Marty McFly:Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine … out of a DeLorean?
Doc: The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style? 

And this is how we got the DMC DeLorean Chronograph time machine watch.

Here’s what happens: We commit to publishing our honest opinion. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, we’re really disappointed, and it’s hard to appreciate a watch for what it is. Mostly, I’m disappointed when things have promise they don’t quite live up to. This is the difficulty, because we want to highlight cool watches, and help people find watches they can appreciate and enjoy wearing.

This watch makes me sad. It’s like you took a bunch of really good classic watches, and a good brand license, and then found ways to make it the worst way possible.

The watch is housed in a very Rolex-Daytona-like 42mm case with an oyster-like bracelet. Instead of Daytona eyes at 3-6-9, it has the more 7750-like layout at 6-9-12. All’s fine so far. But the watch is functionally only really useful for checking the time. As a chronograph, the tachymeter scale is non-functional, because the chronograph seconds is in the 6 subdial, not the central seconds.

The Miyota movement used is a great one, but DMC picked the wrong one for a tachymeter bezel. The price is $129, and for that I guess we should be grateful that it is what it is, but I can’t shake the belief that it could have been so much better. Screw down crowns and the correct movement would have gone a long way. This is a watch for buttheads, to quote Biff from that movie.

Similarly, this sort of watch is commonly water resistant, with screw down pushers and crowns. Here, the crowns and pushers are not, but they give the appearance as if they are: the screw down portion of the pushers are molded into the case, and are nonfunctional. They are faux, pretending to be what they aren’t. And maybe that’s okay for you if you like this watch, but I really hoped they had aimed a little higher. I mean, I can understand and forgive a chronograph that doesn’t have a functional subdial, if they really put effort into nailing the other details. But that doesn’t seem like what happened here.

A microbrand owner I talked to recently characterized some peoples’ approaches as ‘being a dial-guy’ versus ‘being a case-guy’. That is, where do people place their energies, knowing that it’s the holistic product that has to work well. I feel like DMC have placed all their energy on the dial, and not enough on some of the other choices.

The dial is really well-executed. The main plate of it is sunray-brushed silver. The date window at 4 o’clock is framed in silver. Applied indices ring the dial to mark the hours. Minutes are framed at the edge on a chapter ring above the dial, invisible when viewed head-on, but apparent when viewed obliquely from the side. The subdials at 12 and 6 are recessed, sharply cut away. The subdial at 9 is ringed by a raised border as tall as the hour markers, and then cut below it. At the 3 o’clock position, the dial is signed DMC with lines applied that feel like the grille of the famed car.

The good: 

  • The dial is awesome to the max.
  • A DeLorean chronograph is a radical, heavy idea.
  • Solid end links are gnarly.
  • The tachymeter scale is ace.
  • The case size is good. 42mm is not wrong here.
  • The bracelet taper to the narrow clasp is totally boss.
  • The chronograph seconds hand is cool bad.
  • The caseback is engraved with a bitchin’ line drawing of a DeLorean with the gull-wing doors up.

The sad:

  • The crowns do not screw down. They look like they should, but they do not.
  • The solid end links are molded. Their edges are soft and lack definition around the center link.
  • The tachymeter scale is useless, because the center seconds hand is not the chronograph seconds hand. Dumb, this has the wrong movement for this watch design. This should have been an 0S20 or an 0S90 from Miyota’s catalog.
  • The sub dial at 9 has no markers, so there’s no telling what it measures. It measures the stopwatch minutes. The orange and red appear to be a very tenuous connection to the taillight colors of a DMC car. But it’s not really clear.
  • The clasp doesn’t have much in the way of adjustment.

If the end links weren’t soft, I’d consider using the bracelet on some other, better watch that doesn’t fall as short from living up to the promise of what a DMC chronograph should be. But this isn’t it. To be very fair, wearing it was a comfortable experience, and the crown guards are perfect. The dial is excellent, and the red chronograph hand looks at home, like the needle on a speedometer. If you’d like a charming dial and don’t mind the crowns not screwing down, this could be the watch for you. For $129 USD, you can have a 1981 Silver Chronograph collection watch on your wrist.

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: DMC Watches 1981 Silver Chronograph
  • Price: $129 USD
  • Who we think it might be for: Classic looks, with a bit of flair in the dial at a price.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Not at this time.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Make the tachymeter scale functional with a different movement choice, and make the screw down crowns functional.
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: The license, and the red hands.

Tech Specs from DMC Watches

  • Case size: 42mm,
  • Water resistance: 50M
  • Case material: Stainless steel
  • Crystal: Hardened mineral crystal
  • Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
  • Movement: Japanese Miyota Movement

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