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Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship

Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

Haven Watch Co.’s founder, Weston Cutter, is a university English professor in Indiana, an unlikely suspect for launching a watch brand. But Cutter’s love of watches — specifically, vintage timepieces — is the backstory that makes Haven such a compelling new concept. That, and the intentional artisanship the company embraces as its mission.

Indiana is not exactly the center of the horological universe, but the conceptual lineage for the Haven Chilton (reference 1031) runs deep. Cutter’s father is a watchmaker, and he gave his son an old Tissot chronograph in 2012. The movement powering that watch, the Valjoux 7734, sparked in Cutter a fascination with vintage watches — dare we say obsession?

The practicalities of making a watch himself, however, didn’t come into focus until Cutter met Donovan Paradise, a watchmaker in northeast Indiana whom he’d enlisted to repair the vintage Leonidas moonphase watch he’d bought for his dad. Their ongoing conversation is where everything got real, and the pair decided to set about attempting to design their very own manual-wind chronograph. The first step was to find the right movement around which they would build it.

Cutter and Paradise came close to adopting two different movements (that shall remain unnamed) and ultimately rejected both after testing them because of their too-large mainsprings and bad tolerances. They got a wild hair to write to Sellita and inquire into modifying its W510 movement, confident that they could convert it to a manual. As fate would have it, Sellita was in the process of crafting precisely what Cutter and Paradise were looking for: a manual-wind with a 3/6/9 dial layout (which the Swiss manufacture debuted at Basel last year) that results in a visually appealing triangular symmetry. The Sellita SW510M also offers a power reserve of up to 50 hours on a full wind. And at 6 o’clock is the “Midwest” stamp, displayed as proudly as many watches display “Swiss Made.”

Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

At 37.5mm in diameter, the watch occupied a large presence on my small wrist, but sat comfortably, nonetheless. The bracelet was too large for me at its smallest, but I was more enamored of the mustard-colored (or ochre) 18mm leather strap, anyway; it was a breeze to change out with the tool provided. (It’s not specifically designed for women, but it would work well on any average-sized woman’s wrist.) Additional strap options include pebbled blue and gray with red stitching. More importantly, the size of this watch sets it squarely in classic “vintage” territory.

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Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

There are two dials currently available: a silver dial with blue subdials, and a blue dial with silver subdials. I spent time with the latter iteration, which I found to be highly legible and whose contrast communicates a confident presence even across a room. The silver dial is attractive but in a slightly more austere vein. I’m glad Haven decided to skip a date window, as there’s nowhere on the dial it would reasonably fit.

The 316L stainless steel case has both brushed and polished surfaces for contrast and a fixed bezel. The watch has a double-domed, AR-coated sapphire crystal and a moderate height off the wrist of 13.1mm.

Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

18mm drilled lugs (47mm lug-to-lug) have multiple chamfers, while the crown is easily grippable and marked with the letter “H” in an implicit branding touch that doesn’t hit you over the head. The solid titanium screw-down caseback ensures 3ATM of water resistance. On it is etched a map of the Great Lakes, a tribute to the watch’s origins.

Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

There’s a dearth of bling-free chronographs made for women, and while this watch certainly isn’t designed for women, its proportions put it in range of smaller wrists. I would easily look to it for anyone who’s in the market for a well-designed chronograph at a reasonable price point, especially given how personalized the service is. (The founder’s email address is on the website, and he answers messages!)

Though the movement is Swiss-made, the watch’s other components are a hodgepodge of sourcing – the cases, dials, and hands come from Asia, and the straps are sourced locally and cut by hand. In a daring move as far as marketing decisions go, the watch comes in a cardboard box that’s fully recyclable. Though some might prefer a swankier presentation, I appreciate this overt gesture of maintaining a light environmental footprint.

Hands-On: The Haven Chilton Watch Is A Slice Of Grassroots Midwestern Artisanship Hands-On

The competition for this watch includes big names that cost a good bit more: the Oris Diver 65 Chronograph; the Montblanc 1865 Automatic Chronograph; and the Vertex MP45 — all of these watches feature some variation on the theme of the Sellita SW510, and all are at least double the price of the Haven Chilton. For this reason, but even more on its own merits, this watch is a strong contender in its category.

There’s a case to be made for the whole affair as the epitome of American ingenuity, which an eye toward high quality and cost-savings, simultaneously. The Haven Chilton, with silver dial and blue subdials or blue dial with silver subdials, retails for $1,799 USD and is available now. Learn more at www.havenwatches.com.

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Comments

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  • Mike V

    It would have been nice if the photos were in focus so we could actually see the watch

  • JosephWelke

    Dare I say… I really like this. Pretty much a home run, aside from the multi-colored subdial. I know it’s a vintage touch, it’s still very visually jarring.

    The link to the Oris Sixty-Five Chrono actually leads to the Sixty-Five three-hander review, by the way. Nice article other than that!

  • SuperStrapper

    A noble effort, but this watch has a very steep hill to climb. I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare it to Oris or MB chronographs, even in photos those are just far nicer watches than this. The crown was colour filled how? Looks like sharpie or similar, very uneven and rough. The dial does have a vintage vibe for sure (why weren’t we shown the silver dial?) but the name Chilton is pretty bad to my ear.

    • Independent_George

      Maybe it’s named after Box Tops lead singer and Big Star founder, the late, great Alex Chilton? After all, he’s from that part of the country.

      Who’s Alex Chilton? Lead signer of The Box Tops’s, whose biigest hit, The Letter, was later covered by Joe Cocker on the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and album.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toBl4rvTgs8

      And If you have ever watched “That’s 70’s Show”, he wrote this while leading Big Star.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT8ihOjOf1g

      • SuperStrapper

        I’m pretty sure this is exactly correct.

  • Pedro Lambareiro

    I don’t know about you… but the definition on the gifs I’m getting is pretty low…

  • Independent_George

    Not bad. Not sure how a 37.5mm watch that looks to be at least 15mm thick would wear, but it seems to fit on Kim’s wrist.

    Outside of the movement and dial, the watch does look a little bit “hodgepodge-y”, though it’s hard to tell from the pictures. Maybe for the next iteration, they should focus on little improvements, like the crown, the pushers and the handset. But all in all, a good effort.

    • ray h.

      13.1 mm thick,so the website says.

      • Independent_George

        So it does. Doesn’t look it, but that is what the website says.

  • ray h.

    I think this an homage to a old Heuer ? It was called the skipper or lil buddy something that reminds me Gillgans island.Very well could be wrong about that but that colored dial reminds me of a hodinkee release.That’s not bad thing,that watch sold out very quickly.If this was under 1k and had a thinner movement I would put it on my non existent list.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    To be honest Kermit, it’s not really my cup of tea.

  • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

    I don’t think Oris or Montblanc are worried about any competition from this parts bin watch.
    Pass.

  • Master Rod

    $1,800 for a 3 ATM watch? I don’t think so…wait, I have to wind it myself? I don’t think so…

  • Carmen Bresante

    Women’s watch? I wouldn’t. I like the case and handset, but the dial’s too busy for me. There’s nothing fun about a recyclable cardboard box, either.

    Good to see a new writer here.

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