Hands-On: The Updated AnOrdain Model 2 MKII — A Side-By-Side Comparison With The MKI
Founder Lewis Heath made anOrdain into a respected and trusted brand within just a few years. Now, after three years and not even 500 watches produced, Model 2 has received a major update. Today, we’ll see what separates the MKII from the MKI and find out more about anOrdain from the man behind it all.
It’s been five years now since I sold my modern car. I just found much more joy and satisfaction driving old, classic cars. When I met my wife and was about to drive her home for the first time, my “newest” car was from 1981. I was slightly afraid of how she would feel about my classic-car passion. I was ready for an awkward silence and strange looks, but she was truly excited. Well, I thought I was dreaming. Fast forward three years. After having a second child, it turned out that three-door cars aren’t the best match for the four of us. I had to step up my game. So I got a Jeep. An “ultra-modern” one from, erm, 1989.
From cars to watches and vice versa
When I first saw the anOrdain Model 2 MKII catalog, I instantly knew which one color I would ask for. Three of my classic cars are green. One of them has an almost identical color. I think that ignited my discussion with anOrdain’s founder Lewis about classic cars. Five years ago, he also got rid of his modern car for the same reasons I did. I can vividly imagine him rolling down the streets of Glasgow in his daily beater, a 1992 Mercedes 300CE.
When I found out that Lewis was a petrolhead too, we discussed our cars more deeply. At the very end, I mentioned that my brother and I bought a Skoda Favorit, a local-hero car from my childhood. I did not expect Lewis to know the car, so his answer blew my mind. “I have a Skoda Favorit, which I keep at the train station. That car has never not started, even after sitting for two months on the street over winter. The guy who had it before me didn’t change the oil in six years,” says Lewis about a car that I had no idea made it from Czechoslovakia to Scotland. Well, three years after my first encounter with anOrdain and my first anOrdain review, it only makes more sense why I’m so smitten with his watches.
Side by side, wrist by wrist
It’s been four months since Lewis and his team announced the release of the Model 2 MKII. Two samples reached me in early July, but some health issues didn’t allow me to get to writing any sooner. I am glad, however, that I had more time to wear the watch. It gave me a chance to swap it with the Model 2 MKI that I bought a few years ago, and then switch back to the MKII. For a few days, I wore them together on both of my wrists. I didn’t expect it to be such an enlightening journey. I learned something about my own taste.
A minute-track surprise
I don’t like watches with no markers on them at all. A Rolex with an onyx dial is my greatest nightmare. My OCD-troubled soul needs hour indexes at least. I thought I would never feel blissful about a watch that with no minute track for precise time telling. But despite having no seconds hand and no minute track, the Model 2 MKI marched grandiosely into my heart and felt warmly welcomed. I thought that adding a minute track to the MKII would disrupt my love for the MKI.
Well, it didn’t. I was not overwhelmed by the addition of the minute track. Furthermore, I get why anOrdain put it there. It was due to feedback that Lewis got from the market, as I had assumed. “There weren’t as many complaints about the lack of a seconds hand as you’d imagine! But yes, we realized we were perhaps a little too niche on that front. I remember not being sure if the redesign was an improvement or not before we prototyped, but I felt we should be continuously evolving, so we pressed on, and I’m very happy we did now.” I could not understand why I felt okay about the minute track and seconds hand on the Racing Green MKII but still preferred the clean MKI. I solved the riddle after a month of switching them on my wrist.
The same, but different
It took me so long because I looked at them as the same watch model. Well, the brand’s official classification caused me to do so. I found peace and understanding only after I realized that the MKI and MKII are so far from each other that they represent two different watches for me. Let me put it this way. If my wife and I are going out for a fancy date-night dinner or to attend the theater, I would reach for the MKI. But I won’t do that next Saturday when we’re planning to go to the woods for a small barbecue. On the other hand, I will not hesitate to take Racing Green MKII.
Your next outdoor watch
When I got out of my mental trap caused by the super-clean design, transparent numerals, no lume, and highly polished case of the MKI, I started to enjoy the MKII fully. The minute track makes the MKII more of a grab-and-go watch. And I assume that’s what Lewis wants. He doesn’t want to wait until I make it to the theater with my wife and two small kids. This would mean the Model 2 MKI would get just a few runs a year at best. I didn’t ask, but I bet Lewis wants his watches to be daily beaters, and that’s what the MKII is ready to be.
That brought me to consider what Lewis dreamt about four years ago and how he feels about his success now. “Leading up to launch back in 2018, I did panic a little. I’d spent three years plowing my life savings into the business, and I think if it’d been a few more months, we’d have had serious problems, but worrying about sourcing the right cannon pinions and case tolerances and which pad printer to use kept my mind off financial ruin for the most part,” says Lewis, who seems like a very grounded person. Well, that helped him grow his business to 22 people… as well as a two-year waiting time for his products.
As popular as the brand’s watches have become, anOrdain still makes less than 500 pieces per year. Lewis’s team is not quite at the place yet where they can divide their time between experimentation and production in the way they would like. One would think that Lewis should just hire more people. “AnOrdain has seven enamelers today; three are ‘masters’ if you like, two are not far off, and two are earlier in their training. Training enamelers is very intensive and will reduce your ability to produce dials quite significantly, so if we trained three enamelers, it would probably halve our output for the first year, and then perhaps we’d get to the same level for another six to 12 months, and then two years on we’d see output increase — so it’s a real balance.”
