In the big and awesome world of chronographs, bullheads hold a special place in the hearts of us enthusiasts. With their crowns and pushers moved up to twelve, their purpose as wrist-strapped stop watches is made abundantly clear, and their overall designs become strange and interesting. Vintage bullheads are highly sought after whether by Seiko, Citizen, Breitling, Bulova, Omega or others. They represent a time when the chronograph was king and watch design was a bit more adventurous. Modern day bullheads are few and far between, but they almost always get our attention.
Such was the case a few months ago when we first saw renderings of the Bull by Stuckx. With designs that spoke to our vintage favorites, but had personalities of their own, they were truly a concept that suited our tastes. Interesting dials, a bizarre bezel, a cool case design and the first use of a movement we’ve aching to see in action, the Seiko NE88A automatic column-wheel chronograph, sealed the deal. They also have models featuring Seiko Meca-Quartz movements, to give a lower priced, but still high-performing option. With prices set to all come in under $1000 across the board, these watches also represent a solid value.
Well, the project kept moving forward, and now we have the honor of being the first to get samples of these awesome watches in for a preview-review, preceding the launch of their Kickstarter campaign aimed at funding these watches (launching the July 28th, 3pm EST, 2015). The watches seen here are prototypes, so they are subject to some change, but the general details are all there. Let’s not waste anymore time on preamble and get on with the review!
Stuckx The Bull Review
Movement: Seiko VK Meca-Quartz / Seiko NE88A Auto Chronograph
Strap: Leather and/or Nylon
Water Res.: 200M
Dimensions: 42 x 49 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 7.5 x 3mm
Price: ~$380 for VK /~$985 for NE88
The bizarre case shape of a real bullhead chronograph is a love or leave it thing. While there might be watches out there where the crown and pushers are solely moved to twelve, a real bullhead is wedge shaped, pushing the dial and bezel up and out at an angle. The dial is often off center too, which is very noticeable on the wrist. Their mid-cases then curve in such a way as to contour to the wrist, and hold the watch in a slightly unnatural position. The Bull is one such chronograph, with a case that speaks strongly to designs from the 60’s and 70’s, namely that of a Breitling model, but has some unique twists that make it its own cool thing.
What you have is a design that is thickest by the crown and pushers, with a cylindrical side with hidden lugs. As the case tapers down, it eventually leads to more traditional lugs. Measuring 42 x 49 x 16 (at its thickest point), the Bull’s dimensions are very close to vintage models, even coming in slightly under that of the famed Seiko 6138-0040. Bull heads tended to be a bit large, but because of their partially lug less designs and other oddities, they also look and wear a bit smaller. The Bull in particular comes off much smaller than 42 to my eyes.
The wrap around side and case top are brushed to a satin finish, and there is a polished bevel running around the entire thing, include between the lugs. This is a nice and well-executed detail that ads some finesse to the overall design. At 11 and 1 are the chrono-pushers which are simple, classic cylinders. Between them is a crown that measures 7.5 x 3mm. I was glad to see there was a screw down crown, which lends to the Bull having a 200m WR. Not something one would expect to find on a watch this style. The crown has a simple design with a toothed edge and a slightly domed surface. Surprisingly, it is unsigned.
One of the standout features of the Bull is the external bezel, which sets the design apart from most of its vintage siblings, who had fixed tachymeter bezels if any at all. It features a 120-click uni-directional mechanism with a nice feel to it and a pleasant snap. The really wild aspect though is the insert, which is ceramic. Rather than being a flat piece with lightly engraved numerals and marking, this features a deep groove that weaves in and out, creating shapes as markers. Depending on the model, the ceramic might be black or blue, and the groove might have a layer of white. When this paint, presumably, is present the bezel really looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and is utterly gorgeous. In general, I like that they took the concept of the bezel and abstracted it, while also using modern, quality materials. What you get is a watch that speaks to vintage, but with a weird artistic twist. I’m not 100% sure what you would use this bezel for, but that’s beside the point.
