Melbourne Watch Company Carlton — hands-on review
For those of you who are following the microbrand watch scene, Melbourne Watch Co does not need an introduction. In the past two years they launched several highly successful crowdfunding campaigns, and all their models were instant hits with collectors and fans of the brand. The Carlton too, when it was presented earlier this year on Kickstarter, it reached its goal in less than a day.
With the Carlton, Melbourne Watch Co is exploring new territories, it is their first chronograph and their first battery-powered piece. For the rest, they follow the same dressy style, a homage to one of Melbourne’s neighbourhoods, that made this Australian brand so popular.
Melbourne Watch Company Carlton at a glance
Case: 42mm 316L Stainless Steel (Rose Gold Plated)
Movement: Seiko VK64 Mecha-Quartz Chronograph
Crystal: Anti-Reflective Sapphire
Dial: Applied Indices, Chrono Sub-Dials
Hands: Diamond cut with C3 Super-Luminova
Strap: 22mm Leather Strap, 20mm Stainless Steel Buckle (Rose Gold Plated)
Water Resistance: 50m/5ATM
Warranty: 24 Months
Price: $452 CAD
Last year, I had the opportunity to take Melbourne Watch Co’s first model, the Flienders for a test drive (you can read that review here), and when I was offered to take a closer look at the Carlton, I jumped on the occasion, as I knew it will be fun. I was also curious to see the VK64, Seiko’s mecha-quartz chronograph in action, a movement that becomes more and more popular among smaller brands, because of its resemblance in feel to a mechanical chronograph (5 beats per second sweep chronograph hand and fly-back chrono reset).
It is always interesting to open a box that just came in for a review. I already know the watch from the pictures I saw online, but seeing it “in flesh” it’s always a completely different experience. This is that moment of truth, this is when I will immediately be more curious to discover all the little detail, or rather feel like sending it back to the brand. The Carlton, as soon as I opened the presentation box, it brought a smile to my face. The cushion shaped case with the round dial that looks like a bi-compax chronograph, immediately reminded me one of my favourite dress chronographs, the Glashutte Original Senator Sixties Square.
Let me return to my “looks like a bi-compax chronograph” observation. If you’re like me and it’s the first time you’ll see a watch using the VK64 movement, you might assume that the sub-dial at three o’clock is to measure the hours when the chronograph is activated. At first, I thought the chronograph was not reset properly, because the small hand was not aligned to 24. Then I realized that it is actually a 24 hour dial that has nothing to do with the chronograph. My bad…
Case and dial
The Carlton has two versions, stainless steel with black dial or rose gold paved steel with silver dial, like the model I’m reviewing. At 42 mm, the case is quite neutral size, it looks just as good on my small wrist as on TimeCaptain’s 7 1/2″ wrist.
The shape of the case is nicely sculpted, they managed to find the right balance between straight volumes and rounded shapes the give this watch the distinguished look and elegance, I would expect from a dress watch. The lugs don’t break this harmony and assure a good comfort of wearing.
The dial sits under a flat sapphire crystal, treated with antireflective coating. The warm colour of the silver dial with its matt finish works nicely with the rose gold case, and the sunburst subdials create a nice contrast with the main dial. Rose gold coating was used also for the applied indexes and the hands. The baton shaped hour and minute hands got a bit of lume to help reading the time in complete darkness.
Since it’s a quartz movement, I did not fiddle too much with the crown, I’ve set the time and that was it. The pushbuttons are quite smooth to operate, it does not require extreme force to start, stop, and to reset. Once activated, you’ll get to experience the mecha-quartz in action, the typical Melbourne Watch Co custom designed second hand starts is continuous sweep around the dial. Indeed, it gives the impression of staring at a mechanical chronograph.
Every Melbourne Watch Co model is dedicated to a landmark or a neighbourhood of Melbourne. The Carlton is not an exception, having the name of an inner-city suburb of Melbourne and as a homage, the back of the watch is decorated with an engraving representing the Royal Exhibition Centre.
Strap and buckle
The rose gold Carlton comes on a matching brown croc-patterned leather strap with a rose gold paved buckle.
I like the style and the feel of the Carlton, I would definitely wear it to a more formal occasion. The Carlton is a no-hassle dress watch that you can strap-on without thinking about winding, setting the time and the date. The mecha-quartz movement, it just works, and when you get to use the chronograph, you won’t even notice that it’s a battery-powered calibre. The choice of quartz also makes the Carlton a lot more affordable than a mechanical chronograph, which makes it an attractive choice for someone who wants to try dressy dressy chronograph without breaking the bank.
The only thing I regret, is that there is no stainless steel with silver dial version of this model. For me this dial is perfect, and as I’m not a fan of gold paved watches, I would have preferred to wear it with a stainless steel case.
Before I would let the curtain fall, I have to praise Melbourne Watch Co. for developing a clear design identity. I see many microbrands struggling with this — from one model to another they change their style completely, almost like young artists looking to find their voice. Even if the Carlton is a chronograph and the Flinders is a three-hands and date piece, while the Portsea is a calendar watch, you can easily recognize a continuos line the links them together. They are different watches with different functions, but they all come from the same brand, with a strong identity, the Melbourne Watch Company style.