In order to talk about the Smiths Everest watch, one must introduce three brands, two people and one very significant historical event. The Everest, unlike most homage watches, is an homage in name and form, but to two different brands…as well as to their historical intersection at the highest peak on Earth. You see, in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made their historical climb to the summit of Everest, they had with them two watches: a Smiths and more famously, a Rolex.
At this point in time, Smiths is clearly the more obscure brand. One of the only English watch brands of the 20th century, Smiths designed and manufactured timepieces, including movements, in the UK from around 1945 to some point in the 70’s. Since the brand dissolved it is no surprise that Rolex has been able to capitalize on this event, making the fact that a Smith’s was on the journey somewhat obscure to the general public.
These days, the Smiths name has seen a bit of a resurrection, as it is now owned by Timefactors (the third brand in this conversation). Since 1996, Timefactors.com has been manufacturing and selling various re-editions and homages to classic watches, from Omega 300’s to 70’s Hamilton 6BB Pilot Chrono’s to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Their watches have a forum fueled cult following that is easy to understand as the watches are pitch perfect, well made and remarkably affordable.
But back to the watch at hand. The Smiths Everest is in fact made by Timefactors (ref PRS-25), and in name pays homage to the Smiths De Luxe that made the journey with Hillary and Tenzing, but looks like the Rolex Explorer that did too. Just to complicate things more, it is fairly widely agreed upon that the Explorer used did not actually have the iconic 3, 6, 9 explorer dial, but that’s a different article (and one not likely to be on w&w). In the end, you have a watch made by one brand, with the name of another that looks like yet a different watch that pays tribute to one of the greatest moments in human exploration. Got it? Great.
The Smiths Everest itself is then a modern recreation of the iconic Explorer design. Yet, while this watch certainly falls under the homage category, the amount of physical and aesthetic differences between this and the watch from which it draws are great. While wearing and testing the Everest, I found that my enjoyment of the watch went up the less I thought of it as an homage to a specific watch than as just a historically inspired watch that was really its own entity. That being said, no matter how you look at it, the watch is a great value for a Miyota 9015 auto at 235£ (about $350) so let’s take a closer look.
Case: St Steel
Movement: Miyota 9015
Water Res.: 100M
Dimensions: 40 x 49.8mm
Thickness: 14.5 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 7 x 3.5 mm
Price: 235£ (about $350, unless VAT is included)
The Everest takes the classic Oyster case design and sort of inflates it to a new more modern size, preserving some of the nicer details of the original. Measuring 40 x 49.8 x 14.5mm with 22mm lugs, the stainless steel case looks and feels sturdy and robust. The shape of the case is very simple from above, with a wide polished bezel and long curving lugs with a light brushing. Turning the watch to the side reveals the complex curvature of the case sides. Perhaps my favorite detail of the Everest as well as Oyster cases, the fluid shape of the case sides is intriguing and elegant. It’s a bit hard to explain the geometry, as the sides look fairly flat, yet have a clear roundness to them, but the end result is a detail that elevates the otherwise simple design, adding a decorative polished surface that has the look of liquid metal.
At 3 is a 7 x 3.5 mm screw down crown that suits the case design well. It’s proportioned nicely to the case and has a simple but elegant design. Unfortunately, it is unsigned, giving it a bit of a generic look, though I am certain it was designed specifically for this watch. Flipping the watch over, you reveal the polished steel screw down case back. There is nothing special going on here, just a few deeply engraved words including the reference number, brand logo and water resistance.
Aside from the curvaceous sides of the watch, other standout features include the high domed acrylic crystal and drilled lugs. These days, I’m always a fan of a well-placed acrylic crystal, and this one is certainly at home. It gives the watch an immediate retro feel, distorting the dial on the edges and from an angle. The drilled lugs are then both a functional and accurate detail, in the sense that they make it very easy to remove any strap or bracelet, and are a feature of the Oyster case design this is based on.
Overall, the case construction is superb and the finishing is better than expected on a watch this price. The look is an interesting mix of the classic design and something new. The larger size takes away some of the nimbleness and elegance of the Oyster design, which was around 35-36mm, but replaces it with a more robust and perhaps aggressive form. In the end, it has a different attitude and feeling that is all its own.
The iconic Explorer dial dates back to a time when watch design was simpler and perhaps purer. It’s a no fuss layout meant for clarity and legibility that in its lack of extraneous detail and use of the most stripped down fonts and shapes is the definition of balanced. Classic Rolex Explorers, like the ref 6350 and 1016, are and will always be the proto-sport watch and alongside the Submariner, the ultimate gentleman’s watch.
Though it would seem the opposite, recreating something simple is very difficult. Every line and proportion matter more as the slightest miss is magnified. While at a glance the Smiths Everest speaks to the Explorer design, up close there are some differences and it just misses at achieving the balance of the original. That being said, it’s an homage and not a copy, so it’s ok that it reinterpreted the design so long as it still succeeds.
