Exploring the world of watches on a budget

York and Front Burrard

Review and photos by Mike Razak. Updated 11/18/20.

You probably aren’t familiar with York & Front Watch Company. Neither was I. That’s ok. It’s hard to keep track of all the different brands sometimes. But York & Front (named for a major intersection in downtown Toronto, whence the watch) might be one for you to keep an eye on. Their debut effort is The Burrard (named for a major thoroughfare in Vancouver, whence one of the company’s partners), a functional piece that leans toward the office or formal occasions but doesn’t feel out of place when taken out for the weekend. The genesis of The Burrard was a discussion between the owners of Y&F of what the “one watch” would look like. Not finding what they had in mind at a reasonable price point, they set about to create it. And they didn’t do a bad job, either.

York & Front Burrard wrist
The Burrard’s case is certainly its best feature. You may be looking at it, wondering what I mean, as there’s nothing about the 38mm case that particularly pops or stands out. But sometimes restraint is an art. The design language for the case is very reminiscent of vintage Seiko. In profile, it has a constant curve, forming an arc from lug to lug. At 12 mm thick, this case shape means that the watch rests nicely upon the natural curve of the wrist (or at least of my wrist). The lugs have similar chamfered angles as my Seiko Weekdater, or any number of old 1960s dress Seikos. The chamfers and fixed bezel share a polished finish, while the remainder of the case is brushed. 

York & Front Burrard side

Drilled 20mm lugs allow for easy strap swaps, and while it may not be clear in the photos, a bit of wizardry was required to implement those lugs. The use of drilled lugs meant the lug holes sit closer to the case. The solution? Notches on the underside of the case at 6 and 12, to allow for necessary strap clearance. If you’ve ever struggled with short lugs and thick straps, you know this can be a real problem, and so addressing the issue is to be appreciated. The screw-down crown is adequate (and will be more so, as it’s being increased in width by 1mm for production) and is embossed with the York & Front ‘Y&F’ logo. While nothing unique, the finishing of the caseback had me quite pleased. A large iteration of the same logo found on the crown graces it, with polished letters on a textured background. There is no see-thru case back because you don’t need one. The sapphire crystal is “slightly boxed” (their words) and features AR coating—it’s unremarkable and does its job (my words). 

York & Front Burrard  case back

Moving beyond the glass to the dial, I feel something is just barely missing. I don’t know with what certainty I can place it, though. The crisp whiteness of the painted dial gives an enamel effect without the cost, and the partially-serif font of the Arabic numerals are spot on. Around the outer edge is a minute track with 5-minute lume dots. The dial text, however, is where I believe the problem lays. I think I want the ‘Y&F’ logo to replace the ‘12’, and ‘Burrard’ to be just below where the current dial text is. Alternatively, having a large ‘Y&F’ at 12, with a slight drop below into the white of the dial center, and then ‘Burrard’ just above the 6. Either one I feel would be a good change. That said—and this comes to me as I type it—either of these options may make the dial too busy, and thus disrupt the cleanliness of the white dial. 

York & Front Burrard

The hands hybridize sword and syringe styles to nice effect, with the second hands red portion extending all the way to the outer edge of the dial. Two things: I don’t know how I feel about the length of the seconds hand. Losing the triangle on the end, I think, would improve it. Second, the lume here is not necessarily an issue (it shines as brightly as you’d expect), but against a stark white dial, the yellowish-green of the resting lume (can we make that a standard term?) creates a disruptive visual contrast. [11/18/20 Update: The Burrard will now have bright white BGW9 SuperLuminova.After some further consideration, I realized that what sometimes mitigates this contrast issue is that there are complementary lumed markers, creating balance, and making the lume stand out far less. I know this is the case on my Nodus Avalon, also with a white dial, and that I was never bothered by the lume issue. This is all to say, if I were buying the Burrard I’d certainly be going with the black dial. 

York & Front Burrard  nato wrist

The Burrard features the automatic Sellita SW200-1, with the date removed. Sellitas are industry standard at this point, and they’ve come a long way from the early days when they were rife with QC issues. Mine ran at 5s-7s/day, which is nothing to scoff at. And there’s not enough praise in the world to offer watch brands that take the extra effort to ensure that I don’t have to deal with a phantom date position when setting my watch. [11/18/20 Update: The Burrard will now come with a no-date STP 1-11 instead of the Sellita.]

York & Front Burrard

The Burrard comes on a two-stitch black leather strap that pairs nicely with the watch and its dial. Given the cleanness of the watch and the dial, I would’ve liked something more than a two-stitch. Either a standard stitch or no visible stitching would have been a better match. The clasp—which usually doesn’t garner much attention from watchmakers or me—is a continuation of the excellent finishing on the case, with curvature and chamfering that is quite pleasant to the eye, and a sturdiness that is reassuring. I paired the Burrard with several straps and found them all to be fitting. So if you’re concerned, don’t be. Just realize that some of your more rugged or sport straps may look amiss. 

York & Front Burrard strap

As I understand, some of the initial response to The Burrard has been less than enthusiastic. While I won’t claim what I’ve written above is gushing, I think it’s fair to say it leans positive. I can’t say what the issue is that people are seeing, nor how they are making such resolute judgment without handling the watch. The Burrard isn’t breaking the mold, and it’s not bringing anything particularly new to the table. But I agree with the founder of York and Front that there does seem to be a gap in the affordable market for a versatile dress-leaning watch. And the watch fills that gap ably. My biggest gripe was with aspects of the dial. But as I returned to it to write this review, I found myself pleased, not noticing the nits I picked above. For $590 $499, you’re getting a Swiss movement (with no phantom date position), a gorgeous case, and a decent dial (a bit better than decent if you go with the black dial). I don’t think this watch is for the over picky accumulator (like me, and maybe you). It’s for that person’s friend, who just wants a watch that can accompany him throughout the workweek. If that’s you or your friend—or if you just plain like the watch—you’ll be able to preorder it on the company’s website in the next few weeks, with delivery expected for late 2019. [11/18/20 Update: The Burrard pre-sale is now live. It ends December 1. Delivery is expected in March 2021.] ⬩

York & Front Burrard
York & Front Burrard lume

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