I’m a sucker for handmade goods and fine crafting, so when I first learned that anOrdain was resurrecting the ancient craft of dial enameling in its Scottish workshop, I knew there was no way I could stay away. anOrdain spent three years and hundreds of hours developing and refining its enameling technique to imbue the dials with the brand’s characteristic deep, elegant hues. Even in the most skilled hands, enameling remains a time- and energy-intensive process reliant on highly trained professionals. The result is that anOrdain’s team of three enamelists can only produce 8-9 dials per week; you truly are getting a one-of-a-kind watch.
The anOrdain Model 2 watch is the brand’s sophomore release — a 36mm field watch with soft, organic lines and a range of colorways inspired by the Scottish highlands. Choosing a color for this review was agonizing (Moss Green? Torr Blue? Purple?) I opted for Midnight Green, a deep, inky green that’s almost black, offset by gold markers and silver and gold hands. anOrdain states that this colorway was inspired by the Cairngorm mountains at night, but for me here in Canada, the colors evoke the deep, dark hues of the understory of a Pacific Northwest forest. Either way, it’s a striking and gorgeous color.
anOrdain’s goal with the Model 2 was to build a watch that people would want to wear every day, regardless of the situation — elegant enough to be at home in an office or night on the town, but rugged enough for a tromp through the mire. The result is an interesting mix: 36mm case size, hand-winding movement, two hands, no lume, but a field watch dial aesthetic and a stainless steel case featuring crown guards. Despite these seemingly disparate motifs, packaged together the look is harmonious. I had the chance to spend some time with the anOrdain Model 2, both indoors and out, to see how this watch would fare in my daily life.
Case and Bracelet
With a stunning enamel dial stealing the show, the role of the case is simple: don’t screw it up. Luckily, that’s not a problem here. The case on the anOrdain Model 2 departs from the sharp lines, beveled edges, and mix of brushed and polished surfaces that saturate that market. Instead, anOrdain opted for soft, flowing lines, and a consistent satin finish. It’s a welcome departure and the gentle lines match the organic feel of the dial.
The 36mm case is constructed of 316L stainless steel, a lightly domed sapphire crystal, closed caseback, and 5atm of water resistance. If you’re not used to wearing smaller watches, you may be tempted to ignore this watch simply due to its 36mm case diameter. But don’t knock it until you try it. On my 6.75” wrist, I typically find that 38-40mm watches are my sweet spot, though I’ll happily wear larger divers. But in a watch like this, 36mm just works. After a couple of days adjusting to the smaller case size, I found it fit my wrist nicely. I’m sure some people are hoping for a 40mm version and, though I initially would have thought that would be my size, now I’d opt for the 36mm instead. The smaller size provides a touch of elegance, allowing it to work as a dressier watch.
Though I quite enjoy the design, fit, and finish of the case, I do have two minor gripes. First is the low water resistance of 5atm. To be fair, 5atm should suffice for most terrestrial activities, but I still prefer the security of having a bit more water resistance. Second, though the sapphire crystal is coated with six layers of anti-reflective coating, there was still a fair amount of glare. I’m guessing this is due, in part, to the high reflectivity of the dial. The glare didn’t affect legibility since the gold markers on the dial pop in any light, but it did make it harder to appreciate the deep green hues of the dial itself.
Dial and Hands
I simply can’t talk about this dial without hyperbole. It’s a thing of beauty. Gorgeous, stunning, exquisite — pick your dramatic descriptor. Take one look and you know you’re in the presence of something truly special. I dare you to pick up an anOrdain and not be blown away by the artisanship that goes into the dial.
Crafting an enamel dial is no simple process, especially when you’re doing it all in-house in a small workshop (next door to a brewery, I might add) with a small team. First, the enamelists cut copper or silver discs by hand and drill small holes on which to solder “dial feet.” Next, the underside is enameled — a process that prevents the dial from bending in the oven. Enamel (made from silica, red lead, and soda ash) is then ground into powder and applied to the metal disc and fired in a kiln at a scorching 830°C. The dial is then removed from the kiln, checked for inconsistencies, and re-fired several times in order to produce the desired depth of color and height of enamel. A last firing provides the smooth, silky sheen. Once the enamel has been applied, the dials are printed using classic pad-printing equipment.
anOrdain’s Scottish workshop. Photo courtesy of anOrdain
And the result is simply stunning. Of course, after receiving my review piece, anOrdain released a series of fumé dials that raise the bar even higher. On a practical level, the Midnight Green is an excellent choice for a casual dress watch (or dressy field watch), but if I’m being honest with myself, I’d pick the fumé green for a personal purchase. With a dial this pretty, you need to show it off.
anOrdain’s Scottish workshop. Photo courtesy of anOrdain
Now, having a beautifully handcrafted dial is great, but if the hands and indices don’t match, then the package falls apart. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. anOrdain dug deep into the history books for inspiration, eventually creating its own font inspired by 1950s industrial equipment. The outlined numbers and rectangular indices allow the dial to continue to be the star of the show, but provide a contrasting golden pop that sets off the green even more. Consistent with the theme of placing the dial front and center, the anOrdain logo is tucked away above 12, while “Vitreous Enamel” can be found beneath 6 in the traditional “made in” location — another not-so-subtle reminder that this watch is all about the dial.
