TW Steel Icon
Its been a while since I bought a watch based on looks alone. In fact, I can safely say I had not done so since I began seriously collecting watches ten or so years ago. Well, there has to be an exception to every rule and that exception is the TW Steel model you see above. Fair warning, this review may read a bit like a travel gazetteer.
A little background first. For our twentieth wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to travel to Montreal. Neither of us had ever been to Canada before and, since we weren't traveling with the kids for the first time (Yippie!!), it seemed prudent to stay close enough that we could get back to NYC quickly if need be. Montreal, if you haven't been there, is a fascinating city. There is a lot of very interesting history there. The scenery around the city in the Laurentian Hills is very beautiful, the underground city is genuinely remarkable, you can rent bicycles all over the place, and, despite the prevalence of French as a language, everyone was friendly and spoke English as well. ( I can speak a little French which was helpful at times but was by no means necessary) . The city has a very European character in many ways. There are brands and signage that we Americans don't usually see. Restaurants are both varied in national cuisines and plentiful. Lots of good shopping can be found. There are apparently more churches here than in Rome. .All in all, Montreal struck us as a friendly and prosperous place with a lot to offer. We are already planning our return, this time with the kids.
What I didn't know is that Montreal seems to have a nice watch shop every few blocks. Even the small towns in the Laurentian Hills had some very nice stores. For a watch collector, this place is very nice indeed. In addition to the usual Tissots and Omegas and the like, there were brands available that I was aware of but don't really see in the States all that often. One store I stumbled on to carried a nice selection of Briel watches, while two others carried the Netherlands brand TW Steel.
TW Steel (The Watch in Steel) is a relatively new brand dating from 2005. They are located in Amsterdam and specialize in big to very big watches. Styles are very interesting ranging from conventional chronographs to aviators like the one above to huge 50mm models with canteen crowns. Movements run the gamut from quartz to ETA 2836-2 automatics. All of their models seem to feature a heavy, nicely machined stainless steel case in one of several finishes. Their leather bands are all very well done. The leather is in the 3-4mm thick range and the buckles are both solid and engraved. Bracelets appear to be all solid link and well made too. Crystals are mineral, some with sapphire coating. Many of their models have an auto racing theme and the company is apparently working with the Renault racing team.
The TW Steel Icon model you see below is sort of their entry level model. Visually, the Icon is a strikingly attractive watch to my eye. It is an aviator style watch with a 45mm stainless steel case (not including the big crown btw), a 22mm band lug width and a beveled mineral glass crystal. The Icon's caseback is nicely decorated and screws down. The movement is a Miyota 2415 3 hand quartz with a date function, a solid and reliable engine if not an exotic one. Water resistance is rated at 50 meters which is fine as this isn't a diver watch. The crown does not screw down (which actually doesn't bother me that much anymore as I've had the pleasure of stripping a screw-down crown recently) and the dial has no lume (Which I prefer to crappy lume anyway. If it ain't Seiko style superluminova or tritium tubes, don't bother).
I like this watch because it has that classic aviator watch look without the huge price tag. (Yes, I know that there are Chinese aviator watches with mechanical movements available for less than the $200 that this one cost me but their quality and overall feel aren't even close to the TW Steel's). I'm not prepared to drop $800+ dollars for a mechanical aviator and, frankly, I'm a little gun-shy about wearing one of those anyway as I've already had one spit blood on me (That's a story for another day). The Icon's rugged quartz movement should have no such issues. .The watch has a nice heft to it and the overall quality feel is enhanced by the thickness of the leather band. The dial is very simple and easy to read and the dark hands offer excellent visual contrast. The date window is clear and easy to read despite the lack of a cyclops magnifier (which I think would detract from the look of the watch anyway).
If you are a fan of the Laco/IWC Fleiger watch look but want a more practical and affordable variant that is still solidly built, the TW Steel Icon deserves a good look. For what it's worth, it is one of the few watches I own (and I own just a few you know) that my wife really likes.
P.S.-I picked up this example at Poussiere de Diamants, a jewelry and watch store in St. Sauveur in the Laurentian Hills. Very nice folks with a good selection of both TW Steel watches as well as other brands.