BOLDR Odyssey

Mail call! The BOLDR Odyssey prototype landed at Time Bum headquarters just in time for its April 15 Kickstarter launch. I was a fan of their first watch, the Journey (in fact, if you want to win one, head here) and the guys at BOLDR were good enough to send me this Odyssey White Storm prototype for review, although you should keep in mind that this one has seen some use, so it bears some scratches and nicks. If I'm not mistaken, I'm the first blogger in the States to lay hands on one, so you lucky readers are getting a scoop. Now, I won't keep you in suspense. I dig this watch. Here's why.

The Bum faithful know that I am always on the hunt for smaller watches. Not tiny ones, mind you. It's just that with a 6.5" wrist and a fondness for vintage aesthetics, I gravitate to watches that are under 42mm. That said, I own several pieces that range from merely large (the 43mm Spinnaker Cahill) to positively Brobdingnagian (the bricklike 47mm Trintec Zulu-07). I wear them because they are casual, fun, and they make sense within their genre. To my mind, a 44mm tool watch makes perfect sense where a 44mm dress watch does not. It's partly a matter of context, and partly a matter of execution.

When I previewed the Odyssey, I praised its overall looks but questioned its girth. This was not unreasonable given that it is 45.5mm wide. Moreover, chiseled cases and hefty bezels are not exactly slimming. Could it really pull off these proportions? In short, yes. As fat as those faceted lugs may be, they are also short, keeping the lug-to-lug to 53mm, which is just enough to stay within the confines of my 6.5"wrist. Also, when we look at watches, we tend to see the dial first and the case after, so dial diameter is often the critical factor in our perception of size. On this watch, the broad unmarked bezel serves to shrink the watch when viewed head-on.

One point on the size worth mentioning is the thickness. Even in photos, it is obvious that this is a fat watch. The initial press release said it was 14.2mm thick. The Kickstarter page says it is 12.2mm thick, which is clearly an error. The precision instruments at Time Bum Labs show that it is nearly 16mm from the case back to the crystal. That is mighty thick - not unreasonably so, and it is in keeping with the rest of the watch, but if you ordered this expecting to wear it under a shirt cuff, you might be disappointed.

The Odyssey is a 500m diver and is properly equipped for the task. It features a triple-lock screw down crown, screwed-in case back, helium release valve, double domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, and a 120-click unidirectional bezel. A Seiko NH35 handles timekeeping duty; the familiar 24 jewel, hacking and hand winding automatic with a 40+ hour power reserve, 21.6k bph vibration rate, and Diashock isolation. There are three versions for sale: Deep Blue (brushed/blue), Ever Black (black/black), and White Storm (brushed/gunmetal/white).

Its stainless steel case is octagonal, although its two sides are slightly bowed to flow around the bezel, softening the body's otherwise hard angles and straight lines.  It is mostly brushed with the exception of a polished sliver on the crown guards. This unexpected bit of flash highlights the aggressive crown, which is a treat in an of itself. It has a split design with eight peaks and an embossed logo, but my favorite aspect is the way its outermost edges taper, accentuating its gear-like teeth and creating a more interesting shape the than the common fluted cylinder.

To my eye, the Odyssey's bezel is its most striking feature. I love its porthole look. Tall, deeply scalloped, and studded with raised discs, its circular elements are juxtaposed against the hard angles of the case. Like the crown, its teeth are chamfered. The action is smooth and a bit quieter than most. There is no back play. Still, as much as I like the bezel, it is also the source of my few criticisms of this watch. As grippy as it appears, the angled edge actually denies your fingertips purchase. Also, while the dark gunmetal DLC finish on the White Storm looks fantastic, really standing out against the brushed case and making the dial pop, it is also susceptible to damage. Tough as DLC might be, a good impact will nick it. Apparently, the prototype has taken a couple of prangs on the edge, revealing the bright metal beneath. Of course, choosing the uncoated Deep Blue version would eliminate this problem.

BOLDR went the extra mile on the case back, commissioning an illustration by Melbourne artist Ashwin Royan, depicting a sailboat on the ocean under the night sky, heavily stylized in a manner reminiscent of a woodblock print. It's a deep, clean casting in high relief and a welcome change from the divers and fish that we usually find on this kind of watch.

brushed rehaut surrounds the white dial. The polished hands are long enough to touch their markers and broad enough to provide a good fill area for the Superlume, which also graces the dots-and-bars markers that stand proud of the surface. The white lume glows green except for the top center mark on the bezel, which glows blue. 

Hour markers are ringed in black like the printed index and text. Let's talk about that text because there is a lot of it: logo and brand name up top; model name, "Automatic," and water resistance at the bottom; "Japan Mov't" at 6:00; and, "Helium Escape Valve" and "Triple Lock Crown" on the rehaut. That is more information that one generally requires and it could have been a good way to ruin an otherwise pleasant dial. Yet somehow, it works. The BOLDR "B" logo is slightly smaller than the double bars at 12:00 so it does not overwhelm. All the text shares the same typeface as the brand name, an attractive Art Deco sans-serif similar to that used by Bremont and Marloe. The model name in the lower half of the dial is stacked in progressively smaller type so that it fits roughly within the width of the brand name, balancing the words and image in the upper half. Below it is a black-on-white date window in the space that would have otherwise been occupied by a 6:00 marker. The phrases on the rehaut are a bit of overkill, but fortunately, their black printing blends into the brushed metal so they hardly register. Altogether, it is a detailed and well-planned watch face.

The watch ships on the buyers choice of 22mm straps: a 1970's style polyurethane, or thick leather like on the prototype. I'm a hypocrite when it comes to dive watch straps. I firmly believe that any watch marketed for underwater use should come with a waterproof strap. At the same time, I don't dive, and most of the diving watches in my collection haven't even been so far as the beach. The BOLDR solution is ideal. The synthetic rubber option will satisfy both the folks who will use the watch as intended, as well as nit-picking snobs like me, who will then turn around and order the leather because it is comfortable, looks cool, and comes with a smooth signed buckle.  

On the Kickstarter page, BOLDR describes the Odyssey as "understated." That would not be my choice of words. This big brute is far too aggressive for that label, but it is very nicely done. I would call it bold, brilliantly executed, and an excellent value for the money; MSRP is about $379 USD and Kickstarter early bird pricing starts at just $269 USD. I think that is a great price for this piece and apparently, I'm not alone, as the campaign has already funded with 44 days yet to go. If you would like to see for yourself, head over to the BOLDR Odyssey Kickstarter page. ⬩

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