Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Tangramatic Nereid Argo and Hyperion

It has been a little more than two years since I last had a Tangramatic watch on my wrist. That last one was the 39a California, a quality affordable watch with some creative touches that set it apart from the pack. Tangramatic's owner and designer, Francis del Mundo of Sydney, Australia has not been idle in that time. He lent me two samples of his more recent work, a new Nereid and a well-loved prototype Hyperion for this review. 

Nereid the Benevolent Mariner

The Nereid is a Marine Chronometer styled watch. It sells for $465 AUD (about $340 USD). There are two models, the Pacific and the Argo, each with their own Tangramatic twist. Both watches share the same stainless steel case; 42mm wide, 48mm long, and 12mm thick with a fixed bezel and drilled lugs that hook downward to rounded ends. The case has a brushed bezel and its entire lower section, including the lugs, is polished. Nautical images and the watch's basic specs decorate the porthole case back, which displays the skeleton rotor and Geneva striped bridge of a Miyota 8245 or 8247 movement. These 21 jewel, hand winding automatics have a 21.6k bph vibration rate and a power reserve exceeding 40 hours. 

Tangramatic Nereid Argo side

Given their nautical inspiration, you would expect the Nereids to be capable seafarers. To this end, they have anti-reflective coated sapphire crystals and are water resistant to 100m. You may order a Nereid on a 20mm leather strap, but more water-friendly options are offered as well, including your choice of heavy or fine link Milanese mesh and two colors of canvas. My review sample wore beige canvas, which coupled with its white dial, gave the watch a breezy, summery look. 

Tangramatic Nereid Argo  caseback

The Nereid Pacific is the more conservative of the two. It holds a handsome white enamel or brushed navy dial with printed Arabic numbers and a railroad track index. In a slight break from tradition, the watch has two sub dials (24 hour and small seconds) instead of the usual single small seconds at 6 o'clock. In a more significant break, this model's 8247 is positioned such that the crown is at 2 o'clock and the registers sit low in the dial below the usual 9 and 3 o'clock midline. It is an interesting spin on the classic, but that is not the Nereid I received. I got the far more modern Nereid Argo.

Tangramatic Nereid Argo

The Argo is a sailor gone Bauhaus. Its 8245 movement is placed with the crown midway between 3.and 4 o'clock, retaining the usual Marine Chronometer's 6 o'clock small seconds, but the watch jettisons just about every other expected design element. The dial has long, fine lines for markers, each met with blued, pencil-thin baton hands. There is no lume. In lieu of numerals, the even numbers are spelled out. The Argo's use of typography is similar to that of the Tangramatic Bauhaus watch, but this time the effect is far more subtle. Where the other watch stacked words of varying sizes to fill the dial, the new watch new watch seamlessly integrates its proportional text into the index. You might have to look twice before you appreciate what Francis has done, but you will smile when you do. The brand model names in the upper portion of the dial show the same attention to detail. The typeface is light and modern, arcing over a tiny anchor logo. It is a clean, clever, perfectly balanced layout. 

Tangramatic Nereid Argo wrist

I found the Nereid to be a comfortable fit on my 6.5" wrist. Short lugs and a relatively slim profile make it seem a touch smaller than its 42mm measurement might suggest. It was no problem slipping it under a shirt cuff and with a simple strap swap, I could easily see the watch in a variety of settings. Leather or fine mesh will do nicely with a suit and tie in the office, canvas for weekends on the water, and maybe mix it up with a brightly colored nylon NATO every now and then.

The next time someone shows you the latest derivative minimalist watch on Kickstarter, please direct him to the Nereid Argo instead. He might learn something.

Hyperion the Ardent Explorer 

The Hyperion is the stylistic opposite of the Nereid. Where the Nereid is stately and reserved, the Hyperion an over-the-top pastiche of pilot, explorer, and diver influences. The watch features two rows of long markers and indices cut out of a sun ray dial layered over C3 SuperLuminova. A higher grade of lume graces the faceted sword hands and the spear tip of the fabulous, semi-skeletonized second hand.  

Tangramatic Hyperion automatic date

There are three distinct versions, each having a different dial and movement. They are not yet in stock; a funding campaign will launch on Kickstarter shortly. At a pre-order price of $260 AUD (about $189 USD), the value leader is a Swiss Ronda 713 quartz. The dial proclaims it to be Piezoelectric, which sounds much cooler. This movement has 5 jewels, a 5-year battery, end of life indication, and gold plating. The dial has even numbered hour markers and a printed chapter index. 

There are two mechanical models available for pre-order at $360 AUD (about $265 USD). They contain a Miyota 9015 or 90s5 (date and no date) Both movements are high-quality 28.8k bph, 24 jewel automatics that hack and hand wind. The no-date model shuffles the Piezoelectric dial into an Explorer layout with numbers at 12, 3, 6, and 9. My review sample had a date. This dial has no numbers or chapter index at all, just a mesmerizing explosion of lume lines, and a porthole at 6 o'clock. 

Tangramatic Hyperion automatic date macro

The shimmering blue sunray against the green-white lume is a knockout combination in the daytime, but the nighttime glow will absolutely blow you away. This thing glows like a torch. Francis did not skimp on the lume. It is quality stuff layered on thick and even so it charges quickly even under fairly dim household light and does not betray any dim or patchy spots. Fully charged, it is just unearthly. Note that the date window isn't treated with lume in the picture below, it is just lit up by the nearby minute hand.

Tangramatic Hyperion automatic date lume

Given its tool watch inspirations, it would be a shame if the Hyperion couldn't stand up to some outdoor duty. To that end, it boasts 200m water resistance, a sapphire crystal, and a signed screw-down crown. Not to be outdone by the dial, the case back displays a comic book hero image of the Lord of Light himself, as drawn by Francis. The watch comes on a 20mm buffalo grain leather strap, which seems odd for 200m watch, but the Hyperion is not really a diver, so the more versatile leather makes good sense.

Tangramatic Hyperion automatic date caseback

Many watchmakers would have taken this design concept and blown it up into a 44-45mm monster. Francis did not, and I love him for it. The Hyperion's polished case is just 40.5mm wide, 13mm high, and thanks to some super stubby lugs, only 44mm long. It was an ideal fit for my stick wrist, but it does not come off as a small watch. That powerful dial gives it huge presence, and its modest size prevents it from being overwhelming. To my eyes, it is ideal. 

Tangramatic is still a new venture, but its identity is clear. True to form, Nereid and Hyperion are reasonably sized, sensibly priced, and delightfully unconventional. See the Tangramatic web store for more information. ◆

Tangramatic Nereid crownTangramatic Hyperion automatic date wrist
Tangramatic Hyperion crown
Tangramatic Hyperion side
Tangramatic Hyperion macro

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