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MAT California XL Watch Review

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

Paris-based MAT watches (“MAT” stands for “mer, air, terre” or “sea, air, and land” in English) is one of my favorite boutique sport watchmakers — I put this brand in the same design-ethos category as Bell & Ross, also based in Paris. MAT takes classic and contemporary military and professional-use-style watches and renders them in as attractive and well-made a form as possible while adding a bit of a distinctive look and actual utility/durability to the package. Bold and bright is how I would define most of these watches, which I have come to enjoy wearing because of their legibility and often beautiful aesthetics. I really do have a lot of positive things to say about the brand and further feel that their pricing is quite fair. Today, I look at one of their slightly more unusual watch options — the MAT California XL.

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

The California XL is a larger, left-handed (because of the crown position) version of the smaller MAT California. The smaller model was originally designed as the brand’s sole “dress watch” since it came in a 39mm-wide case versus the brand’s typical 44mm-wide case. As I understand it, popular demand for a larger version of the California watch prompted MAT to create the California XL model which satisfies because it has MAT’s distinctive take on the California dial, and also offers the bolder wearing experience many have come to appreciate from the brand. It also offers a new case size of 42.5mm-wide which exists between the smaller 39mm-wide MAT California and the brand’s slightly larger 44mm-wide cases.

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

California, as a name, appeals to me because I’m from California but also because I’ve always been fascinated by California-dial timepieces. These began on Rolex models, I believe, and there are a few Panerai watches with California dials as well. My history on the California dial is fuzzy, but I believe the name is derived from the fact that, quite some time ago, a watch dealer in California ordered dials of this style from Rolex, and the “California dial” name stuck. What is a California dial? In general, it was a design in which half of the hour markers were written as Arabic numerals and the other half as Roman numerals. I don’t believe there was any functional reason for this arrangement, but it did look interesting. MAT’s take on the California dial is distinctive from what you’d see on a classic Rolex or some contemporary Panerai watch dials and seems to combine a Submariner-style dial with a California dial aesthetic. On the MAT California dial, the 10 and 2 o’clock hour markers are Roman numerals, and the 8 and 4 o’clock hour markers are Arabic numerals. The other hour markers are shapes.

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

In polished and brushed steel, the MAT California XL is also a bit more durable than the original California. Water resistance is up to 200 meters from 100 meters, thanks in part to a thicker 2.8mm sapphire crystal for the XL model (as opposed to a 2mm-thick sapphire crystal for the original California model). This further positions the California XL as a middle-sized model between the smaller California and MAT’s larger “OPS” cases, which are water resistant to 300 meters.

Bold styling is a key element of the MAT California XL, and that starts with the case. In a lot of ways, the California XL is inspired by historic sport watches but with larger proportions. This can be seen in the “XL-sized” bezel, lugs, and dial elements. Staying true to some of the historic California dial watches out there, MAT opted for a new handset, which here is colored in gold for both style and optimal legibility. The crown placed on the left side of the case is also good because it prevents the crown from sticking into your wrist when wearing the watch on your left hand. Blue-emission lume painting on the dial covers the hands and hour markers making for good darkness legibility. While the California XL is at its heart a “fashion” item, it has the spirit and durability of a sport watch. This is, perhaps, why I like it so much — because it is a tool item whose creators took the time and effort to make it attractive and fun to wear.

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

MAT California XL Watch Review Submariner Wrist Time Reviews

Inside the case is a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement which operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. It’s a fitting movement for a watch of this style and price point. I like how the dial lacks a window for the date, as that helps preserve the aesthetic look and dial symmetry. MAT is generous with straps and also happens to offer some of my favorite third-party straps around. The California XL watch comes with three strap options but I’ve actually been wearing it on a blue texture strap that also comes from MAT. Style-wise, I like the combination of the 42.5mm-wide case with the 24mm-wide straps, as it helps further the bold “XL” theme that the California XL watch is going for. In the package with the MAT California XL watch is a tan leather strap, a black rubber strap with a folding deployant clasp, and a quirky black texture strap with a velcro attachment system. This latter strap is an interesting but niche choice for the watch and among the included straps, the tan leather strap is easily my favorite. A good value and well-designed with a fair number of accessories, the price for the MAT California XL reference AG7 XL A1 watch is $1,550 USD. To learn more, visit

