New start-ups are always exciting. Exciting for the people behind its launch, exciting for the people that might be interested, exciting for us journalists to investigate something new. One of the few platforms to launch your projects is based on a crowdfunding campaigns, through Kickstarter for instance, like we’ve seen on numerous occasions, over the last couple of years. We probably missed one or two interesting products along the way, but this time it is CJR Watches’ turn with their new Airspeed concept. Here we give you the full rundown of the CJR Watches Airspeed Black and Beige in one go, just in time, as the campaign started today.
Thoughts about crowdfunding
Before we look at the watches at hand, I want to share a few thoughts about crowdfunding a watch brand/collection/model. Sure, launching a Kickstarter campaign is a good way to see if your idea has a target market, and seems achievable enough to actually produce. On one hand a limited investment is needed as production starts after and often only if a project has been funded and on the other hand you can test your concept, to find out if you can create enough attention to make it profitable. There are however, a few drawbacks not to forget when starting an adventure like this. The first one; it’s not your own money. If a project is funded, you HAVE to deliver. Even if along the way you find out things cannot be done, or not in the way you intended. If that happens there are two ways to go basically: refund, or push on.
The second; is to create a buzz. Every day brings us new projects and new stuff to get excited about. I recently pledged on my very first Kickstarter project ever, and invested in a mini-gimbal for my GoPro. Making a pledge myself also brought forth another downside, this time around for the investor. Lead time; It takes a significant amount of time before a product is delivered to your doorstep after you’ve pledged your hard-earned cash. Sometimes weeks but more often months and this is surely something to keep in the back of your mind before taking the plunge. Remember though, you actually get a pretty cool thing that you really like as one of the very first in the world! How cool is that?
Ok, back to the topic at hand, in this case the duo of CJR Watches Airspeed we have in for a review. It is not the first launch through a crowdfunding platform for CJR Watches, founded by Calvin Nguyen Jr. The first one was a reasonable success, the Velocita, but this is worlds apart from that initial start-up, to be honest. The CJR Watches Airspeed is an affordable, entry-level regulator with automatic movement and some interesting design cues.
Overall appearance of the CJR Watches Airspeed
The first thing I thought when opening up the box and glimpsed the watches inside was “Ok, this is different!” That might not always be a good thing, and you Monochromists know us for being super critical about our watches, but bear with me as there is something to say for this new launch. The pebble like case is quite different from the stuff we normally see, and somewhat reminded me of a Ressence (Don’t judge me too hard, completely different concepts) in terms of look. The domed hexalite covering the front AND back makes it super smooth and playful from just about every angle. The overall design is said to be inspired by aviation instruments and I can see the resemblance in the subdials, style of the hands and more.
Whether you opt for the black or beige version, you get the same basic design but in a different colorway. CJR Watches claim that the beige version is the dressy one, but it takes a different impression of dressy, from what I felt. Regardless, this can be worn in a business environment but people will probably not expect it. A Patek will just hold up more in a boardroom than this but who cares about that, right?
Features CJR Watches Airspeed
The most noticeable feature is not really a feature, but a specificity that is a result of the design. The domed hexalite on the front and back gives it an airy, pebble like design. This also brings a playful touch to the watch. You never snag on anything, it is always smooth to the touch, regardless of the angle or part you fondle, and you can see the colored gasket surrounding the movement which is quite funky!
Besides this, if you consider it a feature or not, the watch indicates time in a Regulator style. This means the indications for hours, minutes and seconds are divided with three separate hands, on three separate subdials. Most of the times, a regulator watch is a bit difficult to read intuitively, and takes a little bit of time to get used to. When looking at it in a glance though, I feel you really only have to focus on the minutes as you have some rough idea of the hour of the day, based upon your own internal clock. Sure there are situations that you need the full time of the moment, and at that point it might take a second look to fully read the time. CJR Watches call it the curved regulator by the way, since the subdials are not spread across the dial into one straight line (whether horizontal or vertical).
To finish off the features, the CJR Watches Airspeed is equipped with an automatic movement, including a date indication at 3 o’clock which cuts into the subdial for the small seconds.
Dial and hands
The dial is quite busy, and unusual in its layout – choices that don’t really benefit legibility. That is a bit of an issue with the CJR Watches Airspeed, but not one you can’t overcome. Like I mentioned before, people generally have some notion of the hour of the day, so you could just suffice with checking the minute. Being a regulator, that is always the largest, centrally mounted hand of the timepiece, making it the easiest to read.
The dial of the CJR Watches Airspeed does have some design elements that are reminiscent of aircraft instruments. Take the 24 hour subdial for instance, which has the trademark aviator triangle at the top. This subdial has vintage lettering, either white on a black dial or black on a beige dial, and is placed on the left side of the dial. It is divided into 1 hour segments with digits for the even hours except the 6 (which is where the stem of the central minute hand comes through the dial). The hour hand is a tad short but still usable enough to read the correct hour. Due to the overlapping subdials and minute hand it can become difficult to read the full time between 4 and 8 o’clock however.
Moving over to the middle of the dial, the minute hand stretches towards the edge of the entire dial and follows a segmented track. For the first 15 minutes of the running hour, it follows a track divided into one minute increments with large markers for every 5 minutes (0, 5, 10 and 15 minutes) and small markers in between for every single minutes. Outside of the dial there is a bezel sandwiched in between two domes, which features a full minute track with again large markers for every 5 minutes and smaller ones in between.
