back to top

Filson Smokey Bear Watch – By Shinola – Review

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Filson is an American maker of men’s goods which since 2012 has been owned by the same group that owns Detroit-based watch and goods maker Shinola – a further familial (but not directly connected) relation to also American company Fossil. That’s just a little bit of background information intended to help frame the nature, purpose, and particular reasons behind a watch that I actually have a lot to say about. The Filson Smokey Bear Watch is among the stranger timepieces I’ve written about lately – and that comes from someone known to be extremely open-minded to avant-garde design. In its own special way, this limited-edition watch is a true collector’s item just by virtue of how seemingly random it with is (yet with a lot of effort put into it). Moreover, this is perhaps one of the few $1,000 watches probably not worth its $1,000 price that I would nevertheless say is worth buying for $1,000.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Recently, Filson debuted a larger collection of “official” Smokey Bear items including clothing, bags, and other goods. This limited-edition Filson Smokey Bear Watch is a sort of thematic apex to the collection for ultimate Filson and Smokey Bear fans. Originally debuted in 1944 and popularized in the 1950s and for a few decades on, Smokey Bear (or “Smokey the Bear,” as the character is sometimes known) is a staple of Americana conceived in the golden age of advertising as a public service for the US Forest Service as part of a larger messaging campaign about preventing forest fires.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Apparently, only you can prevent forest fires, if the David Lynch-ian cartoon beast is to be believed. What makes Smokey Bear such an enduring character, in my opinion, is how much of an impact this image has made on the minds of children. When most kids first see the image of a serious-looking bear with a park ranger’s hat, they aren’t sure whether to be in fear or to perk up and pay attention. Forest fires (“wildfires”) are the evil that Smokey is fighting against – and those are clearly honorable things to prevent. With that said, it’s entirely feasible for a five year old child to harbor sleep time nightmares due to regular exposure to the stone-eyed upright walking grizzly that could randomly appear in the woods wearing nothing but pants and a labeled hat while brandishing a shovel. No, its not for burying bodies, its for shoveling sand on campfires, of course. I’m just saying that the line between Smokey being helpful to woodland creatures and terrifying to humans is clearly thin.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Smokey’s enduring message about preventing the destruction of our lauded natural preserves runs deep in American culture to the time of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt who, I believe, began the tradition of establishing national parks in the United States. National parks exist all over the country and for decades have served as regular recreational grounds for families and anyone with an outdoors spirit. Of course, the introduction of humans into nature causes numerous problems from littering to, well, destruction. What Smokey Bear is advocating against isn’t all fires in nature, but rather responsible care when exercising the eons-old tradition of the campfire.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

For more information on responsible camping, I would recommend watching a few dozen episodes of The Yogi Bear Show. Hanna Barbera created this more friendly (and mischievous) cartoon character in 1958, well into the public’s awareness of Smokey Bear. If the two were to star in an episode together I don’t think they would get along, but I think it is safe to say that the mascot of all that is wildfire prevention clearly paved the way for the catch-phrase slinging friend to Boo-Boo and bane of Ranger Smith’s existence. In fact, starting in the 1960s Yogi Bear served his own role in public service, helping to remind people not to feed bears. Leaving behind shovels for them to assist in Smokey’s fire extinguishing duties continues to be tolerated to this day.


Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Filson Smokey Bear watch is military/camping-themed in a larger 43mm-wide steel case with Smokey’s visage and eternal gaze serving as the main focal point of interest under the 12 o’clock hour indicator. Over 6 o’clock the wearer will be constantly reminded that they – to the exclusion of all other humans on the planet – are solely responsible for the prevention of forest fires. This responsibility is clearly impossible for any mere mortal to assume. With the exception of Santa Claus who – as it has been mathematically documented – must have the ability to be in many places at once, no entity exists that can ever possibly meet Smokey Bear’s exacting mandate.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Perhaps even more distressing is the fact that Smokey places the responsibility to prevent and put out wildfires exclusively on you. Not even he will assist you, but rather serves the role of teaching you how to prevent forest fires, which means diligently taking all measures to ensure your campfire is put out by (ideally) mixing it with sand and also dousing it with water. An orange-colored bandana comes with the watch, and on it are printed in detail all the information you should need (save where to get the water or loose sand) in order to see to a quick and permanent end to your previous night’s bringer of light, warmth, and sausage-cooking power.

