Guest Bum Round Table: The Aevig Huldra

Guest Post by Chris Vail

The last time I filled in for the Time Bum, it was to review the Cobra de Calibre, the first model from a new micro-brand in Canada. This time, I’ve caught a recent import from Dutch startup Aevig (a Norse word meaning eternal). The brand’s second release after its quartz Corvid model is a retro-styled diving watch called the Huldrawhich, according to Wikipedia, is a seductive forest creature found in Scandinavian folklore. 

The watch has a 316L stainless steel case measuring 42mm diameter x 46mm length x 12mm thick, with 22mm lugs. The case back is a screw-type and engraved. It has a 40mm bezel, 29mm dial, and a domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal. Water resistance is 200m. It comes mounted on an engineer-style bracelet with a mix of brushed and polished finish, and also includes a black/gray striped NATO strap with a signed buckle.

The Huldra comes in three colorways: blue, orange, and black. I felt each one is so different from the others that they could almost be three distinct models, so I thought it would be interesting to find two people who bought the other two colors, and get their opinions. I enlisted two guys who frequent  

Allow me to introduce our panel:
  • Aaron (aka synaptyx) is a new friend who purchased the black dial. If Aaron’s kept his WUS profile current, his collection is comprised of a Helson Shark Diver, a Longines HydroConquest (diver), a Magrette MPP (diver), a vintage Seiko Diver, an Aramar Arctic Ocean (diver), and a Seiko Orange Monster (diver). I think he likes divers.
  • Jason (aka SteamJ) is an old friend who bought the orange dial. He works in the metal industry, so he brings a different perspective to matters of fit and finish. He started his watch collection  about a year ago, amassing a large collection and then paring it down to his favorites. He now owns a Doxa diver and two Sinns (one’s a diver), as well as the Spectre from my brand (not a diver, but he bought and flipped two of my previous models, including the Acionna, a diver), a Helson Tortuga (diver), and a nice vintage Ermano Lunamar (diver).
  • I own my own micro-brand, Lew & Huey. Aevig is a direct competitor of mine, and so I’ve got an incentive to be mean. However, I know and am friendly with Aevig’s owner, Chip Yuen, and we correspond frequently. I’ve got just as much incentive to be kind. Mostly, though, I’m as much a watch geek as anyone, so I tend to gush over a new arrival and/or nitpick at its tiny faults just as much as the next guy. My collection is only half-filled with divers (9 out of 17 pieces). Besides the Huldra and the Cobra de Calibre, I also own a Glycine Combat Sub, four Acionnas from my brand, and two prototypes of a forthcoming model, a diver called the Orthos. I’m not as diver-crazy as these other two. Just half-crazy.
What follows is our joint discussion of Aevig’s sophomore effort, with me acting as both moderator and participant.

Q: First, the big question: How’s the color? Is it different than what you expected from online pics?

Chris: I was surprised by the blue. Online it looked more royal blue, whereas in person it’s really more of a dark teal. I like it, especially the way it complements the vintage beige tone of the lume on the markers and bezel.

Aaron: The black looks to be pretty bang on what was shown online. I love the flawless dark dial and the semi-matte bezel insert finish, it's a real looker in black with that orange minute hand setting everything off. 

Jason: The orange is definitely a bit different than I expected. I had thought it was going to be flat, but instead the dial’s a metallic orange that catches the light in every angle. It works though. I think I would have preferred a flat dial but it definitely has more depth as it came out. The orange is very similar in tone to the [Lew & Huey] Spectre's fireball orange, but without the actual sunburst.
Q: What do you think of the case shape? How does it feel on the wrist, and how does it "wear"?

Chris: I really like it. I think it's the main thing that drew me to the design. Looking at it straight-on, I love the single arc flowing from one set of lugs to the other. Is that a "Turtle" shape? I also really love the contours of the sides, how they arch up and out, instead of just being slab-sided. There's only a slight downward slope to the lugs, if any, but that arch in the sides makes it look very wrist-hugging. 

I think it wears a little small for a 42mm, probably because the bezel is only 40mm. I usually don't like it when a bezel is smaller and shows case around its perimeter, but I like how it's done on the Huldra. The 46mm lug-to-lug ought to please a lot of people who like smaller divers, especially with a vintage style. I've found it very comfortable to wear on the bracelet, but I haven't tried it on the included NATO or other straps yet.

Aaron: Hints of some vintage Seiko in there, which I love. Especially the inward slope of the side to the case-back. That makes it super comfortable on the wrist. It looks kind of small with the bezel being smaller than the overall case diameter, but it's still a great size for me and is in-keeping with the retro angle Chip was going for.

