Watch bloggers tend to be quite fawning, either because they are trying to justify the expense of their hobby or to curry favor with the manufacturers. But this isn’t going to be a fawning post. Today’s Kickstarter-special Xeric Xeriscope “Watch A Day” is a piece of junk, flawed in design, poorly finished, and unfriendly to use.
Let me get this out of the way to start: No one will be happy with this watch. Casual buyers will be annoyed by how hard it is to read and set, not to mention the fact that it just stops working sometimes. Watch enthusiasts will loathe the horrible finishing work and unmet yet pretentious aspirations of the thing. It’s just a really bad watch.
Let’s begin with Kickstarter. Xeric was launched there by the people behind Wachismo.com, and the whole thing is now doing business as Watches.com. Like many Kickstarter watch projects, the Xeriscope was advertised in Apple-esque fashion and even includes the legend “Designed in California” on the back. The reality is a little more mundane: Their Chinese supplier put an existing movement (the PTS Resources ST-1201) into a common case and packaged it with a customized dial and crown.1
I’m not calling this a scam or ripoff, just pointing out that the paper sketches on the Kickstarter page are disingenuous marketing. This is true of most crowd-funded watches: The only thing custom is the packaging and branding. And it’s not far from the history of Swiss watchmaking, as celebrated yesterday on this very blog! The meaningful difference is that the Xeric Xeriscope is unreliable junk while that Levrette chronograph has an excellent movement and remains wearable more than 50 years later.
So let’s talk about the watch. Usability-wise, it’s a disaster. The movement is an automatic 12-hour carousel with an arrow to indicate the hour in the open heart dial. This is pretty hard to read, thanks to the bling of the movement and tiny numerals on the dial. Minutes are supposed to be read using the “double halo” hand above, on an inner/outer half-scale with markings almost every 5 minutes. Perhaps this confusingly-awful minutes scale is why they busied up the hour track with 15-minute markers. At least you might know roughly what time it is.
Making the dial even more busy are an hour-hand second timezone subdial and retrograde power reserve indicator. The “Dual Time” display is the best-designed, most legible part of the whole watch; if only the rest of the watch was this usable! The power reserve indicator shows a scale of “00” to “100”, which must indicate a percentage rather than the customary hours since we’ve only got a 50 hour power reserve to start with. My power reserve indicator is broken, always reading 110% just like a mathematically-challenged athlete.
There is no seconds hand, but that’s not really a problem because it’s almost impossible to set the watch accurately. The massive carousel has so much inertia that there’s an incredible 30 minutes or so of “spring” in the movement. Set it, push in the crown, and hope it jumps back to the right neighborhood on the dial. You’re never going to get closer than a minute or so of the correct time, so maybe it’s good that there are no minute markers or seconds hand. I would test the rate of the movement, said to be “+/-10 to 15 seconds a day”, but I just don’t care.
Plus, the watch often just stops working when I try to set it. It’s not hacking; it’s just unreliable. Since the escapement is right there, you can watch the balance wheel slow and stop. So far it has restarted after I wiggle it a bit and pull and press the crown a couple of times. But this does not bode well for the quality or reliability of the watch.
As noted, this is a carousel, not a tourbillon. And it’s not even a good one! Movements like this are meant to eliminate the effects of gravity on the escapement, so they need to rotate fairly frequently. This is already of questionable value in a wristwatch, which changes orientation far more often than the pocket watches for which tourbillons were designed. But it’s even more useless here, since this carousel has a pathetic 12-hour rotation period. Not to mention that gravity is the least concern with such a poorly-finished and unreliable movement.
You don’t need to use a loupe to see the flaws and imperfections on the hands and markers. Flip it over and cry at the wheels and plates in the movement. They look like they were pre-finished before being cut with a hacksaw or press, but even that work is horrid. Once again, Xeric didn’t hide this on their Kickstarter page: The “hero” shots of the dial and movement are laughably bad. Perhaps they hoped that would-be buyers were unaware of what real watch finishing looks like.
The case is actually pretty good for a mass-produced watch. The sides are brushed and the lugs look nice enough. The case and lug edges are less blobby than most cheap watches. The crown is pretty nice, and I like the look of the inlaid Xeric logo. Mine has the flat “sapphire” crystal of later models instead of the “K1” domed glass found on the initial versions. Note that both types are just coated glass, not real sapphire.
Considering the massive size of the watch, the big fat leather strap is appropriate. It’s “genuine leather” and resembles something a cow once wore, but is not high quality skin. The strap is not tapered at all, so the pin buckle is bigger than my Reverso.
The Xeric Xeriscope is not an enjoyable watch. Mine was $349 on Kickstarter, and I feel it’s not worth even that. The finishing and usability is so bad I can’t even enjoy the novelty of the open heart carousel movement. I thought I knew what I was getting, but I didn’t know it would be this bad.
My advice for Kickstarter watches is to skip it and get a decent inexpensive watch from a known brand: Orient, Seiko, Squale, and Tissot all make far-better watches for Kickstarter money. And so far I haven’t found a fancy Chinese-made watch worth buying either.
- Google the Ingersoll Polk IN1812WH, Graf von Montre Wehro Baron, or Calvaneo Feine Platinierte Automatik for similar watches at cheaper prices. ↩