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EdgyGuyJide

The Value Proposition The William L. 1985 Automatic Chronograph

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We've been following the watches from William L. 1985 ever since the company launched its first Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, and we've been consistently impressed with what we've seen. The basic idea behind the brand is to offer vintage inspired watches at very affordable prices – the target audience is anyone who loves the look, specifically, of chronograph watches from the 1950s and wants the enjoyment of vintage watches without the headaches that can come with them (and the expense). William L. 1985 (the company name is taken from the name and birth year of founder Guillaume Laidet) launched with quartz chronographs and a very attractive diver's watch (which at 36.5mm was very faithful to the vintage dive watch genre) and followed up, in 2016, with a range of automatic time-only watches which, pre-ordered on Kickstarter, were just €399. 

Naturally a lot of people were wondering if and when William L. 1985 was ever going to offer a mechanical chronograph, and the company now has just what the doctor ordered: a beautifully styled self-winding chronograph with an excellent mechanical movement, made by Seiko.

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At launch, there will be several versions available; cases are in stainless steel, with options for case finishing that include ion-plated (PVD) black or rose gold. Dimensions are 41mm x 14mm thick, and about 45mm lug to lug. This is a more contemporary size than many of the vintage chronographs whose designs these watches echo (but probably more widely appealing). There will be several dial variations as well, including a really appealing panda-dial model – we had the white dial with rose gold case, and panda dial with stainless steel case, here in the office for a test drive. There's also an option to have the dial without a date window, if you prefer.


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The appeal of William L. 1985 watches is refreshingly straightforward – you get a cool look, an almost suspiciously affordable price, and best of all, great execution. From the beginning the thing that impressed us most about these watches was the build quality – they're quite well made, with very cleanly executed cases and dials. The applied indexes, gently textured subregisters, and crisp printing all give the watches a pleasantly rich feel, in a quiet way. You've got sapphire front and back, with double sided antireflective coating on the front crystal, and as with previous offerings from this company, there are a lot of different strap and bracelet options. Also as with previous offerings, straps and bracelets come with quick-change springbars.

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The movement, of course, is the biggest news: it's the Japan-manufactured Seiko NE88A. This is a relatively new movement for Seiko – it was released in 2014, and it's used by Seiko for its own watches but is also available to third party manufacturers. The NE88A is 28.60mm x 7.62mm; it's self-winding, but can be hand-wound as well. Frequency is 28,800 vph, with a power reserve of 45 hours (with the chronograph off) and a quickset date. Most attractively, it's column wheel controlled and operation of the pushers has a smoothness and clarity of feel that's significantly better than anything you'd normally expect from a value-conscious watch. In fact, the tactile experience is significantly better than what you'll find in some far more expensive chronographs. This is one of those instances where economies of scale in manufacturing result in a major benefit to consumers.

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Pricing from William L. 1985 is always a pleasant surprise, and the Automatic Chronograph is no exception; pre-ordered on Kickstarter, it's €499, which I think is some kind of record. The biggest potential problem for an accessibly priced mechanical chronograph is sourcing a dependable movement, but here you've got nothing to worry about – Seiko movements are nothing if not extremely reliable, and to get an honest-to-Betsy column wheel movement for this price is pretty fantastic.

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The problem with buying a watch on a budget is that a lot of the time, you notice where corners have been cut, and you feel like you're settling for less. In this case, though, you just feel like you're getting a great watch. It seems too good to be true but it isn't, which I think makes these chronographs from William L. 1985 a true Value Proposition.

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