Division Furtive Type 50 — Hands-on review
This is the first time, I’m reviewing a battery-powered watch and probably you won’t see me doing another one anytime soon. Why the exception this time?
There are several reasons. First of all, Division Furtive is much closer to an independent watchmaker than to a company spilling out zillions of quartz watches. Gabriel Ménard, the person behind the brand, did not stopped at only designing his watches, he’s going much further by actually hand-assembling each one of his watches. The very reason Division Furtive exists is because Gabriel, a microelectronics engineer, got fed up with working in mass production and wanted to do something that would approach the spirit of handcrafting. To learn more about his trajectory, check out the interview I did with him, when we first met in 2014.
A further reason, the Type 50 made it to the reviews section, is the unusual way of displaying time and all the functions that come with it. After three years, earlier this month, Division Furtive’s debut model, the Type 46 received the United States Design Patent. There you go, a solid proof that this is not another off-the-shelf rebranded watch and it has its place on WatchPaper.
Finally, the fact that the back of the watch has Montreal Quebec inscribed, touches a soft spot in my heart.
When we first met with Gabriel, we went through his early models, the Type 46, a dual linear electromechanical watch, and the Type 40, also with a dual linear display but with LED lights. He also showed me on his laptop an upcoming model he was working on, the Type 50.
Fast forward, after a successful Kickstart campaign, the Type 50 is now a reality.
Division Furtive Type 50 at a glance
Diameter: 50 mm (53.2 mm with the battery cover)
Height: 16 mm
Lug to lug: 56.6 mm
Weight: 115 g
Case: metal with black PVD
Front dial: sapphire crystal
Power reserve: 9 to 24 months (depending on usage)
Price: $395 with mineral glass on the back. $470 with sapphire back. Free worldwide shipping.
Limited to 1000 pieces
When it comes to packaging, the Type 50 gets the same attention and care as the Type 40. Opening the top of the cardboard box, reveals an elegant matt black wooden box that holds the papers and the watch strapped on a black synthetic leather pillow. As I was strapping it on my wrist, it felt like a mechanical watch, is it because
the AAA battery or the metal case, I can’t tell you, but for sure it has a good heft to it.
As with any other watch, first things first, I had to set the time. Actually, I was with Gabriel when I received the Type 50 and he demonstrated the way of setting this watch, which has no crown and no buttons. He pulled out his phone, started the Division Furtive app and after enabling the programming mode on the watch, he placed it on the phone, making sure that the light sensor on the back is in contact with the phone screen. The screen started flashing randomly, sending light signals to the watch and with this operation, the Type 50 got all the information necessary to display hours, minutes, AM/PM, day of the week, date, phase of the moon and triple time zone, if needed for traveling.
Dial and functions
The originality of the Division Furtive pieces lays in the linear way of displaying time. The Type 50 dial has a more restrained design than it’s predecessor, the Type 40. The focus is more on functionality and less on decoration; except the logo, every mark and symbol has a clear role.
There are 25 white LEDs arranged in two rows: 12 on the top row for hours and 13 on the bottom for minutes. Most of the time these LEDs are turned off, but thanks to the accelerometer inside the Type 50, as soon as you tilt the watch the proper LEDs will turn on to show the exact time, for 15 seconds. The logic behind is to save battery and let the LEDs shine only when the wearer looks at the watch and turns his wrist.
I have to admit that reading time in a linear manner is new to me. My brain is too used to read time on a round dial and it took me a few days to be able to read the time just by a quick glance. Hours are easy, as the LED will turn on at the proper position. Minutes are a bit more complex because there are only 13 LEDs to show 60 minutes. At every five minutes the LED will turn on in a static way, for the rest of time it will pulsate left or right. One pulse left means, you have to subtract a minute. One pulse to the right, add a minute. For two pulses, you’ll have to subtract or add two minutes.
Since there is no push button or a crown on the Type 50, all other functionalities — such as the date, day of the week, moon phase, chronometer, power reserve, triple time zone and even a flashlight — are activated by tapping on the bottom of the dial. While the back of the watch features a really cool diagram of how to get to the different functionalities and the brief manual that comes with the watch, I learned the most from going through the five episodes of the video instruction manual on the Division Furtive YouTube channel.
With a diameter of 50 mm and a height of 16 mm, the Type 50 is a massive piece. One of the main reasons for its size is the battery powering it. Gabriel wanted to stay away from fancy batteries, he wanted a source of power that is universally available, a AAA battery. The battery will last six to 14 months (depending on the usage) and it can be changed by the user, by unscrewing — even with a coin — the two screws holding down the battery cover on the side of the case.
Polished metal case is coated with black PVD, while the screw down back comes with a mineral glass featuring guiding diagram, the serial number and the light sensor (for an extra $75CAD, Division Furtive is offering a sapphire crystal upgrade for the back).
The proportions of the Type 50 give the impression that it was designed for NFL players, but it is actually a very comfortable watch to wear. Even with my small wrist, it felt surprisingly comfortable. Probably because there are no sharp angles, everything is rounded and the soft rubber strap makes the Type 50 great companion.
When I asked Gabriel, if he would call his watches smartwatches, his answer was no, and now I understand better why he said that. Smartphones, smartwatches, smartanything are all designed to make our life easier and avoid any stimuli that would challenge our logic. You have to like puzzles, to enjoy solving problems, to have the mindset of an engineer or a geek in order to enjoy the Division Furtive Type 50. It’s a successful blend of geek culture with men’s fashion, in a watch created in an artisanal way that may I dare call digital haute horlogerie.