It wasn’t long ago, a few weeks in fact, that we took our first look at a Tempest watch, the Commodore. Right out of the box, it impressed me with its thoughtful design and great execution. The fairly modest price of $638 for an all titanium diver with a solid titanium bracelet was impressive too. Well… shortly after publishing that, the owner of Tempest, Ben, wrote me something along the lines of “hey Zach, want to review a prototype of something really cool I’ve got in the works?” To which I responded, yes.
What arrived was the new Tempest Carbon, a watch that is going to turn a lot of heads. As you’ve probably already deduced from the pictures, the case of the Carbon is… well, forged carbon. This is a material I’ve yet to encounter in the 3.5+ years we’ve been running worn&wound, at least not on an accessibly priced watch. Forged carbon is a material associated with the high-end in all its uses, whether in aerospace, race cars, golf or luxury watches the likes of Audemars Piguet and Hublot.
And it’s a fascinating material, both mechanically and aesthetically. It’s very strong and resistant while also very light. In appearance, it has a silky sheen over wildly swirling blacks, grays and silvers. It doesn’t look like metal, nor like plastic, rather it has its own exotic presence. As a material for watches it makes a lot of sense, especially in sports pieces, but until now, it was only available at a high price point often above $10k. The Carbon, however, will come to $985, a far cry from its five figure brethren.
Apart from the case material, the Carbon is also a nicely designed modern tool watch with a tactical feel. It’s not trying to play “luxury” in its design with bells and whistles, rather it stays true to the aesthetic of the brand. Inside a Miyota 9015 is keeping track of the time, while the dial is protected by a double-domed sapphire crystal. Throw in the 200M water resistance, and you have a nice all around sport package.
*The Carbon is currently available for pre-order on kickstarter for a slight price break of $865. Tempest is trying to raise £30,000 to support this project.
Tempest Carbon Review
Case: Forged Carbon
Movement: Miyota 9015
Water Res.: 200m
Dimensions: 43 x 47.25 mm
Thickness: 14.75 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 7.5 x 4mm screwdown
Warranty: 2 years, limited
Price: $985 ($865 on KS)
Naturally, the forged carbon case is the star of the show. What is “forged carbon” exactly?.. First, “forged carbon” is actually a registered name for the material owned by an aeronautical company in Lyon, France, who AP and I’m sure others work with. The material itself, also referred to as carbon composite, forged composite, etc… consists of carbon chips and resin, compressed into molds under extremely high pressure and heat (hence forged).
Unlike the more traditional woven carbon fibers we are used to seeing, the use of chips rather than a lattice of threads makes the material strong in all directions. This is also what gives it its randomly marbled appearance, and allows for it to be finely machined in the ways a watch case needs to be. And like carbon-fibers, the forged composites are still very light in weight.
In person, it truly is something to see. While at this time I don’t know if I’d out-right say it’s “better” than anything else, it certainly is different enough to warrant use. It’s far enough from PVD to be a nice black alternative. It’s at least as light as titanium, so it takes care of weight issues. And it’s vastly more beautiful, exotic and durable than a plastic would be. Ceramic is perhaps the closest in look and feel, as it too has a soft surface, and lightweight… but ceramic can be brittle, which the carbon is not. The swirling graphite colors might not interest everyone, but they do add a hypnotic level of texture and depth to the case I find appealing.
So, yeah, the Tempest Carbon is made out of a pretty incredible and interesting material, but none of that would matter if the case design was uninteresting. Thankfully, that is not the case (pun unintended, but accepted). Measuring 43 x 47.25 x 14.75mm (though I measured 15.25) to the top of the sapphire, the case is wide, but short, making it wear smaller than it sounds. The design riffs on a retro barrel shape, giving it simple, elegant lines from above, and more dynamic shapes from the side.
As with many barrels, every surface curves beautifully, rarely coming to a flat spot other than on the side. This immediately gives the watch a sleek, stealthy look that plays off of the sheen of the carbon. Looking at it from the side, you can also admire the massive domed sapphire, which cleanly follows the lines of the case and bezel. This is one of the things I love about Tempest, they really pay attention to the sculptural details of the design that make the whole watch better in the round.
On the right side, slightly recessed into the case, is a wide screw-down 7.5 x 4mm crown with narrow grooves and Tempest logo on the outside surface. It’s well proportioned for the case and easy to grasp and turn when needed. The crown is finished in a matte black PVD, making it meld with the black of the carbon. It’s worth noting that the carbon is cast/forged around a steel inner chassis that holds the movement. The crown screws down on a typical threaded insert that too is metal.
