Ok, quiz time: describe a tool watch. I'm guessing you are picturing a Submariner style diver, or possibly a field watch marked with military time, or perhaps a G-Shock. Now, what if I asked you to forget all that and design one without relying on preconceived notions. Just imagine what you really need in such a piece and then maybe work your imagination, so the result is truly your own. The folks at Venator Watches have done just that. Starting from the principle of "RAR" (reliability, accuracy, and readability) they created the Reticle, an everyday tool watch that stands apart from the crowd. For this review, they sent me a well-loved stainless steel case prototype.
I confess, the name made me reach for my dictionary. Turns out, "Venator" is Latin for Hunter and "Reticle" is the positioning scale on an eyepiece, like the crosshairs of a rifle scope. When you name your watch for hunting and guns, you had better make it tough. The Reticle does not disappoint. It has all the right specs for outdoor adventures. The case is antimagnetic with a double sealed, screw down crown for 200m water resistance. The crystal is a double domed sapphire with an inner antireflective coating. Of course, a durable shell means nothing if it houses a fragile movement, so they fitted the Reticle with a rock solid Seiko NH35a, a hacking, hand winding automatic known for its reliability. A tool watch needs a big crown, and the Reticle's got one. It's a screw down with a complex engraving on the face. Oddly, it lacks any significant texture to aid your grip.
The case is available in brushed stainless steel, black PVD coated stainless or grade 5 titanium. All are 42mm wide, 52mm long, and 14mm thick. These are fairly common proportions, but the Reticle's distinctive shape wears them differently. Sharp angles on the sides give it an almost octagonal look, and the thick, straight lugs accentuate its length. It is a unique and aggressive design, but it requires a big arm to wear it comfortably. I can wear most 52mm long cases without issue, but on my 6.5" wrist, the flat profile and nearly horizontal lugs make the watch appear almost comically oversized. The folks at Venator have recognized this problem and have redesigned the lugs to increase their angle by about seven degrees to improve wearability. As it stands, the Reticle would be a good choice for someone with a large wrist, looking for a watch with significance presence, but not unnecessary bulk.
Speaking of the lugs, they are drilled through for a pair of sturdy screw bars. I have a love/hate relationship with screws. I understand the security advantage over spring bars, but they are often a royal pain in the ass to remove and replace. The Reticle uses Torx head bars, which brings me to another love/hate scenario. I like the idea of hex or Torx head screws because they offer a better seat for the screwdriver, so it is less likely to slip off or strip the head. On the other hand, it requires a special tool that you are not likely to already have on hand. Venator ships a proper tool with the watch. Just make sure you don't lose it.
The Reticle comes on a 22mm, heavy weave nylon NATO. It is a high-quality strap that perfectly fits the watch's character, but it also adds bulk if you double back the excess tail through the loops. This was a bit too much for me, but it would not be an issue for someone whose wrists are large enough to wear this watch in the first place.
Dials may be ordered in black, navy, or olive green. Whichever you choose, readability will not be a problem. A combination of large numbers and darts mark the dial, surrounded by a prominent chapter index. A gray ring and crosshairs anchors the face. One of their more intriguing design choices was to cluster the dial text in the lower left quadrant. It is unusual, but it works. I also must commend them for their choice of a light, stylized sans-serif font with tight kerning and a bit of an early 1980's feel to it. It is a welcome change from the usual block lettering favored by many micro brands. Pencil hands and a thick second hand finish it off. Bold graphics make it easy to read in daylight, and BGW9 SuperLuminova lights it up at night.
I applaud Venator for taking their own path with the Reticle. It is a striking design with all the right equipment for outdoor adventures. Better still, Venator will back it up with a lifetime warranty. While its long, flat case did not work on my wrist, it is a cool design that would look great on someone much larger. For the rest of us, I hope the proposed change to lug angles will eliminate that problem, but I will have to reserve judgement until I see it. The watch will debut soon on IndieGoGo for $540 (MSRP starts at $700), which is a good value, particularly with that warranty.
Pro: Solid specs, unique case.
Con: Huge on the wrist – although this may be addressed before production.
Sum: Tough and cool. If you are large enough to carry off that case, The Time Bum approves. For the rest of us, I'll have to wait and see.