Hands On With The Visitor Watch Co. Duneshore

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Today, we are going to mix things up a little bit for you. Obviously, Kickstarter watches are not anything new. What is new (or at least different, as of late), is that it will not be Matt covering it. As it turns out, Visitor Watch Co. is a short train ride from Chicago, so its owner, Phil Rodenbeck, hopped on over to give me a hands-on look at the debut models in the Calligraph collection: the Visitor Watch Co. Duneshore.

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When we sat down to talk, I asked Rodenbeck a little bit about his background. Educated as an engineer, he would use his spare time coming up with watch designs in CAD. Some of these designs he tried pitching to brands, but nobody was really buying designs from unknown third parties. Realizing it was down to a “now or never” sort of situation, Rodenbeck resigned from his engineering job and put his full attention into making his watches a reality.

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I have to say, you do need to admire that level of commitment. Many of us would try to do this up in our spare time, kind of hedging our bets. Rodenbeck, on the the other hand, believes in what he has designed, and I have to say, it is a design quite unlike anything I have seen before, especially in the crowd-funded circuits. That is where we will start with the watch – its look (we will come back to the name in a bit). First up, we have the case, which is rather unique. Full of angles, it isn’t quite a cushion case, nor is it quite a rectangular case. Toss in the round bezel rising up, and you have something that is quite its own.

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That is a theme that carries forward when you move to the dial. These days, you generally expect to see applied indices or a sandwich dial construction – not both. On the Duneshore, though, that is exactly what we have. The sandwich shows up in the outer edge of the dial, where small lumed openings mark out the minutes. Speaking of openings and lume, there is another surprise in store here – not only is the date wheel color reverse (white numerals on black), the numerals themselves are lumed. Add in the lumed company name and handset, and you will have a watch that should be fun to see in the dark (it wasn’t quite dark enough for me to check that out).

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With the handset, we again have a shape that I have not seen before on a watch. You have narrow hands that bloom into the end tips that are reminscent of fountain pen nibs (another passion of Rodenbeck’s, and something else that he’ll be selling). While we are on the hands, take a look at the counterweight of the seconds hand – it is a stylized version of the Visitor Watch Co logo (more on that in a bit as well).

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So, that is just the front of the watch – unique and readable all in its own right. Flip the watch over, and you have another surprise waiting for you – a curved exhibition caseback that shows off the Miyota 9015 and its customized rotor. Aside from being a styling choice, the curve helps the watch to fit to your wrist. The mineral crystal (of note, the front crystal is sapphire) is curved as well, which leads to some interesting distortion effects (some angles make it look almost like sand dunes inside). This caseback was a particular point of pride for Rodenbeck, and rightly so. Not only do you have the curve of the caseback itself (and the issues with the crystal), there are curves on the case, which required some pretty precise tolerances to make sure everything fit together properly. Though these were prototypes, everything I saw (in my admittedly limited time with the watches) looked like fit and finish were good.

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An important part of the watch you buy is of course the strap, and there are some rather nice options coming with the Duneshore. Coloration varies a bit depending on which dial color you opt for (black, beige, or green), but there are three different materials in use – calfskin, deerskin, and ostrich. That is, assuming the campaign hits the stretch goals. Frankly, anyone who backs the watch should hope for those goals to be hit, because these were some of the nicer “stock” straps I have seen, including a buckle that mimics the case shape. That also reminds me – take a close look at those lugs. They taper a bit into a rolled profile that mimics the rolled edge of the strap – another small detail done well.

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Before we wrap things up with the pricing, we need to come back to a couple of items I said I would cover later. First up, we have the names. The Duneshore is named because Rodenbeck grew up not far from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. As it was such a formative part of his life, he wanted to honor it – and aside from the name, the dunes obviously influenced the case design. What about the name of the overall collection, Calligraph? This is a verb form of the word calligraphy (now you know how those nib handsets came to be). Extending the definition of calligraph, it turns into something that could be called “communicating beautifully” – and this is something we watch folks can understand. Sure, an LCD is precise, but an analog mechanical watch is something of beauty.

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Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about that logo. I don’t have a good closeup of it from my photos, but we did talk a bit about it. In essence, it is based off of a lions head doorknocker. You know, something a visitor might use coming up to a house. Rodenbeck always loved these types of knockers, so he incorporated it into the very logo of his company. As you can tell, there is definitely a lot of the man himself in these designs. I have gone on at length about this watch, so you can tell this is one that resonated with me. While I realize the case design may be a bit polarizing for some, I think there is a lot to like here – especially when we talk about the pricing. Early-bird pricing will start at $480, with two $20 bumps at subsequent levels; full retail on the watches will be $650.

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Given how unique this watch is when compared against other Kickstarter options (both past and present), it really does seem that the Visitor Watch Co. Duneshore is quite a steal, especially at those early bird prices. Yes, the project is an ambitious one (strictly looking at the funding goal), but it is one I certainly hope that we see easily met.  UPDATE:  As of November 11, the project is fully-funded, so these watches will come to fruition!

Should the design strike a chord with you, head on over to the project page and get your pledge in. That is, once you’ve made the hard decision of a Beach, Blue Slate, or Forest Ore dial; just be sure to make up your mind before the campaign closes on December 3rd. visitorwatchco.com

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: Visitor Watch Co. Duneshore
  • Price: $480 and up
  • Who we think it might be for: This watch is for you if you have been on the hunt for a design quite unlike anything you’ve seen before
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Indeed I would
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: That plain crown is just crying out for the logo to be on it (preferably engraved)
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: The uniqueness of the design
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