Designing a dress watch can be a difficult prospect. Every style of watch has accepted patterns and customer expectations, but those of dress watches may be the trickiest to navigate. We want them to be modestly sized, but not unfashionably small. They need some flash, but not vulgar excess. They should be simple, but not sparse; understated, but not boring. Following all the rules often leads to a formulaic, uninspiring design that is quickly lost in a sea of similar styles, but if a designer is willing to sweat the details, they can create a traditional timepiece that retains its own unique character.
Which brings me to the TravisLeon Heirloom. When I first previewed the watch, I noted its stately layout, quality components, and Eisenhower-era aesthetic. It looked promising, but it all comes down to detail and execution, and to evaluate that, you need to have the watch in hand. For this review, TravisLeon sent a PVD rose gold model with a white enamel dial and brown, crocodile print leather strap, which sells for $399. A black dial is also offered, as are black and white steel finished models for $379.
Basic specifications are exactly what I like to see in this range. A 2mm thick, double domed sapphire crystal and a 24 jewel Miyota 9015 automatic movement add value. The 9015 has become the microbrand go-to alternative to the similar, but pricier, Swiss ETA 2824-2. The round stainless steel case is 40mm wide, 46mm long, and 10mm thick; squarely within the mid-size parameters most buyers demand. Personally, I'd prefer a more traditional 38mm size, but I can't knock TravisLeon for following the trend. Water resistance is a splash-proof 30m, on par for a dress watch.
The case has flat sides and long lugs that arc over your wrist for a closer fit. It is polished except for radial brushing on the tops of the lugs that adds a bit of extra dimension to set off the shiny bezel. Its coin edged crown is signed and properly proportioned. Six screws secure a display case back offering a view of the movement and custom rotor. I have no issues with exhibition windows as a whole, but increasingly I wonder if they really add anything. The 9015 is properly finished and sports Geneva stripes, but you won't find any polished bits or blued screws, and the plated rotor on this sample bore an unsightly smudge. That last bit is a simple quality control matter that would be handled with an exchange, but a nicely illustrated solid case back would have eliminated this particular headache and could have been more attractive as well.
Turning our attention to the white enamel dial reveals a host of applied, polished, rose gold features. Long bars mark the hours, doubled at 12, 3, 6, and 9 to define the quadrants. The minute index is comprised of raised dots. Polished and faceted dauphine hands graze their markers. The logo and date window are also gold. Finely printed dial text in lightweight sans-serif and classical script cap it off. It is simple, elegant, and shows remarkable attention to detail. The minute index is particularly clever.
The gold Heirloom arrives on a lightly padded 20mm strap. I found it quite comfortable and the satin finish and matching stitching complemented the white and gold watch. It secures with a signed butterfly deployant clasp. I know people love them, but I just don't understand their appeal. They are awkward to close and add unnecessary thickness to the underside of the strap, which is the exact opposite of what you want in a dress watch. It is a well-made clasp, but I would swap it for a strap with a simple pin buckle.
Altogether, the TravisLeon Heirloom is a lovely piece. Through a deft combination of traditional styling and thoughtful detailing the watch punches above its weight and is well worth the money, even more so now that when you can get 30% and free shipping (use code THETIMEBUM). See TravisLeon.com. ⬩