One of the things I like to do as a watch reviewer is constantly check out timepieces from new brands. Today, I am looking at the Sept Mai watch from a brand called Neucarl that launched its first watches on Kickstarter last year. Oddly, I’ve sometimes been criticized for my coverage of startup or “microbrands,” as they are sometimes called. Of course, the larger, more established brands can also get prickly when a publication like aBlogtoWatch covers the little guy in addition to the “great maisons” of horology. I suppose I understand why the big brands feel anxious anytime someone is on their turf, but at the end of the day, I think it is crucial to keep observing what is new in the watch world.
One excellent reason is that the value of the greats can only be observed when identifying the achievements of novices. Great watch brands are able to assemble a product with a design and integrity unmatched by any mere startup. Only that technological needle keeps moving, and exactly what new brands can do at cheaper price points is a moving target. For decades, the traditional watch industry was able to sit comfortably on a product whose value-proposition in the market was more or less untouched by newcomers. Now, that is all changing. For the last decade, at least, we have seen a constant deluge of new names in the watch industry, which is always trying to nip at the heels of the big names and offer products that are increasingly sophisticated.
If you have been paying attention, no doubt many watch collectors have identified a veritable arms race between watchmakers to beat the others when it comes to using materials, offering durability features, or simply when it comes to a particular look and feel. What continues to attract me to the watch industry as a business is the intense level of competition and rapid evolution of products. As “niche” as some people claim the watch industry to be, it is nevertheless a vivid landscape of “genetic” mutations and adaptations on a regular basis. There is just so much for the mind and eyes to process all the time. For me, that’s why it has become such an enduring hobby.
So, you can understand why I am particularly interested in original design-minded newcomers to the watch space. All brands need to start somewhere, and it isn’t always possible to purchase a 143-year brand history when you are just launching a new product. Enter Neucarl, a brand whose website is as slick as its debut Sept Mai product. This particular watch is known as the Sept Mai Roma edition — with the Sept Mai collection, in general, being an assortment of six or so limited editions, each with its own colors.
The watch is inspired by the golden age of commercial aviation and optimistic architecture during the early 1960s. The advent of commercial jet flights, in addition to the space race, allowed creative minds to come up with some of the most enduring design concepts of the last 100 years. Neucarl rolls this into a neo-Bauhaus aesthetic in a hand-wound mechanical watch for timepiece enthusiasts.
I stress that this is a “design market” watch because, in my experience, timepieces like this are most appealing to people who are professionals in the design space, be that architecture or graphic design. It isn’t a sports watch, per se, nor it is a traditional dress watch. Rather, it is a lifestyle statement about both one’s career and culture.
The Sept Mai case is in all polished steel (Neucarl also claims the steel case has a scratch-resistant coating), and certainly a highlight of the product. The lines and construction and elegant, and the construction is great for the money. What I like is that despite its spacey look, it fits and wears like a traditional watch case. The Sept Mai case is 41mm-wide, 10.5mm-thick, and has roughly 46mm lug-to-lug distance. The case is water-resistant to 50 meters and is topped with an AR-coated domed sapphire crystal. Another sapphire crystal is placed on the rear of the case over the movement.
The dial of the watch is slick and here is silver-on-white for the Neucarl Sept Mai Roma Edition. Other dials feature other color combinations. The watch face itself is legible, and I like how well the hands contrast for this Roma edition version. It also seems to match with the mid-20th-century design scheme the watch is going for. I wouldn’t say that the dial is terribly distinctive, but it does the job well and is sufficiently conservative for many tastes.
Given that Neucarl wanted the Sept Mai to be hand-wound, it features the Swiss Made Sellita caliber 215-1, which operates at 4Hz with a 42-hour power reserve. I’m not always a fan of frost-finished movement bridges, but this is an otherwise excellent and modern movement, as opposed to many other available manually wound Swiss Made watch movements at this price point. The caliber 215-1 offers the time and date.
Neucarl pairs the Sept Mai watch with a textured black leather strap that comes on a quick release spring bar, which is appreciated. The strap and buckle are among the more ordinary parts of the watch, but they do their job well. I think the Sept Mai would have a lot more personality on a more interesting strap, which I have a feeling Neucarl agrees with on account of the spring bar-style it chose. It will be interesting to see what other 20mm-wide straps people pair with the Neucarl to enhance its core appeal.
For the money and as a limited edition of 99 pieces (for this Sept Mai Roma Edition style), the Neucarl Sept Mai family is a good bargain from a well-composed newcomer to the watch space. Will Neucarl last beyond the Sept Mai into future watches? That’s the thing with many brands like this, no one really knows. Even so, if they do manage to make it, it seems like Neucarl’s imagination has some pretty interesting concepts they would like to produce in the future, given that they are off to a good start. For that reason, I like to help give these kinds of watch companies a chance. Price for the Neucarl Sept Mai watch is $1,000 USD. Learn more at the Neucarl website here.