- Diameter: 38mm
- Height: 11mm
- Movement: Regulated ETA 2824-2 with no-date modification
- Water resistance: 50m
- Price: £2,100 (UK) / $2500 (US)
I’m not one to normally associate watches with significant life events. I will often purchase a watch as part of a collecting plan and not as a reward to myself. In that respect, my watch purchases are individual steps on a collecting journey rather than a destination in themselves. This anOrdain, however, is different: it is a present to myself for reaching the grand old age of 50.
Enamored by Enamel
anOrdain is a small independent watch manufacturer based in Glasgow, Scotland. Its artisans design and create watches with Swiss movements and vitreous Grand Feu enameled dials. Formed in 2015 with a core team of three in Glasgow, the company is now ten-strong in 2021 and employs multiple expert enamelers, designers, typographers and watchmakers. The company may have grown but the creative focus remains the laborious process fusing glass to metal at 800 degrees celsius (1472 F).
Two models are produced, named unsurprisingly as the Model 1 and the Model 2. The Model 1 is a more of a dress watch and the Model 2 is more of a field watch. I use the terms deliberately loosely since these are watches with exceptionally beautiful glass dials and so to some extent defy the common appreciation of existing style labels. In December 2020, anOrdain released photos their Model 1 watches sporting newly developed fumé dials and I was immediately captivated. The sheer visual impact of the dials reminded of me of Moser and the brightly colored fume dials of their watches . However, the connection I felt with those images, turned out to be more than skin deep.
The Scottish Connection
As I stared at the images on the website, a realization dawned. This watch, this Scottish watch, should be my 50-year present to myself. You see, I am Scottish by parentage and spent holidays far north of the border from my English domicile. My parents left their highland fishing village in their 20s to travel the world. They spent time in Africa, lived in the Yemen, and explored the Khyber pass in Afghanistan. My siblings first school was in Singapore and still remember their earthquake drills from that time.
By the time I arrived, London, suburbia was home and the only experiences I have of those places were the frequent slideshows my father would present at the weekend. The only traveling happening by then was the biannual pilgrimage back to visit grandparents in that village on the Moray firth. Ironically for me, it was always Scotland, and never England, that felt like home. As I got older, I ventured farther a field and discovered the wild West Coast and fairy tale islands of my family’s far history. The West Coast and Skye in particular became a frequent haunt for hiking, fishing and photography trips regardless of the considerable distance from my adopted Belgian home.
A Scottish watch for my birthday. Nothing seemed more fitting to me in that moment. The fact that I had spent two years enameling at high school, even dabbling in Cloisonné techniques, simply underlined that this was the right watch for me. The only issue was the colour choice. The first image I had seen was of the grey dial and in the back of my mind I knew that was the more wearable option, the one watch that could be dressed up, dressed down, good at the office or at dinner. But this was a purchase of the heart, of my 50 year-old connection to an ancient homeland! The dial had to be green – the green of the verdant landscapes of my youth. The lead time would be 2 months, which meant delivery during my birth month. The order was placed and I went to bed.
I awoke to an email confirmation from anOrdain informing me that production would start towards the end of December with delivery at the end of February.
Old Crafts, New Hands
anOrdain’s Model 1 uses a simple 38mm polished stainless steel case that frames and focuses the attention on the dial. It’s a little taller than you may expect due to additional height required for the layered enameled dial. However, its still just 12 mm and even with plain vertical sides, the case never feels too tall. The polished bezel is wide enough at 3mm to avoid the dial appearing too large. This is a 38mm watch that looks exactly like a 38mm watch. It will be too small for some I suspect but it is perfect for my 7.25” wrist. The proportions are excellent with a ‘mere’ 18mm between the lugs.
