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Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Being a former Detroit-area resident who now calls Chicagoland home, it has been an interesting time when it comes to watches. Both my former and adopted hometowns have had brands cropping up (Shinola, Detroit Watch Co, Smith & Bradley, and Astor + Banks), and they have been watches that appealed not just to me (and residents of those areas), but also to people all over the world. Ensuring that Chicago is not outshined by Detroit, we have a new brand that is on the scene – Oak & Oscar.

If you are familiar with any of the Redbar activities (of which Chicago Commonwealth Crew is a part), then that brand is familiar, as it was started up by one of the Chicago chapter founders, Chase Fancher. We’ll talk a bit about Fancher, what drove him in the creation of this watch, and then, of course, give you our hands on impressions from our time spent with one of the prototypes of the Oak & Oscar Burnham.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When it comes to the founder, you need to understand that Fancher is most definitely a “watch guy.” Yeah, he’s likable and a great guy to grab a drink with, but that is really only of note to those of us who can actually meet up with the guy. For everyone else, you want to understand what drives the guy at the helm (and who also happens to have designed the watch). From our first meetings, I could tell this guy was someone who knew his stuff. He talked intelligently about watches (and not just those he owned), and had been traveling to BaselWorld even before the Oak & Oscar Burnham existed in any form.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

As to his “watch guy” cred, aside from, you know, his watch brand and founding Commonwealth, he’s the sort of guy who notices watches in the world around him. As a point of reference, in our last meetup over coffee, he was stopped in conversation because he thought he glanced a fairly rare watch on someone’s wrist (in this case, a Sarpaneva), but it turned out to be a false positive. Regardless, that is something that resonates for me, and I imagine others as well – being drawn to checking out random watches out there in public, because there might be something rare we run across.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I paint that story as a background to explain this next point. When we were talking about the Oak & Oscar Burnham, I asked why he made some of the choices he did, and Fancher’s response was that he wanted to create a watch that he, as a watch guy, would actually want to wear. Even aside from the design, this means that the quality of the components going into the Oak & Oscar Burnham are top notch.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

You start with obvious things like the movement (a Soprod A10 with a custom rotor, in this case), and go from there to the details. Like the Horween leather strap made by Woodnsteel (out of Indiana), complete with a buckle that has a relief on the backside so it sits more flush with the strap. Or how about the watch wallet that comes with the Oak & Oscar Burnham, made of that same Horween leather by Chicago-based Defy, and lined with German wool felt. Why the wool? As it turns out, that is the material used to protect expensive (and delicate) equipment in shipment. Aside from absorbing shock and water, it also is an abrasive-free surface. Which means the 4-spot watch wallet also becomes an excellent work surface to change straps out on your watches.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While it is difficult to condense a series of conversations down, I think that manages to provide a sort of Cliff’s Notes for the passion that was behind the creation of the Oak & Oscar Burnham. With that set in mind, let us move on to talking about what it is like to have the watch in hand (and on wrist). One of the first things that caught my eye was the color palette. Grey dials are not something you see all that often, especially paired with orange and brown. When I asked Fancher about that, it was a simple answer – those are the colors that he finds most in his own personal style, so it was easy to go with that. You cannot fault logic like that – if you are designing a watch, especially your first time out, it should be something that appeals to your tastes. Fortunately for Fancher, those tastes also appeal to a lot of other people.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The next thing I noticed about the Oak & Oscar Burnham was its size. In the photos I had seen previously, I had a mental image built up that made for a bigger watch. Yes, it is a 42mm watch, but it feels smaller than that seeing it in person. I think this is in large part due to the fact that the bezel on the stainless steel case is pretty minimal, meaning you see mostly dial. Then, paired as it is to a 22mm strap, you just have proportions that give it a more compact feel while retaining a good presence on the wrist.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Oh, speaking of that strap, that is something that is still being fine tuned (which underscores Fancher’s attention to detail). In the tour he did around the various Red Bar groups, he noticed that a lot of people were ending up at the smallest notch on the strap – so they’re adding another one to it, which should help for smaller wrists. There is also a good chance the tail of the strap may be docked, which should prevent you seeing that angular end sticking up above the keeper.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Frankly, attention to detail shows up throughout the Oak & Oscar Burnham. For instance, the counter balance on the seconds hand actually aligns with the logo printed on the dial (a nice touch). Flip the watch over, and you see that the placement of the stars on the rotor (taken from the Chicago flag) is such that you can see the jewels in the movement through them. Back on the front of the dial, that attention extends even to the numerals used on the sandwich dial.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