Jason: The case shape is what drew me into the watch in the first place. The shape is very reminiscent of vintage diver design and I like that it's mostly a brushed finish.

In retrospect I think having a 4:00 crown would have suited the design a little better. Having it at 3 without any crown guard has it just jutting out, but it's a minor quibble and strictly a personal preference.

The watch is a good size but seems to wear surprisingly small compared to what I expected. Wearing it on the bracelet mostly remedies that though as it makes it flow better on the wrist and feels a little more substantial. Speaking of which, it also has a good weight to it. It's not overly heavy but you can feel it and I prefer a watch with some substance to it.
Q: What do you think of not having the date function showing? 

Chris: I usually prefer having the date showing if the movement has a date wheel. But with a diving watch, at least for me, I think it's less important. The Huldra probably wouldn't be my choice for the office (where knowing the date can be handy), but I love it for vacation (when knowing the date matters not). One thing I like about the Miyota 9015 movement when used in a no-date design - if you happen to have the crown in the date setting position, there's no feeling to the date wheel advancing, no clicking sensation at all. 

Aaron: I have finally come down on the prefer-a-date side of the date/no-date debate. The Huldra could have had it at 4:30, or 6 for me, but I really love the layout of the dial and those gorgeous, unique hex-markers, so it would have to be a small date window, and be white text on a black wheel, so as to not upset the dial. I agree about the no-date feel of the crown in date position, you can't feel that the date is clicking round. That’s bothered me on a couple of non-9015 watches I've had in the past.

Jason: I prefer no date on a watch. I don't have trouble remembering the date and it just adds an additional thing to set when I don't wear a watch for a bit. Having a date is certainly no deal-breaker but my preference is to not have it. The Huldra would likely not flow as well with a date window. Putting it at 3 or 6 would have compromised the design by removing one of the applied indices, and it would just not have flowed well at an alternative position, so I agree with [Chip] not including it.
Q: What do you think of the fit-and-finish?

Chris: I know Chip is very detail-oriented. As such I think the Huldra came out pretty well overall. The case seems well finished to me. There aren't large gaps between the bracelet and case. The crystal looks level. The hands, dial and markers are all clean and perfectly placed.

If there’s a weak spot, I'd say it’s the bezel. There's a little slop in it. I feel it mostly when it's already moving, but hardly at all once it's in place. There's a very small, almost unnoticeable amount of 'bounce' at the 6 position, but it's really very minor. Despite the small amount of slop and bounce, it still has very satisfying action. I like it better than the bezel action on my Glycine Combat Sub, which costs almost twice as much. 

Aaron: In comparison with a few other micros, my Huldra bezel’s spring-back is totally fine at around a half-minute. I definitely have much worse in my watch box! It clicks around satisfyingly. It's not too tight, or too loose.

Jason: Overall it's a well-made watch, but there are issues - the brushed finish is not perfectly symmetrical; I find that it's at a slightly different angle on either side of the case. Not knowing if this is an automated process though, that might make it universal, or it could be just mine.

The bezel itself is well made with the black, anodized aluminum insert looking very close to ceramic on the orange. The bezel has a bit of slop in it. Maybe 1mm in each direction and there's about half a mm of give up and down at the 6 position. From the front it looks well machined. But if you look at it from the side, [you can see there is] flash (excess metal) still in the grooves at some points.

Outside of that the Huldra is well made. The case itself has no issues as far as the machining goes.
Q: How's the bracelet?

Chris: No real complaints from me on the bracelet itself. For whatever reason I prefer a tri-fold clasp to have three thinner pieces which fold into each other, as opposed to the one on the Huldra, where it's two broad/flat sections folding over onto each other. But once it’s on the wrist, I don't notice any difference in comfort.

Aaron: I haven't been a fan of [bracelets with smaller links], as I've found they tend to be hair-rippers. I've often thought them to be kind a cheap feeling. That said, once the Huldra bracelet was sized, it has actually turned out to be one of the comfiest bracelets I have worn.

There's a lot of movement in the links, so it can conform to the individual wrist very well. It's not gappy either, which was one thing I was worried about. If you get the fit right it doesn't rattle at all. The clasp is very similar to the general Seiko/Orient style. I'm okay with the flat folding pieces. They seem sturdy enough and don't effect the comfort at all. Push-buttons and an Aevig signed safety clip on the clasp - all good stuff there.