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

Filson Smokey Bear Watch - By Shinola - Review Wrist Time Reviews

I really admire the wisdom behind putting life instructions on articles of clothing. Bandana’s make good makeshift mouth and nose masks in the event you are in a smokey situation, so having instructions on them makes sense. I would really like to see the greatest fashion minds at work today figure out ways to use all that available free space on my clothing to print instructions on a range of things I may need to know in an  emergency situation. I’m willing to wear pants which have step-by-step Heimlich maneuver lessons printed on them or a shirt that offers a guide on how much to bribe local authorities in a variety of quasi-developed third-world countries. In America, as the caretaker of the natural wildlife increasingly restricted to smaller and smaller habitable regions, we should certainly do everything possible to maintain that our flora and fauna companions aren’t burnt alive. It’s really the least the self-aware and socially responsible alpha predator of our land can do.



Disqus Debug thread_id: 5074466619

  • David Williams

    A very amusing post – great fun – and a watch that will make people smile, which is a perfectly honorable intention! It looks pretty great too and that strap is rather fine. A good choice for the weekend and the great outdoors, where a robust and worry-free quartz movement is more appropriate than a valued mechanical.

    Multiply the ‘you’ by 1000 owners and the opportunity to perpetuate Smokey’s message becomes clear. You could become a wildfire-prevention ambassador at dinner parties or, more relevantly, at picnics and barbecues! Put the Smokey memorabilia where it will be seen – up on the fridge door, in the car or somewhere visible at work. See if you can raise awareness of the issue with 100 people and ask them to pass the message on. Along with 999 other owners, you could find yourself at the top of a large pyramid of informed fire-safety educators, to the benefit of the natural environment, homes in fire-risk locations and wildlife across the nation!

    Part of the appeal of a watch lies in the story that comes with it – the story here is eminently enjoyable and the watch has the potential to perform a valuable public service..

    • andysimmons

      Totally agree. Well worth the $1000, considering everything you get with it.

      Plus who can put a price on an emotional purchase anyway? Smokey’s story is full of the most basic human emotions (don’t laugh until you’ve read it), and the public service he did cannot be measured. So there! all you crabby, curmudgeons! 🙂

  • When we were kids the joke was “What is Smokey Bear’s middle name?” And the answer of course is “The”. BTW – Smokey was a real bear whose mother perished in a forest fire and Smokey survived by climbing up in a tree and covering his eyes with his paws. Or so we were told as kids. I’m so old, I remember when Smokey died (in a zoo as I recall).

    Too funny that you think is is not worth the money but still worth buying Ariel. I’m all for the public minded sentiment, but really? Another $1000 quartz watch from Shinola/Filson? All marketing and packaging and little of interest as a watch here. I’ll pass.

    • Chaz

      Not to mention hands that look like they were made for a 40mm watch until someone super sized it without telling the rest of the design crew.

      • OK, so Smokey did lose his finger, err make the paw, tips in the fire so his hands are too short (on the watch). Yeah, I know it’s a stretch…

      • Nah, no mistake. That would have required an order for another 10K handsets from Shenzhen.

    • proudAmerican702

      +1. As I read the story and perused the various pictures, I didn’t see a watch worthy of a $1,000 price tag. This looks like a watch that you’d receive in the mail after mailing-in 30 cereal box tops.

      • Ah, box tops – the currency of desire in the 1950s and 1960s. If Mom would just buy lots more of that damned cereal…

        • Omegaboy

          What was so damned about Captain Crunch, Sugar Crisps, or Sugar Pops?

          • Mom wouldn’t buy a box of Capt’n Crunch until the Sugar Pops were all eaten. Takes way too long to collect enough box tops that way to get the cool stuff you lusted after (on the back of the box).

          • laup nomis

            So you had a deprived childhood too.
            I was made to do chores for my pocket money! Have you ever heard of such an outrage. 🙂

          • Had a paper route, mowed lawns in the summer and shoved snow off driveways in the winter. “Ya want money? Work for it.” – I used to hear that a lot growing up.

          • DanW94

            At least you guys got the name brands. We had the knock-offs growing up, Fruity Hexagons or Sergeant Scrunchies….

      • I was thinking you should get 50,000 Green Stamps with your purchase.

