Hi guys, and welcome to another Singaporean watch review! This Sunday, I’m taking a look at another watch from Manchester Watch Works, the Battenkill.
The Battenkill is the latest addition to MWW’s Trench series, a series inspired by the WW1 trench watches of old. For the uninitiated, the trench watch was a transitional design between pocket watches and wrist watches that came into use by the military in WW1. The specific design of the Battenkill is actually influenced by the dashboard clocks of the 1930s, and named after the river winding through Manchester, VT. (Where MWW is based) The watch is currently available on MWW’s web-store here, and at this point of writing there’s only 9 left so if you want one, you gotta act fast!
Manchester Watch Works – the Brand
I’ve actually covered Manchester Watch Works (MWW) in my previous review of their watch, the Iconik 4 (which is currently available for pre-order on their website). If you would like to read more about MWW, the link to the previous article is here.
MWW Battenkill – Build Quality
I was quite impressed with the build quality of the Iconik 4, but I have to say the Battenkill actually managed to surpass my existing expectations!
Firstly, I’m pleased that MWW has opted for sapphire crystal in the Battenkill, despite it being at a significantly lower price point than the Iconik 4. This makes the Battenkill much more scratch-resistant than its counterparts in the same league. Around the S$300 price range, one tends to see “sapphire-coated” crystal instead of genuine sapphire. Furthermore, the sapphire crystal is AR coated, preventing nasty reflections and ensuring legibility even in harsh light. The case of the watch is forged out of 316L stainless steel as well, making the watch more corrosion resistant.
The Battenkill utilizes the Miyota 8245 movement, which gives the watch 42 hours of power reserve at 21600 VPH. I’m usually not a fan of the Miyota 8 series movements because they don’t hack, and the seconds hand stutters. However, given that this is a sub-seconds watch, at this price point there really isn’t a credible alternative to the Miyota 8245 – to my knowledge, a sub-seconds version of the Seiko NH35 movement doesn’t exist. As compared to the center-seconds variants, the seconds hand of the Battenkill doesn’t stutter as well. It still doesn’t hack, but overall I think that MWW chose the right movement for the Battenkill. Sure, they could have went for a Swiss movement like a Sellita SW220, but that would undoubtedly jack the price up to the 4 figures mark. Elsewhere, a screw-down crown ensures a 100M WR rating for the watch, meaning that if you wanted to you could go swimming with the Battenkill. I like this – it stays true to one of the basic prerequisites of a military watch.
I’m quite pleased by the quality of the strap that came along with the Battenkill. I asked a local strapmaker for his opinion of the Battenkill’s strap, and he actually said that he preferred it to a Hirsch strap that was quadruple its price! The reason is in its details. The side of the strap is nicely finished and smoothed out, without the grooves and indents that you might see with a strap of lower finishing. To quote the strapmaker “You can see that they actually put in effort to make sure that the strap looks good, lah.” The leather quality is admittedly only genuine leather, but unlike the Reverie that I reviewed earlier, these are genuine leather straps done right – they feel premium. That being said, because it’s not top or full-grained, the strap of the Battenkill won’t patina over time, which is a shame especially given the vintage styling of the watch. Nevertheless, given the fact that the Battenkill is a $319 watch (after the promo code below), the strap already punches above its league.
The Battenkill also features Swiss superluminova vintage lumed hour markers. As seen in the photo above, the lume is actually surprisingly bright! Again, I’m glad that MWW paid attention to this as legibility in the dark is another basic prerequisite for a military watch! (Obviously, soldiers would need to be able to tell the time out in the darkness of the trenches)
Overall, in terms of build quality I feel that the Battenkill offers a lot for your money! For a mere S$319, you get sapphire crystal (with AR coating), a reliable automatic movement, a nice strap, 100M WR rating, and strong lume. What more could you want?
MWW Battenkill – Design
As aforementioned, the Battenkill is billed as a trench watch – the design is therefore correspondingly military and vintage in nature.
In keeping with military aesthetics, the dial of the Battenkill is clean and simple – nothing fancy here. The indices, though not applied, are raised to provide a minimal level of depth. I like the cream colored numerals too – it matches the color of the lume in the hands, as well as the strap. Furthermore, the cream color of the lumed markers mimics the visuals of radium, a type of lume common in vintage watches. The hands are a painted white – an interesting design choice as white hands are not that common in watches. Nevertheless, I feel that in the Battenkill the white hands does well to complement the white minute track, as well as the white markers of the sub-second dial. Furthermore, the painted white hands give off an utilitarian look – normal stainless steel hands would probably have looked too dressy here. Overall, I like the aesthetics of the dial – it’s simple, but not boring, and the design fits the WW1 military aesthetics of trench watches.
