The Arcus Tropos: A Sub $1k Monopusher from Canada

This is what I’ve been waiting for. In the last 10 years, the wild and, at times, wacky world of microbrands has come a long way. A very long way. From the early days, when the term “micro” had a dismissive undertone (ok, it still can when people refer to “those micros”), and brands were few and far apart. Miyota 9015s were just hitting the market, getting side-eyed by those loyal only to “Swiss-made”, and to use a Seagull was unimaginable (unless you were Seagull as the 1963 was a hit). Heck, I even remember when Techné brought out the Sparrowhawk II in 2012, ushering in the era of Meca-Quartz.

Today, microbrands (and small independents, for those still sensitive to that term) rival their conglomerate contemporaries in fit and finish, and regularly surpass in creativity. But, until recently, few could hold a candle to the looming watch titans in terms of mechanical development. Sure, a rotor could be customized, an interesting movement sourced, but in-house development was rare. Other than Christopher Ward, that is, who doesn’t get enough credit for their complications or SH21 5-Day chronometer, but even they, as far as brands go, are a bit older and on a larger scale than many.

In case you can’t tell where this is going, today I’m reviewing a watch that shows not only how far this scene has come, but that it also has a promising future. The Arcus Tropos is the first watch by the Canadian brand. A mid-size, mid-century, military design, it has an undeniable appeal, but I’ll get into the details later. It’s also a manually wound chronograph, which is always a joy, especially at a sub $1,000 price point. Yes, they use the Seagull 1901. But, what makes this watch exceptional is that it’s a monopusher.

That’s right, the Arcus Tropos is a manually wound, column-wheel monopusher chronograph for under $1,000. No, there is no off-the-shelf movement that gets this done, Arcus developed the components in-house necessary to convert the 1901 to a monopusher. Like, in their own workshop in Calgary. And that’s really cool. Now, this isn’t to say that brands are going to be able to call up their manufacturers and have this done themselves, as Arcus happens to be founded by a couple of engineers, but once something is proven to work, others tend to follow.


The Arcus Tropos: A Sub $1k Monopusher from Canada

Stainless Steel
AR-01 (Seagull 1901 base)
Sapphire with AR
Steel bracelet
Water Resistance
39 x 47.5mm
Lug Width

The Cal. AR-01

Arcus founders Raf and Jarno are a duo of young engineers who combined their interest in watches with their technical know-how to just, well, figure it all out. Using imagery of a hyper-rare monopusher version of a similar Venus movement as to what the 1901 is based on, they backward engineered the components necessary to convert a standard 1901 to a monopusher.

Turns out, it’s only three components, but that includes the column-wheel, which brands and horological raconteurs have always led us to believe are very hard to make. And, perhaps they are. In order to create these components, the duo made their own CNC machines capable of precision down to hundreds of a millimeter.

And these aren’t just the prototype parts, these are the production components. They take the 1901s and swap in their own parts, converting the movement. Talking to Raf, he said the process was relatively easy as none of the components affect large bridges or the architecture of the watch, thus it’s a simple process. From a consumer perspective, this also means they are hand-checking every movement that goes out, and doing final assembly on the watches as well, adding to their value.

What you get is exactly what it sounds like. A hand-wound chronograph that starts, stops and resets all via the same pusher up at the two position. It’s a novelty, for sure, but one that is undeniably enjoyable, as are all chronographs, far more uncommon, and previously unheard of at the price. Heck, there isn’t even a cheap quartz equivalent.

*A quick note that the movement seen here is a prototype. Production models will have a swan neck regulator, and the column wheel will not be blue.

The Case

Of course, a novel movement only goes so far if the watches aren’t appealing, which luckily is not the case here (pun both intended and not). Measuring 39mm x 47.5mm x 12.5mm to the top of a gorgeous box sapphire crystal, the Arcus Tropos is a nicely proportioned chronograph. Moderately sized and relatively thin (particularly when you ignore the crystal), nothing about it seems out of whack.

The design is relatively straightforward, but executed well and is appropriate for the aesthetic concept. A polished bezel sits on top of a mid-case with slab sides and lugs that contour to a fairly narrow width. The sides of the case are horizontally brushed with an appealing texture, and there are thin polished bevels along the outer edges of the lugs that elevate the look. It’s classic and elegant, but purposeful. The crystal is particularly nice as well, though it does add a bit of a “halo” to the dial. $700 watches have come a long way.

On the right side, you’ll find a relatively simple and thin crown in all polished steel. Though narrow, it’s still easy and pleasant to grip when winding. Raf pointed out to me that leaving it unsigned was intentional as watches from the era they were inspired by weren’t signed either. I don’t personally think crowns need to be signed (frankly it’s another place for at times unfortunate branding) and here it contributes to a clean style. The block pusher at two is another period throwback and detail I enjoy. It emphasizes functionality and makes it enjoyable to push.

