Winfield Watch Co. is a small brand based in Ohio, USA. Their small catalog specializes in no-nonsense, simple, and ruggedly built watches, with a whiff of vintage military styling and thoroughly modern practicality. In for review today is their Mission Lead; though I don’t believe Winfield describes this watch as such, it could justly be called a mission timer with its countdown bezel.
On The Wrist
The Winfield Mission Lead is a chunk of a watch. To me this represents an interesting case of a watch that wears arguably larger and certainly bolder than its case dimensions would suggest. At 41mm, on my 7” wrist it wears more like a 43, and it feels thicker, somehow, than 13mm usually does. The sensible lug-to-lug dimension of 48.5mm keeps it from looking or feeling awkward, however, and I am comfortable saying the overall feel and appearance is bold and purpose-built rather than ungainly.
The rather flat lugs and high position of the spring bar holes mean this watch sits high on NATO-style straps. I found the wearing experience much more pleasant on the two-piece nylon strap included with the watch than with the thick seatbelt NATO-style strap.
The dial really grew on me during my time with the Mission Lead. A stepped design, it features three time scales with lume on the hour scale. The font chosen for the numerals is excellent; I like its slight mid-century look without going full blown Futura Bold (a design choice that gets more and more played out with every new “retro-inspired design item”). The lume is good; the handset is well-shaped and appropriately sized and the watch suffers no issues with legibility. The mix of classic pilot and field watch elements comes together nicely, particularly the Arabic hour numerals and twenty-four hour scale, and the lumed triangle at 12 indicating up.
While I would really love to see the green version of this dial, the gray and black is a good look as well.
Case, Strap and Movement
The case of the Mission Lead is thick, angular, and billet-like. There’s little in the way of beveling or sculpting; the lugs are straight and substantial and the case sides straight and unadorned. I love the blasted case finish, a relatively uncommon finish and one that complements the geometry well. It gives the watch a pleasing aerospace aesthetic that sets it apart from many brushed-finished rivals.
The 120-click bezel is a countdown type, meaning the order of the numbers is reversed. I like the matching blasted finish of the bezel, and the markings are well done: legible and attractive. Coin-edge knurling alternating with smooth finishing gives a lot of grip, and with this watch you will need it. The ratcheting clicks were solid and smooth, but this is definitely one of the stiffest rotating bezels I’ve ever tried to turn. I personally do not like extra-tight bezels and this one discouraged me from even bothering with it most of the time.
The watch came with the “standard loadout” consisting of a thick gray seatbelt NATO-style strap and a two-piece nylon strap, also double-thick. This is one area where I think there could be some improvement; the NATO-style strap made the watch wear even taller than it already did (or appeared to), and it was too stiff to comfortably wrap the tail back. The two-piece nylon strap was also very uncomfortable at first; it did break in a bit after some wear, but better options exist that would still be rugged enough to suit the purpose and aesthetic of the watch.
The movement is the old faithful Seiko NH35. It’s a good movement, but I wish this watch had the version without the phantom date-setting position.
The design of the Mission Lead is imposing and unsubtle, meant to stand out on your wrist and be available and legible when needed. Playing to this look and feel, the Mission Lead does well. If you want a watch that works hard in the field but also melds into a dressier or smart casual look, this is not the one; from an aesthetic point of view this is a narrow-purpose watch. I think the Mission Lead is a great addition to the field of watches produced by Sinn, Damasko, or even Fortis to an extent; no frills and aggressively purpose-built.
This watch does seem to be of the era in microbrands when thicker, bigger, more solid, and just generally more was always better. As stated above, this plays decently along with the aesthetic choices, but also means some disappointments; the excess thickness and overbuilt-ness of the straps, for instance, or the extra-tight bezel, for example. A little more refinement and finding the ideal mean between the extremes of over- and under-building will only serve to increase the appeal of the Mission Lead; already a fine watch, and ready for anything you can throw at it.
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Winfield Mission Lead Specs