The Owner Experience: Shinola Runwell

I realized looking back at my recent posts that I have been living in the world of Pateks and Vacherons for a bit too long, so I wanted to bring myself and all of you back to Earth with a bit about a watch in my own collection, the Shinola Runwell.  I know what you are thinking, he bought a quartz watch?  What a traitor to the cause!  Well first of all, I didn’t buy my Shinola, it was a gift from my Grandmother, so back off! Haha.  While I did not really expect to like Shinola and I had thought of it a bit as a gimmick.  It is after all a style-oriented  watch “Made in Detroit” by a hip American company that people could feel good about wearing.  That said I have been pleasantly surprised by the Shinola over the past few years, let me tell you why.

The Watch

First off all, my personal Shinola is a 47mm Runwell, the first watch that Shinola produced.  Since they began with the Runwell they have developed over a dozen different watch types (all generally in the $500-800 range) with a variety of dial and band styles.  All told there are almost 1000 different combinations you could pick from. I really like that Shinola has chosen to offer such variety.  They recognized that their market is most concerned with the look of the watch they are buying, and so they made sure they could cater, at scale, to a variety of tastes.  The Runwell, at 47mm, is quite big and wears a bit bigger even because of the relatively thin bezel.  The arabic numerals on the dial are bold and coated with impressively bright superluminova.  The dial, combined with the wire lugs gives a retro almost railroad watch feel to the watch accentuated by the automotive feel of the Argonite-1069 and Detroit references on the watch face.  All told this is a statement watch, but not in the way a big Panerai would be.  It feels casual and stylish without coming off as opulent.  I imagine this is exactly what Shinola seeks to portray with their brand, so well done there.

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Just a few of the myriad styles in the Runwell series alone

The Movement

Its quartz.

 

Okay, there is a little more to it than that.  It is a Swiss Ronda quartz movement assembled in Shinola’s Detroit factory.  Given this I think its a little disingenuous to describe this as an “American” watch, but the reality of the watch industry is that it is nearly impossible to not source parts from either Japan, China, or Switzerland and if you have to choose one I’m glad Shinola chose the Swiss.

What I like about it

Like I said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Shinola in the time that I’ve owned it.  While at 47mm it is definitely larger than what I would normally wear it is quite thin and the down turned wire lugs do make it sit comfortably on the wrist.  Adding to that comfort level is the fact that the Shinola leather bands are absolutely fantastic.  One thing Shinola definitely can do is work with leather and the band was supple as soon as it came out of the box and feels great on the wrist. Also, as much as I am not a stylish person, I enjoy the overall look of the watch.  There are some classic wristwatch tropes that most brands fall into (the dive watch, the pilots watch, the dress watch) and its nice to see and own something that really is a bit different.  Finally, despite this being a quartz watch, I have been very impressed with the overall fit and finish. It has a screw down crown that feels very solid (often a weakness of quartz watches, among many) and the caseback is finished more nicely than many mechanical watches I’ve seen.  Overall, despite this being a quartz watch, its clear Shinola put some real effort into producing a product that felt like it was of the quality the price would dictate.

What I don’t really like

First of all, its quartz, lets just get that out of the way.  I, like most mechanical watch lovers I know, don’t really enjoy wearing quartz watches because you lose that mechanical history that is so fun to have on your wrist.  You can also get a fine quartz watch for $30, so it seems a bit out of place to buy one for $500 (that said, there are quartz watches that cost a great deal more, including some that may make it into this series in the future).  Other than that, this watch is big.  While it does wear comfortably for a big watch there are times when it gets in its own way.  Typing on a computer or holding a phone often makes the crown jab into your wrist which is not a new experience for anyone who has put a 47mm Radiomir on their wrist.

 

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Giving you an idea of just how big the Shinola is on the wrist

Conclusions

All in all I would characterize the Shinola as a pleasant surprise.  While its size and stylishness are outside the realm of what I would normally wear it is a fun change of pace for someone who rotates through a number of watches.  Would I spend $550 of my own money on it? Probably not, I would probably go out and by myself a Hamilton Intra-matic (which is basically the antithesis of this watch).  That said I truly enjoy having it as part of my collection.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Owner Experience: Nomos Tangente

I’ve now owned the Nomos Tangente 38 for about 8 months, so I feel like its about time I wrote  a bit about it. I’ll first say that I had been eyeing Nomos for some time before I pulled the trigger.  Nomos is in many ways the “it” brand in relatively affordable watchmaking today.  This small German brand has made a name for itself with well made affordable watches with in-house movements.  While the pros and cons of an affordable in-house movement could take up a series of posts alone it is enough to say for now that Nomos is trying to compete with the heavyweights of the watch world at a price point Patek, Vacheron, Rolex, Omega, even Tag would never touch.  As a watch guy then this had been on my list for a long time.  It was a trip to Europe (and the accompanying VAT reimbursement) that finally got me over the hump and I’m glad it did.

