anOrdain is a brand that has caught on in the watch collecting community in recent times. In fact, the manufacturer is now so popular that there is reportedly a waitlist of two years for its watches. So what is the fuss all about?
For the uninitiated, anOrdain is a relatively young watch manufacturer, founded in 2015. Based in Scotland, the idea of producing a timepiece with old-school techniques and contemporary charms occurred to Lewis Heath – during a trip to Loch an Ordain.
The first collection, known as the Model 1, was introduced in 2018 after several years of design and research. The watch, notably, took inspiration from cartographic maps from the area surrounding the Loch an Ordain. The success then saw anOrdain introducing the Model 2 a year later, and the Model 2 mkII subsequently in 2022.
Review: anOrdain Model 2 mkII
Price of the anOrdain Model 2 mkII begins at £1,700 (approximately S$2,900).
The Model 2 follows on the heels of the success of the Model 1. The Model 2 takes a slightly different concept, with the design language being anOrdain’s interpretation of a traditional field watch. It is marketed as a timepiece that mixes ruggedness with pragmatism, with a design that is both modern and yet simple. This is in addition to the brand’s attention to detail, and its promise to maintain and preserve traditional watchmaking techniques.
We took this watch for a short few weeks to test it; here are our thoughts on the anOrdain Model 2.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The new Model 2 mkII features two case size options – the medium model at 36mm, and a larger model at 39.5mm in diameter. The subject of today’s review is the former, with a relatively smaller case.
The watch, notably, features a brushed stainless steel case (we understand that a polished steel case option is available as well). At the first glance, we had the impression that it was not a stainless steel watch, partially due to its industrial look, as well as its relatively light weight. As this is marketed as a traditional field watch, the brushed finishing is definitely appropriate in our books. We also like how anOrdain had introduced as many curved surfaces on the watch as possible, which certainly makes the watch feel rather refined.
Next, we move on to the highlight of most anOrdain timepieces: the dial.
anOrdain is known for its vitreous enamelling, which is the English version of the French grand feu émail. For the uninitiated, grand feu translates to great fire. The art of enamelling is the art of fusing glass to metal, and this done through baking enamel powder on a disc, in an oven with fire reaching in excess of 800 degrees celsius. The end result is an extremely smooth and thin dial, with the promise that there will be no discoloration throughout the lifetime of the time.
So why, if an enamel dial is so damn good, that many watch manufacturers have shunned away from it? The reason is rather simple: the failure rate of producing an enamel dial is too high, and the process is too tedious. Each enamel dial requires a minimum of 3 rounds of firing, and almost 90% of the dials are rejected due to cracks or flaws. It is not exactly profitable for large manufacturers to produce enamel dials at such a scale, and hence it is very rare for watch manufacturers to adopt this.
In anOrdain, they have 5 enamellers to produce the dials. As a testimony to the brand’s commitment to produce great enamel dials, all the enamellers have graduated with a degree in jewellery, and have spent a good time building up on the brand’s in-house knowledge through understudying other enamellers.
For the mkII, there are four dial options: Flax (as shown above), Racing Green, White, and Grey Haar. The Flax variant is a little intriguing, with the feature of “freckles” or spots on the enamel dial. We were told by anOrdain that these “freckles” are a result of a conscientious effort to not remove these spots (typically done using a chisel or drill, before they are re-filled with enamel and re-fired). It definitely adds an interesting look to the watch, and adds to the rugged feel of this timepiece. Of course, for those who prefer a purer enamel dial without the mottled composition, anOrdain’s other three dial options offer a “blemish-free” and spotless aesthetic as well.
Complementing the dial are the printed numerals and indices. The layout is rather simple, with even numbers and stick indices to replace the odd numerals. The hour markers, notably, are surrounded by the minute track, with the brand’s signature and “Vitreous Enamel” proudly presented on the 12 and 6 o’clock position respectively.
Finally, the watch is paired with a pair of skeleton syringe hands. These hands were designed and prototyped in-house, with both the Model 1 and Model 2 featuring different styles. We were told that each of these hands are polished and tempered, before they are being blue-heated. The end result is brilliant, and it really shows anOrdain’s prowess and its attention to detail.
The Movement: Sellita SW-210-1
The watch is fitted with the ubiquitous Sellita SW-210-1, with an additional Incabloc shock protector.
We understand that the manual-winding movement has an autonomy of 42 hours, and it beats at 28,800 vph. What we particularly like is the brand’s choice of using a manually-wound movement, which adds a nice touch to the old-school side of things. We may also be a little biased here, but there is definitely also a sense of satisfaction that one gets when he or she spends some time winding up a watch.
As we do not have access to the movement, we are unable to ascertain the finishing of it. We reckon that it features the standard industrial-grade finishing, without any superfluous touches. However, we were told that each of these movements have been slightly modified to accommodate the thicker enamel dial, and they are also regulated to ensure that the watch is accurate to a certain tolerance level.
The anOrdain Model 2 mkII is priced at £1,700 (approximately S$2,900) for the 36mm model, and £1,800 (approximately S$3,068) for the larger 39.5mm variant. The prices are rather reasonable, in our opinion, and in fact anOrdain went an extra mile to even rationalise on how they have derived the selling price of their watches. Kudos to that.
On the note of reasonably-priced watches with an enamel dial, the options are surely far and few.
The first piece on the list is the Travailler et Jouer Matin Blue Moon Enamel. For the uninitiated, this is a young brand that is based in Singapore, and what is even more impressive is its capabilities to produce enamel dial in-house. The 39mm timepiece is certainly a looker, especially for collectors who have a thing for cow-horn lugs. This piece is on a dressier side, but it similarly offers a rather compelling value proposition with a price tag of US$2,000 (approximately S$2,777).
The other timepiece that offers a strong competition to the Model 2 is the 39mm Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu II. Louis Erard had tried to democratise watch collecting, with a series of brilliant collaborations that offered interesting timepieces with stunning techniques being employed. This particular variant is fitted with a grand feu enamel dial, and it is as classic and clean as it can get. The watch is limited to a production of 99 pieces, and it is priced at CHF 3,900 (approximately S$5,650).
We have often heard raving reviews about anOrdain, and we have finally understood why this timepiece is so popular. The watch is not perfect for sure, but it is still a darn impressive one. We really like the philosophy of the brand, and how it does not pretend to be something that it is not.
Beyond that, we can feel the passion and effort behind each and every timepiece. There are many watches in this price range, but many are just mass-produced pieces that do not seem to have a soul. anOrdain is just different in this aspect. The attention to detail is so incredible here, and we really appreciate that both the dial and hands are produced in-house by old-school techniques, using hands.
It is truly difficult to find any faults with this watch. There is a lot of charm to it, and it just puts a smile on your face whenever you strap this timepiece on the wrist. The only barrier between collectors and an anOrdain watch is perhaps the two-year waitlist, but we guess good things are certainly worth the wait.