Our friends at San Francisco-based Xetum after a few years have finally released their third watch model. Reviewing the new Xetum Kendrick I am filled with a bit of nostalgia as I recall back in around 2009 sitting with the brand's founder over coffee looking at prototypes of the upcoming timepiece collection. Xetum was all about a lugless case design and offering a simple, yet modern classic timepiece with a Swiss made mechanical movement. The brand was also among those innovative brands interested in selling watches online - the classy way. So 2013 is here and I've had some time with the new Kendrick - let's take a look...
Unlike the brand's existing Tyndall and Stinson timepieces, the Kendrick doesn't seem to be named after any particular place in or around San Francisco. By the way, you can read our Xetum Tyndall watch review here. Not sure where the Kendrick name comes from (update: it is the name of a summit in Yosemite, CA). It seems to fit the timepiece in a sort of WASPy New England summer way, although the brand considers it to be an automotive themed watch. It appears to us as though the inspiration was extracted from somewhere between Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger. The colorful NATO-style straps and easy-to-read dials are acutely fashionable, making for a watch lover's watch that fits easily into a seasonally themed wardrobe.
Six distinct versions of the Kendrick will be available at launch. More specifically, three versions with the option of a NATO-style or rubber strap for each. The dial colors are black, white, and a curious black dial with electric blue hands and hour markers. The blue-accented version is likely to be the most niche, but I think Xetum should be credited for producing it as a way to round-out the range. More than likely the precise version I reviewed will be the top seller with its versatile dial color and red and black colored strap.
Xetum uses its existing 40mm wide steel case for the Kendrick. Part of me wanted the new model to have a new case, but I understand Xetum's desire to keep it simple and retain what works. The brand has earned impressive sales with its core concept and an evolution on something that is working versus something totally new is risky. The Kendrick after all is a more casual version of what the brand already offers. Using the same case with a fresh dial and new strap options adds to the brand's offerings, without taking them in a new direction - yet.
40mm wide is small to some and perfect for others. I find that the case's inherent tall height and appreciably-sized geometric crown help it wear a bit larger than it is. Oddly enough, at 11mm thick it isn't all that tall, but does look it. I think for what it is, Xetum's choice of size is correct. Plus, Xetum's founder likes 40mm as it is the right size for his wrist. Once you start designing watches for people other than yourself life gets complicated, and it is easy to make mistakes. Produce items that you yourself want, and more than likely you'll find enough people who are like-minded as long as you are personally satisfied with the creation.
The Kendrick case is water resistant to 100 meters and has a sapphire crystal. The rear-mounted exhibition window is mineral crystal - probably because of its non-round shape. Ordering sapphire crystals in non-round shapes gets very expensive. Inside the watch is a SWISS ETA 2824 automatic movement, which is the same as the Xetum Stinson models.
So let's discuss the new dial - which is really what the Kendrick is all about. Xetum retains its smart looking vertically written logo, and offers a pleasantly symmetrical dial. The date window is black on black and not obtrusive so as not to disturb the symmetrical feel. On this black dial I like the white ring around the dial that connects with each of the hour markers. A separate distinct dot or Arabic numeral doubles the hour markers to increase legibility and add an additional style element. The dial feels minimalistic, mostly because of the fact that everything on it is rounded. The softening touch of all the curves is a primary reason for the dial's eye-pleasing appeal.
I found the hands to be particularly legible and nice to look at. They, and the hour markers, are of course SuperLumiNova lume-coated for darkness viewing. That stick-like seconds hand in red offers a welcome accent of color (save for on the blue models). Aside from wanting the seconds hand to extend a bit more to the edge of the dial, I would say that the dial is very nice for what it is. Note that on the white dialed models, Xetum wisely chose to outline the hour and minute hands in black to promote the best legibility possible.
As a sport model I think it was wise for Xetum to offer a rubber strap with the Kendrick, though it is hard to resist the colorful NATO strap. I sort of feel as though they should have offered both straps with the piece. At the least I hope that they make it very simple to order the other straps during the checkout process on the website. Rubber and NATO-style straps have distinct styles and functional advantages in different situations, and it is difficult to opt for one over the other when choosing this watch.
On the NATO-style strap the Xetum Kendrick is bright and cheery looking. The strap wraps under the case and fits very tightly. Meaning that the case doesn't slide around at all. This means that to change the strap you actually need to remove the pin bars. I mention this because on most other watches with these types of straps you can usually just thread the strap between the bars without having to remove them.
Given Xetum's current age, I would like to see more branding on the watch. The crown and straps for example are signature-less. I'd like to see some Xetum branding on those as it offers a more "complete" ownership experience. Comfortable, legible, and fashionable, the Kendrick is a sensible and welcome addition to the Xetum family. Price for each of the Kendrick models is the same, at $995, which favorably is the same price as the Stinson watch (as they both have the same movement). You can purchase Xetum Kendricks and other models via their website. xetum.com
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, preferably with shorts.
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Guy who aside from liking mechanical watches, prefers everything else in his life to be modern.
>Worst characteristic of watch: 40mm wide size is small for some.
>Best characteristic of watch: Solid price and smooth casual styling.