This is the second watch model from James Barts, the James Barts Panama. I’ve had it on the wrist for a few days, and I have to say, it makes me feel very nautical. I envision myself on a small X-99 X-Yacht, sailing, wearing the James Barts Panama.

The watch hails from Stockholm, where you can sail the archipelago, so my fever-dream is only mildly feverish. The watch feels like it was made for a mid-40s, casual, jeans-on-the-weekends kind of guy. Not that it doesn’t look nice with a suit, making it ideal for our own Patrick Kansa to wear, but it’s definitely a comfortable match with the shirt untucked.

It also wouldn’t look out of place on the wrist having brunch at the café on the street. It’s not a hipster watch, eschewing the minimalist dial that’s been so popular of late. Here, the dial has two levels, with an inset center. There are applied indices for the hour markers, a printed minute track at the inset center of the dial, and a seconds track lines the periphery of the dial.

The hands are silver to match the indices, and where you might normally expect them to have lume, they have windows. This is especially useful for the minute hand reading the minute track through a hand that would otherwise be too short, not reaching the outer edge of the dial. The date window at 3 is a circle, and is a little on the small side for two-digit dates, encroaching on the tens place.

The crystal is a sapphire one, flat, and nearly level with the bezel of the watch. The bezel is flat topped, flat sided, with a small bevel where the sides meet. The case and crown are unusual, having coin edge knurling that is interrupted by spans of smooth steel. It looks for all the world like it might have been influenced by a soda bottle cap. It’s interesting, unusual, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it, but it fits within the casual theme of the watch.

I mentioned that it feels nautical to me, and the dial is marked with an abbreviated decimal lat/lon – 9ºN, 80ºV, which equates to Panama City. This sort of navigation originated with sea travel, where the quest for reliable timekeeping was paramount. You can measure latitude by finding the sun’s angle at noon. Finding longitude requires a clock, finding the time difference between GMT and a ship’s local time.

All in all, this strikes me as a nice summer watch. The nubuck leather strap, the stainless steel deployment clasp, make it very comfortable. The strap is equipped with quick release spring bars, making it even easier to change up the look. It’s a watch that doesn’t look like any other, without looking avant gardé and untraditional. Panama comes in a few different variations: Panama SS is the stainless case with white dial, silver hands, white stitching on the strap. Anthracite uses gray hands and gray stitching with a cream dial. RG-01 gets a Burgundy strap with black stitching and a rose gold case and hands on a black dial. RG-02 changes the burgundy strap for blue. Gold-01 and Gold-02 follow similar patterns, but use yellow gold for the case and hands. If it strikes you the same way, you can back the James Barts Panama at Kickstarter

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: James Barts Panama
  • Price: Earlybird pricing starts at $120 USD (995 SEK)
  • Who we think it might be for: You like a simple watch, unlike the “minimalist” trend pieces that have been everywhere. You want a great Nubuck strap.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Yes. It’s a different take and surprisingly comfortable.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Hard to say, really. There’s so many good choices here.
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: It evokes this sailing, nautical, peacefulness on the water in me.

Tech Specs from JAMES BARTS

  • Case size: 41mm
  • Height: 8.5mm
  • Case material: steel
  • Crystal: sapphire
  • Strap: brushed stainless steel, 20m nubuck leather strap, stainless steel deployant clasp
  • Movement: Swiss-made Ronda 505 quartz

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ByVictor Marks

sometimes described as "The best bang since the Big One."

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