  • MEddie90

    I appreciate what Shinola are trying to do, bringing back some semblance of a watch industry to america (same goes for Bremont with the UK) but all in all I just don’t see the value proposition here. It’s a $1000 quartz that doesn’t have any of the features of a $1000 quartz, for this money other manufacturers could give me solar powered watches, perpetual calendars, radio controlled or thermo compensated etc while the ronda 715 as I recall doesn’t even have a quickset date.

    All in all Shinola make attractive and reasonably well made pieces with bare bones movements at a completely un-competitive price simply because of the Detroit and USA marketing. As for the co-branding of this watch….. no comment.

  • Nelson

    I’ll buy if I have money to burn

    • laup nomis


  • GregV8

    This money buys a satellite controlled solar watch (that is the only reason to go quartz). Sorry Shinola, I love your design and you’re so close to being a true watch, but you need to get a mechanical movement. And don’t settle for a Selita/Miyota.
    As far as Swiss/American watches go, Hamilton is running circles around you.

    • Shinola doesn’t attempt to appeal to people who desire a fine watch. Their target demographic is the type of people who ride $3000 bicycles around their gentrified neighborhood and use the word ‘sustainable’ a lot.

      • Wonder if they also ride those Shinola bikes?

  • SuperStrapper

    Facepalm emoji

  • W00DY

    This review was a bit over the top — bloated with unnecessary fill. I love the concept of the watch but it definitely falls short of being a $1K watch, even with any faux perceived collectors value, and as such, should of or could have been summarized in a few sentences. Not intrigued or impressed.

    • David Williams

      Hmm, I gently suggest that full appreciation of Ariel’s entertaining review calls for at least the flickering embers of a sense of humor, though a raging firestorm of facetiousness would be even better!

  • laup nomis

    What? I’m English, this 50’s Americana seems rather twee. (Sorry). And what’s a “marijuana enthusiasts community” got to do with anything, except ‘hazy’ memories of bunking lectures at uni.
    I suppose its cute, by I’m so far off its target demographic, its unintelligible. The price is Very confident.

  • I’m no Marcel Proust, but I have a pretty strong memory of being able to purchase this exact watch for about $9 out of the back pages of Boy’s Life magazine in the 1980’s.

    Some of your best tongue-in-cheek writing, Ariel. I look forward to your review of Shinola’s sure to be upcoming “And Knowing is Half the Battle” commemorative GI Joe $40 quartz chronograph augmented with $900 worth of ‘collectible’ pieces of colorfully printed cardboard.


    Smokey the bear for a grand. No thank you. it looks childish w a basic Quartz movement and while I appreciate the whole put together by humans in the US there is a long line of watches below a 1000 bucks that would just beat this one to death in a bear fight.

  • TrevorXM

    Interesting analysis of Smokey the Bear. Could be a thesis for grad school if you really expanded it. Well, at a place like Berkeley or something. They’d take it all completely seriously.

    As for the watch, a quartz watch for a thousand dollars should indeed come with a hat and a shovel and a whole lot of other stuff. Obviously they are trying to capitalize on their profile as being a trendy pop culture brand right now and believe they can get away with really inflated prices.

  • Omegaboy

    This is one of those watches that when a friend or coworker spots it on your wrist says, “Hey, cool watch, let’s see it.” He or she looks closer, there’s a, “What’s it say?”, then an awkward silence as they look even closer and think, “Well that’s really stupid.”

    Conservation of ‘the’. You can’t say anymore, “I’m going to the Grand Canyon.”, or, “I remember that Smokey the Bear stuff from my childhood.” Because officially now it’s “Grand Canyon” and “Smokey Bear”. The thes are gone. They’ve been moved to “The Florida State University” and “The Ohio State University”.

    • Yeah, well, in Calinfornia your “take THE 405”, not I-405 or Interstate 405, etc. Must have “the” in front of the highway name. Like there are lots of 405s and you are talking about THIS ONE. Ha ha, it’s just something odd I find amusing when I visit LA LA land.

      • Omegaboy

        Here in Seattle, it’s “I5” and “405”

      • IVA the LT

        I think it’s more a Southern California thing (LALA land). When I moved from the Sacramento area to Santa Barbara for college I found out a few things: there is a one sided rivalry with between “So-Cal” and “Nor-Cal”, I said “hella”, a lot, and didn’t realize it (even moving back to Sacramento I have been trained not to say it), and I was a “weirdo” for calling it “I” 5 and not “the” 5 lol.

