Back in 2014, the Mercer Watch Company released its first model, the Brigadier Automatic. I put a prototype through its paces and liked what I saw, praising its athletic build, handsome dial, and the versatility of its tastefully conservative design. Three very different models followed: the Wayfarer GMT, the Privateer, and the Voyager. Now, for 2016, Mercer has gone back to the well with a chronograph variant of the Brigadier, and sent me a press sample for evaluation.
The Chronograph shares the original Brigadier's stainless steel case, and this is a good thing. It's a nicely proportioned 42mm unit with a domed sapphire crystal and internal anti-reflective coating. Like the original, its thick brushed lugs cut a sporty, square-shouldered figure, while a broad, polished bezel dresses it up. The Chronograph has the same large, fluted, screw-down crown as the Automatic, but it looks better on this model as the rectangular pushers balance its size. Around the back, the auto's display window has been replaced with a solid case back engraved with the image of a Revolutionary War officer. This is a nod to Brigadier General Hugh Mecer, a player in the battles of Princeton and Trenton, and the watchmaker's namesake. Water resistance is 100m, making the Brigadier a true sport watch.
The dial does not stray far from the original design either, keeping the guilloché center, applied markers, and dauphine hands.There is little text to clutter things up, only the attractive Mercer brand name a sword logo above, and the model name below. It all worked well on the first watch, and does equally so here. The chronograph features do require some accommodation so floating silver sub-dials occupy the 3 (24 hour) and 9 o'clock (small seconds) positions and the date window is at 6. A tachymetre scale chapter index encircles it all. Budget minded chronograph fans may recognize this layout as that of the Seiko VK64 MechaQuartz. A favorite among micros, it combines a quartz movement with a mechanical chronograph module, enabling 1/5 second timekeeping and satisfying snap back on reset.
Three colors are offered: white, blue, and the slate color pictured here. There is also a white and rose gold version, and if the stretch goal is met, Mercer will release an intriguing sand color as well. The slate dial is a shade dark enough to preserve the gravitas of black but light enough so as not to obscure surface details. It also provides a subtle backdrop for the dark blue second hand. Polished elements can get lost on dark dials so I was pleased to see that the Brigadier has SuperLuminova on the hands. It is not dive watch bright, but it goes a long way in maintaining sufficient contrast in daylight, and a welcome glow at night.
At 42mm wide and 49mm long, the Brigadier will be an easy fit for the vast majority of buyers. It certainly wears well on my 6.5" wrist, offering a sporty presence but no so much that I wouldn't wear it with a tie. The only thing that lets it down is the strap. It is black with white stitching, 22mm wide tapering to a 20mm buckle, and signed with the Mercer sword. It would be perfect but for the fact that it is patent leather and the shiny, plasticky surface is a letdown. To be fair, Mercer makes no secret of this, and the strap appears to be well made. I just have aesthetic issues with the choice of material. It is an easy fix of course, but I think it cheapens the look of an otherwise classy piece.
Finally, a word about the packaging. Regular readers know I have no affinity for dust-catching display boxes. Mercer has opted instead for a blue leather travel case, fitted for one watch with room in the lid for either a second watch or an extra strap. I appreciate the effort to supply something useful, and that blue is mighty cool.
Strap aside, everything else about the Brigadier Chronograph displays quality and a tastefully conservative aesthetic. It carries everything I liked about Automatic and the chronograph buttons greatly improve its proportions. I would declare it a good value at its full $329 price, but why pay retail? As of this writing, you can still get one for as low as $219 through Kickstarter. That is a good price, but you know what would be even better? Free. Check out my giveaway below for a chance to win the Brigadier Chronograph of your choice.
Pro: Handsome watch.
Con: I hate the strap.
Sum: Swap the strap and you'll have an excellent "all-arounder." The Time Bum approves.