Prior to be contacted for this review, I was blissfully unaware of Æther Watch Co., which is surprising, given the level of quality that I saw in my time with the watch they sent over. Hailing from Phoenix, AZ, Æther Watch Co. started up shop in 2012, designing watches here in the USA, with assembly happening in Pforzheim, Germany. While they only have two models currently on offer (and one is a limited edition), what they have created for their entry-level piece is certainly an excellent first outing. Without further ado, let’s dig in to the Æther Watch Co. Æ01.
With a model name like that, it would feel safe to assume that more designs are in the works. For our review, we were sent over an Æther Watch Co. AE01 with a sunbrushed anthracite dial, paired to a reddish-brown alligator strap from Stone Creek Straps (more on that later). While it was certainly color combination that I was not expecting, it ended up working out quite well. This is of course due to the grey of the dial lending quite a flexibility to things, which lets a more colorful strap like this to work.
Whenever you run across a new brand, one of the first questions that is asked is concerning the movement used. While manually-wound examples are certainly rarer for startups these days, this one is in the form of an ETA 6498. Perhaps not the most visually arresting (even decorated as it is) movement as seen through the large exhibition caseback, but it of course serviceable. The main kinetic bits are visible, and you can also see the barrel getting wound when you use the crown. In terms of aesthetics, there is Côtes de Genève finishing applied to the plates, and there are heat-blued screws used to hold things in place. While it may not set the world on fire, the movement does echo the look we pick up from the front of the watch.
Flipping the case over, you are greeted by the clean and crisp dial of the Æther Watch Co. AE01. Text is (thankfully) minimal on the dial, limited to the brand logo up top, and the denotation of the mechanical movement above the sub-seconds dial. That sub-dial has concentric circles for a bit more texture to things, along with the applied indices and numerals. The sub-seconds does of course remove the 6 from the dial, which I’m torn about somewhat. Removing the 12 from the dial would balance it, but then you’d be left with a “square” shape indicated by the remaining numerals, which would not be quite right. As it is, the missing 6 is not a big deal in regular wear.
What was of more impact in the daily wear was the handset used. Perhaps it is just my own preferences, but I do not find myself to particularly be a fan of slender, polished handsets. True, they can catch the light, but you find yourself in a game of tilting the watch to catch the light so you can read the time. In the right conditions, at-a-glance is not an issue. For my money, I would rather see the hands a bit wider, and be painted for some contrast to the dial, at least for the grey one (photos of the other dial colors make this look to be a less pronounced issue).
When you combine that polished finish on the hands with that of the indices and numerals, as well as the bezel surrounding the sapphire crystal, you certainly have a watch that could pass itself off as a dress watch. With the grey dial, it certainly has the flexibility. Paired as our was to the alligator strap from Stone Creek Straps, you again had that duality present. The pattern and color of the exotic leather certainly can bring things into a more casual realm, and then you notice the glossy finish it has, and things go right back to working with a suit. Ultimately, I think the Æther Watch Co. AE01 ends up coming across as a dressed-up sports watch, all things considered. Depending on your own tastes, you can of course choose the precise strap you would want paired to the watch, which includes the choice of leather (and leather color) and stitching combo. This is one of the benefits of the brand having a close relationship to the strap maker – customization is practically endless.
On the wrist, the strap fit quite nicely. While it is padded, that padding tapers off at the ends, so you’re not left dealing with moving a thick strap through the buckle, nor is it unnecessarily bulky under the wrist throughout the day. This is also reflected in the case of the Æther Watch Co. Æ01, which is relatively thin (10.5mm) and slips under the cuff with ease. As I mentioned a bit earlier, sometimes reading the time quickly was tricky, and required angling the wrist around a bit to find the right angle. That aside, there were really no other issues I had with wearing the 80g watch as I went about my daily activities.
These days, new brands pop up all the time with three-handers, but the Æther Watch Co. Æ01 rises above most of that crowd with a solid movement, great fit and finish, and an excellent strap. Then again, at a price of $1,350, you would expect that sort of effort, especially when compared to the large swath of “me too” quartz watches flooding the crowd-funding sites. As for me, it served as a solid introduction to the brand, and I am definitely curious as to what models will be coming next from them. aetherwatches.com
- Brand & Model: Æther Watch Co. Æ01
- Price: $1,350
- Who’s it for?: You like your three-handers and you like exploring the smaller brands creating entry-level luxury watches
- Would I wear it?: Intermittently, but yes – it would be a good “change of pace” sort of watch
- What I’d change: The handset – widen it and explore other finishes
- The best thing about it: Just the overall feel that this is a cleanly-done watch
Tech Specs from Æther Watch Co.
- 42mm diameter 316L stainless steel case
- Sapphire crystal front and rear,with neutral anti-reflective coating inside
- 5ATM water resistance
- Mechanical, 17 jewel hand-winding ETA 6498 with Côtes de Genève decoration
- 46hr power reserve
- Hand-engraved rose gold-plated balance wheel
- Heat-blued screws
- Dial: Sun-Brushed Anthracite / Sun-Brushed Brown / Matte Black / Silver
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