Hands-On Haven Watch Co. Chilluminati 37.5mm Hand-Wound Chronograph

The Skinny

  • 37.5mm x 13mm
  • 50m water resistance
  • Sellita SW510 M BH a hand-wound chronograph movement
  • $1999

Midwestern Avant Gardism

There aren’t many new independent watch brands that truly take advantage of their freedom to design creatively. Among those I include Brew Watches in New York, Ianos in Greece, Sō Labs in Chicago, and now Haven Watch Co. from “the Midwest.” Most indie brands hardly slip a toe outside the tight boundaries of yesteryear’s design briefs, but with the Chilluminati Haven Watch Co. has joined the brave few who stick their whole neck out, jugular and all.

Full disclosure: I did a little paid brand consulting with Haven Watch Co. a few years ago before their initial launch, and what I heard was a desire to be “Midwestern.” I immediately pictured Ford F150s and corn and denim, but Haven founder Weston Cutter quickly reminded me that Devo was from Ohio. I scratched my head and thought: “You’re going to push Midwestern avant gardism?” I couldn’t quite connect the earthy humility of Midwestern culture with anything like Devo’s post-punk weirdness, which had always seemed to exist in spite of and against Midwestern culture, not as a part of it.

With the Chilluminati, I finally get where Mr. Cutter’s head was at. I had blanked on what was likely obvious to him: Midwesterners also drop LSD, devour New Age ideologies, read anarchist theory at 2am while chain smoking, and do all kinds of bizarre shit I wrongly imagine only happens in coastal cities. Further, the Chilluminati reminds me that, ever since our Founding Fathers aligned our national monuments with the pyramids in Egypt, a weird streak has run straight up the middle of America. In fact, the Illuminati once dominated American politics, placing a veiled mysticism at the center of our democracy.

The Chilluminati has managed to encapsulate that mystical strand of American weirdness in a 37.5mm manual-winding chronograph watch, which is remarkable. Even more remarkable: the Chilluminati gets super weird while staying stylish and understated. In the end, that’s pretty Midwestern.

Understated & Sophisticated Psychedelia

Were you to describe the Chilluminati to me, I’d likely have laughed. A faded gray dial with a giant yellow ‘H’, dual luminescent triangles in the sub-dials, a date window inside the sub-dial at 9-o’clock, and a turquoise telemeter scale? That’s absurd.

But it works, somehow, and the Chilluminati doesn’t seem goofy or even all that psychedelic when I wear it. It feels stylish and cool and sophisticated – not qualities I’d have derived from the description or, unfortunately, from the images I’d seen on line. Some watches really need to be seen in person to grok the vibe, and the Chilluminati is most certainly one of those. Hopefully my wrist shot below gives you a sense of it.

What you can’t glean from the images online is that on wrist the Chilluminati reads as a gray fume dial chronograph with a hint of yellow accent. The telemeter scale and other turquoise accents add a little energy, but don’t read as bright color. The yellow ‘H’ logo is actually quieter than Haven’s standard (and somewhat large) logo, and the triangles in the sub-dials add tonal interest. The all-black hands emphasize what I can only call the minimalism of this dial.

Minimalism is not what you get from a description or a photo, but it’s what you get on wrist – and it’s just fantastic. By day, the Chilluminati is like a Nomos that smokes a little weed; by night the Chilluminati is like a Nomos that dropped acid at a Pink Floyd concert in Bloomington Indiana.

Excellent Execution

You’ll find all kinds of information on-line about the Sellita SW510 M BHa movement inside this watch, but what you need to know for a quick grok is that it is manually wound, cam-operated, hacks, the date quicksets, and the main spring holds 63-hours of power. What a refreshing movement from an indie brand, and what a delight to operate. The cam feels crisp, and the sample I have is well adjusted with both pushers providing the same amount of resistance.

The Sellita SW510 BH is an uncommonly used chronograph movement that’s hand-winding, uses 29 jewels, and stores 63 hours of power.

Casework is exceptional, and so many indie brand’s cases really do kind of suck. The edges are crisp, brushing elegant, polishing brilliant and smooth. Especially impressive (and visually prominent) is the transition between the flat brushed section of the bezel and the polished sloping section – though that edge is also quite vulnerable, and I expect it to get dinged up – but that’s the nature of the beast.

My only complaint with the case is that the engraving of the Great Lakes on the case back is kind of weak. I think this is on purpose, but as one who grew up on Lake Erie and who likes a sculpted case back (think: modern Monblanc or vintage Omega), I’d rather have a bit more action back there. Sometimes Midwestern reserve just ain’t enough.

The matching gray leather strap on the prototype is lovely. There’s also blue, which ships with production models, but I’m all about the gray. The leather is produced in Indiana at SB Foot Tanning Company and then made into a strap in Minnesota. Haven’s included five-link bracelet is very nice, svelte, micro-adjustable, and connects links with screws rather than pins and collars (thank you!).

As of this writing the Chilluminati is available for pre-order and will ship in June of 2022. You can order yours here.