This week, we will be looking at another homegrown Singaporean watch effort, the Jubileon Superellipse. Jubileon has kindly lent me their debut model (well not really, but I’ll explain that later) the Superellipse for review, and it’s a watch that I’m extremely excited to review! The Superellipse has recently managed to successfully attain funding on Kickstarter, and can still be found for pre-order on Indiegogo here, at $219 USD (~$295SGD).
Chances are that you will never have heard of Jubileon before (me neither, prior to this month). Let’s see what the brand is about.
Jubileon – the Brand
Jubileon was founded in 2015 – the year of Singapore’s golden jubilee, therefore the name – by two mechanical engineers with a passion for mechanical watches (rather apt, I would say). With Jubileon, they decided to put their engineering expertise into watches. The duo first launched the Superellipse in 2016 with a Swiss ETA movement for just under $500 USD, but the project failed to fund and they went back to the drawing board thereafter. In the meantime, Alvin Lew from MicrobrandWatchWorld (a site that’s reviews mainly microbrand watches, pretty much like here) joined the team. With Alvin on board, they kept the original “superellipse” case, but redesigned the dial for a sharper look. Perhaps more significantly, they swapped the Swiss ETA movement out for a Seiko NH35A, and halved the price. Within a couple of days, the Superellipse managed to get successfully funded, and is now available on demand on Indiegogo.
I respect the team behind Jubileon for switching things up after the initial failure of their crowdfunding campaign. Like Einstein said; “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Jubileon recognized this, and in the span of a year redesigned the watch literally inside-out, from the movement to the dial. That shows me not only perseverance, but also adaptability. Furthermore, I think that Jubileon has a well-rounded team – one of the duo is Mr Kum Chun Wai, a researcher at A*Star (Singapore’s leading agency in scientific and technological research), and Alvin has been reviewed watches for years. With the engineering expertise from the former duo, and the horological knowledge of the latter, I’m excited to see what this partnership churns out in the future!
I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous to review the Jubileon Superellipse. As aforementioned, Alvin (who lent me the watch) is a reviewer of microbrand watches himself over at MWW. It’s a bit nerve-wrecking reviewing a watch designed in part by a watch reviewer himself. I hope that my writing is up to standard!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the components of the Jubileon Superellipse.
Jubileon – Build Quality
I’m very satisfied with the build quality – it’s one solid watch. It’s robustness is reminiscent of the Boldr Odyssey I reviewed earlier.
First of all, the iconic “Superellipse” case (which we will touch on later) is constructed out of 316L stainless steel (brushed and polished) and is quite well built. Rather than being snapped-downed (like most watches in this price range, e.g DW), the caseback and bezel are screwed-down to the main body with four screws each. Yes, those screw-heads aren’t just ornaments – they are actual screws that holds the bezel and the caseback to the case. Jubileon attributes this to their mechanical engineering heritage – a “love for screws, bolts and nuts” they say. Whatever it is, it makes for a tougher more robust watch, giving off a tool watch feel almost. I definitely won’t be afraid to knock the Superellipse on door frames and walls!
Elsewhere, you get sapphire crystal, so you need not worry about getting scratches on the dial. I must add, it’s nice to see sapphire crystal here on a sub-$300 watch. Most automatics at this price range (Seikos, Orient) uses hardlex or mineral crystal, so build quality wise the sapphire crystal is a real nice touch.
Interestingly, the crown is screwed down, a trait traditionally seen in divers watch. Coupled with the screwed down bezel and caseback, these attributes to the Superellipse’s above average water resistance rating of 100m (for dress watches). Speaking of which, while Jubileon classifies the Superellipse as a dress watch, I think it’s better to view it as an everyday watch. While the screwed-down bezel and caseback adds strength and water resistance to the watch, it also adds bulkiness – at 11.9mm thick, its not as bulky as the Boldr Odyssey, but it’s definitely too thick to slide under your shirt cuff.
Inside, the Seiko NH35A powers the Superellipse. The Seiko NH35A needs no introduction. It’s probably the most common movement found in microbrand watches, for a simple reason – it’s reliable and cheap. It keeps time relatively well (unlike the Miyota 8 series), and cheap to service as well. Personally, I approve of Jubileon’s move to ditch the Swiss ETA for the Seiko NH35A – it just makes for a much better value proposition. Some specs: 21600 vibrations per hour, 41 hours power reserve, 24 jewels (not like you can see it anyway), and a date indicator. Like I said, nothing fancy here – the main selling point of the Seiko NH35A is the value that it brings. During the time I had the Superellipse with me, I did not run into any accuracy issues.
Jubileon partnered with Hadley-Roma for their straps, and I love the result. For the uninitiated, Hadley-Roma is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of straps, and have been manufacturing straps for over 100 years. At this price point, I’m used to seeing microbrands using straps from nameless factories in China. For Jubileon to be able to bring premium straps options at a sub-$300 price point is extraordinary. This version of the Superellipse comes with a cool carbon fiber strap with red stitching. Not only is the strap of great quality (duh, it’s Hadley-Roma), the color (both the red stitching and the carbon fiber patterns) complements the watch nicely as well.
Lastly, the Superellipse hands and applied indices are both applied with Super-Luminova C1. Again, it’s unusual to see lume on a dress watch, which reinforces my point that the Superellipse should be seen as an everyday beater. Or maybe I shouldn’t pigeon-hole it – the Superellipse is just an robust, well-designed watch. I should highlight that Jubileon’s decision to make the inner ring of the bezel reflective is a stroke of genius. In the darkness, the the inner reflective ring reflects lume from the applied indices, creating the illusion of lumed track markers. Pure brilliance.
