Review: Codek Spiral, a Watch Inspired by the Hairspring

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If you were to describe the Codek Spiral to me, I’d likely conclude that the designers were themselves spiraling out of control. At first glance, however, I saw that the minds behind this watch were not only in control, but that they held deft command over a complex set of details that form a surprisingly serene whole. This watch should be funky, but instead it’s sophisticated. It should be jarring, but instead it’s placid. Basically the Spiral ought to fail, but instead it excels.

A strong concept does not guarantee a successful design, but it’s hard to imagine that the Spiral would have turned out so well without one. The inspiration for the Spiral is the hairspring. Already we see the designers’ intelligence at work, designating what some would call a found object as the watch’s conceptual and aesthetic center. I am reminded of certain modernist masterpieces, such as Isamu Noguchi’s famous coffee table which he based on a sketch of a woman in repose, or the entire city of Brasilia which Lúcio Costa based simultaneously on The Cross and the jet airplane.

Introducing the Codek Spiral collection.

Such concepts not only inform the design, but also our subjective interactions with it. By considering the hairspring, we become more aware of our most intimate partner inside the movement, and by engaging the hairspring in this way, the folks at Codek are flirting with the borders of conceptual art, but thankfully they stop short of being overly heady about it.

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$600

Review: Codek Spiral, a Watch Inspired by the Hairspring

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
ETA 2824 (regulated 3 positions; no date position)
Dial
White; blue
Lume
n/a
Lens
Double domed sapphire with internal AR
Strap
Calf or shell cordovan (made by Hadley Roma)
Water Resistance
30 meters
Dimensions
38mm x 41mm
Thickness
10.6mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Push/pull
Warranty
Yes
Price
$600

The Spiral is so visually atypical that I’m going to forego what would certainly be tedious descriptions and ask that you, dear reader, take a longer gander at the photos than you normally would. To guide your eye, however, I point you to the bowl-shaped 38-millimeter steel case and the way the non-circular bezel overhangs that bowl. Check out how that bezel also canopies the stout lugs, resulting in a modest 41-millimeter lug-to-lug span. This watch is going to fit a lot of people.

Stout, drilled lugs.
Angular crown guards.
Bowl-shaped mid-case.
Even brushing nearly throughout.

When viewed in profile from the crown side, I count 22 distinct surfaces which, somehow, cohere serenely. The edges aren’t exactly IWC-sharp, yet the slightly soft connections complement the multi-directional brushing to form a muted geometry. Viewed in profile from the nine o’clock side, we get a clean view of the bezel overhanging the bowl-shaped mid-case and the drilled lugs. It’s a small marvel that these two dissimilar sides inhabit the same watch. Viewed from above, however, the disparity between the two sides is entirely concealed by the bezel. Straight on, the Spiral looks larger than it is, and I’d have guessed it measured at least 41 millimeters, but calipers confirm that it’s just 38 (excluding the crown).

The signed crown at three.

Technically the dial is 100% symmetrical, as every detail is exactly reflected by its 180-degree counterpart, yet the inner dial consists of two offset semi-circles, around which the baton indices spell out two Fibonacci-esque outer dial hemispheres. (That’s a little hard to put into words, so please refer to the photos.) The polished vertical rehaut reflects the indices such that they appear to reach beyond the physical boundaries of the case—a kind of reflecting-pool effect that remains arrow-straight through the double domed sapphire crystal. Viewed at a certain angle, the longer batons seem to go on forever.

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Midnight Blue.
Opaline White.
“Codek” tucked away on the dial.
The wave texture on the dial.

Most improbably, the Spiral’s inner dial succeeds in sporting an Omega-esque wave pattern. These waves play with the light in myriad ways, creating flow within what would be, I imagine, a jarring and jagged shape without the waves. There’s nothing nautical about those waves, though; they appear more like a textured fabric, adding depth, contrast, and warmth to the inner dial while vaguely referencing the curvature of a hairspring. The precision of the wave engraving is on par with that of my Omega Seamaster 2254.5—very sharp.

The skeletonized hands contain no lume, allowing the glossy black or white paint to leap off the dial for exceptional legibility. In fact, there’s no lume on the Spiral at all. I’m convinced that the matte texture of even the whitest lume would detract from this dial’s vividness. The lack of lume also allows the blue and white versions of the dial to remain identical in every way other than color, which in turn allows the design to succeed equally well in both colorways. I can’t say that about many watches.

Shown here on a seven-inch wrist.
Shown here on a seven-inch wrist.

No lume means no tool watch categorization, and the 30-meter splash-proof rating assures that the Spiral isn’t designed for adventurous abuse. I can’t really picture this sophisticated wonder wandering in the woods or scaling a mountain, anyways. I did, however, wear the white one out for cocktails at a friend’s mid-century house recently, where the watch not only fit in perfectly but also garnered a genuine, “Wow!” from my watch-curious host. He put it on and said, “Allen, this watch is great. It’s so playful. Nothing like your other watches.” I was wearing a freshly bleached white oxford shirt, and the white Spiral turned this otherwise mundane and admittedly preppy shirt into a crisp, modern one. I’d wear the Spiral to a business meeting or a job interview, perhaps even a wedding or other formal occasion where a little modern panache would be appropriate. Black tee-shirt and jeans, absolutely; plaid flannel shirt, not so much.

The 2824 is lightly decorated and regulated to three positions.
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The Spiral includes a modified 2824-2 that eliminates the date-changing position, and I’m a little bummed that my no-date Sinn 556, which costs roughly twice as much, isn’t modified in this way. Well done, Codek. The movement is partially visible through the rear sapphire crystal, though here the aperture is just 20 millimeters across (by comparison, my Sinn 556’s is a more typical 25 millimeters). The smaller rear crystal is yet another detail that helps the Spiral stand out, and the way it frames the movement reminds me of how smaller hand-wound movements are usually presented. I find this quite charming, and it adds a dash of class to the otherwise totally asymmetrical arrangement of the rear case. Take a close look; the back side is downright strange.

A simple, signed buckle.

Leather straps are available in either padded shell cordovan from Chicago’s storied Horween tannery, or in a thick calfskin from Italy. The stitching and the hand-painted edges match the leather, creating a monochromatic strap that guides the eye to the case and minimizes visual clutter. Straps are made in the USA.

The only complaint I have about the straps are that they feature sliding quick-release spring bars. I’m not a fan, as these little latches don’t inspire confidence, and there’s a funny hole around back when you use standard spring bars. On the Spiral, the drilled lugs make the quick-release feature relatively superfluous.I was thoroughly unprepared to like the Codek Spiral. It foregoes so many conventions that I figured it had gone too far, tried too hard, and would, in the end, fail in all ways other than being an expression of an overambitious designer. Amazingly, the opposite turned out to be true. I totally dig this watch, and the Spiral entirely subsumes any designer ego that might have been at play. From coherence to proportions to ergonomics, I attribute the design’s success—at least partially—to the conceptual thinking behind it, and the Codek Spiral demonstrates that a conceptual piece won’t come across as overly conceptual if the end product is in and of itself superb.

The Codek Spiral currently sells for $600 on calf and $625 on shell cordovan. Codek

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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