Exploring the world of watches on a budget

New Visitor Watches, Part 4: The Vale Park Officer

Today is the last day in Visitor Watch Company's release week, and to my eye, it is the best of the bunch. As I mentioned in the first of this series, I was lucky enough to sample these new models at a meeting with Visitor's Phil Rodenbeck a few months ago. I was impressed with the Calligraph Linden, the Duneshore Shallows, and the Blacksand variants, but once I put the Vale Park Officer on my wrist, I didn't want to give it back. 
Like all Visitor watches, the Vale Park is distinguished by an intricate case. It's a mid-size piece, measuring 39.5mm wide, 47 mm long, and just under 12mm thick. The shape is vaguely octagonal, but it is only flat on two sides. The upper and lower sections are convex arcs that connect the corners and drop away from the upper surface. Rolled and drilled lugs sweep upward from below to meet the corners, forming concave curves. A combination of brushed upper surfaces and polished sides highlights its adventurous shape and the large crown is partially bead blasted. 
The details don't stop at the front of the watch. Around back, you will find a case back fastened with four screws and capped with a lid. Unscrew the crown a turn or two to expose the tiny catch-lip, and open the hinged door. Inside you will find perlage decoration, and a sapphire display window to view the Miyota 9015 automatic movement and its custom, gold-toned, lion's head logo. 
A deceptively simple face presents a charming mix of modern and vintage elements. The dial is a two layer sandwich consisting of a matte black layer, cut out to reveal C3 SuperLuminova below. Markers are teardrops with triple perforations at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, linked with cut-away crosshairs. A C3 railroad track index caps it all off. Broad, squared black hands sprout from slender stalks and extend far enough to brush their markers, naturally, they are lume-filled as well. The whole thing, including the C3 printed brand name, pops to life at night. 
Finally, the strap, like every other aspect of this watch, is carefully crafted and thoroughly unique. Inspired by a pair of shoes, it is two-tone black and brown with a perforated wingtip. Other straps may be offered, but I can't imagine how you could possibly pass this one up.
The Vale Park Officer was a perfect fit on my 6.5" wrist. I wore it throughout our meeting, discretely tucked under my shirt cuff. It is not a watch that is easy to classify. The dial looks serious, possessing an almost vintage military quality, yet the overall impression is unquestionably modern. Bold shapes and dramatic lines give the case a presence that belies is modest size. It sits somewhere between tool watch toughness and dress watch elegance. Perhaps it's best not to categorize it. Better to wear it –everywhere and with everything. Jeans and a tee-shirt? Fine. Dressing up for a night out? Take the Vale Park. Business meeting with a suit and tie? Why not? You'll probably have the best-looking watch in the boardroom. 
Do I like this watch? Hell yes, I do. Many consider Gérald Genta to be one of the finest watch designers of all time. He was responsible for such revolutionary pieces as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, IWC Ingenieur, and Patek Phillipe Nautilus. They called him "the Fabergé of watches." Now, I'm not saying Phil Rodenbeck is playing that league yet, but he might just be the Gérald Genta of micro brands. 

What? Is that too much? Too bad. Phil is turning out brilliant watches with innovative designs, and every one of them is under $1000. He has not finalized the pricing yet, but expect the Vale Park Officer to be around $800. For more info, see www.visitorwatchco.com

All photographs courtesy of Visitor Watch Co.

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