Melbourne Watch Co. Portsea — hands-on review
I’m posting this review at the same time with a retrospective article on Melbourne Watch Co’s first four years of existence. In this short time, they grew from a startup launching its watches on crowdfunding websites to a well-established microbrand with a showroom and a workshop in Melbourne. While the Portsea is not a new model, it was MWC’s third crowdfunded project, dating back to 2014, the watch I’m reviewing here represents an important milestone for the company. It is part of the first batch of watches assembled at their Melbourne workshop.
As with other MWC models, the name of the watch is connected to Melbourne, Portsea being an affluent neighbourhood and popular vacation spot, located near the end of the Mornington Peninsula, next to Sorento that gave the name to another MWC model.
Existing customers of MWC will find the packaging familiar, although I would add that the quality was further improved. The black wooden presentation case comes in a branded dark grey protective cardboard box and it contains next to the watch the warranty card, a beautifully printed instruction booklet and a branded cloth. I’m a big fan of beautifully packaged watches and opening the Portsea box for the first time was a real treat, it just feels elegant and high-end.
The case has a diameter of 40 mm which feels perfect on the wrist, but at 13 mm it has a rather high profile, so you might have some difficulty fitting it under a tight cuff. To me, it was not an issue as I enjoy every second of wearing it and not just because of its beautiful dial, but I’m very fond of the case design too. In the above profile picture, you can see the intricate architecture of the case.
The crown at 3 o’clock offers a good grip, it’s easy to wind the watch or adjust the time (hours, minutes, date and days), and just as with other watches powered by the Miyota 9122, the months can be advanced with the pusher at 2 o’clock. The 9122 is an automatic movement with a triple date calendar function, which is a bit more complicated than a regular day and date calendar as you have the month too, but it is not an annual calendar or a perpetual calendar, meaning that it won’t know the number of days a month would have. The good part is that adjusting the date is not rocket science, if you never had a watch with a 9122 movement, just read the booklet, you’ll see it’s easy to set it.
Turn around the watch and you have a beautifully finished stamped caseback reinforcing the nautical theme of the Portsea. And now we are getting to the fun part, the dial!
The design inspiration for the Portsea dial came from traditional deck watches, also known as observation watches, that were used by sailors as navigation instruments on the high seas. Deck watches served as a secondary timepiece to be wound and synchronized daily with the chronometer, which would be kept in the instrument room. Deck watches, as pocket watches were portable, helping out in calculating the correct course of the ship. Deck-style watches typically have a white dial, Arabic numerals and railroad minute markers, elements that we will find on the Portsea too. What the Portsea brings as an extra feature is a triple calendar, laid out symmetrically, with the date at 6 o’clock, the days at 9 and the months at 3 o’clock.
The dial is an absolute eye candy! There are several layers, the top layer reserved for the railroad minute marks, the middle layer for the hours and the calendar disks, and the bottom layer grooved with horizontal lines that emphasize the balanced design of the dial. It is made from ceramic, a material we don’t encounter too often in affordable watches. The result is breathtaking, especially on a sunny day. This is why I had to include here a few pictures of the dial in the sunshine, just to try to show you the sophisticated way it reflects the light.
The white ceramic dial is the perfect backdrop for the elegant blue hands. As with other MWC watches, the second hand has an M-shaped counterbalance. As you can see, there is quite a lot of action, layers, numbers, calendars, logo, etc., yet the dial remains clean and clear.
How does it feel on the wrist? In one word, fantastic! Not talking only about the comfort, but also about its looks. It is a classic dress watch, yet it has something fresh in it, which I think comes from the dial and the way the case was designed — the two work together as a charm. It is a watch that I would wear to any event requiring a formal dress code, it has that restrained sophistication people expect from a watch geek. Would I wear it on a weekend? Probably not, it just feels better with a shirt than with a t-shirt.
In Canadian dollars, the price is $863 that also includes international shipping and two years of warranty. For more details go to www.melbournewatch.com.au