Orange Watch Company Snowflake and Bond

I learned of Australia's Orange Watch Company (OWC) from my friend and fellow watch blogger, Paul Hubbard. Paul had written about OWC watches for A Blog To Watch, WatchOtaku, and his new site, Ultracrepidarian, and along the way, got to be good friends with the owner. Considering how much Paul liked them, it is a bit surprising that I dragged my feet so long, but in the interest of making up for lost time, I finally took on three OWC models to review at once: two MS-9411 Snowflakes, and Paul's personal MS-6538 Bond. All three are lovely watches, but they are not without their flaws.

OWC Snowflake and Bond

My OWC care package came via Paul Hubbard, who had recently reviewed them himself (you should read his review too) and fitted his own straps (more on that later). He sent me the three watches, bracelets, and one full set of packaging and accouterments. The complete kit is an exercise in massive overkill. It starts with a large plastic box, and since I said "plastic," I'm sure you are thinking it something flimsy. Oh, I assure you, it is not. This thing is hewn from 1" thick polyethylene and is heavy as all hell. Your first challenge is to open it. There are no hinges or latches. Instead, the thick sides are held by precision-cut finger joints. You find the small gap for your fingertips and pry it apart to reveal a padded interior containing ... another box. 

OWC packaging

This one is Pelican-style and contains the watch. Each package also includes two Torx drivers and a commemorative $5 AUD silver coin. Given my recent rant about excessive packaging, you can imagine my reaction. I can't deny that all of this is high quality, unique, and makes the unboxing moment memorable, but it is entirely too much for my taste. I'd much prefer the watch and tools (no coins) in a lightweight box that I can open on the first try and then recycle afterward. 

OWC bax and coin

So let's get down to the watches.

OWC zeroed in on its brand identity right from the very start. The company produces mechanical dive watches in the '60s Submariner idiom and while they have consistently refined it over the years, they have not deviated from that formula. All three watches share similar 40.5mm wide, 51mm long, 12.9mm thick cases, brushed on top with outstanding mirror-polishing on their smooth sides. You can choose cases with or without crown guards. Thanks to O-rings, screw-down crowns, and crystal retaining rings, they are sealed for a 300m water resistance rating. A 4.5mm thick, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal finishes things off. The case feels solid, and the finishing is superb. Clearly, OWC built these things to be used like proper tools while looking damn fine in the process.

OWC Blue Snowflake side

Torx screws secure both the relatively unadorned case back and the strap bars, as well as the bracelet links. This is both a blessing and a curse. I appreciate the utility of screwed bars as you are never going to accidentally pop one free as you might with a spring bar, but screws often need a dab of low strength Loctite to prevent them from backing out. Torx heads provide a much better seat than conventional flat or Philips heads. You might not have Torx head tools in your watch box, but OWC helpfully supplies two, and you will need them both as the screw is threaded into the bar, not the lugs. This is in itself a "good news, bad news" situation because it means fiddling with a screwdriver in each hand while your third hand holds the case, but if you do happen to strip those threads in a ham-fisted moment, you need only replace the bar, not repair the case. It is also worth mentioning that because the bars are much thicker than spring bars, you will want to be sure that the strap you are fitting can accommodate them.

OWC Bond side

So after all this, do I like having the bars or not? Personally, I’ll always choose a conventional spring bar over a screw because I like to swap straps, and screws make that process more difficult, but if you prefer the security of a bar, the OWC set up is pretty dandy.

OWC Bond bracelet

The 20mm brushed bracelet is a sturdy unit with solid end links held by Torx screws. When fitted, the watch is an absolute brute, weighing in at 7.6 oz. A signed butterfly clasp keeps the profile low and smooth, unlike many of boxy flip-lock and extension clasps I have encountered lately.

