Whytes Venturer Series: Pioneer and Discoverer Mk 1 Prototypes

[8/15/15 Update: Whytes has relaunched on Kickstarter and slashed their prices. Pledges for the Pioneer now start at just $176 and the Discoverer for $192!]

Whytes Watches of Vancouver, British Columbia has launched their Venturer range with two new models: the Pioneer Mk 1 and the Discoverer Mk 1, and allowed The Time Bum to play with pre-production samples of each for this review. The watches feature classic dials in bold cases and are powered by the Miyota 9100 and 9110, multi-function automatic movements that are fairly uncommon among micro brands. A Kickstarter funding campaign is currently underway, with rewards starting at $425 CAD (@ $338 USD) for the Pioneer and $495 CAD (@ $394 USD) for the Discoverer. (see update above)
Whytes Venturer Pioneer and Discoverer
The watch ships in a lacquered presentation box, a sturdy and attractive package that provides a hint at the character of the watch inside. Peering inside, two things are immediately apparent: the watch is gorgeous, and it is big. This is not to say the Venturers are Panerai sized wrist monsters. The case is actually a very reasonable 42mm wide and 50mm long, but 12mm thick with a large dial, imposing lugs, and diamond crown, all of which give it tremendous presence. Overall quality and fit and finish were excellent. One would be hard pressed to peg them for prototypes.
Whytes Discoverer
The case is 316l stainless steel, of course, and polished on all surfaces save the brushed and decorated screw-in case back. Straight lugs with rounded tops extend from the round case, angling downwards to stubby barrels containing dual headed screw bars. Bum aficionados know my difficult relationship with this kind of attachment, but I must confess, the exposed heads look pretty cool recessed into the barrels. The bezel is stepped, and both surfaces are rounded, creating an elegant frame for the sapphire crystal and dial within. Case sides are smooth and vertical, which further enhances its size.
Whytes Discoverer
The crown is at 3 o'clock and looks like that of an IWC Big Pilot with its diamond shape, deep fluting, and prodigious size. It is signed with a "W." I found it easy to operate and perfectly proportionate with the case. On production models, it will also screw down, helping to bring the water resistance to 100 meters.

As mentioned above, the dials are large, but that space is put to good use. It is at this stage that the watches diverge, revealing their unique personalities. The Pioneer is the simpler of the two. Its white dial is marked with black Arabic numerals and a finely printed seconds index. The numbers are applied, not printed. Its hands are slim black batons with a sliver of lume applied to their midsections. This is the only lume on the dial, and not very impressive in the dark. The date window is framed in black and does not crowd the 3, indeed nothing is crowded on this dial. There is ample room for everything.
Whytes Pioneer
Additional complications come courtesy of the Miyota 9110. This automatic movement is in the same family as the ubiquitous 9015, with the same 28.8k bph beat rate but it has 26 jewels instead of 24, adds a 24-hour display and a 40 hour power reserve indicator at 12 o'clock. Power reserves are cool, but they are not the easiest features to incorporate into a dial. A half-circle, "gas gauge," with a needle poking everywhere but up does not always sit comfortably at the top of the dial where we normally look for balance and orientation. Whytes has pulled it off. The silver index is recessed into a second layer that extends from 11 to 1. The downward pointing needle is anchored at 12, sweeping over the upward pointing Whytes 10-and-2 W logo. The juxtaposition of the three lines creates the illusion of symmetry. It is a clever solution.
Whytes Discoverer
The Discoverer is the most ornate of the two. Its 9100 unit also has a power reserve but forgoes the 24-hour dial for day and month subdials at 9 and 3, with ringed indexes rendered in the same silver as the reserve. The silver date function is at 4:30. The otherwise empty space at 6 is now occupied by the word "automatic" to balance the activity above. Minutes are marked with silver dots and the seconds index moves to a white chapter ring. Finally, the markers are polished, applied, and lume filled, glowing nicely when the lights went down.

The calendar functions are set by a button recessed into the case at 2 o'clock. Unlike most watches with this feature, Whytes has included a setting tool. It is an impressive item, hewn from titanium with a knurled grip and lethal looking point. The production piece will have a blunt end to avoid scratches.
Whytes Discoverer
On my 6.5" wrist, the Venturers wore large but not absurdly so. The straight, 22mm leather straps with their contrasting stitching fit the dress/casual nature of the watches. These are sport watches, after all, albeit rather fancy ones. The straps were attractive and comfortable as they were, but Whytes promises higher quality leather on the finished product. The Pioneer used a traditional buckle while the Discoverer had a deployant clasp, although a buckle is being considered. Both were signed.
Whytes Discoverer
I appreciated the designs of both of these watches. The classically styled dials are handsome with some clever, elegant touches. They would dress up nicely with some padded, tapered straps. I also liked the fact that they have high water resistance and the Discoverer has useful lume. My only issue is the size of the case. I felt the thickness stole the spotlight from the dressier aspects of the watch, and it just felt a little too large on me. On a bigger guy with a wrist 7" or larger, it would make far more sense.

Pro: Elegant dials, interesting movements.
Con: Thick case. Wears much larger than its dimensions suggest.
Sum: An appealing watch, even if it was too much for me.
Whytes Pioneer
Whytes Venturer Pioneer and Discoverer
Whytes Pioneer
Whytes Discoverer
Whytes Discoverer Lume

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