Moving to the final time indication of the dial requires looking at the right side of the dial, where the small seconds follows a segmented track on its own. In both versions of the CJR Watches Airspeed, this resembles an altimeter like design, with colored segments mimicking an actual aircraft airspeed indicator. If you look at the black version it is features a red/yellow/green segment with the green bit broken up by the date window at 3 o’clock. The beige version features red/dark grey/light grey segments and again the date window of course.
The dial is finished with a very slim cutout around the small seconds and hour subdials showing you a tiny bit of the movement. It is a subtle touch but does add some liveliness to the dial. Completing the design is the company’s logo in silver at 1 o’clock with the models name subscribed in white. Two screws seem to be holding the dial in place, but I think these are decorative, judging the depth of the x-marking that a screwdriver is supposed to grab. It seems too shallow to actually be able to (un)screw it. A small touch, which you see in several other watches too so I’d disregard it really.
Case and strap
If you look at the CJR Watches Airspeed, there isn’t really something like a case. It really only has a caseband sandwiched in between two domed hexalite covers. The slim caseband, in polished steel or PVD coated steel, is really the only bit that could pass as a case. The 43mm wide CJR Watches Airspeed wears very light due to the slim profile of the actual case. It doesn’t carry a lot of weight since there is very little steel there to begin with. The thickness of the watch is just shy of 15mm at the highest point but it wears nice and snug om the wrist.
This comfortable fit is partly due to the strong, angled wire lugs attached to the case-ring. The flat black finish of the ring, or the high polished steel ring on the beige version, are super smooth to the touch and aligns sharply with the hexalite domes. To stay true to the smooth finishing of the case and domes, the fully round crown is again without any gnarled or ground surface. Interestingly enough, where we would normally call this crown too smooth to be operated properly, the pebble like build of the CJR Watches Airspeed it grabs pretty good and adjusting time and date is quite easy.
The CJR Watches Airspeed comes attached to a leather strap and a simple pin-buckle. The black version comes on a black leather strap with white stitching, the beige one on a light brown leather strap with red stitching to match the red touches on the dial.
Movement of the CJR Watches Airspeed
Inside of the hexalite pebble is an automatic Miyota 8219 movement, with its central hour hand removed. Normally the 24h subdial is used as a second time zone indication, but CJR Watches opted to make this into a regulator style watch. The 8219 movement has been around for quite some time now and is a sought after solution for micro-brands and new start-ups like the Trintec Zulu-03 Altimeter we reviewed a while back. You can also find varieties of the 82-series Miyota movements in watches priced a little higher from SevenFriday or Dietrich to name just two. Still, in terms of status and appeal, the Swiss counterparts remain the favorite for most collectors to be honest, despite the fact these Japanese movements seem to work fine.
The finishing is basic, with a Côte de Genève stripe on the main bridge. The movement features 21 jewels and indicates time through hours/minutes/seconds and the date. The movement in the CJR Watches Airspeed is quit visible, due to the domes covering it (mainly on the back). This is a cool touch, even though the diameter of the movement is relatively small compared to the case (26mm versus a 43mm case). CJR Watches found a solution to make it look a bit larger, by adding a movement ring around it and engraving this with letterings like water resistance (30 meters) and “Airspeed by CJR”. Surrounding this ring is another ring, assuming in rubber, to protect the movement and provide a bit of extra water resistance probably. This ring is very visible, and done in a turquoise greenish color on the black version and red on the beige one. This ring is especially visible from the side of the watch, and adds another touch to the playful look of it. Fun part, the gasket if you will on the black version lights up under UV light!
Specifications of the CJR Watches Airspeed
- Case: 43mm wide, 14.8mm thick, 70 grams, steel/PVD coated steel, 30m water resistance
- Movement: Automatic Miyota 8219, hours/minutes/seconds/date function, 40 hours of power, 21,600 bph.
- Strap: leather, black or brown, pin buckle
- Price: Prices start at $329 for the earliest birds in the Kickstarter campaign and $359 for later contributors
The CJR Watches Airspeed collection is something different, like I said at the beginning of this review. Despite some of the drawbacks, it still managed to keep me entertained during the time I had with it. This is mostly the result of the amount of “fun” in the watch and less due to the non-traditional design choices the brand made. The pebble like design, the domed hexalite, the colored movement ring; it all adds to the playfulness of this very watch.
- Very affordable at $329 during Kickstarter campaign
- Unusual design elements allow for fun in a watch
- Pebble like design sets it apart from the masses
- Finishing seems on point considering price-level
- Choice of movement might put people off – but you can’t expect more at that price level
- Dial difficult to read at times
- Domed hexalite easily damaged on door seals and table corners
So, is it a timepiece that’s an absolute must-have for hardcore collectors and you would look foolish without? No, absolutely not. Consider this watch to be the playful summer’s watch you wear while exploring some beautiful city or just when you feel you need an easy-going timepiece on your wrist. Or maybe it should be the start of Junior’s collection? Could very well be, since it is a) an automatic, b) an affordable watch and c) something that will probably appeal to the younger watch-minded crowd out there. And of course, there are people who are going to think this is a cool piece, and don’t regard tradition as something they NEED to follow or embrace. And those people, are exactly the kind of people that are into these Kickstarter launches, if you ask me. So, to round off, in this case different is probably a very good thing!