While its inaugural model (the Instrumentum) was a titanium integrated bracelet sports watch with a rotating timing bezel that sold for significantly below the thousand-dollar price point, UK-based microbrand Arken has turned things up a notch for 2023 with its follow-up release, which offers a unique and utilitarian take on the classic dual-time wristwatch. I frequently say that microbrands offer some of the absolute most bang for your buck when it comes to enthusiast-driven watches that sell for hundreds (rather than thousands) of dollars. However, one concession that you often make when going with a budget-friendly offering from a small-scale independent brand is that you typically won’t be getting anything all that unique from a movement perspective, even if the caliber itself is a reliable and widely respected design. That said, in addition to its rather impressive list of specs and firmly accessible price point, the new Arken Alterum also features a customized version of the Miyota 9015 that has been modified to feature an additional independently adjustable 12-hour hand, along with a pair of corresponding day/night indicators.
Crafted entirely from titanium with an anti-scratch coating, the case of the new Arken Alterum (ref. 1122) measures 40mm in diameter by 13mm-thick, and it features the same style of integrated lugs that can be found on the Instrumentum, which extend to create a fairly compact overall lug-to-lug profile of 46mm. Similar to the brand’s original model, the case of the Alterum flares out on either side to form small, rounded guards for the signed crown at 3 o’clock, along with a symmetrical protrusion that mirrors them on the opposite side of the case. Protecting the dial is a sapphire crystal (with anti-reflective treatment on the underside surface), while the reverse side of the watch receives a solid screw-down titanium caseback. However, rather than being fitted with a rotating timing bezel like the Instrumentum, the new Arken Alterum features a fixed smooth bezel surrounding its crystal, and since all of the time-setting is performed through the winding crown at 3 o’clock, an additional pusher for operating the date display sticks out from the case at 4 o’clock. Just like both the crown and caseback, the additional pusher for the date features a screw-down design to help ensure the Alterum’s 200 meters of water resistance.
Available in either black or anthracite gray, the dial of the new Arken Alterum offers a similar core aesthetic as what can be found on the Instrumentum, with teardrop-shaped hour markers at the cardinal points, circular indexes placed between them, and all of the hands and markers finished with BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova. However, rather than featuring a standard date window at the 6 o’clock location, the date is now displayed by a sub-dial with an elongated teardrop-shaped hand. Additionally, sitting just below the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock hour markers on either side of the dial are two circular apertures that display either black or white, and these serve as the day/night indicators for the pair of hour hands, with the left one dedicated to the local time, while the right one keeps tracks the day and night hours for your secondary timezone. Similar to the Instrumentum, the local hour hand is sword-shaped, while the minute hand appears in an elongated alpha-shaped design; however, the new Arken Alterum also features a fourth centrally mounted hand for its secondary time zone that appears in a contrasting color and features a thin shaft with circular luminous tip that directly lines up with the placement of the hour markers.
Rather than being either a “caller” or “flier” GMT, the new Arken Alterum operates in its own unique fashion that is far more similar to a traditional dual-time watch, as it offers two independently adjustable 12-hour hands, with each one accompanied by its own day/night indicator. Officially known as the Cal. ARK-9015DT, the movement powering the new Arken Alterum is based upon the familiar Miyota 9015 and it therefore runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. While the rise in popularity of GMT watches has resulted in there being quite a few viable options these days, the number of models that display two different timezones in a 12-hour format is significantly smaller, and that is especially true when it comes to the more affordable side of the price spectrum. Arken actually developed the Cal. ARK-9015DT before Miyota launched its own Cal. 9075 GMT movement, and while both designs offer access to two different time zones, they ultimately go about achieving this similar core objective with two very different approaches. Additionally, despite its rather unique functionality, Arken’s ARK-9015D is still a Miyota 9015 at its core, which means that it benefits from the same reliable design and serviceability that accompanies the standard version of this proven caliber.
To match the dials of the watches, the integrated lugs of the Arken Alterum are fitted with tapered nylon straps in either black or anthracite gray that connect to the case with a new quick-release system to facilitate easy and tool-free strap changes. Additionally, since the design of the Alterum’s lugs has been carried over from the Instrumentum, all straps and bracelets will be cross-compatible between the two models, and this also applies to the titanium link adaptors that Arken sells, which convert the integrated lugs of its watches to a traditional style that will accept any standard 18mm watch strap. Furthermore, while the official color options for the new Alterum are limited to black and anthracite gray, Arken Armoury Members (individuals who purchased one of the 300 examples of the original Instrumentum) will also have access to two additional secret colorways that will not be made available to the general public.
While I typically get annoyed when brands dangle something cool in front of its customers with some stipulation that it cannot actually be purchased, these secret members-only colorways feel a little bit different. No images of these off-catalog variations were included with the official press release for the Alterum, and since the Instrumentum was a limited-edition of 300 pieces that have been sold out for quite a while now, these exclusive colorways are clearly not some way for Arken to try and sell more watches by forcing customers to buy an Instrumentum before they can get their hands on the specific colorway of the Alterum that they want. Instead, these members-only editions feel like an earnest attempt for Arken to thank the individuals who were its very first customers, and since the brand isn’t actually dangling a single photo of these off-catalog variants in front of anyone, we are all going to have to wait until some pictures start popping up on Instagram before we get a chance to see them.
Cleverly designed components such as a rotating bezel or a dial with multiple scales can add quite a lot of additional functionality to a watch, but actually changing the operation of a mechanical movement is both difficult and expensive, which is why so many small-scale independent brands use the same exact handful of calibers, especially when it comes to the more affordable side of the price spectrum. Once you start getting into customized movements and bespoke modules, the cost of watches can often start to significantly increase; however, the new Arken Alterum ref. 1122 is accompanied by an official retail price of $700 USD, and rather than being a limited edition like the Instrumentum, the new Alterum will be the brand’s first standard-production model. When you consider that you are getting a titanium sports watch with a unique mechanical dual-time feature, it’s highly impressive that Arken is able to offer this overall package at this price point, and the new Arken Alterum promises to be a durable and sporty rendition of a proper dual-time wristwatch. For more information on the Arken Alterum, please visit the brand’s website.