PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 9 Jul, 2014.
When I first heard of the new affordable watch brand Brathwait, I immediately checked out their website. What I found really intrigued me. They have a complete breakdown of the pricing of their watch, showing how much the case, dial, strap, movement, crystal etc cost exactly. They give you the total price it cost to make it ($75), their price they’re selling it at ($150), and what you’d expect to pay for a watch of the same standard on the high street. This is known as transparent marketing, and in the land of watches, it’s something I’ve never seen before (everlane.com were apparently one of the first to do this, but don’t sell timepieces). This impressed me so much I just had to get a Brathwait Classic Slim watch. Can a watch manufacturer really do this successfully? Read on to find out.
Brathwait is named after Richard Brathwait, “the world’s first acclaimed gentleman”. A British poet, he introduced the notion of the gentleman in 1631 when he published “the complete guide to the English gentleman”. If he was alive today, what watch would he wear? The watch manufacturer bearing his name would no doubt believe it would be theirs.
The Brathwait Classic Slim is without doubt a smart dress watch. Measuring in at 40mm in diameter, and a very thin 7.5mm tall, it is extremely easy to fit under the shirt cuff of gentlemen who love to wear a suit or jacket. Weighing in at a mere 37g without a strap fitted, and just 47g with the NATO strap, it is also extremely lightweight – resulting in an easy, comfortable and unobtrusive wear. With a lug width of a very popular 20mm, it’s easy to switch the strap with an endless selection of others.
A classic dress watch aims to be subtle, elegant and simple. The Brathwait has achieved this.
The case itself is made of AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute) approved 316L stainless steel, costing $9.70 to make. It is covered by a flawless polished rose gold plating, which is extremely reflective. It looks like an excellent quality plating, and that’s backed up by the thickness of it. It’s 6uM thick, which is 6/1000 of a mm (yup, six thousandth of a millimetre). Apparently, this is very thick and should last many a year (around 12) without rubbing away, as 1uM is regarded to last 2 years.
So now we know the techno specs, what’s the case like in the flesh? The finishing is so good, it’s actually very hard to photograph due to the reflection being just like a mirror. All the machining is spot on, with no flaws or sharp edging apparent.
The Brathwait also boats a 1.9mm thick domed sapphire crystal, with a layer of anti-reflective coating on the underside, costing $14.50. Whilst the AR coating provides an appealing blue hue, it doesn’t appear to be the most effective at reducing reflections. This adds to the nightmare of trying to photograph this watch, it’s hard to get a decent face-on shot without seeing yourself in the reflection. Realistically, though, in everyday life it’s not a big deal. Reading the time is still quick and easy thanks to the simple dial. I think it’s great that Brathwait have made the point to include a sapphire crystal. It’s the most pricey part of the watch, and eats the most into their profit, but you get the feeling that they don’t care about that – they just want to create a simple, top-notch watch for as little as possible and pass that onto the purchaser, whilst being as transparent as possible. I love that.
The lugs are very shapely. Looking at the case side-on, you’ll see that they are rather thin and reasonably long, with a gentle curve downwards. From above, they’re a baton shape with slightly curved edges. They’re well designed, and of course, excellently machined.
The push-pull crown is extremely small (as in, about 2mm in diameter), but not in a “looks stupid” kind of way, but rather in a unobtrusive and subtle way. It actually suits the watch well from a design perspective. It has a unsigned end, and a good level of grip, allowing you to easily use it despite its small size. I do like the underneath of the crown. Due to the rear of the case angling inwards toward the smaller caseback, the crown stem is housed by a rounded surround, a nice solution.
Moving on to the shape of the back of the case – it’s much wider on the top side, so it’s angled in toward the caseback. This gives the appearance of the case being thinner than it actually is, due to the fact that when you’re wearing it normally, you can’t really see the sides of the case. This is a good thing on a watch designed to be a gentleman’s dress timepiece.
Just like the rest of the case, the caseback is polished, with a flawless finish, and is secured in place by 4 screws. Where these screws fit is all surprisingly tidy for a watch at this price.
The caseback also has some information deeply engraved on it. Nothing fancy, just “Brathwait” along the centre, and other watch specifics around the outer edge such as “Swiss movement” and “sapphire glass”. They’ve kept it plain and simple, like the whole watch, which is good.
All in all, whilst being uncomplicated (which is the point), the case of the Brathwait Classic Slim watch is machined and finished to an excellent standard despite the price of just $150.
Simplicity seems to be a running theme here. The dial is very minimal in its design. But, like the case, it is very well executed.
It’s interesting to note that Brathwait apparently used the “golden ratio” in the design of the dial, which has been found in nature.
During the design process, this graphic was placed on the dial, and was used as a base to design the length and max width of the hands, the difference in length between the minute and hour markers, the total length of the hour markers, and the placement of the logo. An intuitive way of designing a watch.
It had a very light beige colouring, which provides a smart appearance and good legibility.
The next thing you notice is the applied hour markers. Thin and long, they look elegant, and don’t detract from the simplicity of the watch. They are also surprisingly well made and applied for a watch at this price. They are all plain stick batons, with a polished finish as high quality as the case, and are aligned and applied perfectly.
