The Ka 火 is the third in a series of gilded watches (the others being Chinoiserie and Nuage) designed by French Verre Églomisé artist, Marion Labbez. According to the artist, “I am very pleased with the result and I love that every single watch has a distinct organic pattern. Personally, this watch makes me want to drive south on a summer road trip, music on and windows open.”
Certainly, the Ka 火 is probably the most artisanal watch that I’ve reviewed thus far. But before we take a detailed look into the watch, let’s unravel Mr Jones Watches as a brand first!
Mr Jones Watches – the Brand
Mr Jones Watches was founded by Londoner Crispin Jones over a decade ago in 2007. Mr Jones Watches describes themselves as “a small, passionate team working from our London studio to bring you watches that are a bit different.” They boldly claim (literally in bold lettering on their website) that they don’t follow trends, and are devoted to making “unusual watches which tell a story, start a conversation or simply make you smile”. Their rationale is simple: nowadays, people tend to check their phones for the time. In their opinion, this “liberates the watch from being a purely functional object and means that we can be a bit more playful with it.” As such, most if not all of their watches vary greatly from your typical three-hander; their watches all demonstrate unique ways to tell time, or unique designs. I love that they took shots at the plethora of microbrands making Rolex submariner homages out there – on their website, they cheekily state that “We work really hard to produce original and interesting designs – our interest is not, nor will it ever be in producing something that looks like a Rolex (Rolex already do that job rather well in our opinion!) Rather our interest is in producing something distinctive that is unique to Mr Jones Watches.” This is definitely a brand with soul, creativity, and above all, originality. For more information on Mr Jones Watches, do watch their brand video below!
I really, really like Mr Jones Watches as a brand. I first knew about them from Ariel Adams (the founder of A Blog To Watch), when he picked the Accurate from Mr Jones Watches as his sub-$1000 watch pick. For those interested, you can read the article here. After further interacting with their iconic skull watches at Watch Wonderland, I grew a further appreciation of the originality in their design language. When I saw that they had recently launched a slightly larger (40mm vs their usual 37mm) hand-painted watch by artist Marion Labbez, I immediately contacted them for a review.
Without further ado, let’s examine the build quality of the Ka 火!
Mr Jones Watches Ka 火 – Build Quality
Mr Jones Watches states that the Ka 火 “is a watch designed to last a lifetime”. Let’s see if the build quality of the watch supports that claim!
Firstly, the Ka 火 features sapphire crystal on the front. As aforementioned countless times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Not all of Mr Jones Watches utilizes sapphire crystal – in fact, most use mineral crystals, so I’m glad that the Ka 火 has sapphire crystal on the front! With such a stunning dial (more on that later), it would be such a pity if scratches were to mar the beauty of Marion Labbez‘s handiwork!
On the inside, the Swiss STP1-11 automatic movement powers the Ka 火. The STP1-11 is a relatively new automatic movement from the Fossil Group, with self-winding and hacking mechanism, 44-hour power reserve, and beats at a high 28,800 Hz frequency. Given the price point of the Ka 火 – 310 £ / $555 SGD (after promo code below) – the inclusion of a Swiss movement is a welcome one, and an upgrade over the Seagull movements used in MJW’s other automatic offerings.
Unfortunately, the strap leaves more to be desired. MJW decided to pair the Ka 火 with a matching bright red Hirsch strap. While Hirsch is undoubtedly one of the more established strap manufacturers, this particular variant certainly isn’t that well-made. The exterior of the strap looks and feel cheap, while the strap loops are glued together, as opposed to being stitched together. This means that the strap loop is likely to come off/break after prolonged use. Overall, the strap neither look or feel like quality, and I don’t see it lasting me more than a few months. I would have loved for the Ka 火 to be paired with a handcrafted leather strap instead, in keeping with the artisanal nature of the dial. A red, fully-stitched, handcrafted strap would have been the perfect complement to the Ka 火!
All in all, the Ka 火 (with the exception of the strap) represents a step up in build quality as compared to the rest of MJW’s offerings. While most of MJW’s automatic offerings (such as their iconic skull watches” uses mineral crystals and Chinese Seagull movements, the Ka 火 utilizes sapphire crystal and a Swiss STP1-11 movement at a affordable price point. I only wish they upped the ante in the strap department as well!
