Hands-On: The Tool Watch Co. Arctic — The Explorer’s Tool Watch Reinvented
Anyone with an interest in watches knows that Kickstarter brands are a dime a dozen. They come and go, sometimes releasing a watch that gets talked about for a few weeks, then quickly forgotten. However, we also know that with the right formula, greatness can also emerge from the popular crowd-funding platform. Brands like Zelos, Furlan Marri, Xeric, and Brew Watch Co. have since gained popularity and become well-respected, and gathered quite the following of enthusiasts. So, it seems that the platform presents a unique make-or-break opportunity for fresh new brands to get a start. But did the Tool Watch Co. Arctic have the secret formula? I got to spend some time with it to try and find out.
Before I begin, I wanted to point out that even brands like Yema, Benarus, and even Alpina, which have been around for decades, successfully launched some of their watches on Kickstarter. The platform sometimes gets a bad wrap, and often deservedly so, but it’s easy to forget that some crowd favorites have emerged from it. Now, Tool Watch Co. is a fresh-faced new contender in the world of watches, which makes it a little bit more tricky for it to find a foothold, secure an anchor into the ice wall, and with several swings of an ice pick, climb to the top. A brand must really give it all it has to make a good first impression. Even the smallest details can make a big difference.
A tool watch for modern times
So, what does the Tool Watch Co. Arctic offer? Well, for the price ($800) quite a lot, actually. Starting with the 38mm case, made of anti-scratch coated titanium. This gives the watch that magic lightness that only titanium provides. Its beautifully executed brushed finish maintains the watch’s rugged looks. I absolutely love the shape of the case. It reminds me of the classic skin-diver case shape from the 60’s and 70’s. It features both radial brushing and polished facets, giving the case a real feeling of quality.The size really hits a sweet spot for a bezel-free watch. It’s nice and slim, at just 11.35mm thick, but has plenty of wrist presence with a lug to lug of 46.35mm. A small detail that I really appreciate is the 20mm lug width. The majority of straps I own are 20mm, so this is always a plus when looking to buy a new watch.
The Arctic is available on a leather strap matching the dial’s color, but a titanium bracelet is also available (and the way to go if you ask me). Nothing beats a titanium watch on a matching bracelet! As much as I liked the Saffiano tanned leather strap, I feel that the watch truly shines on a Nato. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to test the bracelet, but judging from the pictures on the Tool Watch Co. site, it’s certainly quite promising. Beautifully integrated end links, and steering clear of a more obvious oyster style in favor of a more appealing H-link style. In my time with the watch though, I paired it with the blue-grey Nato you see above. Again, this was just personal preference, you really can’t go wrong either way.
Dial side up
The watch’s dial is uniquely crafted from natural meteorite. Not only does it add depth and character to the watch, but it also tells a story. The meteorite represents the Hiawatha Glacier in Greenland. Here, a team of scientists and explorers discovered the world’s first meteorite impact crater under the glacier’s ice sheets. The frosty texture of the meteorite has a rich blue color, enhanced by the blue AR-coated box sapphire crystal. I had always found meteorite dials somewhat flashy, but the way it’s executed on the Arctic what you get is a dial with plenty of texture and depth with a matte finish. There is a blue/grey ring around the meteorite which starts halfway up the minute hash marks. I really enjoy subtle details like this, as they show that a lot of thought and care has gone into the dial’s design.
My favorite feature, dial-side-up, are the Arctic’s hands. The black hour hand has a unique shape to the lume, with a chevron at the tail end. Then there are the minutes and seconds hands, in a lovely light blue/grey color. The former with a classic arrow shape, and the latter a stick hand with three icy protrusions, as though an icy wind had left it with trailing icicles. A lot of micro brands opt for rather standard hands, so it’s great to see Tool Watch Co. going for something completely different and unique that’s still on theme. Speaking of hands, both the hands and dial markers are filled with BGW9 Grade A Swiss Super-LumiNova. Believe me when I say, they give off a proper glow!
In the polar bear’s den
Inside the watch, we find the ever-reliable Sellita SW200. The movement is protected by a lovely etched titanium case back featuring the image of a polar bear, in keeping with the arctic theme. This is the go-to for micro brands that want to give their watches a decent Swiss movement, going above and beyond the trusty Miyota 9015. With 38 hours of power reserve, you can expect this one to perform as well as any decent modern mechanical movement. In my experience timekeeping was reliable, and at this price point, that’s exactly what you’d expect. The screw-down titanium crown and case back give the Arctic a water resistance rating of 200m, which is perfectly suitable for a watch for any adventure. Whether it’s ice climbing, scuba diving, or trekking across the tundra, this watch will have your back without adding unnecessary weight to your wrist.
A brand that listens
Something else worth mentioning is the fact that Tool Watch Co. decided to remove the “Sellita SW200” text from the dial’s 6 o’clock position, leaving just “Tool Watch Co. Explorer”. The fact that a watch brand is willing to listen to the community and make this kind of change weeks before the final production begins bodes rather well. It really shows that this is not just a project motivated by profit, but rather by creating a product that people can truly connect to, and want to own. This doesn’t just improve the design of the initial offering but is quite exciting for the brand’s future. What will come next? Who knows, but I’ sure that it will build upon the community’s feedback on the Arctic, and that could never be a bad thing.
I have to say that I was very excited to try the Tool Watch Co. Arctic, and sometimes when you build something up too much in your head, it’s easy to end up disappointed. However, this was not the case. The watch delivered on every front, going beyond my expectations. It’s a unique, well-crafted, rugged yet elegant all-rounder that’s sure to appeal to a lot of people. It’s a perfect alternative for people looking at watches like the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, but wanting something more unique and special both in design and materials. And you, the reader, find yourself wanting this watch for yourself, well, you’re in luck! The brand’s Kickstarter campaign will launch on November 2nd. Three different watches will be available.
That’s right! There will be three different versions of the Arctic up for grabs. A standard blue dial model for $800, a limited edition black dial model (limited to 150 pieces, with a price of $1,000), and a white dial, one-of-ten model. This final piece will be available for $3,000. You could argue that it’s a huge difference in price for just a different dial color, but you’re still getting plenty of watch for the money. Plus, only ten lucky people will own this very special frost-dial model.
For more information on the Arctic, and to pre-register to be notified of the campaign’s launch on Kickstarter (where special discounted prices will be available), check out the Tool Watch Co. website here.