The last time we took a look at the James McCabe catalog, I found the Lurgan to be a bit of a mixed bag, but the Master was definitely more up my alley. When taking a look at what they might have interesting for a review, then, it was not much of a surprise that the James McCabe Belfast grabbed by attention. It has some similarities to the aforementioned Master, but does take things in a slightly different direction. So, without further ado, lets take a closer look at the James McCabe Belfast.


What originally drew me to the James McCabe Belfast was what I liked the most about the Master – the use of a translucent crystal on the dial. While the Master had about 90% of the dial being see-through, here on the James McCabe Belfast, you’ve only got about a third of the dial for that. Another change deals with the open-heart portion of the dial. While the Master showed a sort of subtle use (it was a simple opening), here on the James McCabe Belfast it is much more prominent, with a matte silver ring around it catching your eye. While I could do without that attention-grabbing ring, I do rather like the translucent portion. As before, it gives you a look at the movement without distraction from the time telling. Here, it also gives a welcome introduction of color.


Ostensibly, the dial on the James McCabe Belfast is a navy blue on ref JM-1020-02 (which is what we’re reviewing), but it presents as more of a greyish color in most lighting. With the lens on the dial, though, we have a vivid blue, almost turquoise, color. While this might sound jarring, in practice it works well. Unless you are really taking a close look at the dial (and are in some brighter lighting) your eyes don’t pick up a dramatic difference in the coloration. Yes, it’s there, but it’s really only on closer examination that the hue used really stands out.


While the dial with it’s applied indices (well, except at 12 and 6), sword-shaped hands, and overall styling would seem to indicate a dress watch, I would hesitate to include the James McCabe Belfast in that category. That is primarily due to the case not being fully polished. To be sure, there are some polished surfaces – mostly those on top – but the sides of the case and lugs are brushed. For me, this moves the watch to a more business attire sort of category. Yeah, you could wear it with a suit, but the presentation won’t be quite as, well, polished, as if the case did not have the brushed surfaces.


Should you be dressing up, though, the croc-pattern leather strap has a slight sheen to it, so you could probably pull it off. For me, this is one I headed to the office with, and felt that it worked rather well in that sort of a setting. And when it comes to working well, odds are that this is a watch that should last a while, or at least its movement should. The brand very prominently states that the James McCabe Belfast features a Japanese automatic movement that has been skeletonized. I’ve asked the brand for more information on the movement, but so far that news has note come in. While I’m not a movement expert, when I hear Japanese automatic, my gut instinct is that it’s a Miyota movement of some sort. Which, if it is, things will be rather reliable.


That’s the story of the James McCabe Belfast – a solid, competent, and lightweight (only 72g), watch. Sure, there are some things that I would not mind seeing changed (using indices at 12 and 6, and obscuring the screw at 9 o’clock), but those are fairly minor concerns in the overall view of the watch. Pricing for the James McCabe Belfast starts at $535, and tops out at $575 for the models with bracelets (also available on Amazon). Yeah, those prices are perhaps on the higher end of the range you might consider for a watch of this nature, but I think that they’re still in range. And, if you’re looking for a watch with this sort of translucent crystal on the front, this is definitely a rather affordable option (compare to the Zeitwinkel Saphir Flume link). Let us know in the comments what you think about this style of skeleton watch, and if you like how it was done here, or on the James McCabe Master better. mccabewatches.com


Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: James McCabe Belfast (ref. JM-1020-02)
  • Price: $535 – $575
  • Who’s it for?: You’re looking for a watch that is ready for the office but doesn’t have the polished surfaces a dress watch brings to the table
  • Would I wear it?: Yes, I likely would get this one into the rotation now and again
  • What I’d change: A few things, but the biggest impacts would be removing the numerals at 12 and 6, and getting rid of the large matte circle around the dial cutout
  • The best thing about it: The translucent crystal on the dial that gives you a look at the skeleton movement without making the watch difficult to read

By Patrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.

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