For starters, the 7 has the slash across it, which is something I have never seen before (that same 7 appears on the color-matched date wheel as well). Now, take a look at the 8. Again, this is unlike anything I have seen on a sandwich dial and, per Fancher, went through many, many revisions until they came up with the final idea. That last idea got sent over to Lum-Tec as the deadline for the prototypes was approaching to see if it could be done, and now here we are.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The other cutout on the dial, which basically marks out the hours track, was something I asked about as well. It was added to provide some additional depth to the dial. Since it is not lume-filled, it’s providing some shadowing on the dial, as well as ensuring that there was not just a flat expanse. While I was unsure about this detail at first, I have really come to like it.

I also really appreciate the fact that the handset was done in a way that they all reach to their respective tracks, with the second hand actually hovering slightly over the chapter ring. Also a nice surprise was how readable the watch was, specifically those hands. Given that they are finished in grey as well, there was the distinct possibility of losing them in the dial, and having to rely solely on the lume strips. That, thankfully, was not the case for me, and I had zero problems being able to read the time at a glance.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

There was one detail that did feel a little off on the Oak & Oscar Burnham, and it is that aforementioned chapter ring. With the dial, you have some great dimensionality there, and of course the luminous paint. When you come to the chapter ring, things are just flat, and none of the printing itself is luminous. Not that the chapter ring is itself bad, which it certainly is not. It provides utility for the watch, and of course provides the transition from the dial to the case.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When I asked Fancher about it, he said that he had considered cutouts at the compass points, but felt it seemed over-designed. Additionally, LumTec said to accomplish that, the chapter ring would have had to be plastic rather than metal, and Fancher felt the plastic had no place on the dial of a watch at this price point, so it was scrapped. As to the lume, that turns out to be a simple matter of gravity. Basically, unless the lume can dry flat, it ends up looking pretty bad – so, the lume went by the wayside as well. For my splitting of hairs here, I do like the fact that the chapter ring gives you an angle from the case to the dial, rather than being a right-angle sort of affair, as it seems more thoughtfully put together.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Something like the chapter ring might seem nit-picky, and, well, it is. The Oak & Oscar Burnham is such a well-done and well-sorted watch, you can get down into the details of what has been created. When you do that, you realize that most of them are just plain spot-on (oh, and there is one more surprise hiding in the watch for future owners, but no spoilers from me!), and that is when you notice if anything feels off – and for me, it was just the one item, the chapter ring.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When you get back up out of the weeds, and get the 84g watch strapped on for the day, all of those details blend together to create a cohesive watch that looks and feels good on the wrist, and is ready to head with you into anything short of a black tie affair. I wore the watch to the office, around the house, and even with a suit a time or two, and it just plain worked. The Oak & Oscar Burnham is a great everyday sort of watch. While the steel case is compact, it still feels robust, and the grey of the dial means that it’s a bit of a chameleon, so you could end up putting just about any strap on you want (though the included Horween leather is a great one), including the nylon strap it comes with.

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

It is safe to say that the Oak & Oscar Burnham is a watch I liked, and am glad I got to spend time with it. You can pre-order your own at a price of $1,450; after the pre-order period closes, the full retail will be $1,650, with delivery expected in early fall. Combine the well-sorted design, quality materials, the wool-and-leather wallet, and the fact the watch is a serialized 300-piece edition, the pricing feels very much appropriate for what you are getting – especially at that pre-order discount. Here’s to hoping that this is the start of a long run of watches from the brand that exhibit the same level of commitment, quality, and passion. oakandoscar.com

Oak & Oscar Burnham Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Necessary Data

>Brand: Oak & Oscar
>Model: Burnham
>Price: $1,650
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Without a doubt.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: This is a solid choice for the person who wants “just” a three-hander with the attention to detail that we normally see reserved for much higher-end watches.
>Best characteristic of watch: All the tiny details that you can find. If I were to pick one, it would be the different numeral shapes used on the dial and date wheel.
>Worst characteristic of watch: It’s going way down in the weeds, but the flatness of the chapter ring was what got stuck in my teeth.