  • Vish Gagie

    Hi. This is a very interesting watch, I must say. I recall seeing the Smokey the Bear commercials growing up here in Canada, as our cable operators would simulcast USA TV content. With that said, the watch is a really nice homage to that era, and I think the design is executed well. From the crystal, the dial and the overall packaging, it all fits.

    As I understand Shinola and Filson have a lot of Fossil DNA, which leads me to question why Filson didn’t stick the STP 1-11 Swiss made automatic into this watch or a Miyota automatic for that matter? I own the Fossil Swiss automatic and think the watch is fantastic for it’s price and keeps excellent time; I also paid CAD $150 for it.

    My point is at $1000 this watch may not be worth the price it’s commanding, as it has a Rhonda quarts movement which probably won’t be something to brag about.

    If a start up micro-brand from Hong Kong, Singapore, or Europe can produce a watch with an automatic movement in their reasonably priced watches, why aren’t Shinola and Filson doing the same, considering the markets they have access to? If the noted manufacturers really want to bring watch making back to the Americas, well then why not start up a second line that has automatic movements, and price them at what they’re worth?

    To each their own, but this watch is over priced and needs a quality automatic movement to be the extra special piece it’s trying to be.

    • Must have ‘Merican made (or rather Swiss movement assembled in the U.S.) guts inside.

  • Adam Young

    This looks like the kind of fun watch I’d pay £100 for to wear for walks in the woods (the 200m water resistance is useful I must say), but like all the Shinola watches I’ve seen it looks good, but is overpriced for what you’re getting.

  • hatster

    I can see (the) Hispters buying them quite happily….

    • laup nomis

      The childhood references appeal. It shows that you’re now a big serious adult, but can be fun too….. Groan…

  • DanW94

    The Smokey likeness on the dial is spot on. You gotta give them that….

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Wow,……..guilty trip city ! . What a crazy idea for a watch. We don’t get many forest fires here on account it’s pissing down most of the time. To make out that YOU start forest fires , although true in some cases, it can also be caused by lightning, sparks from rock falls, spontaneous combustion and volcanic eruptions. Coal seam fires burn in their thousands around the world, such as those in Burning Mountain, New South Wales; Centralia, Pennsylvania; and several coal-sustained fires in China. They can also flare up unexpectedly and ignite nearby flammable material.
    This is a silly novelty watch not worth the money, i wouldn’t wear it for the embarrassment angle.

  • MA

    $1000 for this. What a joke.

  • Shawn Lavigne

    no thanks.

  • Mark

    Well Ariel, Tell us how you Really Feel! As far as the watch is concerned, I feel that the dial was excellently executed. The rest is schlock. In no way is it worth $1,000. I do like the Americana feel that it gives. And for a quartz movement, I’d buy it for $20.00. As far as the 4/20 culture comment, I think that’s what Filson/Shinola was smoking when they thought they could get 1K for this.

  • Polly Molly Moo

    $50 maybe. $1,000? I think not.

    • Yojimbo

      lol they aren’t THAT crappy

  • Yojimbo

    Rather than more Fossil related stuff in the future why not some true getting it done american made (or assembled stuff) companies get featured? I know you’ve done stuff on Weiss and Kobold in the past, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything on Vortic, Niall, Devor or this cat –>

  • OmniWrench

    This review was precisely what I needed on a Friday afternoon. Thank you for this.

  • Ulysses31

    I kinda like it. Price aside, this is a handsome looking timepiece, with a nice legible dial, dial-coloured date wheel, and what look like thick hour markers made of lume. The insert in the crown is a nice touch and just to stop it from being too formal, there’s the irreverent face of a bear on there. Nice handset, nice case, American-leather strap, it’s all fine. They just need to halve the price for what is a somewhat fun watch with limited appeal.

    • Mitch

      I agree. This is a really cool (and expensive) watch.

  • Marius

    Ursine erotica is what makes me tick.

  • Filson also charges $425 for canvas bags, $125 for a cotton shirt, $700 for other lackluster 3-hand (Shinola built) watches, and too much for other grossly overpriced goods. The problem is less with the watch than the egregious price gouging. Price this like the Fossil watches it competes with and it would just be quirky and novel.