Overall, the Jubileon Superellipse presents quality components at great value. Robust automatic movement (hacking!), sapphire crystal, quality straps – the combination of these three are hard to find under $300. The only thing I’ll nitpick on is the lack of Anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal, but in my experiences with the watch it did not hinder legibility significantly.
Jubileon – Design
I’m happy to say that the Superellipse is well-designed as well!
Firstly, we have to talk about the Superellipse’s eponymous case. The case is inspired by the superellipse curve, which is the mathematical representation of the iconic cushion shape. Now, I thoroughly flunked math in school so I have no idea what a “mathematical representation of the superellipse curve” is – I just think it looks great here. If Panerai and Audemars Piguet were to have a baby, I imagine this would be how it would look like (I mean this in a positive way). In addition, I love the contrast between the brushed bezel, and the polished screw-heads. Little details that goes a long way. I like the short lugs as well – they make the Superellipse wear smaller on the wrist than the case size (41mm) would suggest. Overall, I think the case is extremely well executed.
I like the clean, minimalist look of the dial as well. The dial we have here is matt black, which looks pretty sleek when paired with the applied silver indices. I love the railway minute track – especially the red roman numerals indicators. It’s something that you don’t see often, and it’s a nice little touch. Elsewhere, the hands are slightly concave, providing a nice juxtaposition to the convex cushion shape case. The red seconds hand gives the dial a pop of color as well, giving the Superellipse a bit of motor-sport feel in my opinion. I also like the symmetry of the dial – I noticed that the Jubileon logo is made to approximately the same size as the date window at 6 o’clock. I do wish that they did something more to the logo though – perhaps making the logo applied instead of printed? Otherwise, the dial of the Superellipse is clean and well thought out, if unspectacular. I like it – it just doesn’t necessarily take my breath away.
Elsewhere, I like the understated nature of the brushed case, in keeping with the minimalist looks of the dial. We also get a signed crown as well, which is not a detail that we always get at this price point.
For me, the weakest link design-wise would be the caseback. It’s sparsely finished – it’s not offensive, just plain. For me, I like my mechanical watches to have an exhibition caseback (like the Vorque I reviewed last week here), or at least a nicely adorned artwork/stamp (like the Boldr Odyssey, which I reviewed here). Given that this is a Seiko NH35A (undecorated I assume, at this price point) watch, I can understand Jubileon opting for a solid caseback, but I definitely would loved to have seen some design elements here. A local landmark perhaps? Or maybe something mathematical, in keeping with the Superellipse theme? An opportunity wasted, in my opinion, to make the watch special.
Overall though, I quite like the looks of this watch. There’s something thoughtful and understated about the Superellipse’s design that I appreciate greatly.
Jubileon Superellipse vs Seiko 5 SRPB21
With the Superellipse’s sub-$300 price tag, I decided to compare it with the king of sub-$300 automatics, the Seiko 5 – in particular, the SRPB21.
The Seiko SRPB21 shares a similar list of specifications with the Superellipse. Firstly, they arguably share the same movement, with this particular Seiko 5 using the 4R36 calibre. The 4R36 has exact same specifications as the Seiko NH35 movement (power reserve, frequency, hacking, even the number of jewels are the same) – for all intents and purposes, the NH35 is the commercial version of the 4R36 calibre. Elsewhere, the Superellipse and the Seiko 5 shares the same water resistance rating, and are both lumed. However, where the Superellipse triumphs is it’s use of sapphire crystal, and Hadley-Roma straps. The Seiko 5 uses Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal (which of course is less scratch resistant than sapphire), and the nylon strap that it comes with, like all Seiko 5 straps, is quite rubbish. Would I pay $80 more for sapphire crystal and a much better strap? Definitely.
In terms of design, I feel that the Superellipse has the edge too. I personally prefer the minimalistic looks of the Superellipse over the retro looks of the Seiko 5, though that’s admittedly subjective. However, with the superellipse-shaped case, the contrast between brushed surfaces and polished screws, as well as the well-executed railway markers, the Superellipse definitely has the more distinctive look. As such, in terms of both components as well as design, I have to say that the Jubileon Superellipse presents a better value proposition than the Seiko 5. Given that the Seiko 5s are already renowned for their value, this is no mean feat.
Conclusion – so the Superellipse “shiok” or not?
Yes – for a sub-$300 watch, the Superellipse is great value for money. Sapphire crystal, Seiko NH35A hacking movement, Hadley-Roma straps; these are features that you rarely see in the <$300 price range. The best selling watches in this price range are probably Daniel Wellingtons and Fossils, and the Superellipse is definitely much better built than these fast fashion, mass produced watches, or even cheap automatics like the Seiko 5s. Factor in the distinctive look of the case, as well as the clean dial with that beautiful railway track marker, and the value proposition just gets better. Without a doubt, I don’t think it gets much better than this for less than $300. If you would like to order yourself one, you can pre-order one from Indiegogo here. There are other color options as well, with the blue sunburst variation my personal favourite. There’s even a mother-of-pearl option! A really valiant debut effort from Jubileon – I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future!
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Jubileon Superellipse specifications list:
- Designed and engineered in Singapore.
- Seiko NH35A movement.
- 41 mm wide, 11.9 mm thick, 50 mm lug-to-lug.
- Lug width 22 mm.
- Sapphire crystal.
- 100 m water resistance.
- Stainless steel 316L case, brushed and polished.
- Custom decorative screw heads for bezel and caseback.
- Engraved logo on crown.
- 2-colour pad-printed dial, 6H date window.
- Super-Luminova C1 on minute and hour hands.
- Customized straps by Hadley-Roma.
Joel Khoo, @keojoloh