Mr Jones Watches Ka 火 – Design
While the Ka 火 is (for the most part) a well built watch, the handcrafted nature of the watch’s design is undoubtedly its greatest strength and selling point.
The watch face is undeniably the star of the show here. Let’s start with the watch’s crystal. Gilded by hand in MJW’s London workshop, vibrant 24 carat gold is applied onto the glass of the watch. The artist Marion Labbez states that she chose the 24 carat gold from Italy as she found it “the most uncompromising of all”. Personally, I think she made the right choice in choosing this vibrant shade of gold of the watch face. It looks particularly striking when light hits the crystal – the gold seems to light up, as if (perhaps fittingly) lit by fire. Furthermore, there’s also a line drawing on the crystal done by Marion. The line drawing evokes the imagery of smoke and flame, yet at the same time it is also purposefully made simple so that it does not detract from the shimmering gold paint.
For the dial, Marion went for French 22.9 carat gold. As compared to the brighter 24 carat gold used on the watch crystal, the 22.9 carat gold applied on the dial is a shade darker, deeper, warmer. Applied on a red dial, the effect (to me at least) is quite gorgeous. I love the visual contrast between the two different tones of gold, most strikingly apparent when the watch is caught in the light. Due to the fact that two distinct hand-crafted applications are applied to the watch crystal and the dial, there is a stark sense of depth in the watch. Combined, the watch looks decidedly organic. Marion stated that intentionally implemented a “gradient effect to layer the gold areas on the glass and dial“, as she thought it would “bring the dynamism I was looking for“. For me, I really appreciated the design of the watch as I feel that the watch really achieved that sense of dynamism by having contrast in depth, colour, and texture (I’m not an expert in the art of Verre églomisé, but it seems to me that Marion applied different gilding techniques for the crystal and the dial). In addition, due to the handcrafted nature of the Ka 火, each watch (limited to 50 pieces) have slightly differing patterns, making each of them unique.
The primary hands on the Ka 火 are heat blued, which looks absolutely stunning. This means that the hands (like the gold paint) appears two toned as well – a deep blue (as pictured above) under normal circumstances, whilst turning iridescent under the light. Given the two toned/handcrafted nature of the rest of the watch, I felt that having the primary hands heat-blued was a smart move as opposed to having them electroplated/painted. The second hand is ip gold plated to complement the gilded nature of the crystal/dial – a nice touch! However, due to the application of gold paint on the watch crystal legibility is significantly compromised here. It’s not as obscure as some of MJW’s other watches, but if you’re someone to whom legibility is paramount, the Ka 火 may not be the watch for you. In my experience, I got used to it after a few days and could agar agar tell the time pretty easily.
The case-side is nothing much to shout at. We get a standard polished 316L stainless steel case. There really isn’t much contrast in terms of texture or depth with the case-side – everything is just polished to a gleam. While I get the aesthetic idea behind a high polished case (given the fact that this is supposed to be an attention attracting statement piece), the reality is that the case-side gets smudged easily with fingerprints, and overall looks less than ideal. The crown is plain as well and unsigned, which is a pity. I would have loved for the initials of the artist to be inscribed in the crown of the watch – I think that would have been a great touch! Also, the crown is too small for the watch. It is incredibly hard to grip, and I faced such a hassle trying to hand-wind it. Often, I find myself swinging the watch to wind it rather than using the crown!
The exhibition caseback of the Ka 火 is gilded as well! 24 carat gold paint (the same used on the crystal of the watch) is applied here on the caseback, adding a nice artisanal touch to the otherwise plain caseback. Similar to the watch crystal, the gold paint on the caseback lights up when struck by light, and it’s really a sight to behold. Further information are inscribed on the exhibition glass as well, such as the model number, the name of the artist, and the serial number of the watch. I’m actually not a fan of this – keep the additional information to the main body of the caseback, rather than the exhibition glass! It obscures the decorated Swiss movement inside, and takes attention away from the gold paint. Speaking about the movement, it is actually nicely finished (at this price point anyway) with Geneva stripes, though the rotor (like the crown) remains unsigned.
