The world of watches launched through crowdfunding by microbrands can be as murky as it is surprising. At MONOCHROME, we always tread carefully when crowdfunding projects are concerned. Every now and then, though, a project comes along that appeals to us in a certain way and looks quite promising. Last year we reviewed the surprising Mitch Mason Chronicle collection, the brand’s first-ever range of watches. Now, about a year later, Mitch Mason is ready to launch the next collection, and it is a rather compelling dive watch! We had the chance to go hands-on with a Mitch Mason Maelstrom prototype, and this is what we found.
The Chronicle really surprised us last year with its fresh, unexpected take on the concept of a field watch. The watch’s unconventionally shaped case, combined with nicely executed details, just clicked somehow. It offered great value for money with a nice design and a standout identity. Now that the second collection is about to be released, again through a Kickstarter campaign, we take a closer look at the brand’s first dive watch, the Maelstrom.
A Maelstrom is a natural phenomenon occurring in large open waters, mainly oceans. It is basically a very powerful whirlpool, where water rotates due to opposing currents or a current running into an obstacle. Comparable to when you drain your kitchen sink, only much, MUCH bigger and stronger. Some Maelstroms can be strong enough to disrupt and swallow small vessels, but incidents are rare. So basically, Maelstrom is a perfectly sensible name for a dive watch, isn’t it?
The Maelstrom is Mitch Mason’s take on diving watches and comes in a 40mm wide stainless steel case and a choice of four dial colours. We had the Ocean Grey variant, but there’s also a Steel Blue, Aphotic Black, or Marimo Green available at launch. Other dimensions for the case are a 12mm height, 47mm lug-to-lug and 20mm lug width. The Maelstrom features an inner rotating bezel operated by unscrewing the secondary crown at 2 o’clock. The inner bezel is sloped and visually bridges the space between dial and bezel/crystal. The bezel has a luminous triangle, accompanied by luminous indexes and numerals, and is finished with circular brushing.
The dial of all four models is finished with sunburst brushing. On the outside edge is a minute track, here in light blue, accompanied by four “Mitch Mason” style hour markers at 3, 6, 9, and 12, carried over from the Chronicle. The remaining hour markers extend from this minute track into the centre section of the dial. Additional cut-out digits backlit with the luminous lower dial at 3, 9, and 12 o’clock are interchanged with double-digit minute numerals. The signature Mitch Mason set of hands is coated with a good amount of luminous material.
As a prototype, some changes are expected before the final launch on Kickstarter. Changes include a slightly shortened hour hand, upgraded luminous coating, and some touch-ups on the caseback. At the bottom is a date window, and to be honest, this is the only downside I could find. For single-digit dates, there’s no issue, but for days numbered from 10 and upwards, the window, and thus the digits, get a little small and can’t always be read at a glance.
Powering the Mitch Mason Maelstrom is a Miyota 9015 automatic movement. Some people might argue it is inferior to a basic Swiss counterpart, but by now, it has proved its reliability. Selecting a Miyota 9015 for this makes good sense to me as it is a more than adequate movement and keeps prices acceptable. The movement runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and stores up to 42 hours of power when fully wound. The movement is hidden under a highly detailed 3D image of a whale, a fitting image on a dive watch. Water-resistance is, partly as a result of the solid caseback, of course, a good 300 metres.
The Mitch Mason Maelstrom comes on a solid steel bracelet with H-shaped links and a robust folding clasp. An integrated quick-change system allows you to exchange it for a leather or rubber strap easily. Even with straps lacking quick-release pushpins, changing the look is a breeze, thanks to the drilled lugs. With the 20mm wide bracelet at the lugs that tapers to 16mm at the buckle, it keeps the dimensions modest and the comfort very good. It all feels very solid and well built, even with this prototype model.
The Mitch Mason Maelstrom is launching on 1 October 2021 through Kickstarter. All four colours will be available during the campaign and after. During the campaign, prices start at USD 449, with the full retail price set at USD 599. The watch comes in a leather watch roll with space for a second and third watch or additional straps and a zipped pocket for a strap tool or polishing cloth.
At this price, you are getting a pretty complete package for your money, even with perhaps one or two details that could have been slightly better. The 300m water-resistance is very good, and the design is pleasant with original details creating its own identity, especially next to the Chronicle.
Note: The watch pictured is a prototype watch with some details that will be retouched before the final release.