I Last Friday, the Straton Watch Company launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Curve-Chrono, a 1970's style racing chronograph, and a line of two-tone leather driving gloves. In the past five days, it has attracted 255 backers and is well on its way to exceeding its $15,000 target by a factor of ten. Straton clearly has a good thing going, and I'm sure many faithful readers are pondering a purchase. I can see you now, finger poised over the "Back this Project" button, asking such questions as, "is the Curve-Chrono as good on the wrist as it is in the photos," "is it worth my hard-earned cash," and "will those gloves make me look sexy?" Lucky for you, Time Bum has got a set of prototypes in hand, and I am ready to answer all of your questions.
Kyle Schut, the man behind Straton, is a dedicated gearhead with a passion for vintage sports cars. His first watch, the Vintage Driver, was a big chronograph inspired by the dashboard of his beloved Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT. For the Curve-Chrono, he once again looked to the disco era and this time drew up a colorful race timer with shades of classic Heuers like the Carrera, Montreal, and Autiva Viceroy. The watch is a barrel-cased, two-register chronograph with an internal timing bezel, two screw-down crowns, a double domed sapphire crystal, and 100m water resistance. Each comes in a very nice, rust colored leather watch case. That's the easy stuff. Now it gets complicated, because, in order to achieve all of his design goals, Kyle has offered an almost bewildering array of options. I can't imagine the headaches this will create for order fulfillment, but it it a veritable candy store for the buyer.
Let's start with the selection of movement as this drives the price. Buyers may select one of two Seiko units: the VK64 MechaQuartz starting around $289 USD or 45% retail, or the NE88 automatic starting around $703 USD or 30% off retail. (Note that as of this writing, these early bird offers are already gone but the unit price can still be had as part of bundled watch+gloves rewards.) The NE88 is a 34 jewel, column wheel automatic with a smooth 28k bph vibration rate and a 45-hour power reserve. The VK64 is a hybrid movement utilizing a quartz timekeeping unit coupled to a mechanical chronograph module, resulting in a high accuracy movement with 1/5th-second timing and a crisp fly-back reset. The registers on both movements are horizontally oriented: 30-minutes and small seconds on the NE88; 60-minutes and 24-hours on the VK64. Both are excellent so the buyer's decision will likely come down to a personal affinity for mechanicals or a practical consideration of cost. The NE88 is mighty tempting for the price, but being the Bum, I'd probably go MechaQuartz and spend the $400 I saved to buy another watch.
Now that we have the movement, we move on to the choice of case: 42mm or 39.5mm. Both are stainless steel barrels with vertical brushing on the sides, radial brushing on top, and a broad, brightly polished chamfer bisecting the two surfaces. In profile, the case displays a curve on the underside that is matched at the belt line and the trailing edge of the top surface, but only a slight arc to the upper surface that meets a much steeper angle at the chamfer and a precipitous drop at the lugs. The result is a stout 14.5mm thick, but the polished section breaks the otherwise blocky shape and accentuates the tapering at the lugs, making the watch appear sleeker than it is.
I have sampled both 39.5mm and 42mm sizes, and I can tell you that the two versions differ more in style than mass. The 42mm is 47.5mm long measured from lug-to-lug, whereas smaller case is just 1mm shorter and both cases are the same thickness. Even on my smallish 6.5" wrist, the most noticeable difference was in the degree of tapering at the lugs. As you can see in the photo below, the 39.5mm (rear) is leaner with has more of a pinch where the character lines converge at its 20mm lugs, while the 42mm (front) maintains broader proportions as it reaches its 22mm lugs. Having worn the narrow watch first, I feared the wider one would be too much, but I was wrong. Both cases have a purposeful, muscular bearing, yet neither was overwhelming. I think I'd be perfectly happy with either size.
Interestingly, both of the Curve-Chronos felt significantly larger than the 42mm Vratislavia Conceptum Heritage Chrono I reviewed last October. That watch measured 42mm wide and 48mm long, but only 13mm thick. That 1mm difference in height and length allowed for a flatter profile, which contributed to the smaller feel. It is fascinating to see how slightly different design choices will affect the outcome of similarly sized and styled watches, and a healthy reminder that watch design is a complex, nuanced discipline. Measurements are little more than a rough guide when it comes to a watch's actual appearance and wearability.
