Hands-On Review – The Tockr Air-Defender Hulk Is Totally Punk Rock

The Skinny

  • 45mm
  • Valjoux 7750 Chronograph Movement, high grade with multiple customized features
  • Hydro-Dipped case
  • $2850 on HIX Strap

It’s A Big Watch – That’s The Whole Point

Let’s dispense with the whole obsession over size and just note that for some of us watch wonks a big bold watch is, sometimes, going to really rock our world. I remember seeing this watch for the first time on a press trip for Worn & Wound years ago, and I immediately pounced on it and said, “Oh man, look at that. I’d rock that with jeans and a white button down any day.” It wouldn’t have resonated as a smaller watch, I don’t think, because The Air-Defender Hulk is all about standing out boldly and unabashedly. Having gotten to know Tockr founders Austin Ivey and Sophy Rindler, I can say with some confidence that there is something akin to a punk spirit behind their insanely colorful hydro-dipped watches.

Playing With The Big Dogs

Very few small independent brands are executing dials with this level of craft and design excellence, and no one that I can see is hydro-dipping cases. You simply won’t find anything like it, and in today’s somewhat conformist indie scene with its obsession over smaller, vintage styled watches, Tockr gets a major pat on the back for actually being independent enough to do things differently – like real punks.

But it wasn’t the uniqueness that jumped out at me when I first saw the Air-Defender Hulk. There are lots of totally unique watches out there, and the most unique often turn my stomach. Instead, it was the way the very unique elements came together to form a totally coherent watch, one that – despite its unconventional design – possesses the balance and unity typically reserved for traditionally designed watches. This level of refined avante-gardism is usually reserved for very high-end brands like MB&F, Moser, Richard Mille, and so on. Tockr is playing in that space with a couple zeros crossed off.

This level of refined avante-gardism is typically reserved for very high-end brands like MB&F, Moser, and perhaps Richard Mille. Tockr is playing in that space with a couple zeros crossed off.

The Details Are Rich, Unique, and Unifying

There is so much going on in this watch, that it would bore you if I started to point it all out, but it wouldn’t bore you to take a loupe to the watch and explore its micro-world. In the interest of reducing boredom, I’m just going to let the following pics do the talking for a moment. Play around with this gallery by using the arrows.

The Clash, Post-Modern Mash-Ups, and Camo as High Fashion

People who have looked at my watch collection are surprised, even confused, to see the Air-Defender Hulk in it. I’ve got the typical sub-40mm vintage-styled suspects in there: a 40mm Bremont Supermarine Black, a 40mm Oris Divers 65, a 36mm Rolex Datejust, Grand Seiko at 39.5mm, and so on. That’s my wheelhouse, for sure. The Air-Defender is completely different, and that’s where the fun begins.

I’ve been weaving military-stuff into my wardrobe since I was in 8th-grade and discovered The Clash. That was 1983, the height of the Cold War, and we proto-punk kids all feared and hated Ronald Regan, Maggy Thatcher, Gorbachev, and the other power brokers building the weapons that would – we legitimately feared – destroy the human race. At my uptight WASPy private school, I wore an AK47 ammo belt around my waist, this paired with a tweed sportcoat, buttondown, and Ivy League tie. When asked by a teacher what I was doing, I explained that I was demonstrating the link between corporations and the military. I didn’t know the term Military-Industrial Complex yet. To my surprise, I actually stumped this teacher, who I remember shrugging and walking away.

That’s me at age 13

But that didn’t stop the dick-head, Mr. Waltz, who taught math poorly and eventually got tossed out of the school for hitting a kid, from dicking me over. I got detention for the ammo belt, and I turned the bust into a protest about the right for students to express themselves. That got the headmaster, also a dick-head who ended his career in a shameful forced retirement, to extend my detention periods to five. I soon realized how (what I would later call) hegemony worked: thugs in power positions limit the free expression of those who oppose them.

So, when I wear this big camo watch, I always feel the spirit of free expression, of defying the dress codes that – however subtly or benignly – exist in my social world today. Those codes are best represented by the smaller, more vintage-styled watches in my collection and the “tasteful,” slightly urbanized preppy garb I tend to sport. It was Yves St. Laurent and Andy Warhol who made camo into high fashion, who understood camo’s disruptive power when mashed-up into a post-modern outfit that drew on the codes of Anti-Vietnam War protesters, and it was The Clash who took that idea to the extreme.

YWS and Warhol did not fuck around.

It was Yves St. Laurent and Andy Warhol who made camo into high fashion, who understood camo’s disruptive power when mashed-up into a post-modern outfit that drew on the codes of Anti Vietnam War protesters, and it was The Clash who took that idea to the extreme.

But I’m Not 13-yrs-old in 1983 – I’m 50 in 2020

Nostalgia sometimes sees me confusing long-expired symbolic meaning with current meanings, and I don’t always know how to tease those out from each other. Symbols are so versatile and prolific that we have to accept their endless supply of semiotic power and never believe there’s an intrinsically correct reading. Subjectively, wearing the Tockr Air-Defender Hulk can take me back to 8th-grade, reminding me of that ammo belt and that confrontation with authority figures who – I’d learn decades later – were, in fact, far worse thugs than I’d ever imagined.

But how do I make sense of this watch as a symbol in the present moment? To be honest, I don’t usually bother to make sense of it. I wear it, and my friends respond however they choose, and I just keep my subjective take on it private and enjoy it silently and alone. Today is June 12th, 2020, and we are in a moment of protest against thugs, and the punk spirit of this Tockr Air-Defender is rising within me as the current spirit of resistance, defiance and protest against today’s worst thugs rises around all of us. Today’s thugs are trying to get away with the same kind of hegemonic shit as those bad seeds in positions of authority at my high school – let alone their troubling idols, Regan and Thatcher.

Martin Gugino laying prone after being shoved by the same thug force that shoved me in Buffalo back in the day.

…we can never discount the power of wearing these punk symbols on our bodies to spark and bolster a meaningful spirit of defiance.

So, here I am at age 50 in the year 2020 thinking to myself: I know this watch is about as powerful as the ammo belt I wore in 8th-grade – that is: not that powerful – but we can never discount the power of wearing these punk symbols on our bodies to spark and bolster a meaningful spirit of defiance. There’s talk at home of going to D.C. for the anti-thug protests, and if we go, I’ll be wearing my Air-Defender Hulk because it’ll inspire and comfort me. And for that, the Air-Defender’s connection to Tockr-founder Autin Ivey’s grandfather who fought the good fight as a pilot in WWII rings clear as a bell. There was once a time when the The Land of Stars and Stripes itself was a very powerful and triumphant Anti-Fascist force. As our own President now declares Anti-Fascists domestic terrorists, we need every bit of the punk spirit we can get.