton-stye minute and hour hands are coated in Super-Luminova, while the white second hand features a red tip, but will also be available in matte steel by special request.

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If all of this sounds like it makes for a busy dial, you’re both right and wrong.
The dial balance itself feels fine, with the elevated minute track giving nice depth and the lack of a date aperture maintaining clean lines. However, I do feel that the dial, as well as the watch itself, suffers a bit from a case of “influence overload.” Here we have a hexagonal-shaped case with wire-type lugs reminiscent of a trench watch from WWI, featuring a pseudo-California dial in addition to a 24-hour scale. Personally, while I appreciate the myriad military watch influences, I would’ve been happy to have seen fewer of them in one watch. Having a 24-hour scale on a trench-type watch case, though not unheard of, throws me for a bit of a loop.

The included strap is a robust, Panerai-type leather affair made with Chinois Au Fis thread and manufactured in either Spain, Italy, Singapore, or the USA (likely depending upon available supply). My review watch strap featured a wide, non-stamped buckle, though the production models will feature a bespoke, original type.

The watch will also ship with an extra strap in canvas in a yet-to-be-determined color, and a handmade Italian leather watch pouch with suede lining, which I found to be well-made and attractive.

On the included strap, the Model C makes for a beefy watch, but not one of gargantuan proportions. The 40.5mm case, although relatively tall at 10.4mm, doesn’t feel overly big on my seven-inch wrist, and the strap is comfortable. The watch is water-resistant to 200m and, as I wrote above, features a screw-down crown, so the wearer shouldn’t have any trouble taking the Model C for a swim, or even a dive (though I wouldn’t personally dive with it on the included strap unless I were reenacting a WWII battle featuring Italian frogmen—better to throw it on a nylon or, better yet, a rubber strap).

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A personal point of fascination with the Model C is the utilization of the STP1-11 automatic movement. STP, or Swiss Technology Production, is a wholly-owned division of Fossil, and produces automatic movements of varying complexity based in Switzerland. The STP1-11 is the base model, but is meant as a direct competitor to the ETA 2824-2, and as such features an impressive 26 jewels, 44-hour power reserve, hacking seconds, perlage, and vibration rate of 4Hz, or 28,800 bph. Furthermore, the STP1-11s utilized in the Model C have been regulated to -4/+6 seconds per day in five different positions, giving the watch chronometer-like performance—a nice touch, indeed.

It has been interesting to see which brands STP will allow to purchase and utilize its movements, and clearly Seals has been chosen as one of them. With ETA movement sales restricted to members of the Swatch group, the STP1-11 is an interesting alternative to the 2824-2, and to the Sellita SW200. Seeing it ticking away in a micro-brand’s watches is encouraging, as it’s indicative of the proliferation of quality and inexpensive automatic Swiss-made movements among smaller companies who are just starting out.So while I do feel that the Model C suffers slightly from the designer’s desire to showcase too many influences in one model, the watch does check many of the requisite boxes for a military-inspired watch: toughness, simplicity, legibility, etc. It’s a watch I would happily take on a boating trip without worrying about babying it, and it offers a workhorse Swiss movement, all at an affordable price, which is currently $525 via pre-order.

In short, while not for everyone, the Model C is certainly a tough, well-built offering from a newer company that deserves your consideration for a military-type watch updated with modern technology. Seals Watch Co

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Oren Hartov is a NYC-based musician and writer whose work has appeared in SHIFTed Magazine, Special Operations Report and K-9 Cop Magazine. He enjoys watches, history, archaeology, militaria, SCUBA, and just about anything that goes “BANG.”

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