Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Haven Chilton

Review and photos by Mike Razak

The Haven Chilton—the Midwest brand’s first offering—is all about the dial. There are other great things about it, but when it comes down to it, you’d be buying it for the dial. It’s got texture, it’s got color, it’s got numbers and words and circles. It’s got practically everything you want from a dial. You can even check your pulse. Or your friend’s. Or, if you’re getting familiar, your friend’s friend’sAs I write this, the watch has already been returned, and I sit in sorrow, missing the dial.  
Haven Chilton
Haven Watch Co. was started by Weston Cutter in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  The son of a watchmaker, he has always loved timepieces, but about 5 years ago became enthralled by all that vintage has to offer. Fast forward to 2018, and he and his watchmaker friend (Yes, he has two watchmakers in his life. Can you imagine the savings?) decided to pursue the creation of a classic manual-wind chrono. And just like that, we have the Chilton, a watch fully assembled and regulated in the Midwest.  

Haven Chilton

At 37.5mm in diameter and 13mm thick, the Chilton is a sensibly sized vintage-inspired chrono that doesn’t get caught up in flashiness. Its 18mm drilled lugs feature multiple chamfers for an elegant twist effect (similar, but not quite the same as Omega lugs). The 316L stainless steel case features contrasting polished and brushed surfaces, with a fixed bezel. Standard pump pushers and an easy-to-grip crown with the “H” logo finish off the watch as seen from above. On the reverse, a solid titanium screw-down case back provides the watch with 3ATM water resistance but that may be bumped to 5ATM on production models—just in case you want to take a bubble bath. The caseback itself is emblazoned a graphic of the Great Lakes; while the prototype was simply etched, the final version will be in relief, providing a better aesthetic.  

Haven Chilton case back

But let’s get back to that delightful dial. Hiding under a double-domed, double AR-coated sapphire crystal, this champagne masterpiece pops with color and is perfectly executed. Also available in blue, the proportions are excellent all around. I catch you looking at the outer chapter ring: Pulsations? Why not a tachymeter? Well, it’s a practical matter: how often have you used a tachy ring to check how fast something was going, or a telemeter to figure out how far away that storm was? I’m not saying you're going to check your pulse any more often than you would’ve done those things, but you’ve always got a pulse to check (if you don’t, call 911). Mr. Cutter favors using his to check his pulse after a run. And if you just can’t bear the pulsations, the blue dial has a decimal scale.  

Haven Chilton

The subdials feature a radial texture, with the 30-minute totalizer separated into black, red, and cyan thirds (would we call that cyan?). I’ve also been advised that, in a nod to vintage chronos, there will be long hashmarks on that subdial at 3, 6, and 9 minutes. This harkens back to the days (c. 1950s) when long-distance calls were charged in 3-minute increments. It was a better time, when being rich meant the luxury of really catching up with Aunt Millie. Materteral digressions aside, I love the handset they chose here. There is something…puffy about it. That’s a terrible word to use, but there is a roundness to the edges of the hands that I can’t get enough of. Look closely and you’ll see the reflections coming off them, and how the lume is sunk into the hour and minute hands. Marvelous.  

Haven Chilton wrist

The only—I mean O-N-L-Y—issue I found with the watch was with the height of the fixed bezel. As it is, it creates too much space between the crystal and the dial. When you need to clear a handset and you’re using double-domed sapphire, you’re going to have some extra height. But I feel there are ways around the issue that creates. Using a more thoroughly vintage big dome acrylic crystalyou could shorten the bezel and allow the crystal itself to clear the handset; this option may decrease the overall durability of the watch, though. Another option that wouldn’t sacrifice much is to add more depth/height to the dial. Perhaps applied indices (though that may disrupt the dial)? Or have a chapter ring insert for the pulsation scale, as opposed to having it printed on the dial itself. This would come up against the bezel wall and create the illusion of a shallower bezel.  Anyway, there you go. My one gripe.  

Haven Chilton side

Powering the Chilton is one of Sellita’s newest calibers, the SW510M. Released at Basel last year, the M is the manual winding version of the SW510, which is based on the Valjoux 7750. It’s offered in a few variants, but as far as I can tell, The Chilton is the first watch to go into production with the three-register option. You’ll find no issues with this excellent movement, and all functions were a go when I used the watch, including the satisfying click from the pushers.  

Haven Chilton movement

The Chilton comes standard with a 5-link bracelet with straight end links. While there’s something to be said for fitted end links, the straight ends are consistent with vintage watches, so I’ll give it a pass. The bracelet is a bit generic, but was comfortable and easy to size, with multiple micro-adjustment holes on the clasp.  In addition, each will ship with the buyer’s choice of 18mm leather strap—pebbled blue, ocher, or grey. My choice is the pebbled blue with yellow stitching because it’s great. The leather is hand cut in Indiana by Haven and finished by Leather Works Minnesota. When I first opened them up, I was concerned they may be a little wanting in the quality department, but I was pleasantly surprised, and I am happy to say that I wish I could buy them all in 20mm for all my other watches. They wore quite well with the watch and were as comfortable as almost any strap I’ve had. I also had the chance to put the watch on several of my own 18mm straps—black nato, green lizard, black leather—and it handled each with grace and aplomb.  

Haven Chilton full kit

Hot on the heels of The Time Bum’s diatribe on unnecessary packaging, I’d be remiss not to talk about what Haven has done. The watch is shipped in a recycled cardboard box (made in Illinois), wherein the watch itself is secured around a form-cut cardboard watch holder, with the extra strap of your choice in an adjacent slot (the inserts are made in Indiana)The Great Lakes are printed on the outside. It is exactly enough to handle the safe shipping of the watch, provide a pleasant opening experience, and then be promptly recycled. If you must do packaging (instead of an included watch roll or something, this is how it should be done. Reduce, reuse, recycle.  

Haven Chilton packaging

I’ve been putting off the pricing conversation until now. I wanted you to have a chance to really get to know the watch before you found out its price. The watch will retail at $1,799. You’re thinking that’s a bit much. And I hear you. It’s a new brand. We don’t know it from Parnis (it’s better than Parnis). But let’s look at the comps: Oris Diver 65 Chronograph, $4,000; Hanhart Primus Nautic chrono, $3,300; Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph, $4,300; Vertex MP45, $3,800. All those watches feature some variant of the Sellita SW510. Some of them are automatic, the Vertex is a monopusherthe Hanhart has a date. And all of those are “known” brands. The question you need to ask yourself is whether that’s worth the extra $2000+. I’d say it isn’t. And I’d say The Chilton makes a pretty good argument for its price tag. Also it’s assembled in the Midwest - of the United States of America.  

Haven Chilton nato

The Chilton does exactly what Haven intended: executes on the idea of a classic vintage chronograph. The dial pops, the hands shimmer, the lume shines, and the case is almost perfectly crafted. Toss in a solid bracelet and your choice of American-made straps, and the deal just gets sweeter. The Chilton is available for purchase now (shipping in August) and comes with a 2-year warranty.  ⬩
Haven Chilton lume

Haven Chilton wrist

Haven Chilton bracelet

Haven Chilton wrist

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