My experience with a new watch from Anstead Fine Time Instruments.
If simple wrist-top utility is all you want from a watch, a modern quartz timepiece is the only way to go. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, they are superior to classic mechanical movement watches in every single way. Accuracy, durability, affordability, weight and usability.
Still, there’s something to be said about the character of a mechanical watch. I’m drawn to them for a number of reasons, and I’m not alone. These old wonders of mechanical engineering continue to thrive in the modern age.
Details about the different varieties of mechanical watch movements (the timekeeping “heart” of a watch) go beyond the scope of this review, and so does the history of watchmaking. What I will say is that American watches once represented the gold standard of watchmaking, much as Swiss watches do today. In some ways the slow, decades-long decay of the old American watchmaking tradition makes the emergence of a company like Anstead all that much more exciting.
The Anstead Oceanis
The story of Anstead Fine Time Instruments (the company) is every bit as interesting as the watch itself. The idea for Tom Anstead’s company grew from the seeds of his military career and his frustration with the lack of affordable, quality, mechanical watches that he would be proud to wear. In Tom’s words “I wanted a watch that would complement a full Navy life. From the dress uniform to the combat uniform, there should be one watch that fulfills your needs. That’s the goal of the Oceanis.”
With this mindset as his starting point, Tom refined his design and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his new company. With this, the Oceanis was born and was brought to the masses. Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful watch:
I have a very average sized wrist, and the watch wears well. The case clocks in at 44 mm, which is a good, common size for a modern mens automatic watch. At 14.3 mm thick the watch does wear a bit high on the wrist. It’s a very attractive, wearable watch, but a large one when case thickness is taken into consideration, making it a bit bulky to fit under many shirt cuffs.
The watch comes with two straps – a brown leather strap and a black silicon rubber strap. Both are quite nice, and offering a few choices to the wearer right out of the box absolutely adds to the value of this purchase. The branded custom rubber strap speaks to me more though, and it suits the watch up nicely for what it was engineered to be able to do: brave ocean waters as a bona fide dive watch.
Value & Utility
The Oceanis has been engineered and tested to function down to 300 meters, making it a “true” diver’s watch.
The unidirectional rotating bezel is stiff, but functional, and can easily be used for more pedestrian purposes – like an egg timer or to keep tabs on your parking meter.
The dial is handsome and well illuminated with a bright and functional lume. 24 hour time markers prove useful for anyone looking to keep/calculate military time throughout the day.
The surgical stainless steel case is thick and tough, and the sapphire crystal glass adds to the durability and value of this watch. The screw-down crown is a nice, quality touch as well. The Oceanis features a Seiko NH36a automatic movement. This durable, well-respected Japanese movement is what allows Anstead to offer such a fine, reliable timepiece at such a reasonable price. I’ve found it to be quite accurate, with a very respectable power reserve.
All in all, it’s an incredibly solid package for this watch.
The negatives I can offer about this watch are minimal, but there are items of note. The case thickness is one of them, and the stiffness of the rotating bezel another. The silicon band, while comfortable, is thick (which I like) but poorly ventilated, allowing sweat to stay trapped under the watch on hot days. The leather band is attractive and comfortable, but does not feature the rich, rustic aesthetic I often look for in aftermarket straps. This is merely a matter of personal taste however, and many will love the included leather band.
I deduct points on the review for “Utility” due to these bullet points, as I feel they have a moderate impact on the everyday enjoyability and usability of this piece.
The Anstead Customer Service Experience
I purchased my Oceanis back in May of 2013 and found the online purchasing process to be as fast and simple as we’ve all come to expect in the modern internet age. Shipping was fast and the product was well packaged. As fate would have it, my 1st Anstead purchase would not be my last… and would only be with me for a few short weeks. GRT’s from the community might be interested to know that I lost my watch while shadowing a GoRuck Challenge in Pittsburgh earlier this year. It was this unfortunate event that led me to dealing with Tom in a customer service capacity.
Tom has his company mission statement featured prominently on his site. Part of that statement reads “Treat people how you want to be treated”. ‘I’m happy to say that his company has embodied that through my dealings with them. Tom worked with me to allow me to replace my lost watch well below retail, saying only that he was glad I enjoyed the watch and that he wanted me to be happy with my experience with his company. I find this to be rare these days, making me even more appreciative of the gesture.
Mechanical watches aren’t for everyone, and Anstead acknowledges this right on their site. “You don’t wear a mechanical watch just to tell time. And we get that.” They’re right. The mechanical watch is a beautiful example of the elegant ingenuity of human engineering. I keep an old Illinois pocket watch on my desk at work and wind it every day. It’s a physical, tangible embodiment of the passing of time, reminding me always to “seize the day” and make the most of the time I have on this earth. A point driven home even more by the fact that Illinois Watch, like Waltham, Hamilton and so many other American watch companies have seen their time on this earth come and go.
What Tom Anstead is building with his new watch brand does not represent the return of American watchmaking… at least not yet. What he HAS built however is a wonderful start for his new company around a strong product born of American manufacturing and entrepreneurship, and a watch that represents an exceptional value for the money.
I hope Anstead Fine Time Instruments perseveres for years to come. I’d be thrilled to continue supporting an American watch company that produces such fine products and does so while demonstrating an admirable respect for their customers.