It is perhaps unavoidable that backlogs should occur in any endeavor wherein there are internal and external deadlines that must be reconciled and balanced. Such is the case with my current line-up of review pieces. And I don’t mean to complain—quite the contrary. While I never aim to get backed up or have more than 3 or 4 pieces in at a time, it’s often the case that I’m simply next in line for a piece, and so it arrives. But when the backlog does occur—in this case extended by the arrival of my second son—the one benefit is that I get to spend just a bit longer with each watch.
Such is the case with the James and Muriel Proteus, a watch that took several months to arrange and has now been in my possession for just over 30 days. The Proteus is the brand’s second watch following the colorful but decidedly haven’t-I-seen-this-a-million-times TimeKeeper. The watches share almost no design language but do demonstrate an evolution and I’d argue a maturation of the Seattle-based brand. It seems they’ve gone from just another quartz brand to a brand with something to prove.
On the Wrist
The brushed and polished 40mm case features a height of 12.3mm, including the domed sapphire. But honestly, the shaping of the lugs and the shorter lug-to-lug make it wear a bit thinner. The finishing is crisp. The bezel proved easy to operate and the good folks at James and Muriel have done us all a solid: you’ve got the option of a 12-hour bezel or a dive bezel which is bidirectional or unidirectional, respectively. It’s a nice bit of extra effort on their part. The only issue I found with the case is the crown, which could use sizing up, but features an interior bevel to allow grip by the fingertips.
The sandwich dial is quite legible and features few, if any, sharp edges. The indices, hands, 12 o’clock triangle—even the dial font— have been rounded out. It’s uncluttered and balanced, thanks to the omission of a date window. The 10-second lume arcs sit under the main dial and add a bit of modern sleekness to it all. The sandwich arcs are balanced by applied hour plots, which add some great depth to the Proteus dial. Lume is not exceptional but is certainly adequate—it served well enough when I woke in the middle the night to see what time my son had started screaming.
The optional tan strap on which my sample came is nothing to rave about. Certainly not the best leather, but not the worst, but comfortable and showing no signs of immediate wear as some very cheap straps do. The watch comes stock on an Oyster-style bracelet with a Rolex-style clasp with lever release and toolless microadjustment—it’s a helluva bracelet for the price. Also included is a two-piece NATO strap, because everyone just loves those.
Most microbrands make their statements with the dials they put on their watches, and that’s true for James and Muriel and their Proteus. The multilayered dial is available in moss green (as seen here), trench black, or twilight blue. They all look beautiful, and while the sunburst finish on the blue surely plays with light in a delightful way, the matte finish of the black and green are pleasing as well. In fact, I think a sunburst finish to the green that I had would have been a bit much. Shiny green is a dangerous game.
The dial exists in three layers: the bottom layer of the lumed arcs around the dial, the main dial, and the applied hour markers. The 10-second arcs are a great touch that add a bit of something different to the dial, and further the “be gone all sharp angles” aesthetic. I’ll discuss lume here: the watch features Super-Luminova BGW9 that is adequately but unevenly applied: the arcs shine brighter than the hour plots, which shine brighter than the hands. In full darkness, after about 2 seconds, your eyes adjust and can see all three without difficulty.
The main dial features modestly sized hour markers with a triangle at 12, which I would have enlarged ever so slightly to make it more distinct from the other plots. Above the pinion is the stylized James and Muriel brand name and logo, while the model name and 200m water resistance designation are below. All of the dial font is rather small, but I’d only enlarge the model name, and only slightly. The dial itself is already perfectly full (not cluttered), so an upsizing would need to be minute.
The hands are a rounded alpha style, again eschewing strong angles. Like the hour markers, they have polished surrounds with lumed inserts. The seconds hand features a lollipop counterbalance. The entirety of the dial is rimmed by a sloped chapter ring in the same green.
Case and Strap Details
Circling the dial and the domed sapphire glass is your option of either an aluminum color-matched dive bezel or a steel 12-hour bezel. Both feature a lumed 12 o’clock pip and the sample’s bezel had good action but could’ve used a bit more tension and pronounced stops. I’ve seen tons of 12-hour bezels that are unidirectional, especially when its an option against a dive bezel. But the Proteus goes the extra distance with a bidirectional 12-hour bezel and a unidirectional dive bezel. This is how it should be.
The case itself offers little frills, and I think that’s a good thing with the level of action you get from the dial (and the color-matched bezel if you go with the dive option). Relatively thin 20mm lugs accommodate any strap you’d like to put on it (as you can see) and feature brushed tops against the polished case sides. Drilled lugs would have been nice but may have been a challenge with the narrowness; plus they would have interrupted the polish.
The one issue with the case is the crown, which is not large enough to be easily operated without a bit of effort. Deeper, sharper grooving and an extra millimeter would’ve gone a long way here.
I can’t speak to the quality of the included Oyster-style bracelet other than to say that videos I’ve seen make it seem quite nice. Essentially, if you’re familiar with modern Rolex bracelets, you’ll be familiar with the James and Muriel Proteus bracelet. Am I bummed I didn’t get to try it out? No, not at all. You’re bummed. I’m totally fine about it though. Not even a thing. Don’t you worry about me.
James and Muriel have done a good job here of bringing something a little different to the market, and they’ve seemingly spanned a chasm from their first watch. It’s refreshing to see a smaller brand with one so-so design under their belt come out with such a solid watch. Limited to 100 of each colorway, the Proteus diver is exceptionally affordable at just $479, which gets you an engaging design, bezel options, a killer bracelet, and a reliable movement.
Check out more dive watch reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the James and Muriel website
James and Muriel Proteus Specs