Melbourne Hawthorn Chrono

Review and photos by Mike Razak

I used to own a watch from the Australian brand Melbourne Watch Company. A Rose Gold Portsea Calendar. It was a wonderful watch that I simply didn’t wear often enough, so had to part with. In fact, it was a watch with a bit of sentimental value for me: I bought it from Chris Vail (of NTH watches) at my first DC Microbrand Meet-up (now the District Time Show), where I also won an Isofrane strap that was handed to me by the Time Bum. And a year later, I started writing for him. And on top of that, it was the watch that led to me forming one of my closest friendships in the watch community (not with The Time Bum, though he’s alright, too). So, Melbourne has a special place in my watch-loving heart. But their offerings aside from the Portsea series have always fallen flat for me. And so, it was with some uncertainty that I agreed to go hands-on with the Melbourne Hawthorn Chrono.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

Given its dimensions, I was quite pleased with how the Hawthorn wears. Its 42mm diameter is usually towards my upper end but is held in check by the use of 22mm lugs (more on those below). At no point did I feel it overwhelmed my 7in wrist. In fact, to the contrary, I found it sat comfortably on whether on its bracelet or a strap.  A perfectly sized crown is at 3 o’clock and is flanked unassuming chrono pushers, which operate easily and with a satisfying click. At 11mm thick, the crown and pushers are usable even while on the wrist, something not all watches—and certainly not all chronos—can boast. And I know I said 11mm, but something about this watch makes it look and feel closer to 12 or 12.5mm. The crown screws down, which you may think is great but is a bit baffling given the mere 50 M of water resistance. That level of seal certainly does not demand a screw-down system, and an extra gasket could’ve gotten the job done just as well.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

There’s little fanfare to the case: everything is brush-finished except for a small ring at the base of the steel bezel. As you hopefully can tell, though, the finishing is well done and features sharp, crisp edges. I normally have a strong preference for a more exciting case design—chamfers, swoops, contrast, unicorns—but in this case (Ha!), Melbourne made the right call by not fussing about. The simple case allows the dial (under a sapphire crystal) to steal the show, as it deserves. 

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

The dial of the Hawthorn is all about texture and layers. The blue is a great hue (it also comes in green, black, grey, and white, though only the blue, green, and white catch my eye). You’ve got a smooth sloped chapter ring with minute markers, a flat hour ring with applied indices, and then the main dial, which features a carbon fiber-like texture, and radial subdials (with pie pan depressions for the subs at 3 and 9 o’clock). So yeah, there’s a lot going on. But it’s all balanced. Nothing feels out of place, and the decision to keep it simple with blue and white was a good one. With all this texture, any extra flashes could overwhelm things. Hands are simple swords, with a delightful red chrono hand providing all the pop we need, and the trademark Melbourne “M” as the counterbalance.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

My first impression of the dial as a whole was one of wanting badly to love it but feeling unable to. The issue I’ve zeroed in on is the use of the carbon-fiber texture on the main dial. This finish is often used to convey a sportiness and exoticism that isn’t inherent, such as in budget sports cars. That ersatz glamour leaves the dial a bit hollow feeling for me. But I urge you to decide for yourself, as this is a very subjective interpretation, and the dial is by no means bad. To be sure, all the textures complement each other, rather than clash. And the watch is legible day and night thanks to its simple color scheme and adequate lume (though the indices shine a bit brighter than the hands).

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

Flipping the watch over, the fa├žade of a building is intricately etched onto a screwdown caseback. If I told you Hawthorn is an inner suburb of Melbourne, you may think, “Oh, what lovely Hawthorn-located building is upon my caseback?” And you’d be justified in such thinking, but wrong no less. The building at hand is, in fact, the Flinders Street Station. It’s a lovely building and some suggest it’s a must-see attraction in Melbourne. But it’s also 5.84km (it is Australia, after all) from Hawthorn and that’s if you take the chopper1. Does the same image grace the back of Melbourne’s Flinders model? It does.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

Under the misleading screwdown caseback, a Seiko VK63 mecha-quartz provides the driving power. While you can turn up your nose at quartz all you want, the sweep chronograph hand makes this highly enjoyable. The only tick-tick-ticking you’ll have to watch is from the sub-seconds at 9 o’clock, and that’s highly tolerable. In fact, in my experience, if it’s got sweep, quartz chronos are A-Okay. The chrono only times to 60 minutes, but once Lesley Stahl is done, what do you even have to time?

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

While the movement is unjeweled, it is serviceable, though most watchmakers would simply do a replacement for you. This VK—like all VKs—features a date, and you’ve noticed by now that the watch does not. While not my preference, no-date quartz chronos are nonexistent, so here we are. You’ll need to deal with a dead crown position or buy a different watch. But I can’t make all your decisions for you.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

Let’s talk about this bracelet. It's pretty good. The 22mm bracelet wears with adequate comfort—it’s there, it’s a bracelet, it’s metal, you’ll feel it. But it’s not bothersome as some cheaper bracelets can be. It has two polished center links that are nestled between brushed components. It creates a fluidity when it meets the case, as the brushed is against brushed, and the polished abuts the thin polished ring at the base of the bezel. Similarly, the branded flip-lock clasp is brushed on the body and polished on the flip-lock. I like the overall aesthetic, and the bit of grooving just beneath where the flip-lock rests.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph bracelet

Though the bracelet is a cinch to take off the watch, getting it back on is a bit of a struggle due to the location of the lug holes. If you look at the shape of the lugs, they come to a point of sorts at their ends, and it's just near there that Melbourne has situated the lug holes. The issue here is that it makes it more difficult than lug holes which you can just drop the bracelet straight down between the lugs. Not impossible, but if you’re an inveterate strap swapper like I am, makes the bracelet far less appealing, and perhaps the watch, too. But I made it work through much swearing, and the watch paired nicely with a good array of straps, including my trusty Barton Elite Silicone.  

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue

Up top I questioned whether the Melbourne Hawthorn would be the Melbourne to reinvigorate my affection for a brand that I’ve felt indifferent about for some time. I don’t know if reinvigorated would be the word I’d choose. Aside from the signature “M” counterbalance on the red chrono hand, nothing about the Hawthorn got my motor revving too much, but it’s an undeniably well-made watch, with good finishing and an engaging dial. At $327, it’s not a bad deal for someone just getting into the watch game who wants to try out that chronograph lifestyle before wading into the higher-end market. The watch is available on Melbourne’s website now, in all five colors. You never know: maybe you’ll buy a Hawthorn, win a strap, start writing watch reviews, and make a few new friends.

1 I’d be remiss not to tell you that it’s only an 8 minute train ride from The Flinders Street Station to the Hawthorn Station, by way of the Alamein, Belgrave, or Lilydale line.

Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue
Melbourne Hawthorn Chronograph blue


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