Let’s face it: the future is going to be connected. Super computers in our pockets, pencil-thin slabs of glass in our bags, and digital assistants on our wrists have already become the norm. It won’t be long before our cars drive themselves and our homes are powered entirely by the sun’s rays.
So why, in a world of all this beautiful connectedness, would one buy an analog wristwatch? Why would one choose to unplug from the world?
Two reasons: Style. And more style.
Without a doubt, the latest smartwatches are gorgeously designed. The Apple Watch’s stainless steel curves and intricate watch bands are lust-worthy. The Asus ZenWatch 2’s stitched leather band is love at first sight. And, despite everyone’s impending questions regarding my sanity, I favour the circular display of the Moto 360. These watches all look really cool and offer the vast world of interconnectivity at the flick of a wrist.
Perhaps I have a smug sense of snobbery though, as no matter how beautifully tech companies build these smartwatches, I find little attraction to their creations.
It’s not the aesthetics that put a bad taste in my mouth, mind you.
It’s that smartwatches are always turned on. They’re always there, scanning the world around you and ready for your acknowledgement at a moment’s notice. It’s just too much connectivity for me.
Sometimes I want to dial back and turn off.
Luckily, my wife is incredibly stylish and smart. She observed me endlessly wandering past the same watch case at a cool boutique shop, and she surprised me for my birthday last month. When I arrived home after work that day, a Classic Bristol Daniel Wellington in rose gold sat in a beautiful leather box on our island. I was taken aback.
The minimal rose gold watch inside the box has become incredibly popular as of late. The combination of simple good looks, proper sizing and fitting, and relatively inexpensive price have all contributed to Daniel Wellington’s success. DW watches have a unisex, any-occasion sense of style which rarely looks out of place. From casual t-shirts to two-button polos to elegant business suits, all DW watches fit in. And better yet, they fit styles for both sexes. If there was a stylish/occasional/unisex tight rope for DW to walk, DW scales the canyon with ease.
But scaling this tight rope may not be for everyone, especially a savvy watch connoisseur. There are no impressive complications and the Japanese quartz movement may be scoffed at by a Swiss or mechanical snob. What you see is what you get, as it must be for the Classic Bristol’s price.
The Classic Bristol is everything I’m looking for in a watch, but I know I don’t speak for everyone.
Box and Packaging
As many know and as I was yet to learn, part of any watch’s purchase price is the box it comes in. The Classic Bristol’s leather box matches the watch’s elegance. The cream coloured interior can sit flawlessly on your nightstand or act as a comfortable spot for storing your watch when traveling.
As we have seen with Apple’s high-end boxes for its Edition Watch models, the box is an incredibly important experience for the picky watch buyer, and I wasn’t let down by DW’s packaging.
Out of the box, the Classic Bristol comes with a durable, classy leather strap. The brown strap wears well and feels very comfortable on your wrist. Like any piece of leather, a few bends and turns help break in the strap and fine tune it to your wrist. It’s stitched with the same colour stitching as the rest of the strap, which is my only gripe with the strap. I adore brown leather with white stitching — you need only look at my Field Notes cover for confirmation. Perhaps white stitching wouldn’t go with the rose gold case colouring, but I think it would look magical with the silver colour. This gripe aside, the Classic Bristol leather strap is simple and well executed.
If leather isn’t your thing, Daniel Wellington sends along a small tool to unlatch the leather strap and attach a different strap of your choosing. You can attach other leather straps, like the black Classic Sheffield strap, or the crocodile leather Classic York strap. And if leather isn’t your thing, Daniel Wellington sells less expensive nylon straps with all sorts of colours. Of those extra straps, my favourite is the Classic Glasgow — there’s nothing quite like a striking navy blue with an elegant white accent.
As we’ve seen and as we’ll continue to see, the Classic Bristol watch fits all styles, all sexes, and all occasions. And if leather doesn’t fit any circumstance you find yourself in, Daniel Wellington’s nylon strap collection is impressive in and of itself. I bet most people will find something they like.
Case, Dial, and Crown
The Classic Bristol model comes in two colours: rose gold and silver. I’ve always felt rose gold is more feminine — perhaps because of its descriptive name — but I’ve also had an affinity for rose gold. The colour reminds me more of a polished copper than it does of a feminine pink, and the Classic Bristol’s colour rendition tends towards a light copper more so than pink. Regardless, rose gold has yet to not fit into any sense of style I may have and I’d be surprised if the silver model couldn’t boast the same. In whichever colour you like, the Classic Bristol looks at home on your wrist.
The case’s colouring extends to the watch’s dials and face. The rose gold hour hand extends about two-thirds the distance to the watch’s bezel and the minute hand extends about 95% of the way to the bezel. There is no second hand, nor are there any hourly numbers skewing the watch face. The only bit of text you’ll find is the backwards DW moniker, which I have an incredibly hard time not reading as “WD” instead.
