February 22, 2010
by Ariel Adams
Xetum gives us something new to look at – but it feels reassuringly familiar. This is part of the intent behind what Xetum calls “accessible modern design.” I’ve seen plenty of modern “art” and wondered to myself, “even though I don’t like this, should I? I am not sure. I feel like I am either too smart or too dumb for this.” Xetum rejects this common confusion with a thoroughly modern line of watches that also seem to strike chords with what we believe a traditional watch should look like. Even if the Xetum designs aren’t for you, it is easy to see how plenty of people can enjoy them.
Xetum is an infant brand at this time, founded by a guy who did his homework (I mean, he even asked me for my advice on prototypes!). Jeff Kuo, founder of Xetum, followed the path of many before him. Finding that his own passion for watches was so great, he wanted to make a living out of it. His path was to make his own brand. I can relate as my career took a similar course. Though rather than start a brand myself, I chose to be a conduit for sharing brands and watch information with all of you. Xetum is a San Francisco company. Based here in the Bay Area, Xetum’s designs are influenced by the people and places in the area. A good example of this is the names of their first two models; the Stinson and the Tyndall. Named for Stinson Beach and Tyndall Park.
According to Xetum, there are a few other core philosophies at work in the watches. Jeff didn’t want to make a watch that was too big, but he wanted it to be substantial in size. It is true that while a 44mm case looks good on lots of people, for many others, it just doesn’t work on their wrists. Therefore, he made his watches 40mm wide (in steel and water resistant to 100 meters), but thick off the wrists (actually not that thick in reality at 11mm). A thin bezel helps the dial look larger than it is, and the tallness of the watch helps add to the cool cylinder style of the case. There is also the unique lugless design that assists in emphasizing the shape of the watch. Even with this design, the straps are easy to replace if you desire (as some lugless watches have less than easy to work with strap or bracelet connection systems).
On my wrists, you can tell that the shape of the watch looks good, with a simple and satisfying execution. The leather strap will quickly shape to one’s wrist making the presence of lugs not necessary. There is a double row of polished sections on the case sides that work to break up the look of a too simple case, while adding another designer twist to the look. This double polished row is repeated in theme on the screw-down hexagonal crown (that itself helps resist the watch case look too simple).
My opinion is that no good watch can get away with not being first and foremost a decent way of telling the time. You’d be surprised how many watches neglect this simple fact. As such, it makes me happy to report that Xetum watches are a definitive example of being easy to read. Both the lighter color and black dial versions of the Tyndall watch have highly contrasting hands, and hour and minute indicators. The dials are even easy to read with the watch on a desk or dresser from a few feet away. Xetum wanted to ensure that the dial design was straight forward and utilitarian, but without too stark a personality. This led to first ensuring that everything was placed in the right areas on the dial. The properly sized hour and minute hands follow respective rings on the dial, and all the necessary markers are on the face. The subsidiary seconds dial gives the watch a classic look, while the 24 hour scale helps suggest a military or “world” theme to the Tyndall design. Note the SuperLumiNova luminant applied on the hands and over the 12,3,6, and 9 o’clock hour markers. The case is covered by a flat sapphire crystal over a matte black dial. This helps reduce light reflection and glare for a very unobstructed view of the face in most conditions.
Even with a totally utilitarian look, the dial feels modern. It is clean in execution and almost totally symmetrical. Though Xetum plays with this concept by adding a single element to the dial to gently disrupt the symmetry with the “automatic” label referring to the movement. The choice of font on the dial for the numerals is interesting as it looks like a Courier New (noted for being very legible) and a military style font (noted or use on “important” technical instruments”). Lastly, all the best “simple style” watches have at least one additional color on monochromatic dials – often red. Here it is green, and the sole element displaying this color is the Xetum logo under 12 o’clock.
Inside the watch is a Swiss ETA high-grade 2895-2 automatic movement. Having this watch inside the Tyndall makes it one of the least expensive watches around to have this movement inside of it. The movement is visible through the uniquely shaped caseback window – and you can see the Xetum signed automatic rotor. The movement is done in an elaboree finish giving it some nice polish and surface textures. Part of the 2895 movement is a subsidiary seconds style seconds indicator and the date. Xetum went ahead and used a black date disc with white text on it, which I think was a smart move.
Xetum opted for a steel butterfly deployment strap on the textured leather strap. On this black dial version of the watch, the black color with white stitching really compliments the dial tones nicely I think. On the deployment clasp is a deeply engraved Xetum logo. The leather straps are interesting as they have cork linings. A material known for its eco-friendly nature and it has a pretty good feel and texture to it.
Eco-friendliness is another core value of Xetum. The boxes that Xetum watches come in are made from rubber wood. This is wood from trees used to grown and collect natural rubber. Such wood is normally just burned after the trees are no longer useful for rubber harvesting, but can be collected for uses such as this. Xetum as a brand also engages in other eco-friend ventures, and you can visit their website to learn more about that. Speaking of the watch box, it comes in an interesting green tone and has a nice large cloth that arrives with the watch for cleaning.
Price for the Xetum Tyndall watches is $1,395 each. For a small brand with a unique design and Swiss movements that is not a bad price. Xetum’s Tyndall, as well as their Stinson watch (less expensive, using an automatic ETA 2824-2 automatic three-hand movement) have a fresh style that is getting a lot of people excited. Especially those who are searching for a neat looking, moderately sized watch that feels classic in character, but with a modern edge. Top choice for me would be this black dialed version of the Tyndall watch, though it also comes in an off-white tone.
Learn more or get one at Xetum here.
Thanks to Xetum for supplying the review unit, opinions are 100% independent.