Flipping the watch over, you have a PVD case back with a simple design. In the center is the carbon tab from the periodic table, with various details about the watch around it. I quite liked this as it’s almost a funny thing to put there, but it makes total sense too.
Tempest kept the dial of the Carbon simple, clean and modern as to not compete with material of the case. That said, it’s attractive in its own right and well executed. The dial is matte black with a wide, angled chapter ring. The primary index consists of applied markers with rectangular shape and chamfered tip that cut through the chapter ring, adding some texture. Each marker stands off the dial about .5mm, and has a slightly textured surface where a layer of BGW9 lume is applied. The marker at 12 is doubled, for easy orienting of the dial, while the other markers are identical.
On the chapter ring, white lines are printed to indicate the individual minute/second. And that’s it for indexes. The reduced vocabulary is effective thanks to the texture created by the applied markers and cutouts in the chapter ring. Since the markers are all white, they also contrast the dial well, increasing legibility. Design wise, I’d say it’s a play on classic dive dial designs, but executed in a modern way. Since the watch lacks a bezel, it really is more of a general sport watch anyway.
Just below 12 is the Tempest logo, featuring an orange cross-shaped symbol and the word Tempest in all caps. I do quite like their logo and that they print it in fluorescent orange. Though it stands out, it’s a nice mark, and the color speaks to the sporty intentions of the brand. Just above 6 it reads 200m/660ft and Automatic. Pretty standard text, not obnoxiously sized, but I do feel like the word “Automatic” should have been all caps. The Carbon also lacks a date window, which is fine by me. Sure I like a date window when placed well, but no matter what they add to the visual complexity of the dial. The Carbon is successfully stripped down, and all the more pleasing to look at for it.
The hands continue the theme of the modern dive-inspired sport aesthetic. The hour and minutes are both rectangle with pointed tips. The hour hand actually tapers a bit, getting narrower towards the tip, and has a thin white border with a lume filling. The minute hand, Plongeur style, has a bright orange border, with a lume filling. In both cases they did a good job of maximizing the area for lume, while maintaining distinct and legible hands. The second hand is a thin bright orange stick with a black counterweight.
Strap and Wearability
The Tempest Carbon comes mounted on a high quality 22mm black nylon 2-piece strap. At first glance, I thought it was kevlar, or something alike, as the nylon has a noticeable texture, and the build quality is high. The strap is stitched around the edges, and has a firm ridge of foam running down it. The underside is a rubbery feeling leather that is nice against the skin, adding to the comfort. Aesthetically, i think this was a good choice too. The black nylon has a very tactical look to it as well, and the design makes it feel and wear like leather.
On the wrist, the Carbon wears very well. Though it’s 43mm wide, the 47.25mm lug-to-lug makes it feel much smaller. In fact, when I saw that it was 43, I was very surprised as the watch feels like a 40. The lightweight further emphasizes this. Needless to say, it’s sized well to accommodate a wide variety of wrists. It is a bit tall, but because everything curves and flows, and the crystal accounts for a few millimeters, it once again feels smaller than it is.
Looks-wise, the Carbon nails it. On one hand, you just have a clean, modern sport watch with just enough attitude to be fun. It’s dark and a bit brooding, but has elegant angles and a very easy to read dial. On the other, you have the mysteriously beautiful forged carbon case, which adds a lot of depth to the design, certainly making it a conversation piece. While the carbon might not be distinguishable from a far, seen up close, the glints and glimmers of dark grey reflections it throws are hard to turn away from. That said, at its heart, it really is a simple, practical sport watch, and always looks and feels like it.
With the Tempest Carbon, this young brand is staking their claim in the boutique sport watch community. I had felt when reviewing the Commodore that Tempest seemed like the next generation of these brands. One with a focus on modern, unique designs, that is pushing the envelope in terms of materials and manufacturing. The Carbon proved this to be true. While perhaps they are just the first in a new trend to use this material affordably (I can’t imagine they are the only ones with access to the manufacturing), it’s also how they used it that I like. They didn’t try to emulate a luxury brand, rather they stayed true to their aesthetic and branding.
So… I’m impressed. Materials aside, I just think this is a very nice watch to wear. In fact, I’ve barely taken it off since I received it for review. It’s very comfortable, very easy to read and looks great with what I generally wear. Regarding the price, at $985 it’s certainly the best priced forged carbon watch I’m aware of. That said, you are certainly paying a premium for the material, as this watch in steel would probably be half the price, or at least a few hundred less. As such, I think you should be into the idea of forged carbon to get it, but I imagine that will be a lot of people.
And don’t forget, it’s currently live on kickstarter through Jan 6th for $865, so if you want one, get a break now and help support this cool project.