Certain watches like the Burrard require a longer review, for it represents a lot more than itself. As the brand’s first foray into the market, we take a deep look into its place, why you should own one, and how this brand may have inadvertently made a watch perfect for a segment of the market they did not consider.
Familiarity, perspective, and one’s background inform one’s decisions on matters such as a new watch brand and its first offering. It’s easy from afar to look at the Burrard from York and Front and dismiss it as a plain and uninspired watch. When asking friends for their opinions as they held it, one experienced collector simply shrugged and said, “It’s nothing special.”
Then I handed it to a close friend whose immeasurable watch collection, if stacked atop each other, would reach the Martian moon Phobos, and he gave me a different response. He allowed the available light to hit the dial and the hour indices at varying angles and he smiled. “Now this is a good watch for work.” This collector is an executive who generates a level of income and contributes towards the economy on a scale that most middle-management humans only dream about, but only way too late in their careers to actually achieve it themselves.
“Why do you say that,” I asked.
“It’s got everything one needs: the level of detail to keep me happy during drab meetings or when sitting in stop-and-go traffic, and it won’t get me killed.” This last point got both of us laughing, for my friend made a great point, and one that is often overlooked.
The Burrard is the perfect watch for a professional working in a metropolis. Its design choices exactingly detail the various pressures and demands which are put on the shoulders of thousands of men and women whose decisions not only impact balance sheets and spreadsheets, but affect countless livelihoods on a global scale.
It’s in the Details
It was a beautiful autumn evening and we had long settled into our third round of drinks. Though we were in one of the most upscale neighbourhoods in Toronto, something simply felt off. As my friend started detailing all of the reasons why his new marriage was not working, the light from the many incandescent light bulbs on the patio bounced off of and made his wedding watch glisten.
It was then that I noticed what felt wrong. As I turned around in my chair to get an update on our surroundings, I saw the source of discomfort. Across the elevated outdoor patio, two men were speaking in hushed tones as they leaned towards each other, and staring at my friend’s two-tone Rolex GMT Master II. Upon making eye contact with the strangers, my friend’s voice fell into the background, and I shifted my chair so that I was facing them. My friend, who undoubtedly had a few drinks before we met, had no idea what was happening, and he continued to complain about his soon to be ex-wife and her deal-breaking habits.
The two men were at first confused as to what I was doing, but I leaned forward, took a picture of them with my cell phone. I then proceeded to smile and told them, “Your faces are now shared with a chat group of more than 30 people, so we all know who you are in case you follow through with what you are thinking of doing.” My friend continued to complain about his wife, this time shifting his complaints about her ambushing him when he arrived home, and now onto her dietary choices which were heavily focused on raw garlic as the primary ingredient before heading to bed.
Frowning and looking at each other, the two finished their pints of stout, straightened their blacked out Pittsburg Pirates and New York Yankees baseball caps, and stood with haste. As they were making their way toward the exit, one of them turned back towards me and did something very odd, he saluted, nodded, and smiled at me before turning back around.
It is unusual to start a watch review with how a watch seems to the eyes of onlookers, but the Burrard’s raison d’être necessitates this approach.
When asked about what drove the founders of York and Front to make the Burrard, Henry, in my interview on The Watch Clicker a few months ago, mentioned that they wanted a perfect daily watch; a dress field watch that was not too flashy. This has become a very important consideration for people who wear flashy and recognizably expensive watches that are increasingly becoming targets of theft. These incidents of theft all run the risk of getting violent. In 2021, Watch Registers reported a 9% increase in reported thefts from the previous year.1
As a result, the need for such recovery services for watches has become a necessity. It is not uncommon to be walking in a city such as Toronto, Boston, or New York and see precious gold Rolexes, JLCs and Vacheron Constantins gracing the wrists of many as they wait for their $8 coffees as they are being prepared by a barista. It always baffles me when I see such a person, usually both emotionally and physically exhausted from a long day at the office, board a subway train late at night with tens of thousands of dollars on their wrist.