Are we done with the case? Not quite. The Curve-Chrono's case back bears a detailed stamping of a vintage racing wheel. BMW guys like myself may be drawn to the BBS style basket weave. Porschephiles will no doubt go for the iconic Fuchs alloy.
Regardless of case and movement, the overall dial layout is the same. Straton offers five color combinations: black, brown, blue, and green with yellow-cream sundials and tachymeter rings, and black-on-black in a black PVD case. There are slight differences from model to model but all have polished rectangular markers, white hands, an orange second hand, and a color-keyed internal bezel. It is a complex dial, but not too busy or crowded. Everything is legible, and the hands reach their respective indices.
I'm pleased to see that Straton has simplified its branding to a strong and simple polished "S" logo. Text at the bottom of the dial identifies the movement. It is no surprise for a watch proclaim its automatic status, but rather novel to see the MechaQuartz getting some love.
My review samples were a blue MechaQuartz with no date and a brown auto with a date. Both look great. I particularly like the warm aged color of the sub dials and tachometer index as it creates a softer, more subtle look than a more conventional high contrast white would have. The internal bezel is marked for tracking a second time zone, with an orange triangle at 12. It is controlled by the left side crown, and while I had no complaints with the action, Kyle promises tighter gearing on the production models.
The bezel numbers are C3 SuperLuminova, along with the hands and markers. They faded quickly on the prototype but will be stronger on the final. My only complaint is that the in most light conditions, the internal bezel casts shade on the tachymeter and slightly obscures the index, thus creating the illusion that it is off-center. It is a minor issue, but watch nerds are a bit-picky bunch. Once I recognized it was not a flaw, I gave it no more thought.
The straps provide yet another avenue of individuality as Straton has paired each with one of three styles. These are not buyer's options; rather, each has been selected to complement the particular dial variant. Blue and green come on a Milanese mesh with a signed hook-and-lock clasp. The two black dials are paired with large hole leather rally straps. The brown dial takes the least orthodox approach, matching the warm earth tones of the dual with a pale grey perforated leather and orange stitching. There is not a bad choice in the bunch, but I liked the comfort, adjustability, and low profile clasp of the mesh. One of my watch buying mantras is "always buy the bracelet" and Straton provides a very nice one at no extra cost. Still not satisfied? No problem. The watch comes with your choice of two of seven racing livery NATOs. Just be aware that the lugs are very shallow, leaving little clearance for thicker straps.
I was impressed with the quality of these prototypes. They displayed high-quality construction and finishing, although as always, there will be a few changes before production. In addition to the aforementioned improvements to the lume and bezel, both crowns will be threaded, and the 3 o'clock crown will be signed.
And now we get to the gloves. Straton is offering two-tone, perforated leather, snap-back driving gloves either a la carte or as part of a watch package. An individual pair sells for $91 in the Kickstarter promotion (40% off expected retail). Kyle sent a pair in blue/black in men's size small 7.5-8. I wear an 8-9 depending on the manufacturer and found these to be true to size, although small on me. The leather is very thin for my taste, even for a driving glove, but the color combinations are fantastic - it's not every day you see lime green or lemon yellow gloves - and of course, they are an ideal accessory given the nature of the company.
All said and done; I love the Curve-Chrono it all its myriad variations. It channels the spirit of Motorsport brilliantly, and the multiple colors and options are a blast. So let's get back to those initial questions.
"Is the Curve-Chrono as good on the wrist as it in the photos?" Yes, it is, although it might be thicker than you expect.
"Is it worth my hard earned cash." Absolutely. You can't pick a bad one, but I'd say the MechaQuartz on mesh packaged with a pair of gloves offers the best value.
"Will those gloves make me look sexy?" Hey, if they make you feel sexy, then yes, you sexy beast. Yes, they will.
For more information or to place an order, go to the Straton Curve-Chrono Kickstarter page.
Pro: Choices, choices, choices!
Con: Milanese mesh is not available for every version.