Electric California produces a wide range of items for an active lifestyle including clothing, sunglasses, sports gear, accessories, and you guessed it, watches. The collection has a decidedly retro flair, clearly drawing inspiration from 1980s digitals and 1970s divers, but for this review I looked back to the 1960s and selected the Carroway; a cool, contemporary riff on Mad Men-era design.
The brushed stainless steel case measures 40mm across. It has a modest bezel, tapered lugs, and crown guards. The guards may seem like an unusual choice for an otherwise dressy watch; however, the Carroway is rated for 100 meters water resistance, so this field watch flourish is not entirely out of character, and I like the fact that the case deviates from the norm. I thought the crown looked too small between the guards in the on-line catalog photo, but I am pleased to report that everything is perfectly proportionate in person. The push-pull crown has a smooth edge with no texture and is bored through, which makes for a unique appearance and easy grip. In true 1960s fashion, it is topped with a domed mineral crystal.
The Carroway's dial is its signature feature. You have the choice of black, cream, grey or the royal blue that I selected. It is a rich color with a wonderful metallic sheen. Text is limited to "Electric California" in a tall, sans-serif font. It is a simple departure from the Arial lettering so common on many watches, and it reminds me of the printing on an old transistor radio or hi-fi console. A diminutive index encircles the dial and a white-on-black date wheel occupies the 6 o'clock position.
Its brass hands are silver colored and finished with rough brushing that matches the applied markers. They are a custom shape, slim overall but widening towards the end before abruptly tapering into a blunt tip. The second hand is a bright yellow lightening bolt that pops off the blue surface behind it. Sure, the Rolex Milgauss did the bolt first, but you would hardly confuse the two watches. It is an eye-catching design element that ties perfectly to the brand name and provides just enough pop to be fun without going overboard.
You will find no luminous material on this watch. It seems odd given its water resistance and crown guards, but the Carroway is not a tool watch. I would rather have the heavy texture of the hands than see them painted with C3. Of course, you sacrifice low light visibility, but it makes sense on this dial.
The blue model arrives on a 20mm grey suede strap with straight blue stitching across the top. It looks cool and casual until you get a glimpse of the unfinished edges. Then you discover it is a thin layer of leather wrapped over a dense core of filler. Frankly, a watch this attractive this deserves better. A tailored two-piece like the Coach Bleecker brown leather will dress it up nicely, and a pass through like the NATOStrapCo.com Lasso is a good weekend option. Whatever you choose, be sure to save the signed Electric buckle.
As you might expect from a company called "Electric" all their watches use battery powered movements and the Carroway is no exception. Its Miyota 2115 quartz is a workmanlike unit. It may not be sexy, but it should tick along without complaint.
I know there are some watch nerds who may look askance at a fashion brand watch, but the Carroway delivers all of the right aesthetic elements. The mid-size case and domed crystal are desirable features in my book, and the dial and hands are just lovely. The strap was a letdown, but easily remedied. I'd consider this a dress/casual watch with the added bonus of practical water resistance. All in all, this is a really appealing watch at a very competitive price. The Carroway lists for $225 on ElectricCalifornia.com and a quick Google search turned up several for $185.
Pro: Retro style
Con: Disappointing strap
Sum: Vintage vibe with a modern edge. The Time Bum approves.