The design of the Everest dial consist of two indexes, the inner hour index and an outer minute/second index. The inner is the “Explorer” index, with a triangle at 12, slender numerals for 3, 6 and 9 and thin rectangles for the other hours. The outer index consists of long thin white lines that get slightly thicker every 5 markers. The thing for me that sort of throws the look is the proportions of the inner to the outer index. The white lines feel very long, almost acting like an internal bezel. This pushes the “Explorer” portion towards the center, giving it a disconnected feeling and a seemingly too small diameter. These white lines do exist on some makes of the Explorer 1016, but they are shorter so the balance is different and makes more sense.
In the end, it feels like the dial is very far from the edge of the case, which is strange. I am being picky, and this certainly might not bother everyone, but it clearly threw me a bit. That being said, once I stopped looking at the watch as an Explorer homage and started thinking about it as a new historically inspired design, I kind of got over it.
Nevertheless, the dial is well executed, with crisp printing and good lume. Text on the dial is very limited, just saying “SMITHS” below 12, “Great Britain” on the bottom edge below 6 and “Everest” just above 6. Everest is printed in an interesting manner, as it is actually gloss black. This makes it stand out ever so slightly against the matter black dial, often disappearing entirely.
The hands on the watch are, not surprisingly, polished steel with a Mercedes hour hand, a fence post style minutes and a lollipop seconds keeping with the Explorer theme. All feature C3 Superluminova and, along with the inner dial, glow quite well. The somewhat strange proportioning I pointed out before is also present in the hands. Since they only extend to the edge of the inner index, they feel short and stubby compared to the overall size of the watch.
Movement: Miyota 9015
One of the best features of the Smiths Everest is hidden within. The Miyota 9015 24-jewel automatic features hand winding, hacking seconds, date (though that is not in use) and a frequency of 28,800 bph. As we’ve stated many time before on this site, it’s a movement we love to see as an affordable alternative to Swiss movements with similar specs. That being said, this is the least expensive we’ve seen one go for, and it really adds value to this watch.
Straps and Wearability
The Smiths Everest comes on a very nicely built steel Oyster style bracelet that is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm. It’s very thick with nicely machined links that come apart via screws on either side and has solid end links. The top surface of the bracelet is finished with light brushing that blends nicely into the case. There is also a simple signed clasp finishing it off. While it naturally adds a lot of weight to the watch, it’s not uncomfortable once properly sized. Considering the overall price of the watch, it’s a really outstanding addition.
With that said, I actually didn’t love how it looked on the watch itself. It adds an excessive amount of metal to the case, giving the already enlarged design too much mass. This in turn affects the proportions of the dial again, making it feel all the more small and compressed towards the center of the watch. While the bracelet does a good drop of playing off of the more elegant elements of the case, such as the rounded sides, it just didn’t feel right for the watch. Of course, there is a simple solution to this problem, switch the strap.
A rugged, worn-in looking leather strap nicely emphasizes the vintage aesthetic of the case, crystal and dial. Crown & Buckle kindly provided us with a 22mm Shipyard for use on the watch, and it really brought the Everest to life. The strap is a dark oily brown with cream colored stitching and noticeable dermis texture. Put it on the watch and immediately the lugs are accentuated, and the dial looks larger. This helps relieve the strange proportions tremendously and emphasize the natural geometry of the case. It also dresses down the watch a bit, giving more of a casual, sporty look that is seems appropriate for the design and bulky size.
Another viable option, one that is popular on Explorers themselves, is a nylon NATO. On a drab green Maratac, the watch suddenly becomes aggressive and, rightly so, adventurous. The long lugs seem less elegant and more fierce and masculine. The drab green emphasizes the C3 lume on the dial which somehow gives the watch an older more authentically vintage feel.
Regardless of your strap or bracelet choice, the watch has terrific presence. Homage or not, it’s a fun design that feels like it is from a different era of watch design. It’s purposeful, athletic and rugged. And while it doesn’t have the nimble charm of 1016 Explorer, it does have a robust sportiness that beckons to be worn. On the wrist, it simply feels nice. It’s solid and well sized for a modern sport watch, with enough weight to remind you it’s a mechanical, without being uncomfortable. As discussed, different strap choices will give it distinct personalities, but overall I think this watch is best worn as a fun casual watch that has some style to spare. Jeans, work boots, leather strap, cold beer… that’s this watch’s natural environment.
One other thing worth mentioning about the Smiths Everest is that it comes with a great two watch carrying case. It’s a rigid faux-leather box with a soft interior that has two shaped cavities for watches. It’s the kind of thing that usually costs extra, but they throw it in for free. And that leads me to the biggest success of this watch…the sheer value of it. It’s only about $350 before shipping (potentially less if VAT is included in the price), built and finished well, has a great movement inside and it’s packed with features. While I might have not loved the look of the bracelet, of the three options I presented, I am glad that is the one it came with. Leather straps and NATOs are easy and cheap to get, but a bracelet that fits a watch perfectly isn’t.
Value aside, it’s also just a fun watch. Will it satisfy that itch you have for a 1016 Explorer? Not likely, but it is a watch you will enjoy wearing. And the story behind it, honoring the Smiths brand and the Everest expedition, is a fun one to tell. This watch alone pays tribute to a forgotten watch, and while it doesn’t look like it, it is a reminder.
by Zach Weiss