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Over the years, watches tend to become more and more specialized: diver, driver, flyer, sports watch, dress watch… the list goes on. But turn back the clock to the middle of the last century, and on the vast majority of wrists, you’d find… a watch. Today, we might call that elegant and well-proportioned timepiece a dress watch, but back then, it was simply a watch. It went everywhere you did, and it did so with style. It’s that effortless style that Texas-based brand Jack Mason has captured in its newest release, the Ellum, an understated and versatile dress watch that captures mid-century style and sensibility.

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Though Jack Mason has been in business since 2015, the brand truly came into its own — and into watch enthusiast awareness — in 2022 with the launch of its Strat-O-Timer, a true GMT that utilized the newly launched Miyota 9075 automatic GMT movement. That GMT stands alongside its Hydrotimer dive watch as undeniably sporty (and popular) models within the lineup. So, why launch a dress watch in an era when sports watches are more popular than ever and dress watches seem to occupy a relatively small niche in the market?

The answer begins in 2019 when Jack Mason launched the Ellum as a small-seconds quartz watch. Inspired by the Mad Men era of the 50s and 60s, the original Ellum came in at 40mm in diameter with a slim 10mm case height and classic pie pan dial. It was simple, classic, and accurate. Though the newest Ellum still retains all the Mad Men style, it does so in a redesigned and refined package.

Brand founder, Peter Cho, describes it best: “For inspiration, we dug deeper than just the TV show. We went back to vintage dress watches to fully understand the look, feel, and aura of how the gents of the past wore their watches. The new Ellum needed a focal point that defined its purpose, and for us, that focal point was creating a beautiful linen dial.”

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Linen dials are coveted by many vintage enthusiasts. Though these dials were popular in the 1960s, interest waned with the decrease in popularity of dress watches themselves. Yet, in their heyday, everyone from Rolex to Patek Philippe to Seiko was making linen dial watches. In essence, a pattern is stamped onto the dial to create the linen-like texture; however, the process is incredibly time-consuming, as each line must be machined into the hydraulic stamp at different weights and heights to create a pattern that looks woven, like threads weaving atop and below each other.

Making a linen dial is one thing, but making the perfect dial is something else entirely. “We wanted to create dimension in the pattern, and most importantly, have it look organic. In other words, our standard was that the linen texture needed to be completely randomized,” says Cho. It’s a dial that needs to be seen with a loupe to truly appreciate, yet even a look from afar reveals its shifting tones in the light.

The Ellum adheres to the modest dimensions that best befit dress watches, measuring 38mm in diameter and 45mm lug-to-lug, with a slim case height of 9mm. The stainless steel case features a high-polish finish and is also available in a natural finish or gold tone, depending on the colorway.

Helping to keep the case height so slim is a Sellita SW210 manual-wind movement. For Jack Mason, it was a deliberate choice to use a manual-wind movement in a watch that harkens back to an early era in design and style, as it allows the wearer to slow down and interact with the watch, creating a personal connection through the process of winding each morning. It may only take a handful of seconds each day to wind it, but that’s time spent admiring your watch, appreciating the dial, the box crystal, the lines of the case, and the decorated movement on display beneath the crystal. Jack Mason hasn’t forgotten practicality, adjusting each watch to +/- 5 seconds per day.

A dress watch like the Ellum deserves to be on a hand-crafted leather strap and that’s exactly what the brand has created. The Ellum comes mounted on a color-matched Epsom calfskin strap — the same leather used by Hermès, Chanel, and other masters of leather-making.

While we may be accustomed to poring over spec sheets on the latest sports watches, the Ellum invites us to step back and appreciate design for its own sake. As Cho explains, “The beauty of a dress watch boils down to the product design. It’s about the level of execution for each and every component in the watch. The spatial proportions, or, as we like to call it, the “interior design” of the space under the crystal and above the dial, are everything in a dress watch.” The Ellum offers a different experience in a watch world dominated by sports watches — one that highlights slowing down and taking enjoyment in the moment, focusing on the finer things in life. The Ellum is available now, with prices starting at $949 USD. To learn more about Jack Mason and the Ellum, please visit the brand’s website.

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