After years of resistance, since the revitalization in 2016, Fears finally embraces the life aquatic with its Brunswick 40 Topper Limited Edition. Famously, Fears’s fourth managing director cannot swim, focusing the brand’s direction on exquisite classic timepieces for dry land. But when revered Californian wristwatch retailer Topper came knocking, sporty was the only way to go. The coastal regions of its Northern California base lend themselves to a functional timepiece. After two years of development, Fears unveils the result just in time for summer. For many, this new Brunswick might be just the Fears watch that collectors were clamoring for. As you’ll find out, however, obtaining your own Brunswick 40 may be a tall order.

Firstly, Topper produces some of my favorite limited-edition watch collaborations from any retailer or publication outside Fratello. I find that Topper always selects the appropriate timepiece to add its unique special sauce for exciting collaborations. In 2016, Topper and Oris teamed up for the then-new Divers Sixty-Five for one of its first limited editions in a long line. Nixing the date window and swapping the aluminum bezel grip with steel were inspired choices for the Divers Sixty-Five. It still pains me that I missed out on getting one due to my location. Although, I do see one of the 100 pieces turn up on Chrono24 from time to time — with a premium. Today’s release with Fears showcases the brilliance of Topper’s ability to work with great brands and nail a visual identity.

How to buy the Brunswick 40

Sticking with the limitation, the new Fears Brunswick 40 is limited to 50 pieces — 25 with a white dial and 25 with a black dial. On top of that, this watch is only available via the Burlingame-based retailer, which is a bit of a downer. If you’re keen on buying one of these and don’t live locally, get in touch with Topper to discuss allocation. With the instructions on obtaining this Fears out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Previous Brunswick watches targeted the stately 38mm case with a svelte profile thanks to the manual-winding ETA 7001 caliber. For this Topper edition, Fears upsizes the case to 40mm, corresponding with many readers’ requests I’ve witnessed over the years. The stainless steel case has two finishing options — all-brushed for the black dial or polished lugs, bezel, and case sides for the white dial.

In keeping with the Cali theme, the Brunswick 40 has stunning applied Roman numerals on the north side with Arabic numerals on the south side. This is known as the “California dial,” though the jury’s out on the term, as discussed here. But if consensus aligns the style of the indices with the California term, then maybe it’s time to accept it. These markers are diamond-cut and pronounced, producing a captivating animation as the light bends around each curve and edge. As with the Topper Oris, there is no date window, which is relatively standard for Fears watches. But importantly, the top grade ETA 2824-2 does not have the phantom date-setting position on the crown or “click” at the stroke of midnight.

Field-watch aesthetics

The clean dial with the precise railway minute track showcases a gorgeous lacquer material. In black, the grainy texture corresponds to a field-watch aesthetic as seen from the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer, right up to the new Patek Philippe 5226G Calatrava. With the white dial, a smooth, clinical polished surface better outlines the crisp diamond-cut indices. When choosing between them, my head says white dial as there’s uniformity with the hands and markers. However, like Dave, my penchant for a dash of bold yellow accents fills my heart with glee. The solid yellow central seconds is another first for Fears mechanical watches. Before this came about, a small seconds sub-dial performed this function at 6 o’clock. The automatic beating heart is another new element for a Fears timepiece since 2016, yet the mandated svelte wearing experience remains at 11mm — 12mm including the domed sapphire.

For this new Brunswick, the hands forego the skeletonization but keep the “pipette” silhouette. Within the hands, the X1 Super-LumiNova luminescence glows with a blue hue in low-light conditions. The onion crown is a Fears favorite with a tactile winding feel. However, despite the 100 meters of water resistance, perfect for aquatic escapades, the crown does not screw down. Although, with quality seals, it’s only 300 meters where a locking crown becomes necessary. For instance, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris does not have a screw-down crown. To indicate the depth rating on the case back, Fears opted for a historical term from its archive — “Tropicalised.” It’s a great word that is seldom used but harks back to a pioneering era of waterproofing watches. Alongside this is “stains-less” to describe the steel, which is reassuringly descriptive. These historical terms highlight Fears’s eclectic history.

Final thoughts

I can only imagine the meeting of minds between Fears and Topper, one leader in a three-piece and the other in board shorts. Yet, somehow, the resulting watch encapsulates both brands’ identities in a concise and excellent companion for the summer months. I’ve skirted around this for long enough, but I can undoubtedly predict comparisons to Panerai in the comments. I, for one, am not calling foul, as the cushion case of the mid-20th century was pretty ubiquitous. In terms of size, look, and feel, the Fears Brunswick 40 stands apart from the crowd.

As stated, the watch is limited to 50 examples, half in white and the other in black. The Fears Brunswick 40 is available exclusively from Topper Fine Jewelers for $3,900 with a 20mm brown Bristol-made calf leather strap. It also marks an exciting retail debut in North America for Fears Watches.

Do you think Fears should do more editions of the Brunswick 40, or is the 38mm case more suitable? Let your thoughts be heard in the comments!

Watch specifications

Brunswick 40 Topper Limited Edition
High-polish liquid white lacquer or textured black lacquer with applied diamond-cut hour markers in “California” style
Case Material
"Stains-less" Steel
Case Dimensions
40mm × 11mm
Domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating on both sides
Case Back
Solid with engravings
Top-Grade ETA 2824-2 “no-date” (automatic with hacking and manual winding)
Water Resistance
100 meters
Bristol-made calf leather, Alcantara-lined with stainless steel pin buckle
Time only