A couple of weeks ago, I previewed Tangramatic, a new Kickstarter project offering three automatic watches. I liked what I saw, and since then, Tangramatic's creator, Frances del Mundo, sent me a prototype of the 39a (alpha) California for review. Now that I have it on my wrist, I am here to tell you that it more than lives up to its promise.
The 39mm polished stainless steel case is shared among all three watches. It is round with straight lugs that stretch its overall length to 45mm. In an age when 40mm is considered to be a small to mid-size mens watch, 39mm sounds petite, but that is certainly not true of the 39a. The watch appears slightly larger on the wrist than its dimensions suggest, but it does not overwhelm. I found the case most interesting in profile where one can appreciate its depth. Peeking over the curved lip of bezel is the subtle swell of the domed, AR coated, sapphire crystal. It is not a pronounced bubble, but it is just enough to soften the profile. Two groves ring the case, breaking up the sides into three distinct layers. The case measures just over 12mm tall and this thickness is accentuated by the lugs, which are positioned low on the case and stick straight out. It reminds me of the brim of a hat (or a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant, for you fans of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Whether haberdashery or pachyderm, it is an uncommon and appealing design choice.
The push-pull crown is 6mm and fairly pronounced. It is bisected by a channel and deeply grooved. It is on the large side for this case, but it makes sense given the watch's generally stout proportions. I found it easy to operate. The crown is undecorated, but the case back makes up for it with a circling hummingbird and koi. Frances says the hummingbird's beating wings represent the oscillation of the automatic movement, the popular Miyota 9015 (24 jewels, 28.8k bph, 42 hour power reserve), and the fish represents its 100 meters water resistance. It is inscribed with the phrase "Hoc gestes salubriter" or "May you wear this in good health."
Clever as the case may be, it is the dial that really speaks to me. I'm a sucker for the Roman and Arabic combination on a California dial, but the genius of this watch is the Bauhaus layout. Using a condensed typeface in a radial layout minimizes the effect of the dissimilar numbers and turns the otherwise bold (and to some, jarring) California dial into a subtle detail, greatly broadening its appeal. The numbers and hands are treated with C1 SuperLuminova, but not equally. The numbers are dim, but hands have far more lume and glow brightly. A gold railroad track index rings the brown dial. It is a beautiful, sophisticated design that draws more than its share of complements.
All three Tangramatic models wear 20mm straps and four options will be offered: a nylon NATO, black or brown leather, blue or black Perlon, and a stainless steel mesh bracelet. The sample arrived on a soft leather strap that was lightly padded and tapered to an 18mm buckle. I found it to be exceptionally comfortable and an excellent match for the watch. I also tried the 39a on a pair of minimal stitch straps: a thin, dark brown, tapered, Horween Chromexel by Vieux Halloo; and a thicker, straight, golden brown, Horween Dublin by Choice Cuts. Both straps worked well. The thin Vieux Halloo carried the long and low look of the lugs. The Choice Cuts was a bit more casual and proved the stout case and generous lug clearance could handle a beefier strap. Still, I soon had it back on the stock strap and wore it with my brown suits and camel sport coats.
The Tangramatic 39a California is a gorgeous watch, and I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it. If you want one of your own, I suggest you act fast. There are only four days remaining in the campaign and it is not yet funded. Only a couple of early bird rewards remain and whoever gets to them first will snag a Tangramatic for as low as $325 AUD, or @$268 USD. The exchange rate is down from $283 when the campaign launched, making it even more appealing to US buyers even after you add $30 for international shipping. MSRP will be $445 AUD (@$367 USD) plus shipping, so if you are tempted, I'd jump on it now.
Pro: Creative design.
Con: Running out of time.Sum: California Love. The Time Bum approves.