Flipping the watch over will give you a view of the modified ST1901 movement within, re-dubbed the CAL. AR-01. One of the great things about converting this particular movement is that all of the components in question are clearly visible, and one can watch them in action. Start, stop, reset, all from a few pieces moving in coordination.

The Dial

While the case has a fairly neutral style, the dial of the Tropos has a clear mid-century military aesthetic. It’s one of the few dials I could say is generic in a good way. It immediately brings to mind an era of chronograph that wasn’t tied to a specific brand, per say. Like, if you were searching watch recon for monopushers and saw a Lemania, a Longines, a Benrus, and others with a similar design, you wouldn’t be surprised. Yet, it’s not exactly anything else either and attractive in its own right.

The dial surface is rendered in gloss black for a deep, rich, lacquered effect. You’ll find a prominent hour index in large numerals featuring a very attractive typeface that clearly speaks to mid-century watch design. The numerals are wide and bold, with an open six at the bottom of the dial that steals some of the attention. Around the edge of the dial is a minute/chrono seconds index that uses a complementary type but in a lighter weight, along with white lines for a clear presentation. The numerals are all filled with old-radium colored lumed and feature crisp white outlines. For the faux-tina crowd that I’m sure will pipe in, I think this was the right choice for the watch. The brown tone doesn’t feel fake but does add warmth to the dial that builds on the overall look of the watch.

At three and nine are large sub-dials for the 30-minute counter and active seconds, respectively. Though I’ve seen sub-dials with concentric graining a million times at this point, here it stands out. Not only does it add texture, but next to the deep gloss surface, the graining makes the sub-dials appear dark gray, making them pop out in a subtle “panda” fashion. Otherwise, both feature white lines and minimal type, arranged in a matching layout for symmetry.

For hands, Arcus went with white syringe hands for the hour and minutes, both filled with old-radium lume, and a white stick with a diamond shape counterweight for the chrono-seconds. Nothing new, but a good choice that suits the style of the watch. The sub-dials just have simple white sticks. At 12 you’ll find the Arcus logo, which is fairly plain and inoffensive in my book, and “Cal. AR-01” above 6, which I think the brand has earned given their movement modifications.


Straps and Wearability

As you might have noticed from the photos, my favorite way to wear the Arcus Tropos was on a rugged brown 20mm leather strap, as I feel that choice, or an olive mil-strap, is what makes sense on a watch with this specific aesthetic. But, the watch actually comes on a steel bracelet with a 3-link design. It’s not a bad bracelet, but it’s nothing special either. It’s all brushed and features a 2mm taper, solid end links, and a simple clasp that will feature micro-adjust in production.

My issue with it is more that I don’t feel a watch like this would ever have come on what is essentially a dive-style bracelet. Also, and this is part of my beef with most bracelets, I feel it takes away from the elegance of the case shape by filling in the lugs. But, with that said, the watch comes with a bracelet and that will likely please a lot of people.

Moving on, regardless of choice of strap, the Tropos wears very well. In general, 39mm is a great size for an everyday watch, but particularly for a chronograph, as they are often larger (less the case these days, but still). At 12.5mm it’s also a very nice thickness for a chrono, as we all know they can get chunky. This is all to say that the Tropos was very comfortable and fit the way I like for my 7” wrist. It took no adjusting to, and once on leather in particular, it felt like it had been my watch for years.

Aesthetically, I find the Tropos to be successful as well. Having owned vintage field watches, lusted after Lemania monopushers, and regularly considered buying a Sinn 356, this should be of no surprise. It’s got a stylized military feel, but isn’t too harsh or minimal. The typeface makes the dial exciting, as does the use of finishing. Similarly, the case is purposeful, well-executed, and has the added eccentricity of a single pusher.


Clearly, I’m a fan of the Arcus Tropos. Ignoring the movement, for a moment, I’d still be giving this watch a positive review. For their first watch, the Tropos gets a lot right from proportions to the design details (like the open sixes) to the finishing. And while not totally original, lots of brands have and will continue to make mid-century military-inspired designs, theirs somehow doesn’t feel like something I’ve seen before.

And then, there is the movement. The ace up their sleeve. The element that no other brand can compete with right now. Even if they weren’t making the pieces in-house, but had designed and engineered them, I’d still be super excited by what they did. The fact that they are manufacturing components in their own workshop in Calgary, on CNCs they made themselves is just next level. And all in a watch that is $799 (less during pre-order). Even if the Tropos isn’t for you, or you’re not a fan of monopushers, you have to admit that it is a very exciting development for the world of micro-brands. Arcus

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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