Hands-On Review Of The AnOrdain Model 1 In Iron Cream
What constitutes a microbrand is a frequent topic of discussion in the pristine corridors and glistening towers of Fratello HQ. The team’s “official” opinion has never quite solidified. My personal take is that a microbrand is, “an independent brand, practicing a direct-to-consumer model, within an entry-level (<€5,000) price bracket.” AnOrdain fits this definition but has much more going for it other than attractive pricing and a good quality/cost ratio. This brand offers an unusual level of craftsmanship for such a young brand, and that deserves some respect.
I spent a lot of time in Glasgow in my twenties and early thirties. Scotland is a special place. The people, the culture, the architecture… It’s hard not to love it. If you’ve got a penchant for dreadful weather also (as I have), it truly is heaven on Earth. Creating fittingly heavenly watches since 2015 is anOrdain (normally styled without a capital letter). This project began as a flash of inspiration in founder Lewis Heath’s mind upon a visit to the picturesque Loch Lomond many years before. With a small team surrounding him, that flash has grown into a full-on brand that is doing some really fantastic work.
I know there are lots of people that maybe don’t care about all the brand-bumf around watches, and really just want to focus on the timepieces themselves, but I have to say I do believe it makes a difference for micros. Truthfully, I couldn’t give two hoots about the generic box my Speedmaster Broad Arrow turned up in. Sure, I’ll keep the Snoopy 3 packaging safe because it’s integral to the watch’s value and story, but normally, I don’t have much interest in packaging or even web-presentation.
Perhaps that’s because it is so infrequently done well. Whenever I see a genuinely excellent example of brand-building it sticks out to me. I cannot commend anOrdain enough on its website (visuals and text), the packaging in which the Model One was delivered, and the print media also supplied with the watch.
…reading the printed guide included in the shipment to me was a tactile experience…
Physical catalogs or information booklets may seem a bit anachronistic in 2020, but anOrdain reinforces the power of these things when they’re done right. In this instance, reading the printed guide included in the shipment to me was a tactile experience that thoroughly impressed me. It, and the nicely printed box concealing a divinely crafted leather travel case, perfectly set the stage for the watch that was to follow.
From the top…
I’m a huge fan of anOrdain. Full disclosure, hope to work with the team on bringing something very exciting and very exclusive to life for Fratello. That said, the Model One is not my favorite piece from the brand’s current line-up. I love, love, love the bright, fumé dials, and the crisp typeface found on the Model Two pieces we’ve reviewed here and here.
…it is a grower, that’s for sure.
But having been beaten to the punch by Tomas and Mike regarding the Model Two, I gamely stepped up to assess the quality of the Model One firsthand even though I personally would put my money down on the Model Two (the purple or turquoise fumé if anyone is wondering, but I must admit it’s about as close to a tie as it ever is).
Truth be told, it’s hard no to go overboard with praise when you study these pieces up close. I would never have chosen the muted “Iron Cream” dial with so many vibrant, joyful options available, but it is a grower, that’s for sure. Let’s dig into it further…
The good and the great
Sometimes I like to completely freestyle through reviews when a huge amount of thoughts and feelings are tangled up in a watch. Today, however, I want to take a different tack. I’d like to walk this one through in a more blow-for-blow manner so I can really explore the good and the great, as well as the room for growth as I see it when it comes to the Model One.
The first thing you see when you slide your anOrdain package out of the protective wrappings is the box. The box in this instance is a gray/cream thing with a blue lining. It has the anOrdain wordmark UV spot printed on the front in tiny letters. Those tiny letters are obscured by a brown “wrap” printed with a big number “1” on the front, and a small “synopsis” of what lay within on the back. It’s stunningly well done and a sign of things to come. Not to bury the lede here, what you get when you pay for an anOrdain watch is excellent typography and a beautifully executed enamel dial. If those aren’t your things, turn away now. If you like the sound of that, however, read on…
The travel wallet
Sure, I get it. You don’t buy a watch for the travel wallet it comes in. However, I’ll bet a fair few of you have bought a travel wallet separately at some point. And you don’t need to be in the industry very long to know that leather goods tailor-made for watches are not cheap. Here, you get one of the very best I’ve ever seen chucked into the price. It is a supremely well-made and tastefully designed zip case. It has a substantial zipper, a sufficiently padded suede lining, button-down loops to hold the watch strap, and a pouch for a spare strap (which was supplied for the purpose of my review).
