There are no shortage of microbrands these days, considering the ease of access to watch components, as well as funding options from the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
This makes it even more challenging to stand out, amidst the competition. It is not enough to just produce a compelling piece, but one that is well-priced too. Considering these factors, as well as budget constraints from the brands themselves (for quite a few microbrands, sans the well-funded ones), this is certainly a challenge.
Many brands have come and gone. Some made their mark, while others have sunken into oblivion. For today’s article, we have a new challenger in the ring; a brand that tries to offer something different. Cue the Tool Watch Company.
Tool Watch Co. Arctic
As the name suggests, the company’s ethos is to produce purpose-driven and robust timepieces that can stand the various tough conditions that it is being put under.
Beyond that, the brand also has another angle to consider: Sustainability. No doubt, sustainability is a buzzword these days – but what does it really mean to be sustainable? With the brand’s focus on tool watches – which is synonymous with adventures – they decide that a good way to drive sustainability is through education. Tool Watch Co. hopes that through their timepieces, they are able to raise awareness of the various environmental issues and eventually hope that people will start making a difference.
Now, for the first watch of the series, the focus will be on the Arctic. The Arctic is a region that is no stranger to many, and environmentalists have long discussed how climate change will affect the region – and thereafter, the world altogether with the melting of the ice caps. We can see where the story is going, but does the watch tell a compelling tale as well? Let us find out.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
On the onset, the Arctic is an interesting piece. Firstly, the piece is cased in 38mm – which is slightly unusual for a tool watch, especially one during this modern era. We see it as a positive, as a smaller watch is undoubtedly more suitable for adventures given that it is less cumbersome and bulky on the wrist. Having worn the watch for a week, we can attest to the apt decision on the smaller case dimension.
But that does not stop here. Interestingly, Tool Watch Co. had also chosen the case to be made in titanium. This is another plus point, given the strength and lightweight qualities of the material. In addition to the already-strong material, the brand had further reinforced the case with a layer of anti-scratch coating. You know that this company is certainly serious about making solid watches that are fit for adventures.
The next highlight of the watch lies in its dial. The Arctic is fitted with a special natural meteorite dial, which is frankly a surprising inclusion for a timepiece at such a price point. Not only does this give the watch a rather stunning appearance, but the meteorite dial also attempts to tell a story – in this case, the Greenlands Hiawatha Glacier which is where the first meteorite impact crater ever discovered under Earth’s ice sheets. These Muonionalusta meteorites come from a very remote area in the northern Taiga, where they were preserved by permafrost and glaciers, many thousand years.
We have always been big fans of meteorite dials, and this is no exception either. We like how the dial appears under different lighting conditions, as well as the texture that comes along with it. It is certainly a stunning sight to behold.
Continuing on the subject of the dial, the watch is fitted with luminescence plots that are filled with Grade-A Swiss Super-Luminova. The legibility in the dark is excellent, in which it further reinforces the nature and purpose of this particular timepiece.
Another curious point to note on the dial, for the keen eyed, is the “Sellita SW200” title that was printed on the 6 o’clock position of the watch. While many watch brands tend to shy away from explicitly disclosing their third party movement providers, Tool Watch Co. has done exactly the opposite. Not only are they transparent about it, but they additionally included this on the dial. We think that this concept is not a bad thing, and we certainly welcome this sort of forthcomingness from brands.
Lastly, we move on to the hands. The noteworthy point for us here lies in the second hand, where the brand had incorporated the motif of an Arctic hunting-tool to it. This adds a slight interesting touch to the watch, and it further builds on the story and message that the brand is trying to convey with this piece.
The Movement: Sellita SW200
Powering the watch is the time-tested Sellita SW200, a movement that should not be unfamiliar to many. The self-winding movement beats at 28,800 bph, and has a power reserve of around 38 hours.
The choice of movement is clear, given its price point, and chosen for its workhorse qualities and reliability. It will certainly work well with a tool watch, without any frills or frivolity. While we did not open the case to examine the movement, we do not expect any level of finishing beyond the industrial ones.
The Arctic is priced at USD 800 (approximately SGD 1,085), though early bird specials will bring the price to the USD 400 mark. It comes with both the titanium H-link bracelet and Saffiano tanned leather strap. The review sample was delivered only with the leather strap as the bracelet is not yet ready. The latter, notably, is rather nice and supple – akin to a high-quality leather strap that you can get at between SGD 80 to SGD 100. In addition, the strap is also fitted with a quick release spring bar tool. For that, we have to credit the brand for its strong attention to details.
Given its price point, the Arctic definitely offers a lot. From the titanium case, to the meteorite dial and additional metal bracelet, we are hard-pressed to find a timepiece that offers so much, at a fraction of the cost.
Even so, when it comes to competitors, there are certainly a few options to consider as well.
Yema is a brand that we have raved about previously, and the Superman Steel Bronze is a natural contender here. This is a vintage-inspired piece, with an impressive in-house movement (in the form of the YEMA2000). The Superman offers great value, albeit with a relatively muted touch as compared to the Arctic. Interestingly, the Superman Steel Bronze is available in both 39 and 41mm variants, with a price point of EUR 990 (approximately SGD 1,558).
The next piece is the military-inspired Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm. This is perhaps one of the most well-priced mechanical timepieces from Switzerland, at SGD 690. We like that it is manual-winding, but perhaps it might not work as well as a tool watch if we compare it to the titanium-cased Arctic.
Lastly, we have the Citizen Fugu 4.0. The 44mm Fugu is a popular tool watch, and its longevity is a testament to the success of the collection. We like how robust the watch is, as well as the masculine vibes that it offers. Prices begin at SGD 738, and the Citizen is another option for someone who wants a tool watch with a larger wrist presence.
Having spent some time with this watch, we can say that the Tool Watch Co.’s Arctic had ticked many right boxes. We like its unconventional approach, as well as how the brand explores the use of the less common materials in the construction of the watch – vis-à-vis most of the microbrands within the same price point.
We also like how comfortable we feel when the watch is worn on our wrist. This can be attributed to both the use of titanium, as well as the relatively smaller case size at 38mm. The Saffiano strap greatly helped too. We dare say that if the watch is mounted on a fabric strap, the Arctic will certainly be a great watch for any hiking or outdoor adventures.
Of course, the watch is not entirely perfect. It can do with some refinements, such as bevelling on the edges and a smoother crown thread. But at this price point, and given what the watch has to offer, we are able to overlook these minor issues at this current moment.
In conclusion, we are pleasantly surprised by the Arctic. This is definitely worth a consideration, especially for collectors who want a hardy and sturdy watch as a daily beater or an accompaniment during outdoor activities.
Note: The Arctic will be launched on 2nd November 2021. For more information, please check out Tool Watch Co.’s website here.