A week with Melbourne Watch’s Collins 38 left me impressed with the details but underwhelmed with the value proposition. This is a well-composed dressy watch and other than the strap and crown it doesn’t miss any beats. But I’m not sure the Collins is greater than the sum of its parts. The parts are nice, but the whole package leaves me wondering if something from Seiko or Orient or Tissot would be a better value. At the very least, the Collins needs to compete with the likes of those major brands to find a place in this modern dress watch category (Can it be a “dress watch” with a second hand and date window? We’ll leave that controversy for the comments.)

It’s thin at 9.8 mm. The sunburst dial is striking. The applied batons are thick. The hands are razor-sharp dauphine swords. The second hand is a slender pinpoint, with a love-it or hate-it Melbourne “M” counterbalancing its delicate business end. The 6:00 date window is dressed in chrome and ample for the white-on-black date wheel. Seemingly every surface is brightly polished. The slab-sided case is ideal for a dress watch at 38 mm, with a slight bevel at the base to keep things interesting and a flat sapphire crystal on top. The Miyota 9015 is even decorated with striped bridges and a subtle sunburst bordering a textured edge on the rotor. It’s all visible through an exhibition case back, deeply engraved around the edge with relevant info.

All that adds up to watch that is great on paper but lacks much presence. It’s lightweight and the rotor tends to jangle occasionally, reinforcing the hollow feeling. The faux-croc strap is a real weak point, extremely stiff with uneven stitching; a signed, ornate buckle makes up some of the ground lost to the obstinate leather, but I would replace the strap. The signed crown looks long at 6 mm x 3 mm, but the thick and slightly rounded knurling makes it very hard to turn.

Then there’s the price, ~$500 at press time. It’s hard to play the is-it-worth-it game. Value is subjective. But direct comparisons are easy in this category. The Orient Bambino or Star, Tissot Le Locle, and Seiko SARB all cost less and deliver a similar package, although only the Tissot matches the Collins for thinness. But the Seiko gives you a decent bracelet and the Orients are all in-house.

The Collins 38 reminds me of a guy we all know, maybe even named Collin, who comes to the party with a nice bottle of chardonnay for the host, politely talks to all the guests, and then politely leaves. A nice guy Collin, unassailable and pleasant, but not particularly memorable—even if he is rail thin. But for every Collin there is a Jane or a Joe who finds his simple composure charming in its own way. And I suspect for every Collins 38 there is an understated guy who wants a simple nice-looking watch from a micro brand on the rise. I’m just not that guy. melbournewatch.com.au

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: Melbourne Watch Collins 38 (CL.38.A.3HD.05)
  • Price: $501.98
  • Who we think it might be for: You like a slim watch for under the cuff, automatic, and it must be understated.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Not for myself.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: The strap and crown are in need of attention. It doesn’t have enough personality.
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: On paper, the specs look really good.

Tech Specs from Melbourne Watch

  • Case size: 38mm (45.8mm lug-to-lug), 9.8mm thickness
  • Case material: 316L stainless steel
  • Crystal: flat, sapphire
  • Strap: faux croc, pin buckle clasp
  • Dial diameter: 32.5 mm
  • Crown: 5.95 mm x 3 mm
  • Lug width: 18 mm
  • Strap thickness (case x buckle): 4.7 mm x 2 mm
  • Claimed water resistance: 5 ATM (50 m)
  • Dial options: silver, grey, black, blue, champagne with gold-tone case
  • Movement: Miyota Cal. 9015 Auto

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