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Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review

Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Today we’re going to talk about something that’s a relative rarity here on aBlogtoWatch – a watch that’s seeking Kickstarter funding. And not only that, we’ve been able to spend some time with the watch, so we can bring you some impressions even while the campaign is being funded. Another interesting note on our sample – this was literally handed to us off the wrist of one of the co-founders. That doesn’t happen too often!

The Sans 13 by Smith & Bradley (project page) is seeking to create a watch that, as co-founder Jerommie Smith says, takes a truly tactical watch and incorporates touches that make it a bit more viable for day to day usage. At first glance, the Sans 13 may look like a lot of other watches in the tactical segment, right down to the use of tritium tubes (of note, our sample had a “low light” variant of the tubes, which used tritium paint and a phosphor gas, rather than the brighter tritium gas tubes). So, why is this one different?

Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Well, I can’t speak to all the other brands out there, but the design of this watch was informed by people using these sorts of tool watches out in the field – in true tactical situations (Jerommie himself was a police officer for 17 years, including 5 years on a SWAT team),. They also had input from over 100 other special forces members, as well as SWAT team members, to help shape things (such as the low light tubes option). To that end, many of the design choices conform to what was actually useful. For example, the choice of a relatively small crown paired with a larger crown guard. As it was put, if you get caught in a fight (though many of us likely won’t), the crown and stem can be easily damaged. By shrinking it, and increasing the size of the crown guard, you’re keeping that part of the watch safer. Here are some of the other design points that followed a similar decision path:

  • Lack of tritium on the bezel: this is because it’s simply not used. In a mission, you’d either have natural light (and could read the bezel) or, if it was night, timing would be called in by a command post
  • “Low light” tritium tubes: These tubes will put off a glow well throughout the night, but not at great distance (the people giving input all liked tritium, but stated it was normally too bright for field use); people can opt for the brighter (standard) tritium illumination, as it is the default option.
  • Inclusion of a cyclops magnifier over date window: no mission importance here, necessarily. It’s just something that operators were asking for as an ease-of-use thing
  • A thicker case (14mm): this helps to keep the watch from getting covered up by sleeves, gloves, and other gear, keeping it readable
  • Silver handset: to allow some readability of the time in low-light situations, such as at dusk
  • Screw-in bars, rather than spring bars: simply more robust and can handle more abuse
  • A narrower rubber strap, rather than nylon: the rubber is so that the strap has some give; the narrower width is to keep it from binding up your wrist

Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

From my perspective, it really does seem like a lot of thought has gone into the design of the piece, in terms of how it could potentially be used. Speaking of that, I was able to wear the watch we had for a few days, and I did find that it worked well in daily wear. At first, the thicker case was something of an annoyance, as it wasn’t slipping under my shirt sleeves. Once you get used to that however, you can appreciate how simple it is to get a quick glance at the time.

Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

And, as was asserted in the chat I had around the watch, reading the time is simple whatever the time of day. The black-on-white color scheme makes things rather visible, and the silver handset does do a good job catching whatever ambient light there might be. And of course, once things are dark, those tritium tubes make it easy to read the time.

As I noted before, we had a special “low light” version of the tubes in our review sample. What this means, in plain terms, is they are not as bright as you probably are familiar with in a tritium watch.  While the tubes look like regular tritium tubes, they are not gas-filled.  Instead, the inside of the tube is lined with tritium paint, and then filled with phosphorous paint.  This provides an even glow over time, and they met their stated goal of 12″ visibility. Basically, so long as the watch is 12″ or so from your face, you’re able to read the time.  Of course, with “regular” tritium tubes (which is what the Kickstarter is offering), visibility will not be an issue.  Should you want the low-light version, that will be an option – more on that later.

Smith & Bradley Sans 13 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

One feature I’m a little uncertain on is the cyclops magnifier. Now, this could just be due to the fact I’ve never had a watch with one, but I’m still not convinced of the utility. I suppose it is nice to have the date magnified – especially in situations where the date window is on the smaller side. Here, I felt like it really made it so you had to have the watch at just the right angle to get the cyclops positioned properly between the date window and your eyes. And again, this just may be common to the feature, and not a specific hit against the Sans 13.

About the Author

Patrick Kansa (@PatrickWatches) is a BI and Data Solutions developer by day, and a [redacted] by night. When he's not compiling crazy huge data sets to drive data visualizations, he's spending time with his family, reading up on fascinating watches, whipping up something in the kitchen, or trying to graduate from being a professional amateur photographer.

The photography ties directly into another passion - watches. This is a more recent development, and has only grown since he began writing about them in 2011. He's loves the fact that we can carry these micro machines on our wrist without a second thought, and looks at watches through the lens of practicality, uniqueness, and relative value.

And after all of that? Well, we're not saying he is Batman, but we've never seen him and Batman in the same room.
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  • JonnyD

    It may be useful in a tactical situation, but it’s one ugly behemoth. I’m just about to go to bed, surely I

  • Ulysses31

    I’m not convinced by the utility of a lens on the date either.  Of all the things you need to read on a watch at a glance with ease, the date cannot be one of them.  I also reckon they could work just as well on the underside of the crystal (assuming it doesn’t seize the hands).  That way there’d be no chance of it catching on anything, or they could even use a totally flat Fresnel lens.  This could be etched into the crystal via laser.

    • Patrick Kansa

      That’s an interesting idea, with the cyclops on the underneath. That said, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen that – do you know of a model doing what you suggest?

  • CG

    Hmmm a crystal without protection os a no-no, especial crawling around and shooting prone or up against or over concrete cover. I have the luxury of shooting from a mat at the range and even then roll the wrong way and your band or watch can get damaged. Locally here standard issue SWAT is a casio with a flip face protector, LED driven w/ on/off switch. Easy breezy. Why not red lume for low light, it’s a wavelength that can’t be seen from a distance by your retina. You cam see green lume from across the street when they take all the ligjts down. Every SWAT guy here uses milspec nightvision anyway. Put a protective cuff on it and I’d probably buy it for rough sports or for track days,

    • Patrick Kansa

      Hmm, I’m racking my brain, but I don’t know that I’ve seen red lume (or tritium) on a watch before. Do you have an example you’ve seen?

  • CG

    BTW re-reading the review common sense would dictate that a fully equipped and engaged SWAT Team member would never wear a watch covered by a sleev . Because they need two hands free for weapon handling, that one or two seconds it takes to release And move Your sleeve Back could Be critical.

  • mattsh

    I don’t understand why you have a bezel that isn’t usable in low light.  Fine, the ‘command center’ calls in the timing; so why have a bezel at all?  And if the bezel is there for all us non-tactical guys who use the watch to time parking meters, it sure would be nice to have a little lume so we could read it in the dark.

  • pkansa

    Just wanted to put a quick update out there – they’ve hit all of their stretch goals, so they’re going to be adding the following to the Sans 13: a sapphire crystal, 200 meter water resistance, an orange marker at 12:00 on the dial, and super lume at 12:00 on the bezel.