I previously did a introductory article for Humism here, prior to their Kickstarter campaign last year. After a long wait, I’m glad to finally get my hands on a production model from Humism! According to Humism, I’m the first to do a hands-on review of their production model – gotta thank David from Humism for that! In my opinion, Humism makes some of the most breathtakingly original watches in the microbrand sphere currently – let’s take a closer look!
Update: I’m pleased to list Humism on my new web-store, The Shiok Shop.
Humism – the Brand
Humism is a Singaporean watch effort, who aims to “turn the movement of time into mesmerizing art.” According to Humism, they view watches as an “art canvas”, seeking to “re-imagine watch design, to create a timepiece that makes the most of this medium’s uniqueness.” In fact, Humism describes themselves “as much an art studio as a watch brand”!
Humism is founded by David, who describes himself as a “globe-trotting Singaporean who has been designing things big and small for more than ten years”. 3 years ago, David left his rather well-paying job at the Huffington Post to pursue his passion in design, eventually choosing “watches to be his artistic canvas” because he was excited by the “unique creative possibilities” that watches bring to the table. He has been tirelessly working on this project ever since (unlike most microbrand owners, this is his full-time job) – I think that attests to the complexity of his design, but also his commitment.
Before leaving his position at the Huffington Post, he had been involved with several NGOs in places such as Sierra Leone! In keeping with David’s love for helping others in need, 5% of sales goes towards The Red Pencil, a non-profit that uses art therapy to help those suffering from emotional trauma. When companies boast claims of donating a certain percentage of sales to a charitable cause, more often than not it comes across as a marketing stunt or an attempt at some form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – this is definitely not the case here with David and Humism!
Being a regular patron of the Arts, I got really excited when I initially saw Humism’s watches. The design was simply so starkly different from the other watch projects on Kickstarter currently. The dial of the watch is mesmerizing, intricate yet minimalist in equal parts. Without further ado, let’s see if Humism watches are any good!
Humism Dasein – Build Quality
Despite the affordable price tag, the Humism Dasein has both style and substance.
Firstly, the Dasein utilises a flat sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. There’s also an AR coating on the underside of the sapphire crystal to prevent the bulk of nasty reflections! In addition, the WR rating for the Dasein is 50M, meaning that you can safely take this watch out for everyday activities (except swimming/diving) without worry.
Secondly, the Dasein is powered by the workhorse Seiko NH35 movement, a movement that I have covered countless times on this website previously. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen at this price point). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. Given that smooth sweeping of the rotational disk is paramount in a watch such as the Dasein, I think the Seiko NH35 movement is the most appropriate choice – affordability, quality and reliability all in one! Oh yes – the exhibition caseback is forged out of sapphire crystal too.
An Italian vegetable tanned full grain leather comes standard on the Dasein. I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the leather strap here, especially considering the low price tag of the watch! For the uninitiated, leather generally come in three tiers – genuine leather, top grain leather, and full grain leather, in ascending order of quality. Full grain leather indicates that the leather was taken from the outer-most portion of the hide, thus being stronger and more natural looking. Full grain leather should also patina beautifully, though the patina probably won’t be that obvious on this black strap. In addition, the straps are vegetable tanned, which is easier on the skin and the environment, and also makes the leather looks more natural. Lastly, the strap is also quick-release, which allows one to change out the leather strap easily for the alternative Silver Milanese strap which one can get for free with the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK“!
Humism’s Milanese mesh strap is pretty impressive as well. It’s sturdily constructed, and feels comfortable on the wrist. If you’re looking to change it up, this is a great option for a sleeker look! As aforementioned, simply add the Silver Milanese mesh strap to cart, and apply the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” upon checkout to get this additional strap free! What’s not to like about freebies?
Overall, the Humism Dasein possesses outstanding build quality, belying its sub-$300 USD price tag. Sapphire crystal is present both front (with AR coating) and back, a reliable Seiko NH35 movement keeps the Kinetic Art visuals rotating smoothly, and the watch even comes with two great straps (when abovementioned promo code is applied)! Amazing bang-for-buck value.