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Comments

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  • I_G

    Looks nice, too bad it’s automatic. I always wondered whether these sandwich dials actually got better luminosity than the normal lume-on-the-dial applications. They get light through small slots onto the lume, while on the dial the lume shapes get all the light…

  • SwissMatic

    Handsome and sporty, yet understated enough to work with a suit. Love the attention to detail, especially the matching date wheel; you have me curious about the secret feature. I’d love to add this to the collection, but my grail costs 25 times as much and I need to save. Thanks for the review.

  • SuperStrapper

    Very handsome, a watch I could certainly see myself wearing. While I don’t think the price is out of line, I was a little surprised with it. Through reading the article I was thinking to myself”what a really nice ‘affordable’ this one is”. But it would have had to land at the $1k or under mark for that. Regardless, nice effort.

  • BIG CHRONO

    This one offers somewhat good price/value ratio, but with some reservations. The 330 feet water resistance is excellent, the bold strap, the leather “attache” are all worthy of our interest.Yet, the stenciled numbers remind me of a carved jack o’ lantern, & while not offensive, simply do not invoke excitement. The dreaded limited edition raises the price, & this is the stigma that I find most reprehensible. It seems like manufacturers of everything may feel their goods won’t sell, so they make them in small quantities, inflate prices, figuring the crazed public will pay more to obtain something that won’t be around long, or ever again. The next stunt will be a limited edition watch company that will exist only for 300 days, so you’d better buy whatever you can get, or be shut out forever.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      It appears that you have figured out the consistent marketing plan of many in this field.

      • BIG CHRONO

        Possibly, inscrutable Mr. Wang. Sadly, companies are not lining up to hire me as a marketing strategist, etc.

  • Ulysses31

    Another no-name (yet) brand that charges over-ambitiously for a basic watch. It’s handsome and has attractive, somewhat novel details. The blue lume is lovely, though the dial has a plasticy look that doesn’t appeal. The first thing that sprung to my mind when seeing this was the more than passing resemblance to the Orient Disc watch, except that the Orient is more novel and has a dash of colour in there. Still, it looks well-made and nicely detailed.

  • Daniel

    I’m all for capitalism but this really offers nothing new for the consumer. I appreciate other’s comments about the dial looking cheap and why it has to be limited in production. I do like the strap on these and the effort made with the auto movement. Actually, as I think of it, none of my critical comments would exist if this watch was simply priced at under 1k.

  • DanW94

    A nice effort. I would personally put it on a orange and gray nylon strap. They could have done something different to the rotor. Those cut-out stars look a bit amateurish.

    • mercury66

      I believe the stars come from the Chicago city flag. A nice touch

      • DanW94

        (Sheepish reply) – Thanks, Guess I missed that the first read around….

        • egznyc

          Well just a moment – I don’t have a problem with the idea of stars as a cut-out in the rotor; i just happen to agree with you that the execution looks amateurish. The rotor finishing is a little rough for this price point IMO.

  • egznyc

    Not a bad-looking piece. In fact, a pretty nice all-arounder – particularly with the sandwich dial treatment, at a fraction of the Panerai price (well, of course it’s a very different case and overall look, too). Not to mention 100 m water resistance. Still, not sure I’d want to spend $1500 for a basic 3-hander from a brand without any track record.

  • WImads

    Not bad, the sandwich dial is nice. But overall kind of a boring watch, not very novel in any way…

  • Larry Holmack

    Well…the watch is interesting to look at…but I think I would get bored with it very quickly, and it would end up sitting for long periods of time in my display case. Now the cool watch wallet thing….that’s a different story!!

  • mtnsicl

    Not a bad looking watch. I don’t see great value there though. I think it should be priced closer to a Hamilton 46mm Khaki Pilot, at $1000. I think the hour and minute hands should be a little longer. Usually a big dial and small bezel make a watch diameter look bigger, not the other way around.

    • egznyc

      Good points. I certainly think the minute hand could’ve been a millimeter or so longer.

  • Phil F

    I can see myself wearing this watch, but its a tad big for my wrist. I agree with others that the price is a bit high – I would expect at this price that a couple different bands are supplied – maybe a black one and a different tone of brown. I’m not really sure that I would spend $1,500 for a watch from a maker that I have never heard of. I would definitely go as high as $1,000, but with a single leather band, I would stop at $850.

    Best looking feature of this watch is the seconds hand – nice color and contrast.

