June 2, 2014
by Ariel Adams
People often ask me what is up with SevenFriday watches. Either they want to know the aBlogtoWatch opinion on specific SevenFriday watch models, or simply want to know my thoughts on the uniquely positioned Swiss watch brand overall, that offers large, uniquely designed mechanical timepieces at a price few do. SevenFriday has been so popular that in just a few years it has created its own market. New brands are popping up that seem to be emulating their success, and some existing brands are offering new models aimed at directly competing with SevenFriday’s core collection of “P series” watches, including the P1, P2, and P3 watches (and all their variations). For this article, aBlogtoWatch not only offers another hands-on review of the SevenFriday watch, but also discusses the market SevenFriday happened to create in the Swiss watch world.
SevenFriday currently has two main types of watches that include the P collection and the new-for-2014 M collection (read about SevenFriday M1 and M2 watches here). Each of them contains Japanese Miyota automatic mechanical movements. The SevenFriday brand is, however, based in Zurich and was founded by a watch industry veteran. The irony, of course, is that even though the brand is technically Swiss, the watches cannot be called “Swiss Made” because they contain Japanese mechanical movements. So what was the goal of the brand from the outset? aBlogtoWatch first reviewed SevenFriday watches hands-on here.
SevenFriday’s founder, Daniel Niederer, was a bit tired of the typically stuffy and stiff way the watch industry approached design, as well as how it sold watches. A former luxury watch distributor, Niederer shared with me that he felt some of the watch industry’s margins on their products were out of line with production costs, as well as consumer expectations. He also hated how the brands he helped sell were stuck on (literally) the same old designs and marketing practices. Seeing tons of room for change and improvement, for Daniel, the only solution was do it himself.
Starting SevenFriday–as it is to start any new business–was a gamble. The idea of the brand was to produce a mechanical watch with a contemporary design around 1,000 Swiss Francs. SevenFriday noticed that many of the traditional Swiss watch brands had totally abandoned this price segment, leaving it open for others, such as the Japanese to enter. The Japanese did enter it, but many of the high-end (but not the highest-end) Japanese watches were oddly designed, despite being of a high quality and a good value for the money.
SevenFriday as a watch company was really about being an experiment of whether one could successfully combine the efficiency of Japanese movements and Asian manufacturing with the refinement of European design. With such a polarizing industrial look, the debut SevenFriday collection could have been a success or a total failure. What SevenFriday was also intent on doing was combining a traditional wholesale business model with the ability for consumers to purchase directly from the brand online.
Shaped a little bit like a vintage television screen, the SevenFriday watch case on the P collection models features a lugless design and and roughly 47mm wide size. That makes for a large watch, but it works, given the whole point is to be bold. Rather than just check out a single SevenFriday watch, I took a look at four different models. These are all the same watch but with different colors, material treatments, straps, and finishes. For review are the SevenFriday P1-1, P2-1, P3-1, and P3-2 watches.
Each of the SevenFriday P watches has a core case which is steel, but that ranges from polished steel on the P1-1 to a black PVD coating on the steel along with a silicone ring around the case on the P3-2 watch. Case colors and finishes really vary, and the color options are impressive, showing how versatile the original SevenFriday watch collection is from a design perspective. I was skeptical about the SevenFriday watch until I put it on my wrist, but was genuinely impressed by how fun it was once I did so.
The dial design is perhaps the most interesting and perhaps controversial element of the SevenFriday watch. It is intentionally a bit weird and not the easiest to read–even though it does more or less have traditional hour and minute hands. Other elements on the dial include a subsidiary seconds indicator (that uses a disc), as well as synchronized 24 hour hands which indicate AM or PM time. These all sort of overlap against one another, and an open view to the movement’s balance wheel is also visible on the dial.
I like the execution of some SevenFriday watches more than others. The minute hand begins with a large wheel with spokes style design and has a smaller hand jutting out of it. The hour hand, by comparison, is a bit hidden underneath. It is not difficult to read, but isn’t a model of legibility. The dial, like the case, is full of whimsical design elements that play out as a sort of satire on industrial design. SevenFriday watches don’t take themselves ultra seriously because they aren’t trying to be tool watches. Rather, they are trying to be interesting, gadgety fashion watches for men who don’t use the term “fashion” in their vocabulary.
With that said, not all of the text on the dial or the indicators on the rear of the watch make sense–nor do they need to. The dial of the SevenFriday P watches has some intentionally superfluous text and it is easy to criticize elements on the rear of the case such as the picture of the Scuba diver indicating the water resistance rating. That rating happens to be just 30 meters which isn’t even enough to take the watch swimming, let alone diving, but you get the idea.
SevenFriday does not intend for you to take the watches as seriously as you would a hardcore tool watch. The brand isn’t trying to be that, and frankly they realize that most people don’t want or need tool watches. What they want are good quality watches that add a positive element to their day, look good, and perhaps attract a little attention. If the designs appeal to you, there are few brands other than SevenFriday that will offer you that for the same price.