Ayers Metropolitan MT-1

The Ayres Metropolitan is a slick and stylish watch with a full-lume dial that was described by one of my followers as looking like stained glass. It is also about six months late and not without a healthy dose of controversy.

You see, last August, I had a lovely blue dial Metropolitan prototype in hand and was ready to post a review shortly before it's pre-order launch. I posted a couple of teaser pics on Instagram, and it seemed to be going over well until one user noted that it looked like a Sarpaneva. Stepan Sarapaneva noticed too and contacted the Ayers team. In a message to their mailing list, Ayers designer Glenn Lim apologized, freely acknowledging that Stepan’s Northern Lights series had been the initial inspiration for the Metropolitan’s full lume dial and that as he refined the design, he inadvertently ended up with a dial that was uncomfortably close to that of the Sarapeneva. ”Homages are undoubtedly common in the microbrand world,” he wrote, ”but it was not my intention to create one.” With that, he went back to the drawing board.

Which brings us to today. Once again, I have a blue dial Metrprototype prototype in my hands and Ayers is gearing up for a March 27 Kickstarter launch., If you happen to notice a bump or scuff in the photos it is because case has not changed at all since last year, and the new dial resides in the very same, well-used unit. This is a good thing because for striking though the dial may be, I think the Metropolitan’s real strength is its cushion-shaped case. It measures 44mm wide and just a touch over 51mm long. Most striking is thickness, just a scant 10.5mm from sapphire crystal to sapphire cashback, which makes it appear almost pancake flat. I was able to wear it easily on my 6.5” wrist and the watch tucked under short cuffs without complaint. Still, 44mm is by no means small. Its brushed finish and screw-down crown seated neatly between its guards project a sporty presence. A polished edge on its flat, fixed bezel adds a touch of flash, but it is clear the Metropolitan is not a dress watch, a fact borne out by its 100m water resistance rating.

The Metropolitan comes on brushed H-link bracelet that tapers from 26mm to a 21mm butterfly clasp. Single-ended screws in the lugs and the links allow easy adjustment. I particularly liked the clasp’s low profile, debossed logo, and seamless integration. It is a comfortable, quality piece and this is a good thing because you will likely never change it. The bracelet attaches at the center link, giving the watch an awkward 14mm lug width. It may not be a deal killer, but it certainly is a drag.

Now, let’s examine that controversial dial. It consists of a field of SuperLuminova with an overlay of spokes radiating from the center to two rings incorporating the bar markers and the date window frame. Where the original had a very Sarapaneva-like web of 24 spokes and short markers, the revised version has only 6, and the markers are much longer, which also widens the space between the rings. I think it is an improvement, as the simplified design is far less fussy than the original and better matched to the Metropolitan’s pragmatic case. Long, wedge-shaped hands and a fanciful, double hooked counterweight on the second hand. The lume on the hands and markers is in a contrasting color to the dial, which makes for one spectacular display at night.
There are three variants available. The MT-1 sampled here is white BGW9 on blue, the MT-2 is dark gray on white BGW9, and the MT-3 is orange on white BGW9. Ayers has posted pictures of a white on black lume version too, but it is not reflected in the current spec sheet. A possible stretch goal perhaps?

The MT-1 I sampled looks quite striking in its sky blue and white, but the white hands can get lost against the white overlay. The gray and white combination has the best daylight contrast, although the web-like overlay loses some of its impact, I prefer it that way. Also, I did not get to see the gray in action, but in my experience, the darker the lume, the less effective it becomes. To my eye, the orange and white MT-3 looks like the best bet, as the citrus orange markers and hands pop against the white in daylight and will still put on a good show at night, while the white-on-white overlay adds dimension without being too obvious.

A familiar Miyota 9015 runs the show. This 24 jewel automatic, hacks and hand winds. It has a smooth 28.8k bph sweep, and its 3.9mm height helps to make the Metropolitan’s sleek proportions possible. The custom rotor looks nice, and I wouldn’t have the slightest complaint about this unit, except for the fact that Metropolitan has a planned retail price of $980. That is pretty steep for a Japanese movement. For close to $1k, most buyers expect Swiss. I’m not saying the ETA 2428-2 or Sellita SW-200 are necessarily superior to the 9015, but others do, and that perception may ultimately hurt Ayers’s sales. On the other hand, Ayers will start Kickstarter pre-orders at half of retail, and a Metropolitan for about $500 looks like a very nice deal.

I think the Metropolitan is lovely. It’s case proportions are excellent, and the full lume effect is nothing short of stunning. Early bird backers will be getting an eye-catching but still very wearable watch at a reasonable price. The Ayers Metropolitan Kickstarter campaign starts March 27, 2018. For more information and announcements, see AyersWatches.com. ⬩

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