The crown is no different. It’s very small — almost too small to properly tell if you’ve pulled it out to change the time. Further, it doesn’t spin overly well, making it difficult to change the time. The crown’s round shape is simple by nature, but one I find to be off-putting. I have no scientific reason for not liking the look of the Bristol’s crown. I just don’t like it. I feel it takes away from watch’s elegant appeal and steers it towards a more “nerdy” approach. But that’s just me.
The underside of the case is what you’d expect for a minimal watch in this price range. The watch’s specifications appear here, as does that odd DW logo. I thought the spotty underside was a result of scratching and wear, but after wiping the underside, I’ve concluded the case picks up sweat marks. There’s nothing to worry about — or be impressed about — on the side you won’t see.
But of all the case’s features, colouring, and design choices, the most important aspect is its size. The Classic Bristol watch face measures 40mm in diameter and a mere 6mm thick. It’s the right size for a one-size-fits-all, fits-any-occasion, perfect-for-either-sex sort of watch. It’s neither too big on your wrist to be uncomfortable, nor is too small to not be seen. The case’s thinness helps the watch to be seen and not felt, and it never weighs your wrist down at the end of a long day.
Other than the terrible crown, the Daniel Wellington Classic Bristol’s case and face hit me where it counts. I admire the elegance the watch emits and I’m grateful I can wear the watch under any circumstance. Its size is perfect for my analog taste, and it’s equally perfect for my wife if she wants to wear it herself. I love that part.
Long story short, anyone who’s anyone in the watch world knows it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Clearly I’m not anyone.
In all seriousness, I’m not knowledgeable enough to write a section on the Daniel Wellington’s movement. The DW site specifies the Classic Bristol’s movement is a Japanese quartz movement. A little research tells me that a quartz movement causes the second hand (which doesn’t exist on this watch) to move in individual ticks, while a mechanical movement needs to be manually winded and allows the second hand to move smoothly. Quartz movements appear to have less moving parts, are less expensive to manufacture, and are more durable for active lifestyles. These features tell me that a watch connoisseur probably won’t like my quartz movement, but I’ll be perfectly happy knowing I can continue to wear my Daniel Wellington without worrying about it breaking. Or about having to break the bank to replace it.
I have also not been disappointed with how the Classic Bristol keeps time. Although anecdotal at best, my Classic Bristol hasn’t visually deviated from my iPhone’s clock in its first six weeks of ownership. I’ve had microwave and range clocks deviate from my iPhone’s clock within that time frame, so I’m more than happy to see that my watch doesn’t succumb to such free-spirited timekeeping.
The quartz movement being made in Japan would have historically signalled even less value, but recent thoughts suggest Japanese movements have improved significantly. There are no Swiss legal limitations to overcome with the Classic Bristol’s movement, so I can only assume (and hope) it has been made like all other products in Japan. Realistically, whether it’s been made with the utmost care and precision or not, I’ll never know. All I know is that it tells time and that the time is always the same as my iPhone. That makes the Classic Bristol Daniel Wellington perfect in my eyes.
The retail price, in the watch world, has potential to be a touchy subject. Watches are made from all sorts of materials and have incredible gadgetry hidden under the face, causing them to be extremely inexpensive or exorbitantly costly.
So when I say the the Daniel Wellington Classic Bristol is $230, I am unsure if this is an incredibly inexpensive price or an exorbitantly expensive price. Naysayers will point to the Classic Bristol’s lack of complications and Japanese quartz movement as a signal of an overly expensive watch. Believers may point at the beautiful leather strap and minimalistic good looks when trying to sell this watch.
In reality, $230 might be on the expensive side considering the list of “features” the Classic Bristol offers. But this watch looks pretty great and will fit any style, which probably helps eliminate further watch purchases for the sake of having a “suit watch” and a “t-shirt” watch. Daniel Wellington may be cashing in on its current popularity, but their watches are popular for a reason.
And, further, $230 is truly inexpensive for any half decent watch. Jewelry in general commands a steeper price. I believe the true cost can only be derived by a person’s purpose for the purchase in the first place. If purchased as a tool, or as an addition to a collection, the Classic Bristol may seem steep. If purchased as jewelry, I think the Classic Bristol sits at a nice price point for future watch connoisseurs.
Luckily, at the time of writing, you can pick up many of Daniel Wellington’s minimal watches for a large discount on Amazon. The rose gold Classic Bristol can be had for a mere $106 instead of Daniel Wellington’s price of $230. At $106, I think this is an easy purchase.
I love gifts. Everyone loves gifts.
But perhaps my wife giving me a Daniel Wellington Classic Bristol as a gift skews my impressions of the watch. After all, I didn’t pay for it.
With that in mind, deciphering the Classic Bristol’s value to me is difficult to measure in dollars and cents. Instead, I find myself incessently in love with the Classic Bristol’s elegant appeal and its analog aspect. I wear this watch with all outfits, be they a casual t-shirt and shorts when moseying around the house, or a suit to the office. Best of all, this watch doesn’t remind me to get to work or to check up on my digital life. There are no notifications, complications, or quick access menus. There isn’t an alarm notification to wake myself up in the morning.
No. Instead, this watch just tells the time. No more. No less.
Just the way I want it.