December 14, 2015
by Rob Nudds
Based in downtown Reykjavik, Arc-Tic is a brand that might have escaped your attention. A small lifestyle label associated with JS Watches, Arc-Tic aim to bring their customers watches that evoke a very Scandinavian sense of laid-back cool. But where the mainland Scandinavians are better known for their bleak, austere, minimalism, there is a playful splash of colour to most of Arc-Tic’s output. The Arc-Tic Retro, which we’ll take a look at here, is a simple three-hander that comes with a spare NATO strap based on the Icelandic flag as standard. That’s pretty cute, for sure, but how does the rest of this affordable ticker fare when placed under scrutiny?
I guess the thing with Arc-Tic, as with many quartz-powered brands in this price bracket, is that their wares are undeniably wearable. The design is clear as a mountain stream and crisp as an icy wind. With nothing but a red hyphen and a red central seconds hand in terms of colour to enliven the dial, the Arc-Tic Retro watch stands-out in its starkness. The use of a polished case, rhodium hour markers, rhodium logo, and rhodium hands means this was catches the light and attention with its lustrous façade.
The 42mm 316L stainless steel case is relatively slim at 8mm tall. This is a very modern profile for a watch of this genre and will no doubt find favour with fans of similar brands. There’s also a smaller version available at 36mm wide and 8mm tall. Both sizes are available with either black or white dials. The dial design is basic, but comes to life thanks to the generously-sized hour markers. The hands have a traditional form and appear to be nicely stamped. The absence of luminant materials on this watch is notable. Given that Iceland is known for experiencing long periods of darkness, I had imagined that any watch made in that part of the world would place a premium on night-time legibility. That said, when it’s dark for that long at a time, there’s little opportunity for the lume to charge sufficiently. It’s probably permissible to assume a true Icelander would be carrying a torch at that time of the year, so maybe it’s not so much of a problem. Beneficially, though, the absence of lume means that the watch face remains uncluttered and pure.
The Arc-Tic Retro watch is powered by a Swiss-made quartz movement and is water resistant to 50m. What really excited me about this watch, and really convinced me that is was a worthwhile addition to this price-bracket, was the beautifully decorated case back. It appears as if the design has been laser-engraved in order to ensure a sharp, detailed result.
A map of Iceland overlaid by the Arc-Tic logo and surrounded by compass points and degree markings separates this component from many of its peers. Considering closed case backs are rarely seen (especially if the watch is being worn on a NATO strap), some discount their importance. This is a valid opinion for sure, but as a watchmaker, I’m used to taking pleasure in the often unseen details that go into the design of a watch. It’s akin to perlaging the dial-side of a movement – no one but a watchmaker will ever see that part of your watch, but the fact the care and attention has gone into its decoration is a source of much personal satisfaction. A smartly decorated case back can elevate a muted design into a secret treasure in my mind. Simple as the Arc-Tic Retro watch may be, it is most certainly not lazy.
And there is also the option of wearing the watch on an easily-removed leather band. The Arc-Tic Retro watches come with a genuine calfskin strap and a spring bar tool for simple attachment and removal. The pin buckle on the leather strap is highly polished and engraved with the Arc-Tic logo. It’s not the flashiest buckle in the world, but it’s nice to see the logo there – another signifier that the designers care about each part of their creation. The crown is emblazoned with a stylised “A” and is a well-balanced size and shape for the case.
The packaging is also very cool: Styled like a small pocket-book, with a debossed compass in gold, it looks a little like the kind of bible you’d find in a hotel room. In the box, you receive your choice of watch (the white-dialled versions come on a tan leather strap with white stitching; the black versions come on a black leather strap with red stitching), a spare NATO in the colours of the Icelandic flag, and a double-sided spring bar tool. The retail price of the Arc-Tic Retro watch is around €213. The watch is available from several stores around Iceland and from their online store. arc-tic.com