Introducing: The New, Smaller, And Bolder Baltic HMS And Bicompax 003
It’s been a while since the second generation of Baltic’s HMS and Bicompax models came out — about three years, actually. In early 2020, Baltic released limited editions with salmon dials and, a few months later, regular production models with silver, black, and blue/gilt dials. So an update, if we should’ve expected one anyway, was overdue. I love brands that dedicate themselves to updating the models they started with.
Not only does this approach create a sense of continuity, but it also allows us to observe a brand’s evolution. And indeed, the way the HMS and Bicompax 003 look in 2023 is different from the first and second generations. They show maturity and a certain boldness that the brand has shown through other models.
The HMS and Bicompax 003: an amalgam of Baltic’s six-year history
I remember the very first HMS and Bicompax models. If anything, they erred on the side of flying under the radar. Generally speaking, there was little to see on the dials. Their essence was distilled in a magnificent retro fashion. Small dots and Arabic numerals indicated the hours, while thin leaf hands helped us read the time. As seems customary for many brands that revisit their iconic models, things became bolder with the third generation. First, Baltic opted for a lighter use of Arabic numerals, making the dials look more balanced. The previous-generation HMS displayed a full-Arabic-numeral layout and the Bicompax an almost-complete one. The alternation of Arabic numerals and baton markers on the 003 nods to the first-generation models while looking resolutely modern.
The other big change on the dial is the use of larger leaf hands. If I could show you them side by side, you’ll immediately see what I’m talking about: the hands seem to have gone on a bulking diet! They look at least three times larger than the hands on the second-generation models. This means the HMS and Bicompax 003 stepped away from the elegance that we knew these collections for and delved into the arena of bold, everyday sports watches. I feel this move was the right one to make. Otherwise, how could Baltic have rekindled its fans’ interest? Although not everybody does so, I do know of a few people who buy each new generation of the same model (Rolex Explorer, anyone?).
If I had a Baltic HMS or Bicompax 001 or 002, I could buy a 003.
The devil is in the tiny details
Digging deeper into the design of the HMS and Bicompax 003, we notice a small detail that throws back to the first-generation HMS — the chapter ring. The one on the 001 showcased a full graduation that highlighted the five-minute increments with Arabic numerals. The one on the Bicompax 001, however, had a simpler design. The third-generation HMS and Bicompax both show the 001 chapter ring, elevating the dials in the realm of sophistication. Furthermore, the sub-registers on the Bicompax look more like those on the 001 version, sans the numerals. In other words, the graduation on each truly looks like a railroad track, while it looked more modern on the 002.
The legendary case and new colors
A signature of the HMS and Bicompax (and almost every other Baltic model) is the step-case design. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the case hadn’t changed between each HMS and Bicompax generation. To me, that’s a positive point. After all, why reinvent something that works? What perhaps didn’t work so well was the dial design, which is why Baltic went back to the drawing board. Yes, that’s just a personal opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt! Anyway, the cases display an alternation of horizontal brushing on the sides, radial brushing on the top of the lugs, and a polished upper bezel section. All in all, the case continues to look sporty and elegant.
And as is customary with each new generation of a Baltic model, we see some new colorways — silver blue, salmon, and blue gilt for both the HMS and Bicompax. While the salmon and blue gilt are not new for Baltic, I believe the silver combined with both blue hands and hour markers might be. The color contrast is very prominent thanks to the larger handset.
Sizes, movements, and prices
Interestingly, both models have the same case dimensions — a 36.5mm diameter, 46mm length, 13mm total thickness (10mm excluding the crystal), and 20mm lug spacing. I say “interestingly” because I usually see chronograph versions of time-only watches with thicker cases, at least. But what do I know? Another big change compared to the 002 — and one I should have highlighted earlier — is the smaller case diameter. A decrease from 38mm to 36.5mm — a 1.5mm difference — means the world to people like me with smaller wrists. The 003s are also 1mm thinner than the 002s.
When it comes to the movements, the HMS runs on the Miyota 8315 caliber, which beats at 21,600vph (3Hz) and packs a 60-hour power reserve. The Bicompax utilizes the Seagull ST1910 hand-wound chronograph caliber, which also beats at 21,600vph but delivers a 42-hour power reserve. In other words, the movements are the same as they were in the previous-generation models.
Being retro timepieces, both models come with highly domed Hesalite crystals and a modest yet sufficient 50m water resistance rating. While the HMS and Bicompax are available on a leather strap or two types of stainless steel bracelets — beads-of-rice or flat-link — in my view, they look best on leather. In terms of price, the HMS retails for €360 and the Bicompax for €540 before taxes. You can order both models now on Baltic’s website with delivery estimated for August.
Another small detail, but one that has a massive impact, is the fact that the HMS and Bicompax 003 don’t replace the 002 models. I know; I kind of made it sound like they did. Instead, they coexist on Baltic’s website since both generations offer different dial designs and case dimensions. So if you weren’t 100% sold on the HMS or Bicompax 002, then perhaps the 003 models will tickle your horological inclinations a little more. They have certainly tickled mine! All right, enough of my opinions. What do you think of the HMS and Bicompax 003? Please leave your comments below.