Hands-On Review – The Brew Metric – Retro Dial

The Skinny

  • Diameter: 36 mm
  • Lug to lug: 41.5 mm
  • Thickness: 10.75 mm
  • Water Resistance: 50 M
  • Movement: Hybrid VK68 Meca-Quartz Chronograph (Seiko)
  • Price: $395

What’s Hot at Brew?

Brew is a well-known microbrand founded in 2015 by designer Jonathan Ferrer. Industrial espresso machines provided the curious inspiration for this coffee-themed watch brand. Microbrands, while often affordable and willing to incorporate interesting design elements, can vary wildly in execution. Brew Watch Company sets itself apart from the competition both in terms of a recognizable and consistent design language and solid quality throughout the composition of its watches. While it has always had rounded cases with a 70’s vintage-inspired aesthetic, Brew has evolved over time to a sleeker look. The Metric Retro Dial’s design, while perhaps something of a departure from older designs, also represents a natural evolution of the brand.

The Case

I think the biggest overall change compared to prior Brew watches is that Mr. Ferrer has created more of an integrated bracelet look for the Metric compared to the Retromatic. The shape is a blend (pun intended) between the cushion shape of the Mastergraph and HP-1 and the TV shape of the Retrograph and the Retromatic. Since he tends to release new case shapes in both a time only and chronograph configuration, I would not be surprised if in the future a time only version of this watch were to appear. Most cushion or TV shaped watches have a circular dial and crystal surrounded by the case. The Metric has a very unusual feature that the circular dial is surrounded by a rounded, high polish square shape which is also the shape of the crystal. This is framed by a vertically brushed stepped bezel which sits relatively high on the mid-case. 

The mid-case is horizontally brushed on the sides and vertically brushed on top with a polished chamfer. It has a hint of a TV shape but tapers towards the bracelet where it forms a continuous line. The back is held in four corners by screws and has an engraved grill pattern with a coffee bean in the center. The coffee bean also appears on the crown and the clasp. The pushers are conventional pump pushers and have a satisfying click.

The smaller size of the case and the thinness allowed by the hybrid movement prevents the watch from feeling bulky. The sleekness is also emphasized by the vertically brushed bracelet which has a dramatic taper and polished chamfers. The lug-to-lug distance is relatively short at 41.5 mm so when combined with the bracelet taper the watch wears on the small side. The removable links are held with pins and ample space is given for adjusting the size for a smaller wrist. The push button clasp has a micro-adjust pin and engraved logo with a solid feeling. The finishing on the case and bracelet is a lot nicer than any reasonable person could hope for in a watch at this price point.

The Dial

The rehaut is in cyan with 1 second hash marks with ⅕ of a second marks in between. Of note, the chronograph is accurate to 1/5 second so this is a correct interval for the track. Every 5th second is in yellow and the track itself is yellow between 25 and 35 seconds. The 25 to 35 second indicator is a hallmark of Brew chronographs and indicates when an espresso shot has reached its optimal flavor. By having the track on the rehaut, the rest of the dial is simplified. The background is matte black with an inset coffee bean logo at 3 o’clock. The coffee bean replaces the 24 hour indicator which is the standard subdial in this position for a VK68. Although one might argue that it makes the watch asymmetric, I think the asymmetry fits the overall aesthetic. In fact, I prefer what Mr. Ferrer has done here because I always find the VK68 24 hour subdial to be visually confusing due to its similarity to a hour counter subdial on a purely mechanical chronograph.

The hour markers are steel bars with a luminous strip in the center and a lume dot just beyond the markers. The hour and minute hands have a similar, 1970’s style look except with a distal 1/3 of the hour hand and 1/2 of the minute hand in yellow which calls out to the yellow in the rehaut track. In vintage watches I am always a little concerned with this hand shape because the dried out tritium tends to fall out but of course in this modern watch the luminous material is Superluminova and not going anywhere. A sundial at 6 o’clock contains a black running seconds hand against a white background that ticks due to the quartz movement. The subdial has a surprising amount of detail, with a circular texture and a stepped outer track. The 60 minute counter subdial at 9 o’clock is again in black and white with a similar stepped appearance and circular texture but is given some pop with orange indicator tracks on alternating five minute intervals. This orange color connects the minute counter subdial to the orange center seconds counter hand which is further emphasized by a round counterweight. There is a color matched date wheel at 4 o’clock.

The Movement

It is clear from the above description that the dial and case has been carefully designed and well-finished. The affordable price point comes from the use of a Seiko VK68 hybrid meca-quartz movement. I need to give a little background to explain what a meca-quartz is.

A mechanical watch has a mainspring that provides power for the watch to run which is slowed down by an escapement in order to provide correct time and not unwind immediately. The hands are driven by a gear train which by providing different ratios in terms of different size wheels, can rotate one a minute for a running seconds, an hour for a minute hand, or 12 hours for an hour hand. A mechanical chronograph is basically a separate gear train that can plug or unplug into the timekeeping function with a button push. A quartz watch has an integrated circuit that senses the vibrations of a quartz crystal that has had a current applied to it and counts them. It then tells a stepper motor to move the hands forward. In a purely quartz chronograph, there are separate stepper motors for the chronograph hands that work in the same way. 

There are three main differences between mechanical and quartz chronographs in terms of the chronograph function itself:

  1. The pusher activation and reset in a mechanical chronograph is more of a mechanical “click” compared to a softer, mushier feeling for the quartz.
  2. The seconds counter hand is run by a stepper motor in the quartz chronograph so it may “tick” in one second intervals instead of sweeping.
  3. When resetting the chronograph, the quartz chronograph counter hands will slowly run clockwise instead of “snapping” back into place.

The Seiko VK series hybrid meca-quartz movements are a quartz watch movements that have two stepper motors. The first drives the hands as in any quartz watch. The second stepper motor runs at 5 steps per second and drives a chronograph module that has a limited gear train that functions like a mechanical chronograph. 1/5 second accuracy is the same as a chronograph on a mechanical watch with an older beat rate of 18,000 VPH. This allows the chronograph to have a “click” activation, the seconds counter hand to sweep, and the chronograph counter hands to snap back into place using a heart cam as they would in a mechanical chronograph. Often the only indicator that it is quartz besides the typical subdial and date window locations for the usual Seiko VK family movements is that the running seconds will tick in one second intervals. The VK68 caliber has the additional advantage that its height is only 5.10 mm, allowing for a quite thin watch. 

These movements are popular in microbrand watches because they are inexpensive. My personal experience with them is that the seconds counter hand tends to get a bit misaligned with use. Ultimately I consider them to have the convenience of a quartz watch with a little piece of mechanical flavor and that the watch has to be judged on its other qualities as long as the price point is reasonable.

Conclusion

The Brew Metric Retro Dial is the most fun I’ve had with watches in a long time. It provides thoughtful and original design executed impeccably at an astonishingly affordable price point. The design language is refreshing in that it refers back to the colorful and quirky yet neglected 1970’s. However, unlike some other microbrands, it doesn’t replicate an old design but rather remixes it and creates something entirely new and bold. The worst thing about watches is that a lot of the time many of them look the same. The Metric Retro Dial is like a drinking a cold brew for the first time on a hot summer day. It quenches your thirst for novelty and energizes you at the same time.

At $395 it’s really a no-brainer to buy this watch which I’m sure is why it’s currently sold out.