The handset is comprised of modified syringe hands that are both unique and elegant— skeletonized throughout the silver body, with golden tips that bisect the outer ends of the hands. The effect is classy and complements the outlined numerals. Good choice. One thing missing is a running seconds hand. I was split on this one, at first, but mostly because I’m simply used to seeing a running seconds hand. At this point, I don’t notice its absence and just double-check the time before slipping it on if I can’t remember the last time I wound the watch. Regardless, the effect, once again, is that nothing distracts from the dial, not even a sweeping seconds hand. Note that neither the hands nor the dial markers utilize any luminous paint. Though I typically like lume, it would have disrupted the aesthetic of the dial and hands.
The anOrdain Model 2 is powered by the SW-210-1 hand-winding movement. The SW-210-1 is essentially the hand-winding version of the SW-200-1 (clone of the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2). Beating at 28.8kbph with 19 jewels, a 42-hour power reserve, and Incabloc shock protection, it’s a time-proven movement that should run trouble-free for years. The choice of a hand-winding movement will likely be bit divisive, but it fits the attitude of this watch and forces you to interact with it daily — just more time to appreciate that lovely dial! The winding action was smooth and, though I was initially a bit concerned about the shrouded crown, it turned out to be a non-issue, winding easily by just turning the crown along the backside of the case. Popping the crown to set the time was a simple and smooth operation.
Straps and Accessories
Each anOrdain Model 2 comes with a choice of color-matched straps to suit the dial. A Milanese mesh is also available. My watch arrived on an 18mm mahogany pin-grain kidskin strap with a branded buckle. The rich mahogany plays off the deep green of the dial — think of the deep reds and greens of towering western red cedars. The German-made leather is soft and pliable and took no time to break in. I typically like to swap straps, but I was never tempted to do so with this watch; it’s meant for leather, and I can’t argue with the brand’s choice. Rather than a box, the watch comes shipped in a high-quality leather travel case.
It took me a little time to figure out how this watch fit in my life, but once I did, I truly appreciated what anOrdain had accomplished. First off, I’m not really a “dress watch guy.” I’m usually firmly planted in the tool watch camp, and I received the watch thinking of it as a field watch in the sense of a watch to be worn while doing field work. And, realistically, it’s perfectly capable. (Lewis Heath, one of the owners of anOrdain, actually designed this watch with the intention of bringing it to his family smallhold for birthing lambs …so yeah, it can handle field conditions.) In fact, I spent plenty of time wearing the watch out in the woods and, though my field season was over at the time of writing, I’d be confident wearing it for field work.
However, where this watch shines is when it gets dressed up a bit. For me, this means usually means wearing my “nice flannel” and boots. Even if I’m in the office and not decked out in field gear, it’s a watch that reminds me I’m a field biologist at heart, even if I’m grown up a bit and can’t spend every day tromping through the woods anymore. It’s fair to call this a dress watch, but it’s a dress watch with the soul of a tool watch, the perfect watch for someone who doesn’t like dress watches but appreciates beauty and craft and is looking for something dressier (not a dress watch) that retains that outdoor spirit. Done and done.
Comparing alternatives is tricky. On the one hand, we could look to a watch like the Nomos Campus Club. Similar price ($1550 USD), but you get an in-house hand-winding movement, higher water resistance, luminous hands and markers, and a slightly sportier piece. What you don’t get is that gorgeous enamel dial. If you’re after a stunning dial, another consideration is the Glashütte Original Sixties Panorama Date. Drop-dead gorgeous dial, though created by a different process… however, it’s also $9,300 whereas the anOrdain Model 2 is £950. In its price range, anOrdain’s dials are in a league of their own. To learn more about anOrdain’s watches and enameling process, visit anordain.com.
>Model: Model 2
>Size: 36mm-wide, 11mm-tall, 43mm lug-to-lug, 18mm lug width
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Most anytime, but particularly as a dressier piece. It wouldn’t be my first choice for field work, but it was my first choice to wear at a conference for field biologists.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Outdoorsy friend who appreciates art and crafting who’s looking for a dressier watch (but not necessarily a dress watch).
>Best characteristic of watch: The dial. Simply mesmerizing.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Low water resistance, weak anti-reflective coating.