    • Mitch

      Lol pretty much every watch is grossly overpriced, but to compare Shinola to fossil is ridiculous.

      • How so? Same parent company, in all likelihood share parts sources, both rely on quartz movements, both are fashion brands. Point out the ridiculous part. Fossil (of late) makes some intriguing looking watches that are certainly on-par with this offering without an $800 upcharge for what exactly?

        • Mitch

          1. it isnt the same company but same founder.
          2. a U.S. in-house assembled/tested swiss quartz isnt the same as a chinese assembled/tested japanese quartz.
          3. the finishing of the case/dial/crown is not nearly the same. just look at pics of the caseback. In real life it is blatantly obvious.
          4. Shinola offers lifetime warranty
          5. The Horween leather straps Shinola use are probably just as good as some top swiss brands.
          6. Packaging is vastly superior
          7. AR-coated sapphire crystal

          BTW i like fossil. i like many brands. in fact i own both a Fossil quartz and a Shinola (and an Omega,Sinn, MKII, etc). and IMHO your comparison was ridiculous.

          • Gotcha – it’s a bit nicer than Fossil, but not by a HOOGE margin.
            A nicely finished crown, neat box, $50 strap, $35 crystal, a movement that (retails) for $18, doesn’t add up to a justified $800 price differential. To me it’s a gimmicky fashion watch with a bloated price that doesn’t justify the slightly nicer finishing / components. Based on it’s qualities, this is a (generous) $350 watch. $1000? Now that’s ridiculous!

          • Mitch

            It’s alot nicer but I agree, its still expensive. this is a ltd edition so i guess thats why its priced higher too. But its not out if the norm in this industry. look at the premium the swiss brands charge for 18k gold when compared to SS prices. Or Bremont’s gimmick of throwing a piece of a plane in the rotor and charging 5k more. At least the premium you pay for a shinola is only a few hundred bucks. Even alpina has a $1000 quartz chrono…

            I wonder what everyone who criticizes this brand own that is of such superior value? My guess is skx divers and micro brands that use “venerable workhorse” movements like ETA and Miyotas…

          • Art L.

            Seiko – a real watch company with over 100 years heritage. In house movements, real quality, beautiful finishing. For $800 (or less) you can buy any one of top Seiko Brightz, Presage. Or buy a couple of the SARB series and have money left over. Look at the Alpinist for example.

  • word-merchant

    I’m on holiday so I’m happy and the general level of word merchant bile is markedly reduced. So I will just say: No. On every level this is wrong and should be stopped.

  • spiceballs

    Nice “heritage” watch with sensible message but hands a tad short, and pricey for what it is.

  • Art L.

    Another piece of Shinola crap. Maybe for $100 it might be interesting as a novelty, but way overpriced like all of their other crap. BTW, I grew up with Smokey and this is by no means a rant against the bear.

  • .
    When I was growing up, the slogan was, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” and not, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires!”

    Not sure why the watch went with the less popular saying? Font too big maybe for all the text on the dial?

    A cute little watch that I wouldn’t give you more than 150.00 CAD for, and only because of the neat stuff that comes with the watch.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Sorry – It is Smokey “THE” Bear and “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES.”
    This is a US$50.00 novelty piece being promoted with fake hisotry for specious hipsters seeking to emplant fake childhood memories.

    Overall, it is not a bad “looking” piece and does appear “reasonably” well-made. Just so wrong on factual and pricing levels.

    US$50.00 – Fitty dollas – that’s it.
    (Hell, the factual innaccuracies alone preclude this from achieving and value in the “heritage/memoribilia market)

    • Art L.

      what he said!

  • Art L.

    They couldn’t even get the f-ing slogan correct. Jeez Marie!
    Oh, and where’s the “THE”. Would that cost extra?

    • Holden24
      • Art L.

        I know that in recent years, the Forest Service (?) started calling him “Smokey Bear”. But for boomers, like me, who grew up in the 60s and 70s, he was Smokey THE Bear. And if Sh*t, I mean Shinola wants to cater to that demographic, they should get the freakin name correct!

  • Mateo

    2x price for limited edition guys ,)

  • Shane Kleinpeter

    The number one rule of collecting is that anything made to be “collected” will never be collectible.

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, png.