Spectre Frostbite

Review and photos by Mike Razak

When my wife tells me her day was busy, I invariably ask, “Good busy?” Busy can be overwhelming, but busy can be also harmonious and you can find that magical flow to your workday. The Spectre Frostbite is good busy. There is a lot going on, but it all works, it all comes together. The convex, rifled center dial; the radial band around that; the scarab case; the cutouts; the banded crown. It could’ve so easily gone wrong but it jibes so well. While other watches have attempted to do the "successful busy" look, the Spectre Frostbite does it better than any I can think of.

Spectre Frostbite

The Frostbite is Singapore-based Spectre Time’s second model (third if you count the budget-friendly quartz “Classique,” which I do not). The brand’s founder, Gulshan, left an illustrious career with Singapore Airlines (widely considered the best in the world), to pursue his dream of creating a watch brand. His first mechanical offering was the Phantom. This IWC Ingenieur/Genta-inspired sports watch has always seemed like Spectre was holding back, playing it safe. It looks nice, and I’m sure it is, but the Frostbite sees the brand unleash their creativity in a new and amazing way.

Spectre Frostbite

Perhaps just as impressive as the Spectre Frostbite’s design, is how the case scoffs at its own dimensions and wears so incredibly well. At 14.5mm thick, 42mm across, and nearly 50mm lug-to-lug, this watch should be a disaster on the wrist. But like your overweight friend who’s surprisingly fast, it defies expectations. The key is both the rubber strap (which I’ll cover in a bit) and the contours of the case. The lugs drop down below the caseback to really grab onto your wrist and are in fact concave on their back.

Spectre Frostbite

I’ve described this as a scarab case, as for me it brought to mind some sort of futuristic biotechnology, as if at any moment it would pop off my wrist, animate itself, and scurry away. Or perhaps there’s an ancient temple into which it can be placed to open a tomb containing unimaginable treasure (and a curse, because there’s always a curse). At any rate, it features even brushing on its flat surfaces, with deep, frosted cutouts on nearly every facet. I love the angles and depth to this case; I imagine if the cutouts weren’t there, it would appear half-done, unimpressive.

Spectre Frostbite

A deeply grooved bezel with a dial-matched lumed insert was easy to grip but quite stiff. This will be remedied for production models, and the lume here (and elsewhere) will be brightened. You may notice what appears to be dusting on the bezel insert: this is intentional, but as it makes the watch appear dirty, will be removed from the final run. A chunky 4 o’clock crown has a dial-matched band and is etched with the Spectre logo. It’s highly functional, easy to screw down both on and off wrists. Gulshan made a great decision to have this at 4 and utilize the lug as a crown guard, instead of creating a huge protuberance at 3. Bravo.

Spectre Frostbite

Here’s the part where I talk about the dial. The part you‘ve been waiting for. Step into the watch, past the sapphire crystal with a dome perfectly arced to continue the slope created by the bezel. The first thing to catch your eye will undoubtedly be the center dial. That James Bond design is apparently referred to as rifling, and the entire center dial is convex, sloping gently down at the edges. The lines are deep and crisp, and the copper dial I had for review had a tantalizing metallic sheen. The logo at 12 is interesting in that it is half-applied, half printed—this is intentional, but that doesn’t mean I understand it. You’ll also find plenty of dial text on this area—I could’ve done without the large underlined model name. This section of the dial is the star of the show: it’s got all the solos, all the great lines, and it’s the prettiest thing on stage.

Spectre Frostbite

But the dial holds a bit more to it. Beyond the convex cushion of the center dial is a thin band of pebbling, radial rings, and then another band of pebbling. Piano-pedal shaped minute markers (I can’t describe them any better) span the two outer sections, with a minute track on the outermost. The handset has a great design, and I like the brushing, but it would be improved aesthetically if the lume covered more real estate. As it is, the hands feel a bit flat against the texture and depth of the rest of the dial. Lume is adequate at best but as I mentioned, it will be upgraded for production.

Spectre Frostbite

Flipping the watch over, you’re greeted with an 8-bit rendition of a scene from Jaws. Or perhaps it’s a third grader’s depiction of his dad’s scary fishing trip. Maybe it’s the last thing an engraver’s apprentice did before he was dismissed. In any case, it’s terrible and will be replaced by a much higher quality shark graphic for the production run. The screw-down caseback on the Spectre Frostbite ensures 200M of water resistance and shields a Seiko NH35 automatic movement. This movement is dated and a conscious decision was made to exclude the date function (despite the requests of some brand fans). Not only would slapping a date window be sacrilege on a dial like this but cutting into the dial’s many layers would be a huge production obstacle. So it is that we have a dead crown position, which I didn’t notice because I was ogling the rifled center dial.

Spectre Frostbite

The Frostbite comes stock with a tire-tread style rubber strap, which has a nice bit of give and flexibility that only furthers the comfort afforded by the case. The strap features a hefty branded tang claps, quick-release spring bars, and the ends are shaped to the watch, so there’s no gap. I found a bit of difficulty in refastening the rubber strap but using a spring bar tool helped. Due to the placement of the lug holes, I struggled to put any but my thinnest of NATO strap on the watch—it looked good but it was a pain. Fortunately, the case will be notched between the lugs to allow for more variety with straps.

Spectre Frostbite

There’s no denying that this watch will not be for everyone. Some will be unfortunately and unfoundedly scared off by the specs. Some will be overwhelmed by the design. Some just won’t get it. That’s ok. Because for those who do get it, it will be an absolute joy. I review plenty of watches here, as is obvious. And after a while, you start seeing the same old thing; there’s usually only so much you can do with a diver. Part of my affinity for this watch is that it’s doing quite a lot differently. At the very least, it’s bringing a lot of elements together that haven’t been combined before. If that all weren’t enough, the finishing of the case will be even crisper (which will push this over the edge into Fully Awesome territory). If you’re even a little intriguing, I can say you’ll be quite pleased with this watch. Certainly, given the fact that some things will be improved for production (lume, bezel, case/caseback), there’s a tiny leap of faith required, but I think it will be well worth it. The Kickstarter campaign is live, and you can get this stunner for just under $279—a ridiculous price for a watch that packs so much heat.

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