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This is not the moose that bit your sister, once. This is the Karibu Original.

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That title is lengthy, but I couldn’t shake it (and bonus internet points to you if you got the reference).  Today, we’re talking about another British brand that is popping out a watch ostensibly for travelers.  It’s got a steel case, a rubber strap, and even a quartz GMT complication.  Seems like it should be ready for globe-trotting adventures, no?  Let’s see what the Karibu Original has in store for you.

 

Up until the point last year when I reviewed the one from Archimede, I was surprised that no one had fit a GMT complication into a Flinger-Style pilot watch.  And you know, that’s what the Karibu Original is doing.  Sure, it’s not a “pure” Flieger, but it has the handset, the central circle, and the dotted triangle up at 12 o’clock – so it’s well enough to satisfy me.    And if you do a skim down the spec sheet (42mm steel case, 100m WR, sapphire crystal, 20mm lugs) there’s, frankly, a lot to like here.

Then again, watch folk might turn their nose up at the quartz movement inside (Swiss Ronda, for those keeping score at home).  For someone who’s heading out traveling, perhaps into some rougher terrain or riskier regions, I think the quartz fits.  It’ll stand up to shock a lot better than a mechanical, it’ll be more accurate (handy if you’re out for weeks at a time), and if something happens to it, you won’t be as heartbroken (current exchange rates put the Karibu Original at about $271).  So, yeah, this is a good adventure watch, I think.

In terms of fit on the wrist, the Karibu Original is a bigger 42, owing to that lug-to-lug.  It does taper in to that 20mm strap, so that tries to reduce some bulk on the wrist.  With the quartz movement, it’s certainly a lighter watch as well, so it is not anything that is going to weigh you down.  In other words, much like a majority of quartz watches, the Karibu Original is an inoffensive companion.

Where it shines above others (at least for me) is the inclusion of a date display (not color matched, though) and the GMT complication.  In our case, we were reviewing the stealth-out version of the Karibu Original, which is actually pretty fitting for a pilot-style watch, given the high contrast.  It does make the hands feel a touch too narrow (since the black edging blends into the dial), but they’re otherwise appropriately sized to the watch.  They all stretch to their given tracks, even the wireframe GMT hand, in this case color matched to the branding up at 12 o’clock.  So, yeah, there’s a lot done right here.

In terms of what could use some changeup, I’d say the date window on the Karibu Original is where things hit a slightly sour note.  For me, I wouldn’t have minded color matching, but the bigger issue (if you can call it that) is the placement.  It’s just a touch too in-board for my tastes, and makes you realize that the case is just a lot larger than the movement (and, I’m guessing, the stock date wheel).  Had things been compressed down to, say, 40mm, that placement would probably end up looking a lot better.

In my time with the Karibu Original, I wore it mostly around home, and to the office.  This really isn’t a dressy watch, but then again, it’s not intended for that. It really is more of an everyday sort of a watch, albeit one that wants you to head out on the road.  If you’re not a traveller, it’s still an able everyday companion, and will keep you on time and on schedule.  And should you travel, well, then the dual time zone will keep you coordinated.

Now, in my day to day, I’ve got some other, nicer, GMT options available to me, and I would likely end up opting for them over the Karibu Original.  However, if I was off on a longer trip – say backpacking around Europe for a month – then something like this watch (or, say, the version from Butler we reviewed) just makes good practical sense.  It’s affordable, durable, and reasonably robust.  And in the case of the Karibu Original, it’s available in a variety of color schemes, so you can coordinate it to your backpack.  Those are my thoughts on it.  If you disagree (or not!), feel free to comment below, or over in our Slack channel.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on travel watches in general, and whether or not you feel the Karibu Original fits in that category for you.  karibuwatches.com

Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Karibu Original
  • Price:  $271 (£195)
  • Who’s it for? You’re headed off on some international travel, and you want an inexpensive, capable watch for the trip
  • Would I wear it? Now and again, sure
  • What I’d change: Shrink the case and/or move the date window more outboard
  • The best thing about it: It’s a well-sorted, affordable option for a GMT watch
Tech Specs from Karibu
  • Quartz Swiss Ronda movement
    • Dual time
    • Date feature
  • 10atm water resistance
  • 42mm case, 316L stainless steel
  • Sapphire crystal glass
  • 20mm lugs with Interchangeable straps
  • Luminous dials and markings

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