The Burrard’s seemingly simple white dial and straightforward hour markers can easily pass under the radar as a watch from a department store. To be clear, I have heard this being said about many watches from Nomos and how brands such as Daniel Wellington have similar offerings at prices that are forty times less. These classic and uncomplicated designs all have a place in modern workplaces. They tell the time and do nothing to draw attention to themselves. What differentiates them is the attention to detail and the level of finishing and overall manufacturing. The muted and soft white dial here is definitely one of the strong points of the Burrard, and leads towards its classy character. The dial on the Bright White variant reviewed here, even looks like an enamel or porcelain dial in most circumstances. Both founders of the brand should be applauded in their careful search, sourcing, and execution of this dial.
The 38mm wide and 12mm high case gives this watch a presence on the wrist that straddles the ground between a sports watch and a modern dress watch. This aids in its aforementioned reason for being, which is to be rugged enough to put up with the rigours of modern life, but it also makes it less dear and less a target for potential theft. The 20mm lug width gives this smaller case a more sporting character as well.
Usually the lug width of a watch is half the diameter of the case. The choice to expand the lug width from 19mm to 20mm also ensures an easier time for the owner when they source aftermarket straps. The railroad minute track and oversized and beautifully brushed numerals add to the Burrard’s sporting yet classical character. The numerals had been a major point of contention for some of the people whom I showed it to. These folks all worked in the watch industry in some capacity and all of them first pointed out that the numerals were not only too big, but the typeface resulted in a cluttered landscape when double digits were required. One mentioned that removing the smaller five minute indicators could help with the visual balance of the dial. After I had listened to my friends, I too immediately saw what they were speaking about and could not unsee it.
Where my friends in passing saw the usual font size and typeface as a negative, I genuinely see this as a positive. The decision to go in this direction not only results in a watch that looks different from the rest of what is available in the market, but I’d argue that it is beautiful. When it comes to being too large, no one ever pointed out that Eva Greene’s, Emma Stone’s, or Steve Buscemi’s big eyes were unsightly. I’d argue that they are all equally stunning and beautiful – to this my watch industry friends tell me to “shut the fuck up” and that everything is somehow connected to Vietnam.
There is a high level of attention to detail when it comes to the finishing of the Burrard as well. The brushing along the case is incredibly even for a watch at this price point. The sections of the watch which are polished were chosen with great care. Both along the bezel and its lip, and on the side of the lugs, the polished sections do their task of drawing your eye towards the dial. The transition between the brushed and polished sections are not nearly as well defined or sharp from standard luxury offerings in the $1000-and-above price range, but are at home here at half the price. The edges of the case can, at some points, feel a little unrefined as well. When running your fingers along the underside of the lugs, a slight amount of roughness can be felt. Again, this is what you would expect of a watch in this price range that does not come from a multi-billion dollar corporation.
The caseback and the crown are an absolute treat and surprise. The level of machining and detail achieved here is not common at this price point and it makes the watch feel more expensive than it is. The Y&F logo on the back is executed wonderfully and is a major source of substance for the timepiece. This brings us to two points where the Burrard should be improved in its next iterations. The crown, when pulled out, wobbles too much for a watch in this price range and directly contrasts the rest of the watch and its operation. When the crown is unscrewed and fully extended, this is where the aforementioned wobble comes into play. However, the winding of the movement feels solid. The watch does have a 100m water resistance rating and does feature a screw-down crown. The specific operation of screwing the crown down is secure and feels great. It is in contrast with the rest of the characteristics and quality of the watch that this wobble feels a little disconcerting.
The movement used and how it is mounted with in the case is the other area where the watch needs to be improved upon. The STP 1-11 movement has been robust and accurate on my wrist over the last couple of months. This movement resembles the ETA 2824-2. Swiss Technology Components is owned by the Fossil Group and has been manufacturing movements for close to a decade. Here it works brilliantly. Where it has an issue is how it is dampened. While wearing the watch, in certain circumstances, the movement can be heard, such as when one has his hand on the steering wheel and as you drive over a road with slight imperfections. The sounds emanating from the watch can be best described as “springy” and they are a distraction. The rotor of the watch can be heard and felt as it bounces up and down slightly. Improving how the movement is mounted within the case is something that the brand should look at moving forward.
The syringe hands chosen have their roots in military watches, which further adds to the watch’s rugged and not-too-delicate persona. The legibility of the hands and the brushed hour indicators which dance in the light are aided by lumed hour, minute, and second hands. The lume is applied evenly and does nothing to distract its wearer as it burns. Its strength is not on par with popular dive watches, but this was never the intention for the Burrard in the first place. I did discover small pips of lume applied above the small five minute makers while preparing photographs for this article. I never saw them before or knew of their existence.
