When I saw a message come through my inbox from Jon at Brew Watches and the subject line was “New Brew Watch Release,” I got excited. I know every time Brew launches a new watch it is going to be exciting and different. There hasn’t been a single release from Brew that fits the mold any other watch might be trying to fit into. Jon does his own thing and I applaud him for it.
The new watch in question is the Brew Retromatic. The Retromatic is Brew’s first automatic release since the inaugural HP-1. I have no issues with Brew (or any other brand for that matter) releasing quartz watches. In Brew’s case they were quartz chronographs and the Mastergraph became one of my favorite quartz chronographs ever. Brew has brought their excellent design language back with the automatic 3-hand Retromatic. Let’s take a closer look.
On the Wrist
The Retromatic is a 36mm rectangle-shaped-case 3-hander. However, the watch doesn’t feel like 36mm (in a good way). Because of the shape of the case, it feels closer to 38mm. The watch is almost all dial save for the corners of the case. This also helps the watch look a touch bigger than it is. The best part about this is that this watch will look great on just about any wrist. It won’t overpower smaller wrists and it will still command enough real estate on larger wrists to look proportionate.
Everything on the Retromatic stands out in its own way. Each element of the watch has a unique characteristic to it that both separates it from other elements and creates a cohesive design. If we dig into the dial we can see some of this take effect with the Retromatic’s legibility. The textured dial is sunken slightly from the outer ring of markers and even further separated from the handset. However, the hands tie in nicely with the marker set and the dial textures brings contrast to the entire watch face.
I’ve stated in other reviews of Brew watches that they somehow feel old, yet new. Brew manages to strike a nice balance between classic Art Deco design and modern design trends. The dial texture is undeniably modern, yet the shape of the case and bracelet make it feel like something that would have been designed in the early 20th century. It’s a balance only Brew can pull off.
When I unboxed the review sample, the first thing I noticed was the bracelet. When they were initially released, the Retrograph and Mastergraph did not come on bracelets. The bar-style bracelet obviously caught my attention. I’ll touch more on the bracelet later, but Brew has done a great job crafting a bracelet that is comfortable and fits the watch’s overall design.
Brew Retromatic Video Review
One of the more common themes in modern watches is paragraphs of text on the dial. While this is more common in dive watches, it has made its way on dressier watches (think modern Seiko Presage models). Brew has taken the other fork in the road and kept it simple with 3 lines of text on the entire dial. Brew at 12 o’clock, Retromatic at 6 o’clock and Swiss Auto nestled in the minute track. It keeps the dial distraction-free and harkens back to watch faces with minimal text.
When I saw the photos of the watch before I received the review sample I was concerned that the dial would be too busy with the texture applied to it. The texture is like that of a honeycomb (except there are circles instead of hexagons). However, I never found the texture overwhelming or distracting. The size of the circles in the texture helps the other elements of the dial stand out rather than blend in.
The simple handset on the Retromatic is built for legibility. The white hands contrast the dial color and the minute hand extends far enough to provide the wearer with no question as to the current time. The splash of color with the seconds hand and hour markers complements the blue dial perfectly. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a color-matched date wheel, but it doesn’t throw off the balance of the dial so I can’t complain about it.
Case and Bracelet
If you’ve handled Brew’s last two releases, the Retromatic’s case will feel somewhat familiar. The rectangle-shaped case is more like a slimmed-down version of the Retrograph’s and carries over some of the same elements from that case. There is a polished ring around the crystal that adds a touch of flash to the top of the case. The brushed corners of the case flow elegantly into the polished sides.
If I had one complaint about the case, it would be that it feels a tad too thick for the case size. It’s only 10.5mm thick but because the sides are a little slabby, it feels thicker than that. Perhaps a polished undercut on the case would help slim it down a little. However, I am really grasping at straws. The Retromatic is perfectly comfortable on the wrist.
Flipping the watch over, you’ll get a look at the Sellita SW-200 beating inside the Retromatic. Even the caseback on the Retromatic is designed well and doesn’t feel like an afterthought. Brew has given buyers the option of either a Sellita SW-200 or a slightly more budget friendly option of a Seiko NH35 (Black and blue have the Sellita movement and burgundy and green have the Seiko movement). The movement choice depends on the dial color, but it is nice to see the option offered.
While you have the watch flipped over, you’ll notice the quick-release bracelet. I’m happy to see more brands integrating quick-release technology into bracelets. If quick-release concerns you, it can easily be changed to a standard spring bar. The bracelet itself is solid and well-made. The taper from the watch head to the butterfly clasp is beautiful. It slopes in gradually and echoes the case shape. Butterfly clasps aren’t my favorite due to the lack of microadjustments but thankfully I was able to get this bracelet sized just right.
I’ll admit I had a hard time coming up with competition to the Retromatic. True to other Brew watches, the Retromatic stands out from the crowd and doesn’t quite fit the mold of other modern watch releases. With that said, there are some other watches with a similar philosophy.
The Timex M79 is one of the many vintage reissues coming out of Timex HQ these days and while I don’t think the build quality will be up to the Brew’s, it shares a few similar elements. A different style bracelet with a gentle taper and a slightly angular case shape help the M79 fit that retro look.
Where Brew’s design comes from bespoke espresso machines, Straton lives in the world of automative-inspired design. The Speciale falls somewhere between the Brew Mastergraph and Retromatic in terms of its feature set. The most obvious similarity between the two watches is the case shape. The Speciale is geometric with gentle curves. While I don’t think the design is quite as clean as the Brew, it certainly makes a statement.
Seiko Recraft SNKP23
This is probably the closest in design to the Brew Retromatic. The case shape is obviously similar, and the bracelets share a few similar elements. The Recraft series from Seiko was meant to be vintage-inspired and they’ve done a great job bringing it to modern standards. While I love the looks of the Seiko, the Brew feels more refined and cleaner. There’s a lot going on and as I said above, it all works extremely well together.
I said at the beginning of this review that I am always excited when I see a new watch from Brew hitting the market. Brew has released some of my favorite watches of the last couple years and I’m sure that shows in my reviews. The Retromatic is a nice change of pace from Brew and I’m happy to see another automatic in their stable. I’m interested to see where Brew decides to go after this release, whether it will be another watch with a similar theme or a new design theme.
It’s difficult to create a watch that can stand out from the crowd. There seems to be only so much you can do with a dial and 3 hands. Brew has been challenging that notion since their inception. The shape and design of the Retromatic might not be for everyone. There are plenty of watch enthusiasts who like their watches round. However, if you’re looking for something a little bit different yet still beautiful and eye-catching, Brew makes some of the best examples and the Retromatic is the latest and greatest.
Check out more Brew reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Brew website
Brew Retromatic Specs