In for review is the latest release of the Vancouver-based brand VanBanner. The VBAO is a 38mm no date watch that walks the line between dressy and a classic “go anywhere do anything” watch. The overall thickness is a slim 11.2mm for a remarkably comfortable experience, especially when paired with the 4 o’clock crown. The VBAO comes shipped at $258 after a 50% discount code in Purple “VBAO173” (sold out), Green “VBAO172, and Blue “VBAO171. In hand, I have the powerful purple.
On the Wrist
On the wrist, the VBAO melts away due not only from the reasonable case diameter but also to the minimal thickness. Although there is no bezel the domed sapphire crystal paired with the sunburst dial gives the illusion of a slightly smaller watch. The effect of the dome creates a difference in color from the center to the outside of the dial, not too different from a fume dial. The embossed crown remains out of the way at the 4 o’clock position.
Even in my photos, you can tell that my wrist was enjoying the break from having a 3 o’clock crown rubbing against my skin. When kept on the metal bracelet the overall weight is substantial enough to notice you are wearing a steel sports watch. In part, the extra weight is because the bracelet does not have a taper from 20mm and the clasp is 21mm. Where the VBAO sings though, is on rubber or NATO. My favorite pairing was by far NATO, after a few minutes on the wrist, you forget the VBAO is there completely.
VanBanner VBAO Specs
Beneath the domed crystal is the beautiful purple sunburst dial complete with applied polished indices. The text is limited to the logo at 12, Automatic at 6, and “TEN ATM” split on both sides of the 6 pm indices. The portion that I noticed immediately was the script of Automatic. Many times, we see dials with ill-conceived fonts but here we see the custom script that VanBanner had made just for this use by the artist Isobel Hsu. The added effort shows through and is appreciated.
Against the purple dial the red second-hand contrasts beautifully as well. The hour hand reminds me of the classic sword hand commonly seen on mil-spec divers and is an added bump in legibility to thin baton hands that would usually appear on a watch of this style. The added width of the hands also means additional area to apply lume.
Blue BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova™ fills both the indices and hands. The indices glow bright enough to color in the dial depending on the light and more than enough to satiate my urge to shut the lights off during bathroom trips.
Case, Bracelet, and Movement
Within the VBAO beats the Miyota 9039 movement. This is part of the 9000 series of Miyota movements and is a hi-beat true no date movement with 42 hours of power reserves. For $258 to have a no date 9000 series is a plus. The 9039 is also responsible for the case thickness remaining so thin. The profile of the case is fully polished while the top of the case is completely brushed. I am happy to see that VanBanner forewent polishing the top of the case, as this keeps the watch on the right side of dressy for my taste and aids you in dressing the watch down for an easy pairing with shorts and a t-shirt.
The caseback is engraved with one of the VanBanner logos and features more information regarding the movement and material details. My one complaint on the bracelet is not valid because of the price point, but, I do wish there was a bit of taper from the 20mm at the lugs to the clasp. With a taper down to 18mm or possibly even 16mm the watch would be even more comfortable on the wrist and feel like a more complete watch. I said it is not exactly a valid complaint because the watch is featuring a solid endlink and has a solid bracelet with a solid clasp, all for $258! I would like to see the price bumped up enough to pay for the extra benefit of a tapered bracelet.
When the VBAO first came in and I started spending time wearing it, immediately I became keenly aware of a gap in the space for a watch like this. If you look around for a solid entry-level enthusiast option in the sub $300 range, nothing compares to the VBAO. The sleekness of the case and overall classic proportions, especially the thickness, are unheard of. VanBanner has managed to create something with immense value and easily displaces some of my previous go-to recommendations for friends coming to me interested in getting their first mechanical watch. During my time with the VBAO, the watch quickly became my go-to gym watch when paired with a silicone strap. On rubber, the watch goes perfectly with the dog days of summer that are now upon us.
The few small complaints or upgrades I would like to see on a second iteration of the VBAO would be a bump in the price upwards, to splurge on that tapered bracelet, and some more refinement of the crown. The crown is just a tad out of line with the 4 pm indices and the effect is more of the crown is showing on one side than the other. In part, this is due to the case transitioning into the lugs, but if the crown was a touch more in line it would sit flusher against the case.
At the time of writing this, there are a few days left of the discount pricing.
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Check out the VanBanner website here