Mercer Watch Company Brigadier Prototype

On November 18th, Scott Vuocolo's Mercer Watch Company will join the small army of fledgling micro brands on Kickstarter battling for the hearts and wallets of watch nerds everywhere. Leading the charge for Mercer is the Brigadier, a dress/casual automatic. Can it command authority in this increasingly crowded market? Can it seize the high ground and outflank the other affordable automatics? Can The Time Bum finish this review without using another hackneyed military metaphor? Scott was good enough to loan me his gently used prototype to find out. 

The Brigadier starts with a 42mm stainless steel case that is well proportioned and peppered with detail. The lugs are thick, flowing from the round sides of the case, but without any taper. They are brushed, and when viewed in profile, you see they are linked from top to bottom, forming a bridge along case sides. The bottom section of the case and the beveled bezel are polished. Most interestingly, the side of the bezel is finely grooved, creating yet another surface variation. The total effect is decidedly masculine yet sophisticated. The Mercer specs describe a "pumpkin" crown at 3 o'clock crown. It is bun shaped, fluted, and decorated with a five-point star in bold relief. The crown is slightly more pronounced than you might expect, but in perfect proportion with the rest of the case. It does not screw down. Water resistance is 50 meters. only 30 meters. This is safe for a splash in the sink, but little more. [Update 11/18/14: Scott has informed me that he checked with his factory, and the watch is actually rated for 50 meters, not 30 as he originally thought. This makes it safe for surface swimming.]

Both crystals, front and rear, are sapphire, but the one out front is ever so slightly domed and treated to an interior anti-reflective coating. The display case back is engraved with the company and model names, along with Mercer's signature cutlass. Through the window, you will see a Miyota 9015, 24 jewel, automatic. The movement beats 28.8k times each hour, hacks and hand winds, and has a power reserve of over 40 hours. 

Two dials are offered: black and white. The prototype wore white. The surface is enameled with a ceramic coating. An angled chapter index with open, square hour markers (inverted triangle at 12 o'clock) descends to the first layer, which contains a black printed minute track and applied, polished markers. The 12, 6, and 9 are Arabic, a date window replaces the 3, and the remainder are bars. The center is cut away to reveal a cross hatch guilloche center. Scott kept dial text to a minimum – a decision I appreciate. The Mercer name and sword logo are positioned on top, "Brigadier Automatic" down below. The simple baton minute and hour hands are polished and filled with SuperLuminova. A blue sweep hand provides a spot of color. 

It is an attractive dial, tastefully restrained and nicely detailed. The black brand and logo are gracefully rendered and not overly large. The layering, applied markers, and textured center add dimension to the dial. The blue second hand is a pleasant addition that should be particularly appealing against a black dial. I was glad to see the hands were luminous as this is a feature often omitted on dress watches. I always found this curious since many formal occasions are held at night. On the production model, the markers on the chapter ring will also be lumed. 

At 42mm wide, 49mm long, and 12mm thick, it is a good size for most buyers, but not oversized. I found it to be an easy fit on my 6.5" wrist. The thick lines of the case, full crown, and large markers give it great presence, while the polish and detail of the dial make it clear that the Brigadier leans to the dressier side of the spectrum. Although it is too stout for to serve as a traditional dress watch, it is the perfect accessory for dress casual to business formal attire. Purchasers will have a choice of 22mm brown or black leather straps that taper to 20mm. The review model wore a black strap with white stitching and a brushed buckle. A dressier option will also be available. It has matching stitching, curved lug ends that fit flush against the case, and a deployant clasp. The clasp, buckle, and underside of the strap will be signed on the production versions.

The Brigadier will easily handle the transition from the work week to a weekend on the town, but I'd keep it far from from anything messy, and that is really my only criticism. With its athletic build, the Brigadier looks like a watch you can wear anywhere, and if it had higher water resistance, I would. If it had a screw down crown and 100 meters water resistance, I could easily see it as a true "all-a-rounder." As it is, it is best kept to dry activities.

Scott adopted a very conservative approach to his creation, and has executed it exceptionally well. The watch does not shout "look at me" but it gets the right sort of attention. Mrs. Time Bum complemented it right away, and that is always a good thing. The Brigadier will list for $400, and pre-orders start at $329. 

Pro: Handsome case and dial
Con: Low water resistance limits versatility [Ok, it's not that low. As noted above, the watch has better WR than initially reported. I still wish it had a screw down crown, but 50m is a useful improvement.]
Sum: A solid value in a dapper package. The Time Bum approves.

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