If it were about money, there would be no anOrdain
Currently, you have to wait about two years to get your anOrdain watch. Lewis says that waiting lists are a side effect of doing what his team does at the price at which they do it. “Even if we had 20 enamelers, we’d still have the same issue. But I think we have a very fair system. We work through the queue in chronological order, and there’s no nepotism or queue jumping. The obvious thing to do would be to put the prices up a lot, but it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. We’re at a point now where we’re now profitable, and I think the next few years could be very tough for this industry, so I feel that having that level of respect for the customer is more important than ever.”
An easy decision for Lewis
Once you understand Lewis, you also understand why he decided to update the Model 2, even though he could go on for few more years with a waiting list that long. “At the end of the day, we spend most of our waking lives doing this, and so for it to work in the long term, it needs to be enjoyable. For me personally, that’s about the process of creating and not just churning out the same product.” And he means it. He was recently approached by a Swiss company, and it transpired that anOrdain could make significantly more money producing dials and selling them without the rest of the watch. “That didn’t hold any appeal for any of us,” states Lewis matter-of-factly.
What else is new with the MKII?
But there is more to anOrdain than enamel dials. The brand’s in-house-prototyped signature hands are pieces of art. The colored tip is held by two steel arms so finely that you feel the display of time is surgically precise. The tips of the MKII hands project outward into the void, but this time, they’re shorter and, I believe, also a hair wider. Getting the hands ready is no easy procedure. The blank hands travel from the Swiss manufacturer in La Chaux-de-Fonds in raw steel form. They are then heat-treated to protect them from rust and tarnish, and only after that are they sent to another Swiss company for luminous paint to be hand-applied under magnification to each tip. And as you would expect from a daily wrist companion, not only the hands but also the numerals are luminous this time.
AnOrdain’s own font
On the smaller 36mm Racing Green MKII, both hands taper toward the central pinion. On the large 39.5mm Racing Green MKII, however, the hour hand is uniform in width. Compared to the 36mm MKI, the new hands have a more active, stronger, and sportier vibe. The dial is also more legible. What was news to me, however, is the fact that the typographical cues for the heritage-flecked font were taken from 1950s industrial equipment. This includes a laboratory clock that belongs to Lewis’s scientist grandfather.
If I hadn’t had both the MKI and the MKII on the table in front of me, I would probably not have noticed that the font changed slightly to create some space for color fill and gold strokes. Equally, if it hadn’t been for the new MKII, I would not have realized how much I love the style of the “4” on the old MKI.
I could not decide which size to ask for. The 36mm MKII would be the perfect choice to compare with MKII, but what if I liked its larger 39.5mm brother more? Lewis generously solved my dilemma by sending both watches. I had to wait a bit, but it was completely worth it.
To be honest, I’m not sure if classifying the 39.5mm MKII as “large” is anOrdain’s way of making a joke. Regardless, I like it. The case size is the only point that I didn’t bring up in my discussion with Lewis. I decided to believe that him calling 39.5mm “large” is his message that anOrdain’s models won’t be any bigger soon.
I am really happy that Lewis didn’t make me decide. In that case, my curiosity would win, and I would take a larger one. But having them both sitting on my wrists, I feel that 36mm is pretty much the perfect size for me. And it doesn’t make me feel like any less of a man. It’s the opposite; that smaller diameter makes it more interesting and more unusual for me. The 39.5mm case wears comfy too, and I assume that larger-wristed people will love it.
Naming and marking
What I had to ask about was the naming, which I objected to in my first article three years ago. “Starting out, I was very adamant that we should use numbers rather than names for the models. I think that names can convey too many subconscious [images]. Obviously, if you’re going for a vintage feel or trying to conjure up themes like adventure or racing, that’s great, but I really wanted the watches to come first and not be colored by silly names, so the nomenclature has always been very clinical,” says Lewis.
I still wish the name of the Model 2 were a bit more poetic, but I understand what Lewis means. As a petrolhead, I also see a major link to car names like Mercedes W123, Porsche 911, or VW Golf Mk2. What really puzzled me was the miniature stamping found in the holes for the case-opening tool. “It’s the batch and then the number within that batch, so 1-333 would be the first production run and the 333rd case in that run,” Lewis explains. As top brands do, anOrdain also keeps an archive of all watches produced. Someday, it could be a heart-warming feeling to buy a secondhand Model 2 and be able to find out which corner of the world that specific watch went to first.
My almost-two months with the anOrdain Model 2 MKII were a pleasure. I have dive watches, and I have chronographs. I also have many other complicated watches, then I have a few dress pieces. The MKII, however, brought up one persistent thought of mine… When I scroll through auction listings for vintage watches, I am so often fascinated by how beaten-up dressy time-only watches from the ’50s or ’60s can be. It’s hard to imagine that a dress watch bought today could ever be subjected to that kind of abuse.
But that’s where anOrdain storms the scene. I can see very vividly how beaten-up a Model 2 MKII could be 25 years from now. Why? Because the MKII is exactly the kind of dressy watch that I wouldn’t mind wearing for whatever I do. Well, as long as the blindingly bright, eternally brilliant white MKI sticks around for festive Sunday service.
For more information on the Model 2 MKII, please visit the official anOrdain website.