U.S.-based Xeric watches has been rather prolific over the last few years with a variety of designs. This particular model — the NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic — is interesting and fun to wear and comes in a variety of colors, including this “Interstellar” version in natural steel with a black “space” dial. This is the first Xeric watch I have reviewed despite the fact that I’ve known the owner since the brand’s inception. Xeric is operated by the Greenblatt family that operates the watch retail website watches.com. Mitch Greenblatt was an early watch blogger who wrote about discussion-worthy timepieces from his Watchismo Blogspot website back around 2005, or so, and his site helped inspired aBlogtoWatch.com.
NASA has a policy that its logo can be used (with permission, of course), sans any licensing cost, as part of a larger program to help re-popularize the American space program (because we need more people educated in the skills necessary to run it). This has led to a really massive proliferation of products (mostly in fashion) with the NASA logo on it. Watches are no exception, but what is interesting is how the NASA theme is incorporated into the product.
For several years now, Xeric has been experimenting with a “space view” theme dial within its Trappist case collection (see this aBlogtoWatch post for example). Finally, the collection dropped the no-longer-relevant beer theme and adopted the NASA vibe for an appropriate context for the overall design. The visual concept behind the watch is as though you are in a space capsule looking out into space. The matrix over the dial is meant to represent a window array and space on the other side. The hour and minute hands have large circular sections filled with lume. These are meant to look like stars or planetary bodies moving against a galactic backdrop.
Xeric uses a multi-spring seconds hand with dots of lume on it meant to represent stars. Always seeing movement on the dial is a key part of the intended theme and the “constellation” seconds hand is a fun touch that nicely advances that theme. This is also among the cleaner dials of this style that Xeric has created. Mitch experimented with other versions of this watch, including those with tritium case tube hands. In addition to this automatic version is also a quartz-based version that has the added complication of a moon phase indicator.
Inside the Xeric NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic is the AmeriChron caliber X3.1 automatic movement that operates at 4Hz with about 40 hours of power reserve. I don’t think it is as accurate as today’s mainstream Swiss Made or higher-end Japanese movements, but this is a good step, and I think these watches are suitably priced. The rear of the case has a “coin” motif of the Apollo 15 NASA mission to the moon. This watch is specifically meant as a limited edition to honor the 50th anniversary of the lunar mission, which first introduced the lunar rover vehicle.
There is a common sentiment among American watch brands that, to their chagrin, getting all the necessary parts made in America is very challenging, in many instances impossible if you want to manufacture a movement in the United States. This is especially true when it comes to any type of volume production. An artisan working alone or with a small team can make a few watches by hand per year anywhere in the world. Producing several hundred, thousand, or more watches per year industrially requires an infrastructure that is only slowly re-emerging in the United States. How far it will go is yet to be seen. The existence of a facility outside of Phoenix is an interesting development and is responsible for “American Assembled” movements know here as “AmeriChron.”
The Xeric NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic case is steel and 40mm-wide. The case is 13.6mm-thick (on account of the relatively domed AR-coated sapphire crystal) and has a lug-to-lug distance of 47mm. Water-resistant to 50 meters, the case is also offered in various coatings and colors. Last I checked, Xeric has produced 13 versions of the NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic, each as a limited edition of 1,971 pieces.
Matched to the case is an American Horween leather strap with horizontal quilting that seems appropriate with the retro spacey theme. For anyone who loves astronomy, the space program, science fiction, or just funky watches, these are highly evolved designs that satisfactorily deliver on a promised theme in a unique way that you really haven’t seen from any other watches before. To his credit, Mitch Greenblatt has followed his own high standards for design and not become a regurgitative creator who simply slaps a new coat of paint onto existing things. Greenblatt is a creative at heart who wants to add his own two cents into the pantheon of watch design. This is a decidedly non-commercial approach to watch design (it also probably describes my own habits as a wristwatch product creative director); for him to succeed, he needs to nurture a large enough community of fans who will support him. This is, in essence, what all watch brands need to first survive, then also thrive.
What you see in the NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic watches — and many other timepieces produced by American-based enthusiasts — is a sincere desire to create a home-grown product. I have no immediate comment on the long-term viability of wristwatch component manufacturing industry in America, but I know that the natural tendency of watchmakers here is to “buy local first.” I imagine it is probably the same way in Germany, Switzerland, France, England, and Japan.
On the wrist, the NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic is decently comfortable and I like that Greenblatt really restrained himself for a more elegant concept that is starting to feel a bit more universal in appeal. This is very much still a niche product, but it is an excellent conversation piece and has a story that most any audience can understand. Price for the limited-edition (of 1,971 pieces per version) Xeric NASA Apollo 15 American Automatic watch is $750 USD. Learn more or order at the Xeric watches website here.