The buckle and the strap
The anOrdain Model One Iron Cream was delivered on a mid-brown leather strap I actually can’t find on the current drop-down menu of this watch on the website, but no matter — I immediately flipped it for the pin-grain kid leather strap in a more chestnutty shade.
The second strap works really nicely with the warm cream tones of the dial. Were I buying this one for myself, however, I think I would have paired it with the green suede option. I like the weird, marine-esque combination of the blue hands, the green suede, and the milky dial.
I like simple clasps…
One big difference exists between the two straps and that was the buckles upon which they were delivered. The mid-brown strap had a wing buckle, while the kid leather had a simple ardillon style clasp. I like simple clasps, to be honest, so I did not bother to change over the arguably “superior” buckle from the mid-brown to the chestnut option.
This is not the first iteration of the Model One case. And while I don’t like it as much as I like the beefier Model Two housing, it is a massive, massive improvement on the original. The biggest changes can be observed in the lugs and the crown guards. For the former, we have much thicker lugs that are proportionally better-suited to the 38mm case body. These lugs have flat tops, which were absent from the spindly originals. It’s a huge boost for the overall presence of the watch that still wears really comfortably with a 46mm lug-to-lug.
Crown guards. They weren’t there at all on the original Model One case and now the pop-up here. Necessary? No. Do I like them? I didn’t initially, but when you put this case side-by-side with the old one you see what they bring to the party. The previous model looked weirdly naked in comparison. I personally wouldn’t have thought to add these tiny, flared winder protectors here, but I’m actually glad someone did.
The handset for the modern Model One is a serious upgrade from the original hands. This new handset is heat blued (by hand) and provides much better legibility than its forerunner. However, my one major criticism of this design is the length of the seconds hand. The hour, I like. The minute hand is the most artful of the bunch. But the stubby seconds hand with no counterpoise grabbed me straight out of the box.
If you’d given me the chance then I would have changed it in a heartbeat. However, it bothered me a lot less once the watch was running and on my wrist. Then, I could see the logic behind it being so short. Given its length, it does not obscure any of the delicate five-minute numerals around the edge of the dial.
That said, I still think it would have been more comfortable had it been longer. Still, it is worth drawing the attention back to the value proposition on offer here: where else can you expect to find a vitreous enameled dial with a hand heat-blued handset for less than 1,500 sterling?
The case back and the movement
Is it plain or is it inspired? I’m in the latter camp. This brushed, closed case back keeps things simple. It sits in contrast to the polished surfaces of the case middle but looks surprisingly comfortable with that. The brand’s slogan “New hands, old crafts” is interspersed by the “anOrdain” wordmark (twice). A closed case back (threaded) no doubt helps keep the watch as slim as possible (11mm) and water-resistant to 50 meters. Behind it sits the Sellita SW-200 with incabloc shock protection. It’s a solid choice of caliber at a great price point (£1,440 incl. VAT). Considering this watch comes with a 5-year warranty that’s pretty special.
…maps are cool.
But wait! There’s more! Having offered the chance to engrave a special message on the case back in the past, anOrdain is taking a different route (foreshadowing pun intended) as we approach Christmas. In December, whenever you select the engraving option on the anOrdain site, you’ll be presented with a map option. You’ll be able to find anywhere on the planet and select that area to have topographically engraved on the back of your watch. Why maps? Well, anOrdain has long drawn inspiration from the typography and symbology found in the Ordnance Survey maps one might need to navigate the wilderness just outside of the brand’s home of Glasgow. And because maps are cool.
So, the main event. The dial. As I intimated at the top, my preference for the more vivid colors means this muted cream does not rank near the top of the wishlist, but I have to say, it made for a great time-telling experience and served as a versatile servant throughout my time with the watch.
It is a special thing for any amount of money.
It’s a classy look. There’s no denying it. I really enjoyed the way the dial material (vitreous enamel on a copper base) reacts with the light and how the shifting blues of the hands changed my interaction with it on a glance-by-glance basis. I’m an enormous fan of the printing quality here. The in-house typography is a dream and the execution is just top drawer. Because of the hand-made aspect of these dials, you can really feel the passion, creativity, and skill that’s gone into their creation.
It is a special thing for any amount of money. However, in our industry, considering the competition, I can barely believe you get a smart, versatile watch with such an artisanal element and a reliable Swiss caliber at less than 1.5k GBP. If you like the style, then go for it. You won’t be disappointed you did. Learn more about anOrdain here.