Hands-On Review – Haven Chilton Chronograph

The Skinny

  • Diameter: 37.5 mm
  • Thickness: 13.1
  • Movement: SW510M (Sellita manual wind three register cam operated chronograph, no date, hacking seconds)
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Price: $1,799
  • Return policy: Within 7 days if unworn Limited 3 year warranty
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Hipster Cool by Way of the Midwest

Haven intrigues me. Many small independent brands have a founder who is in the watch industry or has a background in design. Weston Cutter, the man behind the Haven brand, is an English teacher in Northwest Indiana. His brand centers itself on Midwestern values of affordability, robustness for everyday wear, and unpretentiousness. The origin story is that Weston got interested in watches through his father who is a watchmaker. He started Haven with two friends, watchmaker Donovan Paradise and local designer Steve Reidell. In a way it is every watch nerd’s fantasy to start your own brand, but few of us have the determination and grit to get it done. The underlying concept is based on the idea that the price of a vintage chronograph when it was new, adjusted for inflation, would be less than $2,000. Their goal is to create a stylish, robust, distinctive chronograph with vintage style cues and they have succeeded.

An Overview of Chronograph Base Movements

Haven has defined itself with some interesting choices. Instead of a vintage styled diver, they chose to make a chronograph. Chronograph movements have historically been challenging to develop and produce. Modern chronographs especially in the more affordable range have tended to stay within a certain set of movements. I will describe them beginning with the most affordable:

  • Seiko Mecha-quartz VK64. This is a quartz movement with an attached mechanical chronograph module. It has the benefit of a sweep seconds for the chronograph movement with the accuracy, affordability, and low maintenance of quartz.
  • Seagull ST19. A Chinese movement developed from technology bought by the People’s Republic of China from the Swiss chronograph maker Venus during the Cold War. This is an affordable manual wind column wheel chronograph.
  • ETA 7750/Sellita SW500. The classic unidirectional wind cam operated automatic chronograph. The first chronograph movement designed with the aid of computers. It has powered chronographs in every price range from Christopher Ward to the IWC Da Vinci line perpetual calendar chronographs. Somewhat bulky and thick. Subdials at 6/9/12 rather than classic 3/6/9.
  • ETA 2894. A slimmer ETA with a chronograph module stacked on a 2892 movement.

Haven chose to use a new movement by Sellita, the SW510M. It is a modification of the SW500 (an ETA 7750 clone) which removes the automatic winding mechanism to create a more slim and traditional movement with no date and subdials at the classic 3/6/9 positions. Weston writes that “Donovan got the tech sheets on the Sellita SW510 movement and thought he’d found a way to convert it into a manual. When we wrote to Sellita to ask if what we intended to do was feasible, the head of movement design-Sebastien Chaulmontet-asked us to call. We did, and discovered that Sellita’d be releasing the SW510 as a manual at Basel 2018…We put in an order in April.” I think this story tells you everything you need to know about Haven. This is a brand driven by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. It would have been much easier to follow the path of least resistance and choose a more conventional movement. Instead, Haven went the extra mile to get the movement they wanted for their chronograph.

Their other choices reflect that enthusiast ethos. The folks at Haven are refreshingly transparent about the sourcing of hands, dials, cases, and bracelets from Asia and the movement from Switzerland. They assemble, regulate, and pressure test in the Midwest. There is no phony claim of “Made in the USA” that has diminished the credibility of some other well-known American brands. The straps are cut by hand with a locally made die and finished in Minnesota. The boxes are made of environmentally friendly 100% recycled cardboard and bear an image of the Great Lakes. The insert is designed by a local artist and features a local poet. This brand has taken the locavore hipster food scene and turned it into a watch brand.

The Watch

The first element that draws your attention is the dial. My example is dark blue with a subtle sunburst finish. There is a light blue decimal scale at the outer edge which divides a minute into 1/100th of a second. The inner scale has hash marks for the ⅕ second matching the 28,800 vph beat rate. Stick makers with outer lume dots are seen at the five minute marks. The 6 marker is missing, replaced by the sundial. The 12 marker has an interesting detail of three stick markers next to each other with the center of the middle marker missing in order to form a stylized “H.” The H is only visible when starting the chronograph as the middle marker is covered by the chronograph seconds hand at neutral. However, the H is emphasized by the placement of three lume dots at 12, drawing your attention to the marker.

The Haven Watch Co. logo has a symmetry by the enlarged and connected H and N with the “AVE” and the “Watch Co.” framed by the two outer letters. The symmetry is mirrored at the 6 position where Chilton is written on top of the sundial and MIDWEST is proudly printed below. The subdials themselves have a funky irregular font which almost looks handwritten. The 6 and 9 subdials, the hour counter and the running seconds respectively, match with a subtle circular texture and a white color with red numbers and black lines and dots. The 3 subdial is playful with ⅓ of the sundial in yellow, blue, and red. The subdial hands are black matchsticks with luminous material. The hour and minute hands are silver swords with luminous fullers. The chronograph seconds hand is red with luminous material. I like the design but the quality of the printing on the dial especially on the subdials and the finishing of the markers and hands could be better. The crystal is sapphire with anti-reflective coating on the front and back.

The case also shows attention to detail and is one of the strongest points of the watch. It has a high polish bezel framed by a faceted case. The front and sides are brushed and the bezel is polished. In a sign of the enthusiast design, there are drilled lug holes to easily change the strap or bracelet. It uses conventional pump pushers and a signed crown. The winding action is a bit stiff which was a letdown since it is a manual wind movement. The SW510M is an integrated chronograph so the pushers are crisp for a cam operated system, quite similar to the feeling of an ETA 7750. The titanium screw down caseback has a circular brushing and an etching of the Great Lakes. I would have liked to have seen a more pronounced image of the Great Lakes since this is such a big part of the brand. The texture of the titanium helps to seat the watch well on the wrist. The case is incredibly comfortable and wears well.

The watch comes standard with both a bracelet and your choice of strap. The bracelet is a five link steel bracelet with a branded clasp. The brand is lightly etched on the clasp and again, I would have like to have seen a more pronounced logo. There are no end links. Normally I like to see end links to form a more seamless integration with the case but end links can be a bit difficult to secure to a watch and clearly the design intent is to allow for easy swapping of the bracelet and strap. The clasp is rather long with a generous length of microadjustment. Should your wrist be smaller, the links are easily removable with a small screwdriver. The high quality leather strap is charming. My example is light tan with contrasting blue stitching at the lug ends and at the keeper which matches the dial. The back is stamped with the old time boxer logo of Minnesota leather wares and the Haven Watch Co. logo. The keepers are elevated from the strap, giving it an industrial feel.

While the dial may seem to be the star of the show with its bright colors and striking design, I find the attention to detail in other aspects of the watch to be more impressive. The thoughtfulness in having drilled lug holes and including a bracelet and a strap really speak to the enthusiast driven approach of Haven Watch Co. The vintage sizing, titanium caseback, and the shape of the case provide a remarkably comfortable wearing experience. This is the closest of all modern watches to the feeling of a vintage chronograph on the wrist. It is hard to take it off! This is a wonderful first watch for a new small independent brand. When I first saw images of the dial I thought that Haven was an American Farer with its bright colors and strong value for money . After trying it on I realized that if anything it is even more of an enthusiast brand. If you like vintage chronographs, I urge you to take a close look at Haven.