The Workhorse Chrono is an interesting sports watch produced by Oregon-based Vero Watches. This particular version of the Workhorse Chrono was a limited edition known as the Vero Workhorse Chrono Hooligan, designed by Matt Smith-Johnson. While it sold out soon after its December 2022 release, this model is of particular interest to me, beyond the original line of releases, as Matt has done design work for aBlogtoWatch and I have personally worked with him on a few instances to design watches. His special take on the Vero Workhorse introduces a different colorway, dial graphics, and special packaging.

First, let’s discuss the original Vero Workhorse Chrono watch. This relatively affordable quartz-based analog wristwatch is supposed to be a modern tool watch with a series of features that give it both style and “instrument” qualities. It emphasizes a unique sense of American style but also a dedication to functionality as part of its story. For me, this timepiece is really a design exercise since it doesn’t add anything to the market that isn’t already there. Rather, we have a fun and distinctive design in a very wearable wristwatch that includes pretty fair pricing. The brand clearly found the design to be successful, as it used it as the foundation for the smaller, three-hand Vero US Forest Service Editions.

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The steel case is 44.5mm wide and shaped a lot like a can with lugs. It is 13.5mm thick and has a very wearable 49.5mm long lug-to-lug distance. It feels larger on the wrist given the outside crowns and generally bold features. Vero did a nice job making sure that the Workhorse felt utilitarian by designing it with new shiny surfaces. Everything is matte and legible/serious, which is a style I think a lot of people can enjoy. Other quirks, such as the wire-style dial protector cage, are a nod to sports/activity watches of the past.

This particular version of the Workhorse Chrono has a case that is coated with Cerakote for the gray color and added scratch resistance. (Matt and I previously worked with Cerakote when we designed the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW watch together). Other parts of the Workhorse are also coated, such as the lugs, which are given a black rubberized treatment. The case is water resistant to 120 meters and has a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial. The dial doesn’t have much lume (only the hands), but it isn’t flat and has an interesting look to it. Legibility and utility are pretty good, overall.

The Workhorse Chrono is designed with the crowns and chronograph pushers on the left side of the case, while the right side of the case has a screw-down crown that controls a free-moving inner rotating bezel that has a 60-minute diver’s style timing scale. The gray dial is otherwise very clean, with Arabic numeral hour markers and, in this instance, the graphic inside of the subsidiary seconds dial. Inside the watch is a Japanese Miyota caliber 6S21 quartz movement that offers the time and a 60-minute chronograph with a sweeping central seconds-counter hand.

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The strap is easily one of the most interesting things about the Workhorse Chrono in that it combines a few different types of other straps, including a nylon NATO-style strap and ones with Velcro-style enclosures. The strap doesn’t look too easy to put on or remove from the case, but once it is there, the watch case rides high (and comfortably) on it, while the Velcro-style closing system allows the watch to be snug and comfortable during exercise and activities. I do want to stress just how comfortable the Workhorse Chrono is to wear.

For the Hooligan limited-edition watch, Matt Smith-Johnson was inspired by the smiley faces that are sometimes seen as the protective light covers on vehicles such as rally cars and other offroad racing vehicles. He adapted the face with one closed eye to demonstrate that it is still happy while being beaten up (or beating up), and hence the “hooligan” part of this limited edition Workhorse Chrono’s name. I happen to like the overall black, gray, and yellow color palette for this watch, as it reminds me of the 1989 Batman. So, for me, this watch is really a Batman tool watch with a face that reminds me of the smiley from the Watchmen graphic novel. Only 120 pieces of the Vero Workhorse Chrono Hooligan limited-edition watches were produced. Pricing was the same as the non-limited edition Vero Workhorse watches at $425 USD, though it’s been seen since on the secondary market for around $350 USD. Learn more at the Vero watches website.

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