The supplied NATO came across as an odd size for me, I couldn't get the end to sit right in the keepers, so I ended up using my own Zulu style in a similar stripe.

Jason: It looks good and suits the watch. It has a nice heft to it since it's all solid links, and it has a higher-dollar look. It feels good on the wrist and the clasp is well made. The only issue I have is that the polished links could do with some [better finishing] on the edges - they're rather sharp to the touch, giving it a bit of an unfinished feel.
Q: How’s the lume?

Chris: My Huldra soaked up some sun while I was out and about, and I noticed the lume on both the dial and bezel markers when I came inside. It’s more than strong enough on the blue to satisfy me.

Aaron: I am pleased with the lume level on the bezel and hex markers. The thing the black Huldra suffers from, is that the Aevig logo at 12 and the rectangle marker on the second hand are both orange with some lume rather than the same slight green lume of the rest of the dial. The mix is such that there's really not much lume there at all in the dark. There is some and it actually doesn't detract from it too much, but thought it was worth noting that difference from the other two models. 

Jason: The lume is rather poor. As I elected for the orange bezel markers I can't rate the bezel since the lume is non-existent there but the indices and hands don't seem to glow very bright or very long.

Q: What's your favorite thing about it?

Chris: For me, it's the case shape. Just so different than anything else in my current collection, and so well executed at that. A close second would be the colors. And even though the bezel has a little slop in it, I still like it. There’s nothing worse than a bezel that feels and sounds like a cheap socket wrench. The Huldra’s sound and feel are both good, even with the slop.

Aaron: That case shape and the unique hex-markers on the dial, oh and the orange minute hand. Love it! Also, the comfort is second to none. Sorry, that's a lot of favorites!

Jason: This may be the most common response but it's the case shape. I love vintage divers and this has that feel.
Q: Anything you'd change about the Huldra?

Chris: Other than the folding sections of the clasp, I think I’d like the crown better if it had a little larger diameter, but was not quite as wide. The proportions don't make it any less easy to operate, though.

Aaron: As mentioned previously, I'd love it to have a black date at 4:30, or 6. [Like Jason], I'm also a 4 o’clock crown fan, so that might be nice, and a bigger crown, too.

Jason: I'd move the crown to the 4:00 position and polish the edges of the links on the bracelet. I'd probably actually make it a matte orange dial as well despite the depth that the metallic dial gives it.

Q: With the current exchange rate, it’s now $446 excluding the VAT for US buyers (399 including VAT, or ~$540). How does it stack up against competitors?

Chris: I think that's a very good deal for the Huldra, considering its specs and the overall design. But there's some stiff competition in that $400-$600 range. Higher up in that range, you’ve got the Magrette Moana Pacific Pro, and (*cough*) the Acionna from my brand. It's hard to forget that a Steinhart OVM is about the same price, ~$450 delivered to the US, and with the weak Yen, the Seiko Sumo is right there at that price, too.

Aaron: The price was great as a pre-order. With this design, Chip has definitely differentiated his brand from others and his customer service is top notch. As you say, now the general price is up, it's hard to forget that there are other options in a similar price bracket, but some of those other companies, Steinhart for instance, have been doing this longer and have the throughput to keep the price down on their models.

You mentioned the Magrette. That definitely edges the Huldra out on finish, but doesn't supply a steel bracelet (that's $100 extra). The Seiko Sumo is a legend and very hard to beat by anybody at that price point.

Jason: With the issues with the brushed finish being uneven and the bit of bezel slop and flash I'd say it's a bit of a stretch to call it a great value. With other brands offering divers in the $400-$600 range, this is a little behind in quality. You can get a Dagaz diver for less with much better fit and finish. If the issues were fixed then it would actually hold up well.

Wrap up:

Pros: Vintage/retro-styled case that feels “right-sized” for a variety of wrists, combined with nuanced design of dial, hands and markers, great color combos, and a bracelet that might be awesome, or just okay depending on how picky you are.

Cons: Some of the typical micro-brand flaws in fit-and-finish, including bezel slop.

Sum: A good second effort from Aevig – outstanding design, some forgivable manufacturing flaws, value in the eye of the beholder. Get the blue if you like your vintage/retro divers with a slightly dressy flair. Get the orange if you’ve always wanted a Doxa but never liked the price. Get the black if you like custom Seiko mods, but don’t feel like putting one together or paying someone else to do one for you, and also want a better movement than any Seiko mod has with the Huldra’s use of the Miyota 9015.

Photos courtesy of Aevig Watches

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