William L. 1985 was founded in 2015 by Guillaume Laidet (hence the name William L. – Guillaume is the French for William). A French entrepreneur with a passion for watchmaking, Guillaume used to work in Switzerland for high-end brands such as Zenith and Jaeger-LeCoultre. When he founded his own brand, his idea was to offer vintage-inspired timepieces that would be both functional and affordable. After the successful launch, William L. 1985 is now back on Kickstarter to unveil an automatic chronograph presented as the ‘most affordable in the market’ and priced just under EUR 500 (Kickstarter price).
The William L. 1985 Automatic chronograph is a no-nonsense stopwatch that makes a good first impression with its elegant, vintage-inspired spirit. The round case is a well thought-out design with a sloped bezel, tapered lugs, mushroom-type push-pieces and a fluted crown engraved with the brand’s logo. At 41 mm, it is (to me at least) perfectly sized and should fit comfortably on most wrists. The technical specs are evident of the brand’s commitment to deliver quality watches. These include 316L steel (with IP coating for some versions), water-resistance of 100m / 10 ATM and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with double-sided, anti-reflective coating. The overall finish is well executed with alternating brushed and polished surfaces.
The dial features a traditional 3-6-9 layout paired with dynamic hands with luminescent material. Several versions are offered: white, black, blue or panda. The applied hour markers add a sense of depth while the tachymeter and telemeter scales bring a sporty ‘vintage’ touch. The date is indicated between 4 and 5 o’clock. Some would have preferred a dial without the date window, stoking the good ol’ “date/no date” debate.
Turning the watch over, the exhibition case-back allows discovering the chronograph mechanism. The movement decoration is simple but clean; its rotor is adorned with Geneva stripes. The William L. 1985 Automatic Chronograph is powered by the Seiko NE 88 movement. Launched in 2014, this automatic chronograph is a modern construction. It is activated by a column-wheel, and it features a vertical clutch avoiding the second hand ‘jump’ often seen with horizontal clutches. It also incorporates a triple-tipped hammer to simultaneously and instantly reset all chronograph indications. It operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a 45-hour power reserve. The stop-seconds function allows for precise time setting. Now consider that this watch is not even close to a 4-digit price tag… Column-wheel and vertical clutch is usually the apanage of Rolex, Omega or much more exclusive brands.
The watch is worn on a choice of leather (alligator or buffalo style), silicon or canvas straps. Stainless steel or mesh bracelets are also available. A quick-release spring bar system allows you to change the strap easily. It comes with a 5-year warranty from the date of purchase, and it is delivered in a leather pouch.
Priced at EUR 499 on Kickstarter (future retail price: EUR 699), the William L. 1985 Automatic Chronograph represents unbeatable value for money. It is always tricky to label a product as the ‘most affordable’ on the market, but without a doubt, it is an impressive package for its price. In short, it is a winning choice if you are looking for an automatic chronograph that will be a perfect companion for everyday wear and tear – especially if you are not the kind of person who needs a famous brand name to impress his friends.
Click here to be taken to the Kickstarter campaign for all the details, including smartwatches that are also proposed by William L. 1985. For more information about its current offerings, please visit www.williaml1985.com.