In its current state, Shinola stands as something of a dark horse in watch enthusiast circles. Although its days of controversy are many years behind by this point and the brand enjoys a solid mass-market appeal, past collections have avoided courting the enthusiast crowd directly in favor of targeting a broader general audience of consumers. The Detroit-based, American heritage-focused marque aims to change this enthusiast perception dramatically in the second half of 2022, and its opening salvo in this campaign is the bold and cheerful limited-edition Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic. Inspired by the grueling Mackinac Boat Race that runs from Detroit to Mackinac Island off the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula each year since 1925, the Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic combines a bright and charismatic design with impressive finishing and movement work.
Measuring in at 40mm-wide, the stainless steel case of the Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic starts with a robust square form. Let’s address the quadrangular elephant in the room right away: Despite a superficial resemblance, the Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic does not look or feel all that much like the ubiquitous TAG Heuer Monaco on the wrist. This is a more elemental, solid design, with few of the Monaco’s subtle swooping chamfers. Instead, the Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic fully embraces its squareness but softens the form somewhat with rounded corners and gently bulging case sides that help to showcase the mirror-polished finishing here. A stepped polished bezel and sharply brushed upper main case surfaces work to showcase the subtleties of the overall shape, as well. The lightning bolt-signed crown and broad inverted pushers root the overall design firmly in the sort of mid-century American industrial design ethos that remains Shinola’s calling card, without sacrificing a classic and versatile feel. This is a case that wears tall on the wrist, courtesy of the nearly flat caseback, but in practice, it comes off as bold and athletic rather than ungainly. Shinola caps this caseback with a sapphire display window but rates the watch for a decently sporty 100 meters of water resistance.
Even more than the bold square case, the element that sets the Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic’s design apart is its use of color. The dial here is a warm and vibrant blend of hues that immediately screams “summer,” while illustrating the unique needs of a yacht timer cleanly and graphically. The main dial surface is a bright, saturated matte yellow-orange tone, which should stand out both on the wrist and in the water. Shinola isn’t content to use a single hue for this design, however, and the way it accents this main color with complementary and contrasting hues elevates the entire layout. A raised, ridged outer dial area surrounding the circular main dial surface gives the layout a much-needed sense of depth and texture, while its delicate off-white coloring creates a clean, mildly warm backdrop for the rest of the color palette to build upon. The polished chapter ring bordering the main dial adds a touch of brightwork to the design, while a red accent ring around the minutes scale helps to further visually break up the design for legibility.
It’s the 3 o’clock chronograph subdial that really runs with the color palette, however. Yacht timer subdials are traditionally a wildly varied bunch, with many brands choosing to illustrate the unique needs of a yachting chronograph in a unique way. For those unaware, as opposed to the usual chronograph function of timing an action at its start, yachting chronographs are essentially countdown timers. Yacht races, like any other form of racing, use a predetermined starting line and a designated starting time. However, due to the difficulty of getting a sailing vessel up to speed from a standing start, illustrates this with a 15-minute chronograph subdial broken up into three five-minute segments. By starting the chronograph the moment a ship sets sail 15 minutes ahead of the race and navigating behind the starting line while gathering speed, a yacht crew can coordinate their crossing of the starting line to the second the race starts, starting the event at full race pace. To showcase the increasing pressures of this 15-minute countdown, the subdial transitions from pale sky blue in the first third with a retrograde series of Arabic numerals, to a deeper blue with matching numerals in the second third, while the final five minutes before race time are illustrated with clean, legible sky blue dots against a white background culminating at a stark signal red wedge at the starting mark. Divorced from the context of a yacht race, it’s a fun, colorful, and offbeat way to arrange a chronograph complication, but one that does require some mental adjustment to read quickly. The rest of the dial layout is handsomely balanced, with beveled applied indices and subtle paddle hands topped by large, striking applied Arabic numerals at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
Shinola powers the Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic with the Sellita SW511.bhc automatic chronograph movement. This is a rarely-seen evolution of the classic 7750 platform, and Shinola gives this movement an impressive layer of refinement with its intricate finishing. The plates and bridges are finished with a mix of perlage, Côtes de Genève, and simple matte finishing, while the movement screws are handsomely blued. The black-coated rotor adds another subtle touch, with a rim decorated with matte etched nautical flag designs atop a brushed base. In terms of performance, the SW511.bhc is similar to the rest of the SW500 series, with a decent 48-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Shinola finishes the watch with a vibrant, dial-matching ridged yellow rubber strap.
With bright, dynamic colors, an eye-catching form, and a new high point for the brand’s finishing and movements, the limited edition Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic is a confident and charismatic step forward for the brand as it looks to make new inroads into enthusiast circles. The Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic is available now through authorized dealers, and only 250 examples of the watch will be made. MSRP for the Shinola Mackinac Yacht Watch Automatic stands at $3,500 USD as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.