Flipping the watches over, depending on whether you have the mechanical or meca-quartz model, you’ll be met with either a display window or a plate of steel, respectively. It’s interesting to see how the mid-case partially shrouds the case back, to create the needed thickness on one side of the watch. The watches detail are then etched in to the back of the mid-case, encircling the window or removable plate. Through the display window you get a view of the Seiko NE88A automatic chronograph movement. This is the first watch I’ve encountered with this movement, which is pretty exciting.
That said, it’s not much to look at, unfortunately. Unlike most chronograph movements, you can’t see any of the parts that relate to the function of the chronograph, which is especially unfortunate as it is a column-wheel chrono. So, it basically just looks like your average automatic. Considering it has 34 jewels but only one is visible, most of the machinery is hidden. The rotor has some cote de Geneva, while the plates underneath are flat ground, with the occasional polished bevel. It’s not ugly, it’s just not what I expected.
The bull comes in an array of colors, with a few different options for sub-dials. On the meca-quartz models, you can choose from 2 or 3 sub-dial arrangements in a horizontal format. The mechanical model comes only in a 2 sub-dial version with vertically arranged sub-dials. Apart from the sub-dials, the general dial elements are the same across the various models. The watches shown are the 3-eye Dutch Bull and the mechanical Blue Bull.
The Dutch Bull features a bright, matte orange surface, hence its name. The primary index consists of rectangular applied steel markers with black lume strips, doubling at twelve and truncated at 3, 6 and 9 to make room for sub-dials. A cool detail with the markers is that any that cross with a sub-dial are trimmed a little bit. This gives a sense that the sub-dials are oversized and adds to the aggressiveness of the design. Between each marker are black lines for the individual minute/chronograph seconds as well as 1/5th second marks for the chronograph. It’s a lot of detail, but everything is balanced well, so it doesn’t feel busy or confusing.
Encircling the dial is a black chapter ring with a white tachymeter. Since they went with that gnarly ceramic external bezel, including the tachymeter here was a smart idea. You might never use it, but a bullhead without one would just be weird. The only other detail on the orange is the StuckX shield logo is silver below twelve. I like that there is no text for the logo, it works with the sort of abstracted design concept. At 3 and 9 are sub-dials in black for the active seconds and 60-minute totalizers, respectively. The seconds is just a crosshair index, which has a very stylized feeling. The 60-minute totalizer has markings per minute, longer every five and numerals every ten, making it easy to read and functional. Both of these sub-dials have circular graining, giving them a different and more metallic shimmer.
At 6 is a 12-hour totalizer in orange, with black marking per hour and numerals every 2 hours. There is a slight difference in the color underneath, making the circle of the sub-dial visible. On the 2-eye meca-quartz models, this sub-dial is absent. I do like the additional functionality of having the hours, though the 2 sub-dial design is cleaner. Ideally, it would have just minute and hour totalizers and no active seconds, but that has to do with the movement design which is out of their control.
The last detail to mention is that the ceramic insert on the Dutch Bull is solid black with an orange triangle at the origin. It’s dense and dark since there are no really markings to speak, outlines the whole watch in a thick black line, giving it a substantially mean look. This makes the dial also really pop, so you’re best be into orange if you’re going to pick up this model.
The mechanical Blue Bull features a sunburst blue dial, with a sapphire tone. The applied markers are the same design, but swap black lume for orange, and are absent only at 12 and 6 for sub-dials. The minutes/seconds/1/5th seconds index is in white, which stands out well on the blue dial. The tachymeter chapter ring here is also white with black text, which was a good call, as black white have clashed with the blue. It also just adds a nice bit of contrast before the bezel. The bezel insert is then a gorgeous dark blue ceramic, also with an orange triangle at twelve, but with the addition of a white fulled groove. The rhythm of the blue dial to the white chapter to the blue bezel and back to the white filling is very cool, giving this design a unique feel.
