McDowell Time Sonoma

After the success of the DelRay, McDowell Time is returning to Kickstarter with the Sonoma, a mid-sized chronograph named for the famous California racetrack. I got some time with a PVD black panda dial prototype for this review. 

McDowell Time Sonoma prototype
Every good racer must start with a suitable engine. The Sonoma's is the popular Seiko/Time Module MecaQuartz, a cost-effective hybrid that marries a conventional quartz timekeeper to mechanical chronograph. The VK63 movement used here features small seconds, 60-minute, and 24-hour registers. 

McDowell Time Sonoma prototype wrist

Its cushion case is just 39mm wide, which may sound small, but recall that square shapes appear to be at least one size larger than comparably sized round cases. Indeed, this is the same size as a modern Heuer Monaco, and that is hardly what you would call undersized. In person, the Sonoma's broad shoulders and pronounced bezel give it an appropriately sporting stance. The case slopes at the corners, softening the shape and further reducing its already svelte 11mm profile. Finally, short lugs keep the overall length to just 47mm. It is an appealing form and an ideal fit on my 6.5" wrist. 


McDowell Time Sonoma prototype

Buyers may choose from steel or PVD black finishes with a combination of vertical and circular brushing. The push-pull crown is signed, coin-edged, and polished as are the blocky chronograph buttons. While I have no objection to the finish, I believe there was a missed opportunity here, as a polished bezel would have tied these glossy elements into the rest of the case, and been a pretty pleasing addition in and of itself. 

This prototype did not have any caseback decoration, but I understand a checked flag motif is in the works. A slightly domed sapphire crystal finishes it off. Water resistance is 100m, ensuring more than ample protection for most aquatic activities short of actual diving. 

McDowell Time Sonoma prototype

Sonoma dials are blue, silver/white, or black and feature contrasting subdials, an angled chapter index, and Arabic numbers in the style of the McDowell Time DelRay. This seemingly minor detail actually goes a long way to creating a connection between the two models. Even though they are almost entirely dissimilar, I can see a brand identity forming here. I selected a silver/white dial with black registers in a PVD case for this review. The pencil hands are polished while the sweep hand and subdial needles are red. C3 SuperLuminova hands and numbers ensure a healthy glow at night. 


McDowell Time Sonoma lume

Overall, it is an appealing layout. I know I have taken watch designers to task for oversize logos, but the big "MT" balances well against the three registers. I also like the way fine black outline of the lume-filled numbers improves daytime legibility on the light colored dial and creates just a hint of race car number plate. 


McDowell Time Sonoma prototype

Of course, I do have a few criticisms. The red needles do not present the best contrast against the black subdials. The white register models are far superior in this regard. (In fact, I'd say the blue/white dial is the real stunner in this lineup.) Also, while the printed dials are fine, recessing them would have been an appealing addition. These are relatively minor details. The more significant issue is the proximity of the 6 to the bottommost subdial. There is no separation between the two. Moreover, the shape of the 6 is such that it's top corner points just to the right of the register's 30-minute marker, creating the illusion that one of them is off-center. It is the sort of detail could pass right by you or drive you crazy. I fall into the latter camp. This will be corrected in the final version either by shrinking the numbers, reducing the diameter of the registers, or possibly both. I'll be curious to see how this turns out. 

McDowell Time Sonoma prototype macro

Straps are black carbon fiber print leather with red or white contrasting stitching. It is a refreshing change from more common drilled or perforated rally straps. They are 22mm wide, tapering to a 20mm signed Pre-V style buckle. I had a brushed steel sample on the prototype. Final buckles will match the case finish. Quick release spring bars are a thoughtful addition. The strap is soft and comfortable right out of the box and has the right look to underscore the Sonoma's modern auto racing theme.

The McDowell Time Sonoma launches on Kickstarter in early April. Pricing is not yet final, but you can expect Early Bird rewards around $220, which is highly competitive. For more information and launch updates, see McDowellTime.com. ⬩


McDowell Time Sonoma prototype strap

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