Around the outer edge of the dial is a very minimal printed minute track, consisting of thin black dashes at every minute between the applied hour markers. The printing is clean and crisp, with no smudging apparent. Bar the logo, this is the only printing on the dial, keeping it super clear.
The logo is in the usual position centred in the top half of the dial. It is printed rather than any sort of applied logo, and also is quite a small font size. A rather plain sans-serif font has been used, making sure there’s no unnecessary complication with the dial. Personally, I think I would have preferred it if they made a little bit more of an effort with the logo, as it does look slightly too plain, and I think something a little bit more interesting would have made the watch stand out more. Just like the minute track, the printing of the logo is precise.
The final aspect of the dial to discuss is the hands. The minute and hour hands are both the same polished gold plating as the case and applied hour markers. It’s good to see continuity like that throughout the watch. They are a thin and elegant long triangle shape, with a smaller triangle on the back end as a counter weight. They also have a 3D appearance to them, being slightly raised in the middle, which creates a nice variety of shades of reflection of light based on the angle you are looking at the watch.
The second hand is a red lacquer finish, allowing it to stand out from the equally as long hour hand. It is also thinner, being a thin stick rather than an arrow or triangle shape, and has a wider rectangular counter weight. When you have a dress watch with very thin hands it can be hard to differentiate between the minute and second hands. This was the case on our recent review of the Christopher Ward C9 Big Day Date. With the Brathwait Classic Slim watch, however, they have done a good job of creating a visual distinction between them, making reading the time at a quick glance easy.
The dial on the Brathwait is possibly one of the simplest I have reviewed yet. Not that that is a bad thing. It is still pleasing to the eye from a design perspective, and is made very well.
Powering the Brathwait is a Swiss Made quartz Ronda movement. A good choice, as you could easily slap in a cheapo Chinese or Japanese quartz movement that costs a fifth of the price ($2 vs the $10 Ronda) but that would cheapen the aura of the watch. Instead, the Brathwait houses a decent, rugged quartz movement which is unlikely to let you down and just keep going until the battery runs out. Although not specified, it’s likely to be one of their standard 3-hand quartz movements, providing 4 years life span, and accuracy to -10/+20 seconds a month.
So although there’s not a great deal to say about the movement itself, it says a lot about Brathwait and their desire to use good parts.
For the price of $150, you get the choice of one of three different coloured NATO straps: green, blue, or purple. If you want all three, you can buy the set for $26, and for an extra $25 you can choose a brown leather strap instead. I only had the NATO straps sent through, so unfortunately I can’t comment on the leather strap. Although I feel that the watch would great on any decent quality brown leather strap. The lugs are a standard 20mm wide, so fitting a strap of your choice would not be a problem.
The NATO straps cost Brathwait $5.80. Considering you can buy a new one off eBay for around £6, these seem to be a high grade. The colours are all a luxurious shade, not cheap or tacky looking. The straps also have a thin red/orange strip running down the centre. This ties in nicely with the red second hand and matches and maintains the coloured aspect of the dial. Some NATO straps are very colourful and much more stripy, but I like the simplicity of these straps.
The quality of these NATO straps is apparent. The edging is tidy, the stitching thick and shows that it’s well put together. They are also very soft and comfortable, and extremely light – the Brathwait is overall a very light watch, weighing in at 47g with the strap fitted as mentioned before, resulting in a very comfortable wear. You’d barely notice it on your wrist.
Each NATO strap also has the same polished rose gold hardware as the rest of the watch. By matching this all up, it creates a great overall impression and appearance of the watch. As you’ll imagine, the finishing is very good, albeit prone to scratching due to the polished finish – although to be fair the buckles have held up very well so far, still looking as good as new. This is possibly due to the fact that the buckle doesn’t sit directly on the centre of the underside of your wrist, thus avoiding desk swirlies.
One final thing to mention – If you’ve never really had much experience with NATO straps before, the great thing about them is how extremely easy they are to change. You can literally change one within 10 seconds. Check out the video review to see.
I think the decision to sell the Brathwait Classic Slim watch primarily on NATO straps is a good idea. So often with affordable watches they include a rubbish leather strap to keep costs down which is too poor to keep, so you end up changing it. With the NATOs though, you are getting a good quality strap for the price you are paying. If you want a leather strap, you can source one yourself, or pay an extra $25 for a fairly decent looking one. So you avoid the annoying rubbish leather strap situation completely. I also think it makes the Brathwait a little different too – this is quite an unusual mix of styles, as NATOs are regularly used for diving. But by coupling this with very elegant dress styling creates a unique appearance.
The Brathwait Classic Slim is a lovely watch. The fit and finish is excellent for the price, and the rose gold plating is very impressive. The case shape is pleasing to the eye, and the thick sapphire crystal makes this a great buy at $150. It’s designed and constructed well throughout, supporting their claim that the Classic Slim is equivalent to watches much more expensive. Let’s hope there’s an automatic version coming soon, as I have no doubt that it will become even more successful than I know this one will. A great buy for someone looking for a affordable elegant dress watch offering high build quality and a no-hassle movement. Isn’t that us all?