CODE41 DAY41 Edition 2 Is An Affordable Modern Skeleton Watch
While it often seems like everything has been done in the watch industry ad nauseam, there are certain strategies and concepts that receive less airtime than others. Whether new approaches — often termed as “disruptive” — are more effective than beating the same paper-thin drum that has been drummed to death over the past century is hard to quantify, but they do present an opportunity for us to reflect back on the industry and its practices in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. CODE41’s unusual tack is to pull back the curtain concealing production costs and profit margins. That same strategy has propelled the brand’s first few launches toward success. And now, as the bizarro year that has been 2020 draws to a close, we get to see if it works again with the brand’s latest model, the CODE41 DAY41…
I’ve followed CODE41 since its early days. The earliest models from the brand (the Anomaly, the Anomaly 2, and the DAY41 Edition 1) were visually striking, but it was the more ambitious X41 that really made me stop and reevaluate the original trio of releases in a new light. It is funny, but common, how a single release can reshape the entire perception of a brand in the minds of journalists and consumers alike. For me, seeing what the brand could achieve helped me better understand its goals.
What disruption really means
The term “disruptive” is overused these days. Oftentimes, it is employed by start-ups with loftier goals than their products are able to meet. It is used to imply that the products are themselves somehow able to make waves. Rarely, is this the case. What is far more disruptive than simply “new” products, however, is the way in which a company chooses to engage and interact with its target audience, and, ultimately, do business.
…[a] totally different way of doing business…
Earlier today, established Fratello statesman Gerard, wrote about the new Airain Type 20. That watch is superb, but more novel than the handsome chronograph itself is the way the company sells shares in it to customers, affording them a discount on the products it offers. And now, to round out the day, we have a similarly unusual, but totally different way of doing business.
CODE41 lays bare its costs. By analyzing these costs, we’re better able to see what kind of profit the company is making per watch sale. The exact amounts should be adjusted to allow for taxes, wages, and unforeseen overheads too, but it gives us a pretty accurate idea of where our money’s going.
An aggressive strategy
For some consumers, this will be music to their ears. To rival brands, however, it sends a clear message: there is nowhere to hide. Now, more than ever, consumers demand a strong return on their investments. The modern way of doing business online enables new brands to do away with traditional brick-and-mortar stores and sell direct. Interestingly, while this seems like a strategy that could work in perpetuity, it may well be something restricted very much to this era. Were brick-and-mortar stores to eventually disappear because of direct-to-consumer models or brands verticalizing everything, the advantage levered by creative companies like CODE41 would disappear.
Ironically, that means that prices may then rise again, as online trading would have an effective monopoly on the way business is done. As such, we living through a period during which new brands like CODE41 are able to leverage the persisting ways of old. And so while retailers may not take too fondly to this kind of model, it is an aggressive strategy that could reap enough dividends in the short term to secure a long-term future. I’d love to hear our readers’ thoughts on this in the comments below. Do you like it? Do you not like it? Does it make you trust a brand more? Does that trust make you more inclined to buy a new brand’s products? It is a fascinating evolution, more prevalent than ever in certain wings of our industry, and customer feedback is not only appreciated, but also essential.
And that is one area in which CODE41 excels. It listens to its fanbase. Consequently, I have in my hands the second edition of the brand’s third timepiece to hit the market. The CODE41 DAY41 is a unisex model, tastefully sized at either 37mm or 40mm.
I’ve been wearing the 40mm version (which has a very palatable 47mm lug-to-lug) for a few days. It stands 10.5mm thick on the wrist and weighs just 80g on the soft leather strap supplied with quick-change spring bars. The DAY41 strap has a lightweight deployant clasp that is pleasingly low-profile.
Now, this is not the style of watch I usually wear, but I do have similarly “high-tech”-looking watches in my collection, like the WH&T LCF888 Chronograph so I’m not a complete stranger to this kind of avantgarde visage. I quite enjoyed it for a few reasons, which did surprise me. Firstly, the skeletonization of the STP6-15 is really good for this price point. This movement may not be any better than a standard Sellita SW200-1, for example (its accuracy rating is -0/+15 seconds per day), but it is far more interesting.
What is good about the STP6-15
Firstly, it is something different. I know different doesn’t necessarily mean better, but given the similarity in specifications, it is nice to have something else on the wrist, if only for the sake of variety. What the STP6-15 does well is to not try too hard to be fancy. The skeletonization is neat. It is not overly busy. Conflicting surface finishes have been abandoned in favor of fine vapor blasting. It looks complex but industrial. The black plating really helps on this front also.
What about the strap?
I was really impressed with the DAY41 strap and clasp. Generally, I can’t be doing with deployants. They are often bulky and stiff to resize. Sure, you shouldn’t need to resize it at all once you’ve set it up out of the box, but it drives me mad when something is unnecessarily difficult. Here, the clasp is forgiving. It opens easily when you need to change the size, and it fastens securely once everything is to your liking.
The strap is soft. It takes no time whatsoever to break in and can be fitted and worn straight out of the box. I say “fitted” because the watch head and the strap come in separate compartments in the simple but charming black presentation box. I’ve always been very neutral on quick release bars, but I think the DAY41 finally converted me. Changing the strap was so easy, I found the entire experience stress free. Why, you might ask, would a watchmaker find the prospect of fitting a strap stressful?
Good question. For starters, I like to return all loaned watches in perfect condition. Secondly, however, I am (and have always been) terrified of case coatings. I hate the thought of marking somebody else’s watch so not having to even concern myself with that prospect was heavenly.
The DAY41 case reminds me of the kind of case I would have tried (and failed) to design ten years ago. By that, I mean it is all angles and futurism, with lugs that manage to tread the line between slim and sturdy. The case flanks are nicely shaped, with Tron-like lines that accentuate the lines flowing through the design.
I really, really like the case back, held in place with four hex screws. Normally I hate screwed case backs and prefer threaded backs all the way, but here, they look very much at home with their surroundings.
It’s slightly odd for me to admit this, but although the DAY41 is not a watch I would naturally gravitate toward, I ended up liking pretty much everything about it. It is very well balanced on the wrist and in the hand. I enjoyed the useability of the strap and clasp. Little touches, like the movement choice, and the case back stuck with me, and the overall presentation is very good.
What it comes down to is the dial display. If you “get” it, this watch is a decent buy at €1,290 (from a listed build cost of €355). In fact, the version I have is selling quite well during the currently-active pre-order period (there are 38 of 100 examples still available at the time of writing). If you find this kind of “blown apart”, “metal shard”, industry-meets-elegance display confusing or distracting, it probably won’t resonate with you.
All in all, I came away understanding the brand a little better. I enjoyed having the watch in my hands for a few days and am now keener than ever to get the X41 that first piqued my interest in for review. Let us know your thoughts on the watch and business model below. I think that CODE41 has given us a lot to discuss. Learn more about the brand here.