The sub-seconds dial of the Battenkill features a guilloche concentric texture – I feel this is a smart design move by MWW as it provides a level of texture contrast to the dial. As seen in the photo, the sub-dial reflects light interestingly as well, naturally drawing one’s attention to it. As mentioned earlier, the white markers and the second hand of the sub-dial complements the primary hands well too. In some watches, the sub-dial looks out of place – due to thoughtful design, this isn’t the case here!
In keeping with the trench watch aesthetics, we get wire lugs here. Personally, these are my favourite form of lugs, as I love the vintage vibe that it evokes, as well as the pocket-watch feel. When worn on the wrist (wrist shot later below), the presence of the Battenkill on the wrist is really distinctive due to those lugs. We also get a signed crown at 4 o’clock, which is nicely grooved for good grip. However, I feel that the position of the crown is placed too near to the lugs, making it an annoyance to screw-out/wind/screw-in the crown. My fingers keep rubbing against the bottom lug whenever I try to wind the crown, and it makes the winding of the watch (something that should be pleasurable) a chore.
At the back, we get a solid screw-down caseback, adorned with an artwork of MWW’s logo. The artwork itself is actually nice to the touch (due to the alternating brushed and polished finishing). Nevertheless, I do still think that this can be improved. Given that this is a trench watch, I would have loved to see an WW1-related artwork at the back instead, or something harkening back to the era in which such watches were popular. A missed opportunity in my books!
All in all, I do rather like the design of the Battenkill. If I’m being honest, I actually prefer the design of the Battenkill over the Iconik 4!
Shootout: MWW Battenkill vs G. Gerlach PM36
Very few microbrands actually make trench watches – it seems like it’s a design aesthetics that’s no longer popular nowadays, which is a shame. Nevertheless, Polish microbrand G. Gerlach is one of the rare ones who do, with the cheapest option being the PM36 – the Battenkill’s competition for today!
Spec-wise, the Battenkill and the PM36 both have sapphire crystals (both AR-coated for good measure), and a WR rating of 100M. A key difference is the use of the Seagull 3620 movement in the G. Gerlach watch. The Seagull movement is manual-winding, as compared to the automatic Miyota 8245 – that’s something that I foresee would already turn away people who do not want to go through the hassle of winding their watch everyday. Without a timegrapher, it is impossible for me to say which would be more accurate, but generally Seagull movements have a high churn rate, which means that QC (or internal regulation) will probably tend to be lower as compared to the Miyotas.
In terms of design, I prefer the G. Gerlach. I like the design of the Battenkill, but the PM36 brings the vintage styling to another level. The bold numerals conjures the fonts of the pocket-watches of old, and those cathedral hands are simply stunning! The placement of the sub-seconds dial (especially the way it displaces the “6” numeral) is really reminiscent of the pocket watch styling, which as aforementioned I absolutely love. Combined with the use of a railway pad marker, the dial stays true to the watch aesthetics of the early 20th century. Furthermore, the rounded coin-edged bezel and the diamond-shaped crown scream vintage too! My only critique would be that I wished that they have adopted the wire lugs of the Battenkill. Nevertheless, I still very much prefer the design of the G. Gerlach PM36 due to the strong vintage styling throughout that really pays attention to what a trench/vintage-inspired watch should look like.
So what’s the Battenkill’s advantage? Honestly, I would say that it is the price. At S$319, it is significantly cheaper than the G. Gerlach (S$499). If you are looking for an affordable trench watch, and dislike hand-wound movements, the Battenkill is probably your best bet. However, if your budget can be stretched a little, and you don’t mind having a manual-winding movement, the G. Gerlach to me is a superb choice.
Conclusion – so the Battenkill “shiok” or not?
Don’t get me wrong – I still think that the Battenkill is great watch. For a mere S$319 (after promo code below), you are getting a lot of watch for your money, both in terms of specifications as well as design. While I personally prefer the design of the G. Gerlach, it is significantly more expensive and features a hand-winding movement, which would be a deal-breaker for some. I’ll say this – if you’re looking for an automatic, affordable (~S$300 price range) trench/vintage styled watch, I sincerely believe that the Battenkill is the best option out there in the market.
If you’re interested in getting one, the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK10” nets you 10% off all purchases on the MWW web store (except pre-orders, until end of April). As aforementioned, act fast – there’s only 9 Battenkills left, and once its sold out, MWW will not produce this model again. I’m really a sucker for vintage design aesthetics, and am thus very fond of the Battenkill. Hopefully, you will be too!
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– Solid 40mm x 47mm 316L polished stainless steel case, 11mm in height with a 20mm lug width (standard spring bars used)
– Robust and reliable automatic Citizen Miyota 8245 automatic movement with handwinding, 42+ hour power reserve and 21,600 VPH
– 100m water resistance with screwed down caseback
– Now with a larger 6.0mm screwed down engraved crown
– Genuine premium leather straps with engraved steel buckle
– Vintage domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating
– Swiss superluminova vintage lumed hour markers
– White hour and minute hands with Swiss superluminova vintage lume
Nigel Gomes, @the_lone_cadre
Manchester Watch Works