Humism Dasein – Design
Believe it or not, the stellar build quality isn’t the star of the show! The ace up Humism’s sleeves is definitely in the Kinetic Art design. According to Humism, their “kinetic sculptures uses the movement of time to reimagine the watch’s purpose”, and “instead of a keeper of routine, [their] watches turn time into spellbinding art, revealing the beauty of the flowing present.
To be quite honest, I’m not quite sure how to review the design of the Humism Dasein – it’s simply in a different category. It’s really breathtaking and mesmerising, and its spellbinding effect is best seen in person. Take a look at the video above to see the Kinetic Art effect in action!
Humism’s debut collection is based upon philosophy, with each model being named after a different philosopher. For the Dasein I have here, the name comes from Heidegger’s philosophy that the self is always engaged and participating with the world. Therefore, the design of the Dasein is correspondingly outward looking and explosive. Using three sculpted discs instead of two, this design allows for more variation with patterns changing in symmetry and size as the hour and minute discs move across one another.
I absolutely love the Kinetic Art effect. Every time I peer at the Dasein on my wrist, it seems to be showing a different pattern (notice how the dial above looks different than in the preceding photo). The watch seems alive somehow, ever-changing, morphing – it’s really intriguing in a way that I cannot fully express in words. It’s like viewing art on your wrist! As aforementioned, there are 3 different variants, but my favorite is definitely the Dasein due to its dynamic nature.
In case you’re wondering how to tell time, the solid black dot serves as the hour hand, while the hollowed out circle indicates the minutes. In the picture above, the time is approximately 4.44pm. It takes a bit of getting used to at first, but one adjusts to it after a short while. I personally think this is design brilliance, and minimalism done right. The term “minimalism” is often used as an excuse for being boring – I don’t think anyone can say that about the dial of the Humism watches here! In addition, I also love the stark white and black aesthetic – the monochromatic nature of the watch evokes the early 20th century era, whereby the Kinetic Art movement (due to luminaries such as Jackson Pollock and Max Bill) was at the forefront of art and design. Lastly, there are also indented lines on the dial, which serves to denote 5 minutes intervals – smart play on lines and depth here!
Moving on from the mesmerising dial, the case of the Dasein is nicely brushed – nothing too fancy here, in line with the minimalistic nature of the watch. The crown is nicely sized, and signed. What I especially like about the crown is the inclusion of an indent underneath to facilitate the pulling out of the crown – it is evident that Humism has paid great detail to every element of the watch.
The Dasein comes with a exhibition caseback, allowing one to look at the mechanical marvel within. Unlike most mechanical watches in the sub-$300 USD price range, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a custom rotor! The rotor depicts a human struggling with machinery –
a tribute to the Kinetic artists of the last century, who struggled with the tensions between human and machine as their lives became increasingly mechanised, even as they used these new machines in their art. I have to say – this is definitely one of the more unique custom rotors I’ve seen, a league above custom rotors that’s simply engraved with a brand’s name! I’m constantly amazed at just how much design impetus is packed into this watch.
Overall, I love the design of the Humism Dasein. It is one of the most creative expressions of watch design I’ve seen in the microbrand world till date – though that should come as no surprise, given that David is a designer by trade! I especially love the fact that the dial is like a Rorschach test – due to the abstract design, different people will have differing interpretations. I personally think that the Dasein evokes the image of a star exploding, though I have read another reviewer describing it as a flower blooming. I think that’s rather cool, and allows the wearer to form his own unique connection to the watch.
Shootout – Humism Dasein vs Zinvo Blade
The most prominent affordable microbrand which uses rotational disks to tell time is probably Zinvo. As such, I’ve decided to pit the Zinvo Blade against the Humism Dasein in this shootout!