The sub-dials at 12 and 6 are for the active seconds and 30-minute totalizers, respectively. Both are silver with circular graining. As with the mech-quartz model, the seconds features a cross-hair index, but also a large Stuckx shield logo. I’m not sure if I’m in love with the size and placement of the logo here, as it makes the sub-dial too dense, and a bit distracting. That said, I do like the open blue space between and around the sub-dials, so I’m glad the logo isn’t there. Perhaps it was a just a matter of choosing logo or cross-hair. One other detail on this model, though it’s a bit hard to see at first, is that it reads “automatic chronograph” in small red lettering above the sub-dial at 6, perhaps as a nod to Daytonas. I would love to see this same model with white sub-dials rather than silver, to further that back and forth rhythm.
All models feature rectangular hour and minute hands with lume that matches what’s on the dial. They have a nice, vintage look that compliment the markers for a sense of uniformity. The chronograph seconds hand is the a slim stick with a lumed rectangle towards its tip and a large tail for a counter weight. The sub-dials feature small stick hands in black or silver, with the minute stick having an additional red triangular tip. This little bit of distinction lets you find it quickly.
Straps and Wearability
The final straps for the Bulls are still being determined, but you can imagine many 22mm leather straps working on these. I’d love to try a big-hole rally on one, but unfortunately I didn’t have a 22mm one around. The Dutch Bull came on a nylon pass-through that is mainly black, with an orange and grey line running down the middle. The sense of a “racing stripe” works well with the Bull concept, so that is a natural fit as well. It’s also a comfortable way to wear the watch.
Bullheads wear differently that other watches and take a little getting used to, but once you are they feel great. What’s strange is that they sit over to one side of your wrist rather than center, which you can feel. When you flip your wrist up to see the time, the pushers are nearly above your wrist, and the dial is also towards the top. Because the case is also taller at the top it pushes the dial towards you. It’s almost a sense of it being off balance, but your body simply begins to ignore that after a little while.
The size is great. It wears much smaller than you would expect a 42mm watch to wear, but that’s because of the strange design. The fact that there are no lugs on the top side of the case in particular makes the whole watch seem smaller. So, it fit my 7″ wrist very well, and I think would work on both larger and smaller wrists. The design is not lacking in presence or impact; these are strange, but attractive watches. They are at once vintage and at once alien. The two-tone bezel in particular is strange but alluring. Aesthetically, they are sport watches, but in vintage style, come across more formal that a modern designs… so these can pretty much be worn wherever. The biggest challenge for me is the color. I’m not a big orange dial guy, I just prefer the color as a highlight rather than a star, so the Dutch was a bit loud, but the Blue Bull made sense with my typical oxford and jeans daily dress. If I were to choose a model though, I’d personally go with a panda/inverse panda as the more neutral colors suit my taste.
There is a lot to like about the Bull from Stuckx. They pay tribute to a cult classic design concept, while still managing to be their own thing. The are well made and nicely finished, and that’s on the prototypes seen here, so the real thing will be even better. The choice of movements is also a great move. Though all versions are exceptional values, having a 250 euro /$275 (starting price) meca-quartz version for those who just want a cool, fun bullhead to add to their collection is awesome. I’m a huge fan of those movements as they give you a lot of the feel of a mechanical chronograph, but at a fraction of the price. But, should you want a mechanical chronograph, they have that option too with the Seiko NE88A. A column wheel chronograph for a starting price of 699 euros /$767 made by Seiko is phenomenal and gives this watch the real feel. Throw in the plethora of dial options, and you can find the right model for you.
When we first ran an article on these a few months ago based on Stuckx’s renders I, and am sure a lot of you, was really excited about what I saw. Well, the actual thing lives up to the expectations, which is often not the case. These are cool watches. They might not appeal to everyone as they are definitely quirky, but if you like what you see, you’ll really like them in person. Clearly Stuckx is a brand we’re going to keep an eye on in the future.
The Bull Kickstarter goes live on July 28th, 3pm EST, 2015. So be sure to jump on early if you want the best deals.