Last week, I sat down with Bill McDowell of McDowell Time to talk about watches. He is a techie by profession and tinkerer by hobby. We shared stories about our families, pondered the bizarre nature of the micro brand watch phenomenon, debated the merits of the first generation Chevy Camaro, and checked out his first offering, the DelRay, which launches on Kickstarter today. It turns out, Bill is a pretty cool guy who has designed a damn fine watch.
The DelRay is 44mm trench watch with a round, stainless steel case and wire-styled lugs. The dial is a traditional design comprised of Arabic numbers, a railroad track index, and polished feuille hands. The red "MT" logo is on the large side, but not out of proportion with the dial. "DelRay AutoQuartz" is a modest size and printed in an attractive Copperplate typeface that has the right throwback look without being fussy. It all makes good use of the ample space available, leaving room for a porthole date window that does not crowd the 3.
Three colors are offered: white, blue, and black. All three dials maintain the same general layout, but the blue loses the red logo for a more legible white, and the black dial adds red markers in the index. Lume varies as well. The white dial has the least lume, with C3 SuperLuminova on the hands only. The black dial adds C3 numbers to the mix. Blue gets the best glow, with lumed markers in addition to the numbers and hands. All come in either polished steel or a matte black PVD that is less typical for this style watch. I sampled a white/black model and found it to be very handsome, but I think the black/black with the roulette wheel index would be pretty slick, and Bill tells me the blue/polished version is particularly sweet. Pretty though it may be, the DelRay is no hothouse flower. A sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and 100m water resistance will shield it when the going gets rough.
Bill may have taken a conservative approach to aesthetics, but his choice of movement veers far from the micro brand norm. The DelRay runs a Seiko YT57 kinetic that uses a rotating counterweight like an automatic, but instead of winding a spring, it generates electricity for a quartz timekeeper. This kind of hybrid movement is not particularly popular, but it makes a lot of sense as it offers quartz accuracy without the battery. It is also very cool to peer into the see-through case back to discover both a rotor and twin capacitors.
I was amazed at the way the DelRay seemed to shrink when I put it on. I had assumed that a 44mm case that was all dial would look like a dinner plate on my 6.5" wrist, but I was wrong. That smooth bezel is a little bit larger than it appears in print, shrinking the dial just enough. Because wire lugs sprout directly from the case without any extra metal to make the transition, they possess the unique ability to pass unnoticed, even as they extend overall case length. Finally, the case is only 11mm thick, and its curved sides further minimize the watch's mass. I hate saying one size wears like another because it conflates objective measurement with subjective perception, but I'll do it anyway: the DelRay is a 44mm that wears like a 42mm. It looked large, but not oversized on my small wrist, and looked perfectly at home on Bill, who is a bigger guy. This is something you may notice on the McDowell Time Kickstarter page. The promotional video is one of those rare birds that not only looks like a professional production, but it includes useful footage of the watch worn in a manner that conveys a meaningful sense of scale. I detest most Kickstarter videos but this one is nicely done.
The DelRay wears a 22mm, padded and tapered Hadley Roma oil-tanned leather strap. Buyers may choose black or chestnut leather with contrasting white stitching. I'm a big fan of Hadley Roma and have purchased several of their oil-tanned straps for other watches in my collection. As such, I know that they are comfortable, break in nicely, and last a long time. They are an ideal pairing for the DelRay.
Like most micros, the watches will be manufactured in China, but all will be assembled in the United States. The Hadley Roma straps are American made as well. Each watch will ship in a leather travel case, and if the stretch goals are met, a strap tool and nylon NATOs will be in there too.
My time with DelRay may have been brief, but it left an impression. This is a clean, well-executed watch and that Seiko Kinetic movement sets it apart from Kickstarter crowd. It is a quality piece for a very reasonable price. Pre-orders start at $250. For more information or to order your own, visit the McDowell Time DelRay Kickstarter page.
Pro: A balanced design and an uncommon movement.
Con: Perhaps a bit too familiar.