In terms of build quality, the Humism Dasein is definitely superior. The Dasein utilises sapphire crystal (with AR coating), while the Blade only uses a sapphire coated mineral glass, which is nowhere near as durable. The movement on the Dasein is better too – a Seiko NH35, compared to a Miyota 8 series movement on the Zinvo Blade, which is prone to stuttering issues. Lastly, the straps on the Dasein definitely trumps those used on the Blade – the Dasein uses an Italian full grain vegetable tanned leather, compared to “100% genuine leather” straps found on the Blade. Furthermore, if you use the promo code below, the Dasein comes with an additional Milanese strap! As such, the Dasein beats out the Blade in every aspect when it comes to build quality.
From a design perspective, I have to give the win to the Humism Dasein as well. No disrespect to Zinvo – I think their use of rotational disks to resemble a turbine is cool, and should appeal greatly to a younger market. That being said, the Humism Dasein is definitely in a different league. The Blade is cool – the Dasein is art. The dial morphs, evolves, and sucks you in. It uses multiple rotational disks to achieve this Kinetic Art effect. To get it just right, Humism went through thousands of prototyping. When stacked side by side, the Zinvo Blade simply doesn’t hold a candle to the Humism Dasein’s brilliance. Even the use of circles -one hollowed, one black- to tell time is genius. There’s so much design ingenuity packed into this affordable package!
Granted, the Humism Dasein is slightly more expensive (~$60 USD) than the least expensive model of the Zinvo Blade. However, it possesses significantly better build quality, and is in a class of its own in terms of design. Wearing the Humism Dasein is like wearing a masterpiece on the wrist. In addition, a portion of Humism’s profits (5%) goes towards charity as well, so it’s for a good cause. As such, I have to declare the Humism Dasein as the winner of this shootout.
Conclusion – so the Humism Dasein “shiok” or not?
Without a shadow of a doubt, hell yes. I would say that the Humism Dasein is probably one of the top three favourite microbrand watches to wear currently. The build quality is superb, the design is mind-blowing, the price tag is very affordable, and a portion of the profits even goes towards charity! If you’re a long-time reader of my watch reviews, you would know that I very rarely publish overwhelmingly positive reviews, for the sake of balance. Unfortunately (or fortunately) in the case of the Humism Dasein, there’s really no fault that I can nitpick. Perhaps a full-lume dial (so that one can observe the Kinetic Art effect even in the night) would make an already amazing watch a homerun, but apart from that I really can’t fault the Dasein in anything. I don’t say this lightly – get this watch. You won’t regret it, and it’s definitely a conversation starter!
I don’t usually talk about the packaging of watches, but I have to make an exception for Humism. David designed the packaging such that when pushed open, there will be a Kinetic Art effect to be enjoyed as well, this time a play on stripes and lines. He told me that he went through dozens of prototyping, just to nail the Kinetic Art effect on the packaging. Honestly, the effort that David has poured into all areas of his product -even the packaging- is quite awe inspiring.
For those interested in any of Humism watches (why wouldn’t you be?), the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” entitles you to a free Silver Milanese mesh strap! Simply add the watch of your choice and the Silver Milanese mesh strap to cart, and apply the abovementioned promo code upon checkout to enjoy the free strap. I personally prefer the Dasein on the Silver Milanese mesh strap – it gives the watch a more creative, expressive vibe. The Humism Dasein is honestly one of the best watches that I’ve reviewed, thoroughly refreshing in its originality. I suggest acting fast if you desire one – I predict these will fly off the virtual shelves!
Update: A curation of Humism’s watches can be purchased on The Shiok Shop.
View Humism’s full collection here.
Case : 316L Surgical Steel
Glass : Sapphire Crystal with Anti-Reflective Coating
Case-back Glass : Sapphire Crystal
Water Resistance : 5 ATM
Diameter : 39mm
Thickness : 11.4mm
Movement : Seiko (SII) NH35A Automatic
Straps : Italian, Full-Grain, Vegetable-Tanned, Quick-Release.
Fits : Unisex. 5.5 to 8 inch wrists.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!