Microbrands have been putting their spin on dive watches for several years. Everything from vintage-inspired to contemporary dive watches are available. While some brands are starting to branch out from dive watches, those branches have yet to grow significantly to the field watch.
The Oak & Oscar Olmsted is not the first to break into this segment, but they’ve created some competition for the higher-tier field watches we’ve become familiar with such as the Sinn 556. Oak & Oscar have taken their signature sandwich dial layout and added a robust movement and American craftmanship to the field watch. Let’s take a closer look at the Olmsted.
On the Wrist
Oak & Oscar is a brand I’ve observed from afar for a few years. I was only able to get hands-on with one of their watches (the Humboldt) for a few moments at Wind Up in 2019. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Olmsted when it arrived on my doorstep for review. The short answer is that I was immediately impressed. The build quality was what stuck out to me right away. It has a good amount of heft to it, partly because of the solid link bracelet. I’m used to field watches like the Hamilton Khaki Field and when compared to that line of watches, the Olmsted blows them out of the water.
My initial thoughts of the Olmsted didn’t change much once I strapped the watch on my wrist. The proportions are spot-on for what looks and feels good on my 6.75” wrist. Coming in at 38mm wide, 44.9mm lug-to-lug and 10.8mm tall, the Olmsted should also provide that same feeling to other wrist sizes. If you have a larger wrist and are worried if it will look too small on your wrist, the bracelet should help add some presence to the Olmsted. Also, the fixed bezel isn’t extremely wide, so the 38mm width is made up of a lot of dial.
The Olmsted is offered in 3 dial colors: white as seen here, navy, and grey. The white dial is easily the most legible of the 3. The numerals and hands are black and stand out prominently from the stark white dial. Even at night with no lume, it was relatively easy to read the time. I can’t say the same for the other 2 dial colors, but they feature lumed numerals (the white dial only has lumed pips flanking the numerals).
After wearing the Olmsted for a few days, one of the first comparisons I made in my mind was with the Sinn 556. Even though the 556 is classified as a pilot’s watch, it feels more like a field watch. The two watches share a similar soul but differ in many ways. However, they wear a lot like each other. Their dimensions are almost the same, but the Olmsted feels more streamlined. I’m not sure if it is the lack of crown guards or the bracelet, but I prefer how the Olmsted feels. More on this comparison later.
Oak & Oscar Olmsted Video Review
The headliner for the Olmsted is the sandwich dial. This is a calling card of Oak & Oscar as all their watches feature a sandwich dial. It fits the vibe of the watch perfectly. The numeral font is modern, yet a little playful. They contribute to the watch’s legibility and add some depth to the dial, especially when the light is hitting the watch from the side. I understand the reason for not having lume on the numerals for the white dial version and it gave me a bit of envy for the other dial versions which do feature lumed numerals.
The handset is simple yet effective. The tapered baton hands are easily identifiable against the white dial. Oak & Oscar’s signature orange seconds hand is present on the Olmsted. The Oak & Oscar logo is the counter-balance and adds a nice little detail to the hand.
The remainder of the dial is simple. Branding text is at 12 and 6 o’clock and a date window is where the 6 o’clock marker would be. The Oak & Oscar logo is embossed below the text at 6 o’clock and almost disappears on the white dial. It looks to be slightly more evident on the other dial colors. If you pay attention, you will see the counter-balance on the seconds hand pass perfectly over the logo on the dial.
Case & Bracelet
The case of the Olmsted is exactly what you would want out of a purpose-built field watch. It is completely brushed to a satin finish with no chamfers or bevels to speak of. If this were anything besides a field watch, I might take issue with this, but the no-nonsense approach is a good call for the Olmsted.
The fixed bezel is slightly inset from the midcase, which adds a little bit of depth to the case. The bezel also drops off and meets the midcase at a 90-degree angle. You will find drilled lug holes on the case of the Olmsted, something every field watch should have. The unguarded screw-down crown is large and easy to grip.
An exhibition caseback shows off the ETA 2892. The movement features a custom rotor with Oak & Oscar’s 4-star design, a nod to their hometown of Chicago. You don’t see the ETA 2892 pop up in too many microbrands these days. The trend seems to be the more readily available Sellita SW300. I don’t have a preference either way, but I thought it was worth mentioning for those who prefer ETA movements.
The bracelet is a simple Oyster-style bracelet that tapers from 20mm at the watch to 16mm at the clasp. The bracelet is the only aspect of the Olmsted where I would make some changes. I don’t have major complaints about the bracelet, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing a little extra added the bracelet. Brushed chamfers were the first thing that came to mind. It would add a small amount of detail without sacrificing the tool watch nature of the watch; it would soften the bracelet’s appearance.
I also feel that a double push-button clasp with no lock would work well here. However, I realize this is a personal preference and neither option is the wrong choice. I had no issues getting a good fit as the clasp has 5 microadjust positions. With that said, I still like the bracelet. The links articulate well and it is comfortable. There isn’t much more you can ask beyond that.
I don’t typically discuss packaging, but as more brands are starting to take a different approach to their packaging, I feel it is becoming a topic I am addressing more often. Oak & Oscar offers a “watch wallet” as the packaging for their watches. The wallet consists of a zippered pouch that can hold two watches, a spring bar/sizing tool, and a strap or two. It’s a good way to offer packaging that gives the buyer something to do with it besides sticking it in a closet.
I’ve mentioned this watch a few times in this review and for good reason. The watches cost roughly the same, share similar dimensions, and fall into a segment in which buyers would likely consider both watches. Some of what I’m about to say is personal preference but some of it is objective observations. The Olmsted and the 556 cost the same but the Olmsted has a higher-tier movement, feels more comfortable, looks better, and has a better bracelet. I know which one I would choose. There was a time the 556 was an affordable option in this segment; those days are over. Sinn’s price increase have pushed them out the affordability they once had.
When it comes to modern field watches, the Triumph immediately comes to mind. The Triumph also comes close to the Olmsted in terms of dimensions and price. The Triumph is definitely a little flashier than the Olmsted, so much of deciding between these two watches will come down to what looks better to the buyer.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date
The ProPilot is undeniably a pilot’s watch, but the similar looks between it and the Olmstead can’t be denied. Much like the Triumph, the ProPilot is flashier, with more polishing and flair added to the watch. Where I feel the ProPilot falls short is something I’ve mentioned in some of my Oris reviews: for the prices they charge, they really should be using higher-tier movements.
If you’ve made it to the end of this review, you should have been able to tell that I think the Olmsted is a great watch. While I am objective in my reviews, part of the reason you’re reading is because you must like my personal tastes towards the watches I review. The Olmsted ticked a lot of boxes for me. It looked and felt perfect. There is also something about that simple layout with a sandwich dial that separates it from the pack.
When it comes to watches in the $1,500-$2,000 price bracket, value starts to become a huge factor. What are these watches offering that makes them cost that much? For a 3-hand time and date field watch, that question needs to be answered. Oak & Oscar has done a bang-up job of answering it for me. All of what I’ve said in this review gives the Olmsted a solid value proposition. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started opening the package for the Olmsted review sample, but let me tell you, it blew away any expectations I had.
Check out the Oak & Oscar website
Oak & Oscar Olmsted Specs