I first saw Neil Carpenter's watch on Instagram. Neil is an industrial designer with a studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn and his training showed in his watches. They displayed a clean and modern design with a clear link to the past. I liked what I saw and reached out, starting a friendly exchange of emails as he readied his crowd funding campaign. That was over a year ago. Plans changed, he explored different funding options, tinkered with the final product, and all the while his Internet followers waited. Today, at long last, the Carpenter Brooklyn Field Watch is ready for its Kickstarter launch.
The story of Carpenter Watches starts with an antique pocket watch - several of them, actually. Neil was 6 years old when he discovered his family’s collection of Elgin, Illinois, Waltham and Hamilton. These venerable American timepieces made a staggering impression. He could hardly believe that these beautiful and complex devices could be handed down the generations and still be useful tools.
Today, Neil conducts research and product development for established brands, but his childhood fascination with watches is as strong as ever. "I wanted to create a practical timepiece that would suggest affluence and good taste, and become a cherished heirloom," says Neil. To my eye, I'd say he is on the right track. The vintage influence is apparent in the Field's design. The shape of the stainless steel case echoes that of a pocket watch, and the lugs are designed to resemble the wire that World War One soldiers welded to their pocket watches so they could strap them to their wrists. At 40mm, it is far smaller than a pocket watch but perfectly proportioned for a 21st century men's wrist watch. A double domed sapphire crystal completes the vintage look.
It would have been easy for Neil to go the full retro route and adopt a vintage design for the dial as well, but the appeal of the Brooklyn Field Watch is its deft marriage of vintage charm and modern sensibility. The matte finish dial is reminiscent of both a classic type-A flieger and a field watch, but it is neither. The typography of the markers and numerals is much slimmer than one might expect. Tiny numerals on the outer edge of the dial mark the 60-minute/second index in increments of 5. It is here that you will find the characteristic triangle that usually replaces the 12 on a flieger dial, taking the 60 spot instead. C3 SuperLuminova graces the hands, further enhancing its day-to-day utility. A round, black-on-white date window replaces the 3. White baton hands and an arrow-shaped second hand complete the face. The text is similarly slim and restrained, with "Carpenter" and "Brooklyn, NY" in the upper half, and "Automatic" below. All the elements are balanced. The overall effect is clean and contemporary, more Bauhaus than battlefield.
Neil chose the Miyota 821A automatic movement. While not as sexy as the silky smooth, high beat 9015, this 21 jewel unit is sensibly priced and reliable. Neil spiced it up a bit with a custom, cutaway rotor. Owners may view it at work through the sapphire exhibition case back. It is rated for 50m water resistance, which is sufficient for daily wear.
The watch is offered in three versions: the M1 has a cream dial and a polished case, the M2 is black in a polished case, and the M3 is black in a brass case. All three come on a 20mm brown leather strap. I could easily see this watch on the stock strap with a suit during the week, and a leather NATO on the weekend.
The Carpenter launches on Kickstarter today for $495. Full retail will be $595. This is a sharp looking, highly versatile watch. It was a long time coming, but I'd say it was well worth the wait.