OWC bracelet

I got a pair of OWC's tough kangaroo leather straps as well. These are custom made to the company's specs, fitted with tubes, and really look the business in black and orange. While I marveled at their construction, I didn't wear them because try as I might, I could not squeeze them between the lugs. My calipers told me they were 21mm wide and while that is usually an easy enough squeeze, it proved unbelievably frustrating with the tubes in place. I could have removed the tubes, or compressed the strap with hand tools, but as these all were going back to Paul, I simply left the watches on the aftermarket straps he provided and concentrated on the bracelets instead. I'm not saying the straps don't work, I'm merely warning you that they are an extremely tight fit. 

OWC Kangaroo strap

OWC offers a choice of ETA 2892-2 clone movements: a Chinese Seagull ST1812 and a Swiss Soprod A-10 (renamed M-100). Which should you buy? That depends. I know many a watch nerd who will insist on Swiss or nothing, and choosing the Soprod ticks the last box to make your OWC officially Swiss Made, but assuming proper assembly and quality control, there is no reason why the Chinese clone won't perform admirably as well. It will also be less expensive and be covered by the same 2-year OWC warranty. The review samples all had Soprods. 

OWC crown

C3 SuperLuminova shines brightly on the markers, hands, and yes, also on the engraved ceramic bezel insert. I love the look of a glossy ceramic insert, and I keep a special place in my heart for those that are fully lumed. 

OWC Snowflake lume

At this point, both Snowflakes and the Bond go their own ways. These watches are built to order, so customers can do a bot of mix and match to get the watch they want.  

I got two MS-9411 Snowflakes to play with, one with a matte black dial, the other with a blue gradient dial. As the name indicates, both have polished snowflake hands and rectangular markers, giving the watches a Tudor vibe. The black sample was the more conventional of the two, sporting crown guards, and a 40.5mm bezel with minute marks for the first quarter of its index and polished depressions in its coin-edge. Its 6mm crown shares the same style and finish. 

OWC black Snowflake wrist

The matte dial, AR coating, and printed markers banish nearly all reflection for a perfectly flat and highly legible appearance. The crystal practically vanishes, particularly in low light. This one had a red second hand that, to my eye, clashes with the attractive orange OWC "hamburger" logo. Dial text matches the logo's squared typeface. A brushed rehaut completes the no-nonsense look. This is the only sample that had the optional date window, neatly tucked between the fourth and fifth hour markers and black to match the dial, just as it should be.

OWC blue Snowflake

The blue dial is a stunner, fading from black at the edges to a vibrant Royal Blue at the center. The orange logo and faithfully matched second hand pop against it. Unlike the black dial, this one has applied and polished markers and a chapter index. The bezel is the same size as that on the black version, but carries a knurled edge, as does its 8mm crown. Finally, the ceramic insert forgoes the individual minute marks for a cleaner look. 

OWC blue Snowflake

The end result is a touch flashier than the black version, although it gives up nothing in utility. I found it to be the most modern of the three samples and the one I wore the most often. 

In a way, the MS-6538 Bond walked the line between the black and blue Snowflakes. It wore a conventional Sub-style dial and like the black Snowflake, had polished markers, polished Mercedes hands, and a red spear-tipped second hand. It shared the same chapter index, bezel, and crown as the blue model. This one was Paul's personal watch, so it had the odd dings of a well-loved piece, but was holding up quite well. 

OWC Bond

Bezel action was a bit disappointing. I found the coin-edged one on the black Snowflake to be perfectly crisp, but both of the knurled bezels exhibited more back play than I would like. On the Bond, I might have chalked it up to age and use, but the blue Snowflake had no such excuse.

OWC does things its own way and this includes the ordering process. There are no prices on the webpage, no "add to cart," just an email address where you submit your request and start a dialogue about what you would like. Depending on options, OWC watches generally run between $1200-1500 USD. For this not inconsiderable sum, you are getting a very attractive and highly capable watch that is made just for you and is a bit of a rarity, even among boutique brands. Whether that justifies the price is up to you. 

For more information or to start an ordering conversation for an OWC of your own, visit OrangeWatchCompany.com. ⬩  

OWC black Snowflake


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