In order to see them, they required being charged by a very bright torch in a dark room and to be viewed through a macro lens. This is a very subtle and appreciated detail, but if the strength of the lume were stronger, it would be appreciated in actual day-to-day wear. Again, this is only something that the owner will see. This timepiece is there to tell you the time, and to do it in a refined manner that you as the owner alone will enjoy. This last point is magnified when looking at the elongated tip of the seconds hand. Unlike the rest of the hand which is a dark brushed stainless steel, the tip is a dark red. The pigment of red chosen blends into the rest of the seconds hand in most indoor settings. When under daylight, it sings and once again goes to show the lengths that Eric and Henry went towards making this a watch which is appreciated by its owner, and not necessarily by onlookers.
The Burrard in Action
They took their positions on the acceptable outskirts of where the children were playing, just out of earshot of their wives and kids. The hot summer’s day and public park necessitated the only beverages being shared being sodas and bottles of carbonated water. These men all wore the fatigue of 90-hour work weeks under their eyes and in their curves of their upper spines as they finally started to relax.
Life was not as how they imagined it. Their fathers and mothers all had office jobs and even those who were entrepreneurs had the evenings and weekends free to spend with their friends and family. This was not the case for these professionals. Notions such as workdays and the work week had been obliterated over a decade ago with the advent of the Blackberry. Ever since then, those who carried the burdens and responsibilities of large organizations were always on the clock. The notion of working your way to a place where you could delegate all of your duties to “lesser workers” was a thought reserved for the nostalgic.
The architect turned to one of the many lawyers and asked, “So, what in the world is going on with your outfit there?” They all chuckled as the lawyer, who was in his mid-fifties, shifted back and forth on his feet while standing like a child who had to pee.
“Well, since this bloody pandemic won’t end, I’ve started cycling,” he said, as his shuffling stopped and he gestured with his right hand showcasing his tight and aerodynamic cycling outfit. “I got this last week after looking like a sore thumb in my new cycling group, and I’m desperately trying to break it in before going on my first ride.” Another lawyer bent backwards and looked at his friend’s buttocks that looked like they were trying to ingest the cycling shorts with a hunger that bordered on violence.
Bending straight forward and returning his gaze to his wife and kids in the distance, and away from his friend’s rear end, the other lawyer said, “Yeah, my wife has both of us doing virtual Pilates classes every morning before work and then right after work. I haven’t been able to laugh, cough, or fart without experiencing blinding pain in months.”
Everyone laughed and continued to share their stories about how their spare time was expected to be devoted toward bettering themselves physically. These were the demands that were put on them. These demands surrounded them in their competitive landscape at work where a never-ending tidal wave of younger and stronger candidates competed for their positions. These were the demands that they faced when they came home, as their partners faced the exact same pressures as a result of their social contract of being professionals in a large city such as Toronto.
The robust yet understated nature of the Burrard perfectly aligns and parallels with the demands put on the modern professional. It has to be classy, understated, versatile, and have the ability to be active and exude a level of confidence in their endurance that is necessary for sixty-hour-plus work weeks.
I have worn this watch to work, to social events, and even to a yoga studio after a long day to settle onto my yoga mat for 75 minutes of yin yoga. The Burrard never missed a step and never looked out of place. Swapping the leather strap to something more sporting would have been done if I could have made the Hot Vinyasa class an hour earlier, though. The sapphire crystal did take multiple impacts in stride over the few weeks of wear and the watch still looks new.
The drilled lug holes should be the first clue as to this watch’s intent. In these days of quick-change straps, this feature is one that may start disappearing. Yet they are here; for the owners who are seasoned watch collectors, the importance of convenient features such as these go a long way toward ensuring that the watch will be on your wrist more often than not. Also if you look closely, you can see subtle cutouts in the case that make room for straps. This detail on the underside of the case is a wonderful addition and even goes further to show how much care went into the design of this watch.
The Burrard was designed to look good on both a leather strap and on a NATO-style strap. The two leather straps that ship with the watch are soft and supple. Having the watch with a black and brown strap ensures that this watch will go with all of the businesswear in one’s closet. Honestly, during the few weeks that the Burrard has been with me, I have not taken it off its black strap. It is not only beautiful but soft and very comfortable. The watch also comes with a watch roll with three slots. Like the straps, this watch roll is made of beautiful soft leather and has quickly become one of my favourite watch rolls.