Necessary Data
>Brand: MAT (Mer – Air – Terre)
>Model: California XL reference AG7 XL A1
>Price: $1,550 USD
>Size: 42.5mm-wide, 13.5mm-thick, and approx. 50mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a fashionable sport-style watch when MAT’s take on the California-style dial helps up my game in a crowd of generic timepieces.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone who has been interested in California dial watches but wants a cool, niche sport watchmaker’s own take on the theme in a modern-sized daily wear.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent price to quality ration and, overall, very cohesive design. Watch proportions aren’t for everyone, but it is a good modern take on the petite classic timepieces (or vastly more expensive contemporary Panerai watches) with such a dial style. Appreciate included extra straps and changing tool.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The theme of the watch is obscure enough that mostly just watch collectors and other hobbyists will know what a California dial is. Case proportions are a bit large for some tastes. Not all of the included straps seem to make perfect style sense with the California XL watch, but MAT does have a range of excellent strap options available.

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  • What fresh hell is this?

    Ahh no


    Reminds me of MHR watches (before Franck Muller acquired them and killed off the brand).

    • david x. droog

      Loved MHR back in the day. I wouldn’t have made the connection myself but now that you mention it – these could’ve very well been the 2019 MHR’s. Cheers.

  • Mikita

    I like the dial and hands, but this case.. Hate such pseudo-integrated lugs. When the watch could have been a strap-monster, but every strap would look like a fail.

    • Yeah, the case shape between the lugs bothers me.

  • Dick Mille

    Really like this take on a California Dial and the chunky style. The blue strap you have it on in a few of the photos looks amazing as well. I fear it may be a bit too thick for my taste in the metal but I’ll try and get down to the UK AD if they choose to stock this piece.

    • Berndt Norten

      You have the best user name

    • Ariel Adams

      That blue strap is also sold by MAT actually. I happened to have it and decided that it would look good with this watch (and it certainly did!).

  • cluedog12

    This is a cool watch, a pragmatic Panerai that does without the hype. It appears you have to order online if you’re looking to buy one outside of Eurasia.

  • I actually like it a lot (minus the markers that are too big and take up all the dial real estate).

    The case is a good size, the lugs hug the wrist and the size of the hands is perfect.

    The leather strap is fitting but the other straps are horrible. Especially the rubber strap with the clasp is on every cheap fashion faux-diver out there.

  • SuperStrapper

    The case actually looks quite nice. Not a fan of California dials though. The hands being gold coloured was an odd choice, i would think that makes brass would look better.
    Looks like the lume could have been better applied. Those markers are all quite bold, that was a missed opportunity for some solid applied lume markers like we’ve seen on vertex and Noa, etc.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    It always really helps when you get a video along with the review. Can i just say this out loud if I may?…
    I HATE A CALIFORNIA DIAL. Make up your mind if you want Arabic or Roman the mix of the two is something that should never have have been done in the first place. (I prefer Arabic myself) On a more positive note us lefties thank you for placing the crown on the left i like to wear my watch quite loose and if helps if some giant knob is out of the way.
    Maybe it just may but if i am wearing a watch with a strap I would never have the end of the strap sticking out the top of the watch i think it looks very untidy (that’s why I’m not overly keen on Nato)
    I think the blue strap as seen on the video is the best of the options available.
    As a watch their is not much to see here but it looks nice n chunky and the size suits me. Would I buy it? ……No.

    • I also have no love for California dials – it’s like make up your damn mind. Arabic and Roman numerals are both fine, but pick one. To make matters worse this watch mixes them with Sumarineresque batons, dots and a triangle for a totally confused look. There are 5 different shapes/metaphors for the 12 hour markers…

  • PR

    I kinda like it. Not a fan of the California dial in general but I think this implementation with oversized markers may well be the best I’ve seen. The Gilt is black bay 58 esque but still sort of works, will have to see it in person. The bezel looks quite chunky so if the finishing is real sharp the watch will catch light and angles quite well. Overall decent effort worth keeping an eye on.

  • Basically I agree, but is the line underneath MAT supposed to be a minute hand (with really long counter balance)? If so, this works as a 2 hand watch.

  • Craig A Clark

    I would probably never buy one because it’s a straight three hander (actually three is fine with a small seconds for added dial interest), but the California dial coupled to the what seem to me over-sized markers gives it a childish look. For my personal tastes I think California dials are toss anyway, just do one thing or the other.

    The combination of the marker sizes and the chunky case proportions just makes it feel a bit clumsy and awkward over all.

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