Appearance

First to the looks of the watch. Of course looks are largely subjective, but the desired appearance of a watch is also informed by its purpose.  For me, the Nomos Tangente was not going to be an everyday wearer, it was a more formal piece for those days where I had to put on a suit.  In this respect I think the Nomos fits the bill perfectly.  At 38mm it is on the smaller side for me as a big guy, but perfect for situations where I want a more understated look. The slim case and small seconds serve to reinforce the more formal tone of the watch.  That said, the most striking aesthetic of the watch is the beautiful bauhaus dial.  I suspect the bauhaus style is not for everyone (and if it’s not for you Nomos is probably not your brand), but to me it is an excellent combination of formal and casual that gives this watch its character.  If I were to describe bauhaus in one word it would be clean.  The dial is simple and elegant with long thin hands that feel like they were machined with German precision, but there is also no undue formality to the dial.  Some would say this watch would look as good with jeans as it would with a suit, I don’t know if I would go that far, but looking through the range of Nomos watches its clear that their dial style is a chameleon and definitely gives you the flexibility to avoid this becoming a special occasion only watch.

The Movement

The fun with Nomos watches really begins though when you flip them over.  The Tangente has an in-house made 17 jewel manual wind movement with around 40 hours of power reserve.  I would have been fine with 10 hours of power reserve though because winding this watch is fantastic.  The ratchet action is smooth yet distinct and the feel when the watch is fully wound is enough to ensure you don’t over wind.  Setting the watch is also great, the crown pulls cleanly and the hands move smoothly with no jumping when you reset the crown.  While the movement is not chronometer certified, I have timed my watch at chronometer tolerances at all stages of the power reserve.  Most if not all watches at this price point are going to contain some variation of an ETA movement.  To be clear, I love ETA movements and own a number of watches with ETA variations.  They keep great time and are real workhorses, but Nomos clearly brings more to the table when it comes to movement construction and decoration.

The Downsides

There are certainly some small things I’d like to change about the Tangente.  I wish the lugs were a bit more robust (it feels like a little too much pressure and I could bend them).  The lug width is also a rather annoying 19mm, meaning that its hard to find any third party straps that will fit properly.  The two most significant issues with Nomos though are a product of the nature of a small fish competing with the big sharks.  Nomos prides itself on producing beautiful in-house movements at a low price, but without the scale of the ETAs of the world any little change or problem with Nomos’ production results in a big price.  This first manifests itself if you want any added features on your watch.  The base Tangente is about $2000 (you can get it for less at some authorized dealers), but if you want a date feature it’ll cost you an extra $500.  Want a power reserve, that’ll be $600 more.  Want both, that’s $1500 more.  What about an automatic movement, that’s $1500 more as well.  The price difference to get these features on an ETA watch is probably $50-100.  That difference is driven by the fact that a new calibre requires a lot of investment for Nomos and a chunk of their assembly line.  They just can’t do that as easily or affordable as the big guys.  The second big downside is servicing.  When I brought my watch back to the US it was running ~20 minutes fast a day.  Fortunately there is an authorized dealer near where I live and the watch was under warranty so I brought it in.  To get it fixed they had to send it back to Germany.  While I didn’t have to pay I didn’t have my watch for nearly two months.  ETA has multiple services centers in the US and many authorized dealers can fix ETA movements themselves in less than a week.  Again, the downside of being a small manufacturer is that you just can’t have the infrastructure of the big guys to provide that type of service.

Conclusions

The Nomos Tangente was and remains the most expensive thing (other than a car) that I have ever purchased for myself.  Even if in the watch world its relatively affordable it is still real money and its important to know that you are getting your money’s worth.  The Nomos is in my mind the regular man’s Patek Calatrava.  It is a thin, elegant, hand wound watch from a really interesting brand that you’ll be happy to see on your wrist.  While the brand certainly faces some challenges and some growing pains it represents what I hope is the future of watchmaking.  Nomos is trying to change the game in independent affordable watchmaking, and I’m glad I supported that effort and got a pretty damn nice watch to boot.

 

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