The Seals Watch Co. Collection

Since 2014, Michael Seals has artfully crafted tool watches for his brand, the Seals Watch Company. After he displayed at the September District Time show here in Washington, DC, I was fortunate enough to find myself with watches from each line in the Seals collection, and just enough time for good, hands-on review before they went home. I sampled a slate gray Model A, a black/vintage Model C Field Explorer, and both of the Dark Seal Sport Watches (rotating and fixed bezel). It wasn't easy to pack them off, because all four were delightful, and one grabbed me hard enough to pry some cash from my wallet.

Seals Model C
Model A

The Model A was Seals’s first watch, inspired by his own drawings of WW2 tanks. It is not a literal interpretation, but you can see hints in the case’s stepped profile and blunt angles. It measures 41mm wide, 51mm long, and just a touch over 12mm thick. Viewed from above, it is shaped like a soft hexagon with a bowed perimeter and rounded corners. The sides of the case are flat. Broad, blunt lugs turn downward, integrating seamlessly into the bracelet, which improves the wearability of the otherwise slablike body and projects a solid, athletic appearance. 

Seals Model A slate

The bezel is tall and accented with a polished edge that presents a striking contrast to the vertical brushing on the rest of the case, the bracelet, and dial. Exposed screws decorate the long angular crown guards and the twin sets of bars that secure the first bracelet link. While it does not mimic any particular watch that I can recall, it is vaguely reminiscent of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and Patek Philippe Nautilus. This kind of Gentaesque association very good thing indeed.

Seals Model A slate

Pretty though it may be, the Model A is a tool watch and is engineered accordingly. It has a 2.5mm thick anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, a screw down crown, and is rated for 100m water resistance. A solid, threaded caseback decorated with the Seals logo hides a robust Miyota 9015 automatic movement. You know the unit: 24 jewels, 28.8k bph, 42-hour power reserve, hacking and hand winding. It’s a smooth, solid, easily serviced movement that doesn't break the bank.

Seals Model A slate caseback

I consider strap swapping to be one of the joys of watch ownership so I am never excited to see a proprietary attachment on a watch as it limits strap options to factory or custom made pieces; and yet, I can't fault Seals as the design functions so well. By recessing the first link into the scalloped lugs and matching the size and shape of the lugs and links, he has gone far to make the watch appear as one complete unit. Unlike most bracelets, the first link is fixed in place at the lugs and does not articulate. Instead, the second set of screw pins holding it to the next link takes that role, functioning as a hinge. While it makes the whole unit feel more solid, it also makes it larger, essentially extending the head’s overall length.

Seals Model A slate

Normally, this would be a deal killer for me, but after wearing the watch a while, I came to appreciate it as an effective, integrated design. Seals offers a leather strap as well. While I did not get a chance to try it, I think I'd find it hard to give up the bracelet. It is an essential element of the Model A and a fine piece in and of itself, with solid end links and a push-button clasp with an embossed logo.

Seals Model A slate

The synergy of design also extends to the dial. Seals offers the watch in brushed stainless, PVD black, or PVD slate cases with brushed silver/white, black, or slate dials. My sample was slate-on-slate, the monochrome scheme and matching vertical brushing creating the illusion that the watch was hewn from one solid chunk of steel. Applied markers, logo, and date window frame provide a welcome dash of brightwork. What they lack, is lume. Only the skeletonized pencil hands get the BGW9 SuperLuminova treatment. One the one hand, I like the metal-on-metal purity of design; on the other, I like being able to read my watch at night. Luming the hands certainly helps, but I wish there could have been a dab of the glowing stuff behind the hour markers as well, perhaps on the printed chapter index? It’s hardly critical, but it would have been a worthwhile addition.

Seals Model A slate wrist

On the wrist, the Model A wears larger than its 41mm dimensions might suggest. This is a result of both its shape and its unique bracelet end link arrangement. Still, I found it to be perfectly comfortable on my wrist, which is just shy of 7” around. (Yes, faithful readers. Confronted with several bracelets that had mysteriously shrunk in the watch drawer, I measured my wrist again and discovered that like my waistline, it too has succumbed to middle age spread.) Moreover, its low profile and stylish shape look pretty sharp with a suit.

The Seals Model A is $675 on leather and $800 on the bracelet. Right now, it looks as if only the black and slate models are in stock.

Dark Seal

The Dark Seal takes a more traditional approach to tool watch design than the Model A, but just because it is less stylized, it is by no means less stylish. Its round, 40mm, brushed stainless steel case and applied, bar-shaped hour markers are exactly what we watch nerds might expect, and yet, the result is surprisingly fresh.

Dark Seal 12-hour bezel black

As noted above, the Dark Seal may be ordered with or without a movable bezel. Other options include black or blue dials, a choice of a leather strap or nylon NATO, and blue or orange accenting for the fixed bezel model. I sampled a black rotating and a blue fixed.

Dark Seal 12-hour bezel black

The 12-hour, 120-click bezel is an imposing item. Its circular brushed surface is 1.5mm wider than the case and edged with squared teeth, the gaps of which are bead blasted. This pattern repeats on the chunky signed crown (note that on these prototypes, only the fixed bezel had a signed crown but both will be signed in production). Clipped, drilled lugs, accented by a polished chamfer, follow the case’s gentle arc. An overall thickness of 12.4mm and length of 48mm provide just enough presence without being too large for small to mid-sized wrists.

