We first brought you word of the new Filson (by Shinola) watches in February. While they are, at their heart, Shinola watches, they have a different look and feel to them that switching to the Filson name allows (sort of how auto manufacturers go for different styles on the same basic platform across brands). My preferences being what they are, I found myself drawn to the GMT models being released, along with their tincloth straps. To the best of my knowledge, we are the first site able to bring you a hands-on review of the Filson Journeyman GMT.
When I got the Filson Journeyman GMT in, I could easily see that they were intending this watch for an outdoors lifestyle. The 44mm steel case has a brushed finish, and the case itself does not feature any sharp edges to it – well, aside from the crown guards. These feel almost like an afterthought, but my guess is that they’re covering the pusher positions that the chronograph version of the Journeyman. Hopefully future iterations can have a more cleanly designed set of crown guards. Those guards aside, the outer surface of the watch is smooth. The domed sapphire crystal is surrounded by a low-profile bezel (more on that in a moment), and it really gives the sense that the design was such that the watch would not be getting caught up on anything, be it gear, a piece of rope, or even your shirt cuff.
Now, about that bezel. When I first got the Filson Journeyman GMT in, I thought that perhaps it was not a moveable bezel. Which would be odd, for a watch of this nature (and the fact that it has ridged edges). After fiddling with it some, it is indeed moveable, at least the outer portion. As I mentioned previously, the bezel itself is fairly low profile, which means it’s difficult to grip. Combine that with a particularly stiff spring (as you would expect on a new watch), and it makes for a difficult one to move.
Of course, with a bezel like this, you probably are not going to be moving it all that much (unlike, say, a timing bezel). That said, it did seem overly difficult to move around to set. Unfortunately for the design, this will be a difficult thing to attempt to remedy (if they even do). A larger bezel would overhang the case, and a looser spring would just lead to it being able to be bumped out of position. Perhaps a locking mechanism for it when the crown is screwed in could be developed. For now, that is just something to be aware of – once you have the bezel set where you want it, you won’t be fiddling with it.
There is one thing about the GMT time that is easy to move on the Filson Rambler GMT, and that is the orange hand for the second (or third, depending on how you use things) timezone. So, yes, you can certainly set it independently from the main time. Unlike other movements I’ve experienced, however, you are not clicking things around on the hour. Instead, it’s a free-moving hand, almost like a minute hand is. I suppose this is useful if you’re tracking one of the time zones that is a half-hour off, but for the vast majority of people, this makes things more difficult than it needs to be. The easiest way to do it is to get the main time at midnight, set the GMT hand for where you want it offset to, and then set the main time. Then again, that could all be personal preference. And, with the bezel being as it is, perhaps the looser-setting hand is the tradeoff.
While I may not have been a fan of that bezel, I did really like the strap and the well-designed buckle that came with the watch. The strap is actually the reason we requested this particular variant for the review. It’s made of the legendary Filson tin cloth (and backed with bridle leather), which provides a unique texture. It also gives you the sense that it is a strap that should last for, well, just about forever. This is helped along with something that is rare on watches I have reviewed – a roller buckle.
What this means is, that rather than you pulling the strap along a sharp, squared-off edge of a buckle as you pull the strap through and size it for wearing, you are instead having it roll along the buckle. Ultimately, this means that the tin cloth surface of the strap should remain unscuffed (at least by the buckle) and looking in top condition. It does add a little bit of bulk to the buckle area, of course, and this meant that I needed to wear the strap about one notch looser than I normally would. Also, the tang sits up high on the roller. Not a deal breaker, by any means, but by having a recess built into the roller would allow things to sit a bit more flush, and give things a cleaner look.
Once that’s all set, you’re ready to head off to the day. Owing to the Argonite 515.24H quartz movement inside, weight on the watch comes in at 108g, which means your wrist is not getting weighed down, even with the 44mm case. Even with the domed sapphire crystal, there really was no issue reading the time on the watch. The matte-finish hands reflect light different, as do the applied markers (which have the same matte finish as well). This means that, whatever angle your wrist is at (short of it directly reflecting the sun) you can read the time. The same goes for picking up the GMT hand.
While it is a bit shorter than I would expect, the orange on it makes it easy to pick up. Of course, if you are checking against a specific city time (using the bezel) you will need to look a bit more closely, but that is simply the nature of the beast. When you have that many time zones printed out, things are smaller. Of course, if you’re just tracking a single time zone and have the hand set, it’s a simple matter to to get used to where on the 24 hour scale things are, and then start to pick that up at a glance as well.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to talk about some of the brass details that were incorporated into the Filson Journeyman GMT. The first place I noticed it was set into the crown. It’s a clever bit of design, as it gives a different color to the crown (well, not steel), and it brings along another outdoorsy bit of inspiration, at least to my eyes. When I see this, I’m reminded of the the end of a shotgun shell, which would of course be an appropriate hunting design cue. Or, perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Flip the watch over, and you see another piece of brass making up the caseback. This is deeply engraved, and gives all the relevant specs on the watch. While it’s something most people would never see (other than the owner) I think it’s a nice touch, and further differentiates the Filson Journeyman GMT from the main Shinola catalog.
The leap into the Filson catalog brings some interesting changes from the main Shinola direction, while still maintaining the build quality we’ve come to expect from Shinola. In a way, it’s similar to what the Detroit auto companies did for years – develop a car, and then change details in the various brands. In this way, Shinola (via Filson) can spread out and try some different designs. It’s an interesting exercise, and a way for fans of either brand to get something that looks different from what preceded. As I mentioned in my previous writeup, the Filson Journeyman GMT was a watch that grabbed my interest when it was announced; on the wrist, that initial impression holds up. Yes, there are some smaller issues that I had with the design, but it’s not anything that would make me sour on the watch. Coming in at a price of $750, the Filson Journeyman GMT is a capable watch that should serve you well. filson.com
- Brand & Model: Filson Journeyman GMT
- Price: $750
- Who’s it for?: You like the products Filson has been creating, and need a watch to go along with your tin cloth jacket and briefcase, or Journeyman Backpack
- Would I wear it?: Intermittently, but yes, I would.
- What I’d change: First and foremost, adjusting the roller on the buckle so the tang could sit flush. After that, perhaps make the bezel simpler to turn
- The best thing about it: That this is the first GMT we’ve seen come out of the Detroit factory of Shinola, and the first time we have the tin cloth as an option on a strap.