What a breath of fresh air to get something in for review that’s different. Something that isn’t another diver (no offense), that doesn’t feature the same Subcase with tiny tweaks (offense), that can legitimately proclaim it is bringing something fresh to the world of watches. It’s true that there are only so many ways to make a watch without making it unwearable or outlandish(ly expensive). That said, most brands perhaps understandably rest on tried and true designs. In watches, it seems that nothing risked equals quite a bit gained.
Neucarl Watches, though, is taking quite a few risks. Their debut model, the Sept Mai, presents what they call a “retro-futuristic” design. It’s a far cry from the ultrasafe high-lume, “colors are fun” divers that most new brands start with. The Sept Mai (May 7th) is a reference to a turning point in creator Francois Carlier’s life. I won’t bog you down, but it involves a weekend escape to Rome, a trip to the Vatican, and an airport fire, and ends with him realizing he can’t grind out another day at his workaday job without doing something for himself, without creating. That was 2015, and five years later, here we are with the Neucarl Sept Mai.
On the Wrist
The Sept Mai wears better than you’d expect for a watch whose lugs turn up. The watch’s 41mmx46mm case sat well on my 7-inch wrist, but I can see how on a 6.5in or below wrist (you poor things) it would be overwhelming. And that’s not just due to the lug curve, but also because the watch is all dial. A thin bezel means the dial dominates on the wrist, with everything else is secondary.
The case’s futuristic design sees not only a UFO-like shape, but the midcase seemingly suspended amidst the lugs. It’s a fantastic effect that I’ve not seen executed this well. The dial, too, presents something at once familiar and new. The sections created by different layers are clean and crisp and allow for great eligibility. It’s got a little bit of Bauhaus, a little art deco, and a lot of class. Everything to the dial is simple.
One of my favorite things about simple watches without pronounced color schemes is their versatility with straps. No, you can’t really rock a NATO on the Sept Mai, but any dressier strap in any color will carry the watch with ease. The included strap is black and pairs nicely for perhaps the cleanest look available.
The curious and engaging thing about the Neucarl Sept Mai is that while it offers something I haven’t seen before, it’s also very unassuming. Nothing jumps out at you. It’s an exercise in restraint and elegance. Futurist design can beget a lot of crazy things, and Mr. Carlier redesigned the dial of the Sept Mai ad nauseum to ensure that the end result was representative of his design aesthetic without being too loud.
A keen eye will not that the outer ring is slightly concave, lifting up as the minute hashes reach their termina.A circular brushed main dial features thin black hashes, longer at the hours. Extending from the peripheral portion are bridges at the hours, which link to the central dial. Here you’ll find the hashing echoed, plus simple text with the brand name, model name, and movement designation.
Beneath the main metal dial is a fully lumed white circle, visible under the bridges linking the two portions of the main dial. The lume is plenty bright and a nice touch, but it is not useful for telling the time at night. The hands are too slim to be seen easily against the lume at a glance. Staring for a bit seems to help, but also makes you feel dumb.
The hands themselves, however, perfectly complement the rest of the watch. Clean, crisp, without any pretense. Lots of new watches use a curious handset to stand out from the competition, often with laughable or unpleasant results. While the simplicity of the Sept Mai’s handset certainly isn’t common, they’re anything but a joke as they reinforce the class and elegance of the watch.
I do want to mention and commend the date window here. Located at 3 o’clock, the beveled window features a white date wheel with black font, matching the colors on the dial. Further, the window itself features the same trapezoidal shape as the hour segments on the white portion of the dial. It’s all quite congruous and pleasing. Top work.
While I had the Founders Edition, there will be a number of city-themed dials available, 99 each. Each city will have played some part in Francois Carlier’s journey in bringing the Sept Mai to life. They’re all worth a look on the website.
Case & Strap Details
The retro-futuristic design is undeniable. The watch looks like an alien craft imagined for the cover of Popular Science in the 60s, but with the elegance of a cigarette case from the same era. In profile, the watch resembles a perfecto cigar, with lugs that bend from the top and the bottom to form a pointed end.
Adding to the UFO vibe, though, the watch appears to float within those lugs: the caseback carries the midcase, and it’s from there that the lugs emerge to cradle the rest of the watch, leaving a small gap to create the illusion of levitation.
Fully polished, the only finishing contrast to the case is the 3 o’clock push-pull crown, which features two knurled bands for extra grip. Any larger and the crown would’ve been distracting. The edges of the case are a bit soft and could use sharpening to match the sharp lines of the hands and hashes. While a watch’s overall shape may be fluid and round, its edges need not be.
Flipping the watch over, a sapphire crystal mirrors the one on the front (though the back isn’t domed, obviously), putting the handwound movement on display. You can also spot the lug-caseback piece and how it fits onto the midcase with screws. Around the movement display is a handful of text, including individual numbering for each edition of the watch.
The quick-release Epsom leather strap included is slim and pairs perfectly. While the watch wears large, the straps likely won’t accommodate much bigger than a 7.75in wrist, as they’re shorter than many stock straps. It was perfect for me, but may be a close fit for larger wrists. This is almost not a problem, though, as the watch will easily accommodate any thinner leather strap. In addition, other colors are available from Neucarl.
There’s a lot to like with The Sept Mai. It offers something new but clearly inspired by the past. The Sept Mai shows off the design ability of it’s creator. Balancing good design with good taste is an art, one fully on display here. This watch is just shy of perfection, though. I think sizing it down a bit to allow it to sit well on all wrists. (How wonderful would it be if the date window’s sides were flush with the inner and outer discs?) I’d also like to see those edges sharpened up a bit.
Even still, I find myself enamored of having a watch for review that isnt the standard fare. Don’t get me wrong, each watch is special (just like each of you), and very few that I review are actually bad. But there’s a bell curve of mediocrity. 75% of the watches are well done but nothing exceptional. Maybe 5% are just bad—pack your bags, go home. Then there are 10% that stand out for one reason or another. In the Neucarl Sept Mai’s case, it’s a novel, beautiful design that leaves one distinctly satisfied when the watch is on the wrist.
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Check out the Neucarl website
Neucarl Sept Mai Specs