Small independent watch brands that offer good value and nice designs are out there... if you look. MAT is one of them, and if you like a refined, military, sort-of-vintage design in a sport watch, then you'll want to keep paying attention. In this review, aBlogtoWatch looks at two similar models which nicely sum up what the MAT brand is all about with the AG5 Air and AG5 Terre models.
This isn't our first MAT watch review. In the past our David reviewed the MAT AG5CHL Chronograph here. In a similar case, these two AG5 watches are three-hand automatics, with a more simple style that in a lot of ways could make these better watches for most watch lovers. For a Swiss Valjoux 7750-based chronograph, the MAT watches with those movements are a good value at about $2,600. These non-chronograph models with more elegant dials are about $1,000 less, and offer a lot of great features and detailing for a sport watch at this price.
MAT is a Paris, France-based watchmaker - making it one of the remaining few, especially as an independent brand. You don't go to a brand like this for pure design originality, but rather a successful curation of existing elements into a really nice package. France is excellent at making beautifully curated high-end fashion items, and when it comes to watches, they tend to do it really well. MAT has some natural competitors in the space, each of which are great brands. Such competitors include Paris-based Bell & Ross, as well as German companies such as Sinn and Damasko.
MAT claims to have begun life in about 2005 by producing some custom watches for French military forces. They say it was in 2007 when they began to produce watches for consumers. Now a decade later, the brand still feels young, even if their products have a generally excellent feel and poise to them - especially for the money.
"MAT" stands for "Mer, Air, Terre," which is clever. Of course that means "sea, sky, and land," commenting on the active, professional nature of their designs. Not all of their watches are military-style in their presentation. The brand has some interesting models that play with the concept of a "California dial," and sizes range from about 39mm wide to the 44mm width of these AG5 models.
In this review you'll see two distinct models from MAT, but in many ways these are the same watch. MAT actually uses this same case (offered in a few styles and finishes) for a series of models. What is different between these two watches is the dial and the straps that come with the watch. One of them focuses on the "land" part of the brand's theme (the AG5 Terre) with its khaki green dial, and the other model is inspired by pilot watches with its own cockpit clock-inspired dial (the AG5 Air). Otherwise, the watches share a case and movement.
The MAT AG5 case comes here in brushed steel, and is 44mm wide with 300m of water resistance and a sapphire crystal. As you can see the case is large, with wide lugs, a 22mm wide strap, and considerable thickness. With that said, the case is extremely sturdy and also very comfortable. The brand did a lot of things right such as correctly placing where the strap bar holes are placed on the lugs, and the overall case detailing.
I want to bring up that point again about the holes in the lugs. MAT designed them to be drilled in the correct location such that the strap fits close to the case for an attractive and comfortable fit on the wrist. It might seem like a small detail, but many other brands get this wrong. The AG5 case also has a very satisfying uni-directional rotating bezel. The black-coated steel bezel not only acts to visually increase the size of the dial (especially on the AG5 Air model where the black of the dial and bezel match better), but is also lovely to turn. You get a very pleasant metallic "cling cling cling" sound with each of the 60 bezel clicks.