The cases, as with everything bar the movement, are made in-house in Glasgow’s centrally-located, converted Templeton Carpet Factory. On the wrist, the impression is very much akin to the Moser watches I have worn. The dial demands attention and then holds it with the sheer depth of colour. While the magic spell of the Moser’s fumé effect is most effective when viewed from a distance, the anOrdain encourages a much closer inspection. The coloured glass layers have a depth that painted fumé dials lack. The surface of the dial is ground and polished perfectly flat, some way below that surface is the textured and dished metal dial that gives both the texture and the shading effect you see in the photos. In between is the enamel, now fused into translucent green stained glass.
Sometimes, it looks as though the face of the watch is actually solid glass from the subtly curved crystal crystal down to the lower levels of the enamel. Only the occasional shadow of a hand indicates there is a second glass surface within to break the illusion. The even-numbered hour numerals are printed on the finished dials in a straw-gold colour that both contrasts against the darker edge of the dial and matches the hand-tempered colour of the hands. Outside of the hour numerals is the minute track albeit in a regular font rather than the bespoke anOrdain font used for the numbers. The hands are a unique design with the hour and minute hands having similar ‘skyscraper’ shapes but with the minute hand hollow. The second hand is a regular stick hand. There is no lume anywhere on the dial.
The watch can be ordered with one of ten different straps from shell cordovan leather to suede. If you have trouble choosing which dial to order, then your task will not get simpler choosing your strap. I found the choice quite daunting. In the end, I went with the Russian Hatch Bovine strap because while predominantly a dark brown colour, it has a just a hint of a purple hue that thought would complement the green of the dial nicely. The branded strap is thick but supple with an attractive matte textured finish. The quality is good and I will be interested to see how the leather stands up to heavy use over time. The strap is finished by a simple stainless buckle signed with the ‘A’ logo repeated from the crown.
Behind the customized caseback lies an ETA 2824-2 running at 28800 vph movement modified to remove the date complication. The use of an off-the shelf ETA is understandable even if the price point of the watch itself makes that choice feel a touch ‘low end’. However, the point of this watch is the dial created by the artists in Glasgow, and not the magnificence of the movement. The difficulty and reject rate of the dial manufacturing sets the price point here, not the choice of movement.
The removal of the date complication affects the action of the crown and stem which is a little stiff compared to an unmodified ETA. The power reserve is unchanged at 38 hours. anOrdain regulate the watches in house before delivery and I was re-assured to be asked if I would be wearing the watch on my left or right wrist in order to regulate accordingly. My timegrapher records an error rate of between 0 and +2 seconds per day in all positions which is a significant improvement over a base ETA 2824.
Enamel-dial watches are rare and generally expensive but can also be incredibly beautiful. Most watch manufacturers choose not to make them because of the difficulty and the low yield of enameling. High difficulty and low yield generally means a high price. Seiko’s enamel Presage is over $1000. Ball’s enamel Trainmaster is $2500. The watches of Lundis Bleues, a Swiss independent specializing in enamel dials, begin at around $4000. Tutima’s enamel dial Patria retails at over $6000 albeit with Glashütte traditional watchmaking included. However, none of these manufacturers produce fumé enamel dials at any price. This fact alone makes the anOrdain a uniquely-valued proposition in the current watch space.
When I placed my order I was confident I would love the dial. The website photos don’t lie – the dial is just as stunning in reality. What I was unsure of was the rest of the watch… The case which reminds me strongly of a smaller-scale Tutima Patria with its vertical sides and small crown guards, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The crystal sitting flush with the top of the bezel gives the watch a clean modern look despite the conservative styling. Perhaps one area of the watch that could be improved would be to polish the case back. While I appreciate the opportunity to customize my watch, and would not want to change that, I think a polished finish on the casebook would me that area look even better.
For anyone looking for something unique in their dress watch, something a little more avant- garde, something rare but with a reliable Swiss ETA movement at a fair price, the anOdain Model 1 makes a compelling proposition.
This watch will be always be within my family. It will definitely not be subject to the usual vagaries of watch collecting. This one is most certainly a keeper and the next owner has already been decided – my youngest, who’s middle name is, appropriately, Skye.