Starting a new watch brand these days is a tricky endeavor. No one I’ve spoken to in the last few years who was part of starting a new line of timepieces mentioned money being their primary motive. That isn’t to suggest that these aren’t profit ventures, but rather that it takes a certain sense of drive and artistic desire to do what is necessary to bring a watch brand to life. John Isaac is just such a brand. It popped up recently with some interesting ideas and eye-catching designs. My favorite part is seeing how new ideas and new people add life to my favorite world.
For review here is the John Isaac Icon XL watch. This means there is a standard Icon as well which is smaller. Seeing “XL” in the title of anything leads me to believe that whatever holds that name is big. In this instance the Icon XL is a pretty medium/small-sized watch at 35mm wide. In comparison to the 31mm wide standard Icon, this one is larger, but not extra large. That isn’t to say anything is wrong with it, but I have a feeling that in the future John Isaac will want to make an even larger version of the watch due to popular demand. This piece could easily stand being 40mm wide (or more) and look just great.
While it is 35mm wide in size, the steel case doesn’t feel that small because of its elliptical shape. It looks like a rounded rectangle making it taller than it is wide. The style of the case is heavily influenced by Patek Philippe. Much of the John Isaac design sensibility borrows from high-marks that they look up to. Patek Philippe is among them and I appreciate how the brand offers cleverly repackaged looks that still feel fresh.
The case itself is a mixture of polished and brushed surfaces with flat sapphire crystal over the dial. Oddly enough the back of the case is one of my favorite views. Something about how it all connects and screws together which is eye-pleasing. Through the rear sapphire exhibition back you can see the mechanical movement. In this case John Isaac uses a Swiss ETA 2824 automatic with a custom ruthenium-toned rotor. The 2824 comes in a lot of finishes and is here nicely decorated with Geneva stripes.
Attached to the case is a tapering metal bracelet that is also very much Patek Philippe inspired. Sitting comfortable on the wrist, I like the tapering a lot, as well as the style which has polished inner links mixed in with brushed elements. The deployment clasp is a bit unique as it is a butterfly tension deployment, but with the closing latch of a fold-over clasp. I’ve never seen that done before. When closed on the wrist the bracelet bottom is nicely unobtrusive.
This Icon XL watch has the “Cobalt Black” dial – which is really ironic to me as Cobalt is actually a color of blue. There are also blue or while dialed versions and a special limited version in brown with an 18k pink gold case. The dial texture is made up of little pyramids. This is also known as Clos du Paris. It looks handsome with the design, and certainly classy. Most people would consider the watch to have “Franck Muller” hour numerals. It is true that Franck Muller popularized this font, but they were not the first to use it (themselves being borrowers as well). Looking at the hands you see Gerald Genta’s work. This baton style hands are what you’d find on a Patek Philippe Nautilus or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The seconds hand is red and sporty, and matched minute markers on the periphery of the dial. LumiNova is used as lume on the hands, and I like how the hour indicators are applied to the face. Overall detailing on the dial is very impressive. I’ve seen much more expensive watches not do dials as well. The standard “Swiss Made” is replaced with a red colored, cursive font printed; “Manufacture en Suisse.” Sounds fancy!
Even though there is a dedicated women’s version of the Icon, the Icon XL is easily considered a unisex watch. There are gonna be a lot of guys happy about the 35mm wide size, and then some who need a few more millimeters for the piece to make it on their wrist. I find this phenomenon interesting actually. You see a few years ago it was that many new brands came along with massive watches. If they lasted then eventually those sizes would make way to smaller sized alternatives. More recently I’ve seen new brands come along trying to suggest men’s watches in more “classic” dimensions. What happens? They start offering larger-sized pieces before you know it. If I might offer my suggestion to John Isaac, it would be this… You’ve got some really solid women’s watches and good products overall. What you need next are watches in the 39-42mm wide zone to appeal to the widest range of men possible. If the size works for you, then I think you’ll like the Icon XL by John Isaac. Price is 1,990 Swiss Francs and is available on the brand’s website.