  • Brandon Z

    It’s definitely a breath of fresh air to see the level of detail and passion from something out of the good ole USA – there might be watches in a similar vein that are cheaper (Weiss comes to mind) – but what you get here (the Soprod mvmt, high quality leather strap, amazing versatile watch wallet instead of a worthless box) is more than worth the cost of admission. And I haven’t even talked about the styling which is definitely more attractive in my opinion than anything from Hamilton (which can’t remotely be considered American), Weiss, or God forbid Shinola.

    It’s admirable that Mr. Fancher has poured his heart and soul in this project and had such a great response already and is doing all the right things and marketing this watch to those that will appreciate the level of thoughtfulness that went into his design touches and other details. I’m genuinely looking forward to what Oak & Oscar holds for the future if they did this kind of job on their first go-round.

    BZ

  • Brandon Z

    Also, I forgot to mention that I really like the approach O&O took with finding established companies to help him with his project and was very open with his collaborations with Defy, WoodNSteel, Crown & Buckle (comes with a super high quality nylon strap that wasn’t mentioned in the article), and also the fact that it’s assembled by Lum-Tec – again, keeping the “American” aspect at play in as much of the design and development of the watch as possible. Couldn’t say I would have done much different if I were putting my own money up to start my own brand (I could only wish) 😉

  • Raymond de Mystère, fils

    Am i alone in thinking they have borrowed liberally from Ochs und Junior of Lucerne?

  • Raymond Wilkie

    This watch is verging on really boring

    • Raymond de Mystère, fils

      Yes, it is. But in a world of $100,000 tourbillons, $750,000 triple-axis tourbillons and the horror that is Richard Mille, it’s all relative. Our sense of what’s a ‘good bargain’ gets shifted upward, inexorably, by prices at the high end. A Blog To Watch has done no small part in aiding and abetting this process.

  • JimBob

    I sure hate that white stitching by the lugs.

  • WINKS

    Tiny movement compared to the rest of the watch.

    • 42 mm case and a roughly 26 mm movement does that. But that’s very common these days.

    • I_G

      But you get a nice spacer from the finest materials.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    A nice watch. A rather “fawning” review Mr. Kansa.

    This piece is over-priced by several hundred US$s. IMO, a good buy at around US$800 or so.

    The fact that this is a “Limited Edition” does not inspire confidence.

    I do like this piece. It’s design has, for me, an appealing simplicity.

    (By the way, the use of a smaller(thinner) bezel, usually makes the dial, and by association the watch itself, appear larger)

    The case looks well made, the hands, sandwich dial and lume look to be well-done also.

    As I prefer a steel bracelet I will not judge by the leather/nylon straps other than to say it sounds like he sells this to a lot of “skinny-wristed people.” I am unable to relate that problem.

    Overall, a nice offering – but not the kind of offering that would come to mind when wearing it on a gangway. But hipsters will like being seen with this. Not knowing they have been “oke doked”

  • There seems to be a lot of comments regarding the price. A Soprod A10 is an alternative to an ETA 2892 (not a 2824) and a higher grade execution (as evidenced by the movement’s decoration) costs more too. So these are costing OO far more than what Hamilton (a Swatch company) pays for their in-group standard grade movements. And the days of small brands offering watches with Swiss automatics for under a grand is basically over. The price on movements have tripled in the last 4 years. Sure you may find some but usually in standard grade execution and strictly sold on-line. Often times those “$800” watches cut corners in other ways such as non-sapphire crystals, etc. If you want a Hamilton, great get on. You will have lots of company as they sell well. But if you want a less mainstream watch where you are unlikely to run into some random guy with the same watch, then a micro-brand might be for you. But the cost model is different so be prepared to pay more. (steps off soapbox)

    I really wonder about those gray hands on the gray dial. Seems like the lume is doing all of the work in order to be able to tell the time. The watch has many nice touches and I do see the mentioned resemblance to Ochs und Junior and also some Ball watches in terms of color palette. But given the ordinary looking case and muted color scheme and some of the stencil markers (7 & 8 which I don’t care for), I find this watch more or less attractive but not really compelling. But that’s just me. I think some other strap choices might give it another personality also. I wish them success and look forward to what they come up with next.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Coming back to this article, compliments on the well-done layout and presentation.
    Excellent photos.

  • Skeletor

    Looks like a bak bak chicken vending watch. I believe it was only a quarter to get one.

  • Drewski

    It’s a nice looking watch with a lot of strap options.