Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

 Review and photos by Mike Razak.

I first met Neil Carpenter—industrial designer, co-proprietor of sister businesses The Chelsea Watch Shop and The Brooklyn Watch Shop, and founder of the eponymous Carpenter Watches—at the District Time Show two years ago. He had come down from his home in Brooklyn to show off his Brooklyn Field watch (there are 29 iterations, only four of which have not sold out). But he had also brought another piece: bronze, classic vintage design, understated, elegant, gorgeous. I fell hard for the prototype of the Brooklyn Gent. I wanted one of my own, but details were limited; Neil wasn’t sure when the watch would be ready for production. Well, two years on and I’m lucky enough to review the entire Brooklyn Gent line. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent black silver

The Brooklyn Gent follows the Brooklyn Field Watch, a vintage influenced field watch that suggests affluence and good taste, while also being accessible in its design (and price point). The Brooklyn Gent echoes this approach, providing a vintage-inspired dress watch with a modern soul at a decidedly reasonable price point. The 38mm case—available in stainless steel (G1/G2) or bronze (G3/G4)--is demonstrative of a practiced eye for good taste and decency; you’ll find no ostentatiousness, gaudiness, or excess here. Simply clean lines, balanced proportions, and tasteful finishing. With a profile slightly reminiscent of 1950s Rolexes, the 13.5mm thick mid-case and 19mm lugs have polished sides and are brushed on the top and bottom, while the bezel is polished. While 13.5mm may sound like it is on the thick side, you won't notice it due to the perfect contouring. And yes, you read that right: 19mm lugs. Stop moaning. This is all about proportions and the look and feel of the watch. I’ve long preached the gospel of a 2:1 case-to-lugs ratio. Watch brands should be striving for this balance and Carpenter has adhered to it. Good on them. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent black bronze

On the side of the case, a screw-down serves to make the watch more durable and less prone to damage. The most common aftersales repair Carpenter received prior to the Gent was broken crown stems. A screw-down crown adds durability and reduces the chance that a late-night bump into the door frame will end in a service ticket. The crown also reinforces water resistance, which is 5ATM as marketed, but reportedly as good as 10ATM on the wrist. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent side

Rolling the watch over, one has a view of the Swiss movement through sapphire crystal. The screw-down caseback is inscribed with all the details you need to know but won’t read. So I won’t bother typing them. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent case back

Back to the front, the Brooklyn Gent features a true-to-style acrylic crystal. In talking with Neil about developing and producing the newest model, the biggest obstacle was acrylic crystals. The brand’s manufacturing partners were quite stubborn about sapphire being superior. I’m glad Neil stuck to his guns because the acrylic makes the vintage vibe that much stronger. I also like tapping on it. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Looking through the acrylic, the face of the Brooklyn Gent is a graceful execution of a vintage dial. Available in brushed champagne steel sun-ray or matte black (not a hard decision), the dial features unassuming baton markers separated by straight minute markers. Just outside the minute track are numbers at 5-minute intervals, starting at “00” at 12 o’clock. The numbers on the outside track are certainly not offensive—they are far too subtle to be so—but they are a bit superfluous on such a watch that leans towards dressy. However, if the goal in using them was to tamp down on the dressiness of the watch, it was successful, suggesting that the Brooklyn Gent is meant for the office, the street, and the countryside. The dial text is otherwise well-balanced and unobtrusive, and I’d expect nothing less from a watch born of an industrial designer’s hands. The pencil hands and the framed circular date window (along with the minute numerals) are carried over from the Brooklyn Field. As on that model, here they serve to further imbue the watch with a modern aesthetic that dovetails nicely with an otherwise vintage-styled watch. The hands match the case color and have C3 Super-LumiNova, though on a watch of this styling it may lume may not have been necessary; I actually found its inclusion visually disruptive on the black dial, bronze case model. But that’s one small nit, on one model of a four-model line-up that so far is without a real blemish. And regrettably, that brings me to my biggest gripe about the watch itself. The date window is too small for the numerals on the date wheel. As you get into the later days of the month, you’ll find that the numbers are desperate for breathing room, pushing right up against the edges of the space provided by the frame. The solution may not be so easy, though, as enlarging the frame would mean disrupting the equilibrium of the dial. A better option may be to reduce the font size on the date wheel. I understand this isn’t a huge issue—the date remains readable—but to have a watch this clean upset by an issue so tiny seems a shame. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Powering the Brooklyn Gent is the venerable ETA 2824-2, a 25-jewel automatic movement. Perhaps the most common of all the modern ETA movements, it features a 42-hour power reserve, and a custom engraved rotor featuring the Carpenter name and logo. With Swatch-owned ETA finally following through on its perennial threats to limit supply outside of its corporate umbrella, these movements are going to be less and less common, so the opportunity to get a solid watch with an even more solid movement that can be serviced by literally any competent watchmaker is not an opportunity to overlook. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Let’s get back to the 19mm lugs, which require 19mm straps. I know you’ve been struggling through the review after having read about this spec. And I’ll again advise you to cool your jets, take a breath, grab a glass of water, and start acting like an adult. Let me begin with the optional stainless steel bracelet. Polished center links pair with brushed out links to meet flush with the watch case, tapering from 19mm to a butterfly clasp (remember, this isn’t a dive watch, you don’t need flip-lock). The end links are fixed to the bracelet so you won’t have to spend 10 minutes looking for them each time you want to go Full Metal Jacket on your wrist. If that’s not enough for you, Carpenter also sells four different leather straps (my favorite is the brown semi-brushed leather), though I’d go with the steel clasp, as I found the brass tang a bit pliable, bending back when I pushed to strap it tight to my wrist (likely not an issue if you don’t wear your straps as tight as I do). As far as non-Carpenter pairings, I found the steel case models quite easy to change out, but the black dial, bronze case model (Model G4) proved challenging. I think my green leather strap did a good job but was pressed to find another color that would pair as nicely as black leather. For me, a watch needs to be able to transition between at least three strap/bracelet options, preferably more, and for that reason, I’d count the G4 out. If you are still angry about the 19mm lugs and my patented cure-all of jet-cooling, breathing, water, and adulting hasn’t worked, then be advised that any strap producer worth noting is making 19mm straps (CheapestNato, B&R, Barton, Vario, Hirsch, Hadley Roma, etc). And you can always get a custom strap for under $100 on Etsy or from the thousands of amateur leather craftspeople online. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent wrist

It’s hard picking a favorite of the Brooklyn Gent line up. Neil Carpenter says he’s been partial to the G3 (champagne dial, bronze case) on the brown leather strap. The G2 (black dial, steel case) on that same strap really caught my eye. For all-around wear, though, I’d give my vote to the G1, with its easy-wearing champagne dial and steel case combo. As an unrepentant strap swapper, it would offer me the most versatility. As I mentioned earlier, the G4 is out due to the limited strap options and the visual issue I had with the lumed hands. 

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent  bronze

The Brooklyn Gent can be ordered from the Carpenter website and is available starting at $825, with the braceleted and bronze models running $895. Here’s some great news, though: right now, they’re all $100 off! With four models limited the 250 pieces each, the Brooklyn Gent offers an essential vintage look with modern touches that would serve any collection well—whether it's your first watch or your hundredth. ⬩

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

Carpenter Brooklyn Gent

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