There are then a couple of styling cues that carry forward from the bezel. First off, it’s brushed finish goes along the top of the 22mm lugs, giving a nice matte finish to the top of the watch. Second, the curve, while not exactly continuous, show up in the sides of the 42mm case as well. Here, the stainless steel is polished to a bright shine, and gives things a bit of flash. Sure, some might prefer a fully-brushed finish, but I’ve been a fan of multiple surface treatments on a case. Specifically, when you start getting some polished surfaces in play, I think it allows a watch to blend in a bit better in a dressier situation, while matte finishes on top help hide any fingerprints or smudges.
Curving continues as you flip the case over, with the display caseback curving up from the case itself to meet the flat sapphire crystal. It’s through this that you can see the ETA 2893-A2 Elaboré movement, as well as another feature I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of. While a branded rotor isn’t anything new, having a logo printed on the underside of the crystal is something I’ve not seen before, and I think it’s a great way to get another bit of, well, something, on top of an area most people probably aren’t looking at (the pivot point of the weight). As you might expect, the edge of caseback also lists out all of the ratings and some simple specs, as well as reminding you where the watch was made.
If you can’t tell by the number of words I’ve tumbled on to the page already, this was a watch that I was really looking forward to getting in for review, and it was with great anticipation that I finally strapped it on. The one I was sent came paired with their natural rubber strap (yes, it smells faintly of vanilla) that carries contrast stitching, further reinforcing the sport watch sensibilities. At first, you might wonder why a rubber strap would have stitches on it. The reason I arrived at is that with it, the rubber strap mimics the look of a padded leather one, further allowing the Explorer to have greater flexibility in the sort of dress codes that it will fit into.
And finally, the moment had arrived to buckle the strap on and head out the door to get some real-world wear impressions. As I anticipated, the watch was just about a perfect fit for my wrist (and personal taste when it comes to case size), with some alternating throughout the day between one of two different spots on the strap (ie, sizing larger or smaller). With that, this is one of the very few watch straps that I’ve not had issues with the keeper “wandering” off the edge of the loose end and floating around freely, so a definite bonus there. Should that not persuade you to keep the stock one, though, you’ll find a second set of spring bar holes awaiting you, so you can accommodate a thicker strap if so desired.
For this particular review, I put the watch into a variety of situations. I had it on while I was out shoveling the snow (and even got some shots of it in the fluffy white stuff), wore it in to the office, and even had it on with a suit a few times. Regardless of the situation, the watch blended into its settings, and performed as you would expect in any situation. The thin (11mm) case helped it to easily slide out from under a shirt (or jacket) sleeve for a quick check of the time, and it’s 96g weight helped ensure my wrist wasn’t weighed down as I went about my day, contributing to the overall comfort of the watch.
For me, the Michelsen Arctic Explorer combines no-nonsense sport watch sensibilities (decent WR rating, clean and legible dial, robust build) with one of my favorite complications and modernized good looks. At an asking price of 238,250 ISK (approx. $2,100; this price is excludes VAT and shipping) I think it’s a combination of form and functionality that makes for a compelling argument. No, this is not an inexpensive watch, but for your money, you’re getting something made with small-batch attention to detail that also houses a Swiss-made automatic movement. And while the watch itself is definitely one of the more compact sport pieces I’ve reviewed, it’s by no means a delicate watch that needs to be protected–a variant of the watch (which really just had special lubricating oils) made and survived a trip to the South Pole (more on that here).
In short, this particular watch is one of the rarer ones in my watch-reviewing career–it checks off all the right boxes, and really didn’t have any major drawbacks. This, of course, is all based on my own personal preferences, so your mileage may vary. If you’re like me, however, I think this is a watch you’ll be pleased with, and will be looking forward to swapping in a leather or nylon strap once the warmer weather hits, the snows being a distant memory carried by the dial on your wrist. michelsenwatch.com
>Brand: Michelsen Watchmakers
>Model: Arctic Explorer
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Without hesitation – if you couldn’t tell from the writeup, this is a watch that matches my preferences and sensibilities
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The guy who’s looking for a solid sport watch that make the transition from the outdoors to the office with aplomb
>Worst characteristic of watch: If anything, that the GMT arrow head doesn’t match the main handset
>Best characteristic of watch: The compact, robust design