Dark Seal side profile

Appealing as that aggressive bezel may be, I found myself charmed by the fixed bezel. It is brushed across its flat top, polished around its wide bevel, satin finished on the edge, and finally polished again on the tightly cut underside. It’s rare to see so much effort go into the “plain” model and the result is anything but. Case finishing is simply top notch.

Dark Seal fixed bezel blue wrist

Both versions share the same no-nonsense dial layout, available in matte black or blue. The applied steel markers and long baton hands are both filled with lume (BGW9 in production as opposed the greener hue pictured here). There is no extraneous text cluttering things up, just the logo and brand name. If you are looking for flair, I would direct you to the hexagonal counterweight on the lume-tipped second hand, which can be ordered polished or matte blasted. Seals also offers the option of blue or orange second hands and hour accents which should pop nicely against the black dial.

Dark Seal lume

As attractive as it is, It would almost be a shame to use this watch in the field as intended, but it would be a waste not to. With a screw-down crown, 200m water resistance rating, domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, and seatbelt nylon or leather NATO strap the Dark Seals are more than ready to tackle the great outdoors.

Dark Seal 12-hour bezel black

The movement is a 9000 series Miyota, but not the one you think. Seals passed over the ubiquitous 9015 for a 9039 automatic that shares the more common unit’s 28.8k bph sweep, 24 jewels, 42-hour power reserve, and hacking and hand winding abilities, but differs in that it is a true no-date movement and the hands sit slightly lower, allowing a thinner case.

The Dark Seal is $580 for the fixed bezel and $585 for the 12-hour. Although the latter is currently sold out, you will be able to place an order for the second batch soon.

Model C Field Explorer

The Model C charmed me from the moment I opened the box and I was not alone. This watch enjoyed more than its fair share of attention at the District Time show and more than one attendee tried to buy the prototype off the stand.

For the case, Seals went back to the Model A’s tanklike, modified hexagon, but shaved off the fat lugs in favor of wire-style arrangement, albeit one fitted with conventional spring bars. The tall bezel, alternating brushed and polished surfaces, and anti-reflective sapphire crystal carry over. Bead blasting and distressed vintage finishes are also available. The C's case is thinner (11.4mm), ever so slightly wider (40.5mm), and significantly shorter (48mm) than the A's; moreover, the wire lugs vanish into the strap, making it appear even smaller on the wrist. I found it to be ideal.

Seals Model C black wrist

Inside, you will find a Swiss STP 1-11, an attractive alternative to the ETA 2824. This hacking and hand winding automatic has 26 jewels, a 28.8k bph vibration rate, and a 44-hour power reserve. Better still, Seals regulates it to -4/+6 seconds in five positions for COSC level performance.

Water resistance is a substantial 200m, aided no doubt but the screw down crown, the shape of which mirrors the case. I worried that the blunt 7mm hexagon would feel awkward to use, but my fears were unfounded, it winds smoothly, and after the first use, I didn’t give the odd shape a second thought.

Seals Model C black profile side

Many watchmakers have tried a “vintage” dial as of late, some with more imagination than others. Seals manages to pull the best elements of retro style into the Model C. On the gritty, textured dial, he applied the requisite creamy SuperLuminova inside fat, stylized Arabic numbers (note the heavy twin bars of the 11 and the open 4 - lovely stuff!) that are trimmed in white and arranged in a California dial layout. Small 24-hour markers on the inside make it a proper field watch.

Seals Model C black

The dial’s surface is not far from the flat sapphire crystal. Still, there is just enough room to squeeze in a raised ring for the printed railroad track index. It is more pronounced than most, broader, with heavier lines, and lumed blocks at each hour. The proportions work, allowing the index to hold its own among the other bold elements. The applied, brushed steel “S” logo is the only text on the dial. The long, polished pencil hands are lume-filled, and at night, everything shines brightly except the white second hand. That is left untreated, but you do get a choice of a red or blue tip.

Seals Model C black lume

The prototype arrived on a 22mm, handmade Italian leather strap that was thick and soft with raw edges. Seals promises a heavy buckle to match the case style and finish, but I haven't seen it yet. It seemed so comfortably broken in that I asked if it was a production piece or a personal item. Turns out, this is the same strap customers will get. I say, bravo. It is ruggedly handsome and suits the watch perfectly.

Seals Model C black

The first Model Cs are on their way to customers and ordering has opened up for round two. Buyers can choose black or a sober German blue dial. It sells for $635, including an extra strap and a canvas watch roll. 

I couldn't resist ordering one myself. The Model C has the sleek tank case of the Model A, the utility of the Dark Seal, and a head-turning style all its own. As tempting as the blue dial and antiqued case finish may be, I ultimately chose the black dial with a red-tipped second hand. While I enjoyed the brushed/polished case on the prototype, I opted for the antiqued finish. It makes sense given the Model C's style and I have nothing quite like it in my collection. 

For more information or to place an order, head over to Seals-Watches.com.  Even if your preferred watch is out of stock, I can assure you that they are worth the wait. ⬩

Seals Model C black case back

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