Marshall: Just FYI, our KC&JJ episode with FWA and MSJ is now out! Check it out here:
A farewell for the brand’s iconic watch, in collaboration with designer Matt Smith-Johnson.– FWA, 2021
Over the last two years, the integrated bracelet steel sports watch gained traction from a lot of microbrands. The founders of Nodus Watches, Cullen Chen and Wes Kwok, mentioned on their highly entertaining and informative podcast Long Roads that they too wanted to take on the genre of watches popularised by Gérald Genta.
Last year, I reviewed the Dietrich Pure Time for another website. I still consider it a modern classic, and the stainless steel model simply spoke to me. It modernised the Genta formula and added a design language that only a brilliant mind such as Emmanuel Dietrich’s could conjure. The Pure Time was a collaboration between Dietrich and Matt Smith-Johnson. Mr. Smith-Johnson’s designs have a way of extracting unexpected characters out of already existing model lines. In the case of the TC Pure by Dietrich, he expertly designed a timepiece that is arguably the perfect integrated bracelet steel sports watch. I still to this day get little pangs of pain from missing that watch.
So, when I heard that Mr. Smith-Johnson had collaborated again on another watch, but this time with the much-adored brand Seals Watches, I simply had to have some time with the watch. This is the third A.5 which Mr. Smith-Johnson has designed, and it is arguably my favourite.
How it Wears
We shall start out this review with a matter of perspective. Due to the nature of my life and the work that I do, I simply do not wear watches with integrated bracelets, or ones that have bespoke lugs. For the daily grind, wearing any bracelet is not an option for it would utterly destroy the laptops I work on. Do not even get me started about dive watches with integrated bracelets and straps when taking them underwater.
With that out of the way, I admire this genre of watches from afar. They carry with them an appeal that other watches do not. They, more than any other genre of watches, look like a single piece of art. This cohesive character gives these timepieces the feeling of being an entire suit of armour for your wrists. The beautifully brushed case and bracelet add to this. At 12mm thick, the A.5 can slip under a cuff. It may, for the overall endlink-to-endlink length here is a staggering 60mm, up from its 50mm lug-to-lug. This will make those with wrists smaller than 6.5 inches potentially look elsewhere. I have a 6.75-inch wrist and it wears well to my eyes, as well as to those I asked. However, I do not like watches smaller than 40mm and wear a 51mm Garmin all the time. The bracelet just starts to taper at the end of my wrists. Any smaller wrists, and this watch may prove too awkward to pull off.
Like the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and the Dietrich TC Pure, the A.5 simply looks perfectly at home with any outfit. This limited edition Michael Knight model would look perfect with a suit or even at a formal event. If you are the sort of person who demands others to never wear a watch (or a dress watch smaller than 38mm) to a formal event, I am pretty sure that you also love the sound of your own voice. Yes, this is a limited edition, and the last model to be made in the A.5 range.
The exquisite detail of this dial is where this version of the A.5 proves to be my personal favourite. The matte dial is subtly raised from the grey seconds ring, and it truly leaps to your attention as a result. The crosshairs give the dial some grounding to not get lost in. The contrast between the hands, modern Arabic numerals, and gorgeous octagonal seconds hand tip makes legibility essentially perfect. The second chapter ring hovers above the other dial elements, further adding depth and weight to the viewing experience. The lume burns bright enough for this type of watch and never caused any concern.
The execution of this dial and all its elements truly makes this a timepiece the eye will never tire of. The applied and brushed steel Seals logo further adds to the watch’s character, summarised by one word: substance.
The brushing from the logo extends outward to the case except for the outer bezel. This careful use of polishing dramatically frames the beautiful case. This genre of watches is known to be more loved by the owner as time passes. The more scars, the more attractive and alluring the timepiece becomes. So, any off-hand complaints about the placement of polishing on a watch of this design genre is simply nitpicking.
However, areas where one does not have to nitpick to find some fault are the clasp and the interaction with the crown. The crown guards do their job a little too well. With the crown fully extended, the user’s thumb and index finger will grind against the sharp crown guards. Winding a mechanical watch should be a pleasurable experience. However, reengineering the entire stem to pop out even further, or to get rid of these lugs, are in the former case impossible, and in the latter would make for a lesser watch. These crown guards are truly beautiful and add to the feeling of weight and a sense of severity.
The stamped clasp would be fine on most other watches, but it is out of place here. Though it looks delightful when on the wrist, especially with the powerful placement of the logo, its weight and tinny feel and sound do not belong on such a watch. The case and the bracelet of this watch are purposefully substantial, and the thin clasp simply does not live up to the rest of the watch. With the case of the watch being as substantial as it is, the weight balance of the watch is very top-heavy as a result. A milled clasp would truly elevate this watch. Keep in mind that this clasp was definitely chosen due to cost and that of availability from the various choice of suppliers. The microbrand space has to continuously combat with various factors that we as the consumer are not aware of. Usually if there is one or two characteristics of a watch that look and or feel out of place, it is for a good reason. This reason almost always comes down to the cost of production, and the tolerance for how much of that cost is passed down to the consumer.
Lastly, the bracelet links use a pin system. Granted, you will only have to change the size of the bracelet once, but like the stamped clasp, this is out of place today’s market. Screwed links and a higher-quality clasp would essentially make this watch faultless.
Whereas Mr. Smith-Johnson collaborated with Seals to make two colourful renditions and remixes of the A.5, he now has created another timeless gentlemen’s sports watch that will stand the test of time. If you like watches that wear larger, and want a watch that you can take anywhere, then look no further than the A.5 Michael Knight by Seals Watches.
For more details and specifications, click here.
For Team Matick,