There is a brown leather strap offered and a wonderful NATO strap. This was an unexpected surprise and one that should not go unmentioned. My only issue with the leather straps is that they need a couple more sizing holes for wrist sizes smaller than 6.5”. The size and style of this watch makes this a great option for those of smaller wrists, and to be honest it is a very gorgeous offering for a woman’s wrist. When worn by a lady, this watch somehow transforms and simply make more sense. The understated elegance and toughness coupled with its size make this a perfect dress-sports watch for those with a smaller wrist or for those with a more elegant style. The oversized numerals also make the watch wear and look smaller than it is in reality. This is a potential lost opportunity by the brand, and seeing the Burrard offered with more strap offerings and some other dial variants well-suited for the untapped women’s market would be appreciated.
This brings us to my final point about the Burrard before we head on to our final thoughts. The preconceived notions of what it takes to be a working professional are in constant flux and evolving. They are nowhere near where they need to be. Globally women are leading men when it comes to literacy levels and graduating from post-secondary schools, yet their wages still fall behind those of men by a substantial measure. With its design choices and raison d’être, the Burrard is literally the perfect watch for working professionals regardless of gender.
While looking down at my Bright White model, I could easily see the Burrard featuring a mother of pearl dial, for instance. Such dials seem like a natural direction to take since the white dial gives the impression of an enamel dial at times. Brands such as Nodus started offering such dials and saw an increase in their women customer base. Personally I adore such dials and would wear them myself. Seeing as I am writing this final draft while wearing a 46mm Marathon Chronograph Search and Rescue, this should speak volumes as to how the market has shifted from traditional notions and what was once strictly thought of as an offering for one gender, is definitely no longer the case.
Besides the small improvements that could be made on the manufacturing front, I’d like to see the brand expand its marketing and offerings towards those who have a softer and more elegant style moving forward, for the potential offered by such a large segment of the market will only result in more Burrards on the wrists of people.
Upon approaching the city’s core on the Gardiner Expressway, the front passenger of my wagon gazed in wonderment at the walls of high-rises drawing closer at a seemingly slow 105 km/hr. “Wow, this city definitely feels like a big city. It reminds me of Hong Kong and many other big cities that I have visited,” said the Los Angeles resident. As we were being swallowed and surrounded by the skyscrapers, he went on to say, “Yup, this is definitely giving me vibes of Hong Kong. Such a busy city with so many people!”
The Burrard comfortably encompasses the busy and hectic lives one finds in a metropolis, all while doing so in a muted and calm manner. To use a baseball analogy, the Burrard as the first offering from the brand is not a home run, but a walk-off triple that drives in two runs and wins the game in the bottom of the ninth for the home team. This watch simultaneously embodies the sheer electricity and excitement of the analogy given above while also exuding the placid environment of a city’s green space such as the Don River in Toronto. The brand is named after streets in Toronto, while the watch is named after Burrard Street in Vancouver, and this watch perfectly encapsulates why many people love living in such a city.
The watch wears beautifully, tells time accurately, and is manufactured really well for a watch which is entirely Swiss Made at this price point. It is a great everyday watch that one could wear for an entire year and not miss a beat in almost any circumstance. The three negatives about the wobbly crown, slight finishing issues, and the dampening of the movement are small and not something that the regular consumer would ever notice. The mere fact that I had to nitpick on this level to find any fault with the watch speaks volumes about how well-executed the Burrard is. Its styling and choice of fonts may not be for everyone, but I’d argue that its slightly odd proportions make it a more appealing watch.
After owning the watch for a couple of months, I can comfortably say that I do not regret the purchase, and I would make it again depending on where the brand takes the Burrard in the future. I would easily recommend this watch for anyone, but especially if someone is looking to buy someone a very nice gift. Its versatility and build quality will ensure a very satisfied ownership experience for the majority of the population.
- “Lost-and-found services face up to watch thieves: Online databases help recover stolen watches”, Financial Times, 09/03/21
Watch Register’s recoveries team located 308 stolen timepieces in 2020 and have seen an increase of 9% so far in 2021.
Check out the interview with York & Front’s Henry Cong here
Check out the York & Front website
York & Front Burrard Specs
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal