Nothing makes us happier at worn&wound than to find a watch that is both great looking and a great deal. After all, we are a site about affordable and well-designed wristwatches. So, when we happened upon the Obris Morgan Branco, we knew immediately that we had to get the watch on the site. On paper, it’s just about the best deal we’ve ever seen: outstanding features, a handful of extras, and killer looks… what’s not to like? Well…there is always the possibility that a cheap watch is cheap, because it is poorly made. As I pointed out in my initial impressions, the packaging alone exceeds expectations. Now, let’s dig into the details of the watch itself and see if it truly is a remarkable deal for a great watch.
Case: Matte PVD Titanium
Movement: Miyota 8215 Auto
Dial: Black Sandwich with lume layer
Lens: Sapphire with AR coating, single side
Strap: 2x Black Leather, Rubber
Water Res.: 200m
Dimensions: 43mm x 51mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Crown: 4 x 8mm screw down
The 43 x 12mm Titanium matte PVD case of the Branco has a striking appearance. They went for a modern tactical feel with the sharp lines, textured bezel, stealthy PVD and achieved it well. The design itself is relatively simple, the case is cylindrical with relatively thick lugs protruding straight out and a guarded crown at 4. The lugs flare ever so slightly where they meet the case on the outer edge, creating a seamless and attractive transition. The crown guards are stubby, thick and angular. They reach around the already over-sized crown, making for an aggressive and armored look. The screw-down crown itself is large, black, also titanium and quite well detailed. It is signed with the Obris Morgan concentric circle logo and has large, wide teeth for gripping. The action on the crown is good, threading and unthreading without any difficulty. The case back of the watch is also PVD, but is made of steel, so it has a different sheen to it. The back is decorated with a logo and a minimal amount of text. It’s a nice touch for the back to be PVD coated as well, which is something that often gets neglected.
The bezel of the Branco is non-rotating, but has sides that are textured with rectangular studs. While they have no real function, they look great and add to the rugged appeal of the watch, especially on the PVD model. Also adding to the overall tough aesthetic of the Branco are screw bars, which are accessed on the outside of the lugs. While I appreciate the added strength of screw bars, I have two issues with them. 1. If you change your straps often, as I do, they can be a pain in the ass to deal with, as they can be stripped, get stuck and are easy to drop and lose (not that normal spring bars aren’t, but they tend to be easier to replace). 2. On a PVD case; they are a recipe for disaster. It is very very easy for a screwdriver to slip when the screw has gotten just beyond the lug. On a non-pvd watch, a slight slip might not do anything to a case, but on a PVD it can easily damaged the coating… which I learned first hand, as I put a couple of nicks on the edge of the screw hole.
The PVD coating is a dense matte black that, all-in-all, looks great. It works very well with the aesthetic of the watch, and really adds something stealthy and almost malicious to the look. As I mentioned in my initial impressions, the coating itself is not perfect, having some discoloration and apparent build up here and there. That being said, you would only notice those things close up, so overall, they don’t effect the appearance.
Dial + Hands
The dial of the Branco is quite unique and adds a lot of visual interest to the watch. First off, it is a sandwich dial, which is something we don’t see often enough. On the version we received, the sub lume-dial is a pale green, which shows through windows at every hour. The main dial is matte black, matching the PVD of the case perfectly, creating a seamless look. The dial itself is simple, almost minimal. On the outer edge there is a single printed index of white lines, indicating 1/5th seconds with short lines and full seconds/minutes with longer lines. For all of the hours save 12, 4 and 8, there are small rectangular windows to the dial below. At 12, there is a window of 2 fluted shapes, side to side. At 4 and 8 are single windows, also with this sort of strange fluted shape. The arrangement of 12, 4 and 8 is different than the standard 3,6,9,12 positioning of most watches, creating a triangular layout that is both interesting and cool looking. Though the watch is lacking in numerals, it is no trouble to read. In the dark, the lume sub-dial glows with medium intensity.
The hour and minute hands of the watch are thin roman sword shapes. While the minute hand is noticeably longer than the hour hand, they are ultimately very similar looking, and could have used a touch more differentiation. Both hands have black edges and white lume filling. The lume glows the same color as the sub-dial, but they don’t match in light, which is sort of annoying. But that almost doesn’t matter since the day-glo orange seconds hand takes all the attention. It’s almost miraculously bright, contrasting sharply with the black of the dial and case. Though the watch is available with different colors for the second hand, I must say that the orange is a winner.
The dial features four lines of text that are fairly prominent. At the top of the dial is the full name “Obris Morgan” in all caps, written quite large. Beneath that in a stencil font is “T.012.01.A” which is the specific reference number for this model, playing off of the tactical and military inspirations of the brand. Below the hands in an almost retro-script is “superluminova” and under that, in stencil-font again, is 200m. While this text certainly doesn’t ruin the look of the dial for me, it doesn’t really help it either. The otherwise clean and precise markings and windows seem almost betrayed by extraneous text. I’d love to see a sterile dial option for the Branco, or perhaps one with only the Obris Morgan circle logo in gloss black around 12, as the large flat black plane in the center would add to the stealth look of the case.
Straps + Wearability
The Branco comes with 3 straps of varying quality. The strap it comes mounted to, the nicest of the lot, is a matte black “Italian Oil Leather” strap with cream contrast stitching and matte black Pre-V buckle. The quality of the strap is quite good, it is supple, the stitching is even and clean, and more over, it just looks right with the watch. The matte black leather works well with the matte black case, and the thick, rugged leather makes sense with the aesthetic. Wearing the Branco on this strap is quite comfortable, as the watch itself is fairly light due to the titanium construction, and the leather is soft enough to wear well. That being said, it is very thick, so during the summer it does not provide great breathability.
The Branco also come with a second black leather strap, made of Calf leather, with white contrast stitching and a polished buckle. The strap is field style, with padding half way and a tapered design. While a bit more elegant than the heavy leather strap, the aesthetic doesn’t match as well. The leather is a bit glossy, the white stitching is a bit too white and the buckle doesn’t match the finish of the watch. That being said, the quality is decent enough, though not as nice as the other leather.
Lastly, there is a matte black rubber strap. The strap is very flat and lacking in much texture or décor, save a slightly indented area. It also comes without a buckle installed, so you have to switch buckles for another strap. All in all, I appreciate the idea and utility in having a rubber strap option, but this strap is a bit too cheap for me. The rubber has a somewhat unpleasant feeling and the look is too bland for the watch. If I needed to put a rubber strap on here, I’d likely spring for something more like an IsoFrane, which has a more rugged look.
The Branco’s large, but not too large, case design fits comfortably on my 7″ wrist. The lugs do not protrude too far and the 4 o’clock crown refrains from sticking into one’s skin. The titanium case makes for a noticeably light watch, which is a nice alternative for a sporty watch. While I think the matte leather strap looks great and is easy to wear, my preferred strap option is actually one that did not come with the Branco, and is, naturally, a military green NATO with black hardware. For a lightweight, breathable option that you can get wet, not much beats nylon. So, throw in the added military vibe that plays off of the tactical aesthetic already present, and a NATO is a sure winner. The green of the NATO plays off of the black of the case, the pale green lume and the bright orange hand. On top of that, the comfort is increased and the look is just mean. Once I put one on there, it quickly became my default. Frankly speaking, I could have forgone the second leather and the rubber altogether for a well chosen NATO.
Build Quality + Movement
Overall, the build quality of the Branco is fantastic, my only slight beef being with the PVD coating. The case is machined well, with decent detailing and an overall sturdy feel. Add to that the single side AR coated sapphire crystal, and you have a very decent case. The dial is printed very nicely, with even color and precise lines. The added complexity of it being a sandwich dial, which requires precision cutting of windows and a second layer of lume, gives it that extra bit of detail that sets it apart from other dials in this price range. Clearly, this watch is cheap in price, but not in construction.
A Miyota 8215 21 Jewel automatic movement powers the Branco. The movement vibrates at 21,600 bph, which gives the second hand a somewhat jumpy glide. While this does not effect the use of the watch, it is worth noting, especially if you are used to wearing a watch with an eta 2824-2 or a Miyota 9015, which beat at 28,800. The 8215 is also non-hacking. The Branco has shown no great loss or gain of time in the few weeks I have been wearing it for normal use.
It’s hard…no, almost impossible, to argue with the value of the Obris Morgan Branco. It features a PVD coated titanium case, a sapphire crystal with AR coating on one side, a Miyota 8215 automatic movement, a 200m water resistance and it comes loaded with extras, like 3 straps and a tough-as-nails case to keep it in. All that for $239 dollars! However, none of that matters if the watch itself is a piece of garbage. Luckily, it genuinely is a very good watch, with a unique look and some great features. It’s not perfect, and maybe it tries for too many things, but where it succeeds, such as in the case and dial design, it really pulls through. I admittedly felt a need to be a bit harsh on this watch, because I find it so promising.
There are a few things I would personally change, like have a sterile dial option and ditch the other two straps for a NATO, but that is subjective. What matters in the end is that if you are looking for something that the Branco provides, like a tactical look or a titanium case, I think you will be happy with what you get. The polished and brushed options, which I have only seen in photos, are also quite attractive and $10 dollars cheaper. While they might lack the stealth look of the PVD, they are perhaps a bit more versatile for daily wear. Pick one up while you can at either Obris Morgan’s site or Island Watch…these seem to be moving fast already. We look forward to what Obris Morgan will release in the future, as they seem to have found a unique voice with this watch.
Thanks to Obris Morgan for providing the review unit
By Zach Weiss