Overall, the watch face of the Ka 火 is really the calling card of the watch. The usage of two different tones of gold paint achieves a really striking effect, making the watch shine majestically especially under the light. This is an unapologetic, bold watch – and I love it.
Shootout: Mr Jones Watches Ka 火 vs Schmutz Watches Original
Schmutz watches are a company that specialises in offering artist-painted watches, and thus seemed to me as the natural comparison to the Ka 火 for today!
In terms of build quality, the MJW Ka 火 takes it by a mile. It utilizes sapphire crystal and a Swiss STP1-11 automatic movement, whereas the Schmutz watch uses a Swiss ronda quartz movement and mineral glass. I believe the Ka 火 will definitely stand the test of time better than the Schmutz watch!
In terms of design, both are pretty similar in the sense that they are both hand-painted by artists. I have to say, the Schmutz watch pictured above (painted by artist Leslie Duke) is really pretty, with visible brushstrokes that conveys differing textures and colours. Due to the artisanal nature of both watches, ultimately which watch has the better design is up to you. After all, art is subjective. The Schmutz watches are like miniature art canvases on the wrist – I really like them. Nevertheless, I also enjoy the bold, unapologetic character of the Ka 火. I can totally imagine myself wearing both watches, albeit on differing occasions.
From a value-standpoint though, the Ka 火 definitely presents the better value. Despite being similar in price to the Schmutz watch (~$555 SGD after promo code below), it is able to incorporate sapphire crystal, a Swiss automatic movement, and two different kinds of gold paint! As such, due to its value proposition, I have to proclaim the Ka 火 as the winner of this shootout. Nevertheless, both are incredibly beautiful watches – feel free to go for either if you like the design!
Conclusion: so the Mr Jones Watches Ka 火 “shiok” or not?
I hope this is not a cop-out, but when it comes to the Ka 火 I really believe it is up to the individual. As aforementioned, the very nature of art is subjective – if you don’t like the unconventional look of the watch and its lack of legibility, then perhaps the Ka 火 is not for you. However, I personally really enjoyed it. I think it works best as a statement piece, as an augment to my outfit and personality. I love the Ka 火 because of what it represents – boldness in design, uncompromising in its use of materials, and above all, the fiery, unconventional character it exudes. When I wear it, Alicia Key’s “Girl on fire” plays in my mind. On days where I feel unbowed and unstoppable, this is the watch I strap on. This is one majestic watch.
I’m immensely pleased to announce that I’ve struck up a partnership with Mr Jones Watches! Simply enter the code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off all watches on their website here. (Excluding clocks and straps) If you like the looks and feel of the Ka 火, you can get one here for just 310£ / $555 SGD! The Ka 火 is limited to only 50 pieces, and as of this time of writing only 20 pieces or so are left. If you want one, act fast. I always had a soft spot for Mr Jones Watches and their unique designs – do browse through the rest of their catalog to see their other offerings! In addition to the Ka 火, my other favourites from MJW are: the Gilded Skull, Fantastic Exploits, King, and The Promise of Happiness. They all have such unique, intricate designs, and in my opinions transform the act of reading time into an art. I immensely enjoyed my MJW watch – and I hope you will too!
View Mr Jones Watches’ complete collection here.
Strap: 18mm 100% leather red strap (alternative straps available here)
Movement: STP1-11 Swiss made automatic mechanical
Glass: Sapphire crystal front / mineral glass back
Waterproof: Yes! 3ATM (leather will wear fast if exposed to water)
Guarantee: 12 months – any problems after this time, we’ll be happy to help
Largest strap diameter: 220mm – contact us if you need a larger size
Smallest strap diameter: 165mm – contact us if you need extra holes added to the strap
Diameter (excluding winding crown): 40mm
Thickness (including class): 10.5mm
Case: 316L stainless steel – polished silver finish
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S If you like my content, do consider donating a small sum! After much consternation I’ve decided to remove Google ads from the website so as to give viewers the best reading experience possible. An average review here garners about 1000 views – if everyone just donates a dollar, it would go a long way to maintaining this website! The donation link can be found here.
Nigel Gomes, @the_lone_cadre