Mitch Mason Watches founder Benedict Ong describes the Chronicle as "an interpretation of the ideal field watch." Rather than the typical round field watch case, his first watch is styled after the angular Grand Seiko 44GS. The dial and case dimensions are where it takes on its field watch characteristics.
The photos looked attractive, and the watches had some unique styling cues, so I was excited when Ben offered to send a prototype of the Field Grey version for a review.
The first line of text on the Mitch Mason website says that the Chronicle is "the perfect daily beater." My first impression was, with multiple angled and polished surfaces, this is no beater watch.
Typically anything sub-38mm feels too small to me. When I first strapped on the Chronicle, I couldn't put my finger on why its 36.5mm diameter felt like it might be a good size for me.
After a week of wear, did it turn out to be a beater? How did the size feel? Keep reading to find out.
As mentioned, the Chronicle's case features a mixture of polished and brushed surfaces. The bezel is sloped and also polished like most of the case. The top surface of the area between the lugs along with a thin strip down the side of the case is brushed.
Being that this was a prototype, I'm told that the tolerances and finishing will be greatly improved on production models. Because of this, I won't go into too much detail on finishing, but I will say it was still pretty decent on the tester. The patterns and direction of the brushing are pleasing to the eye, and make the watch catch ambient light nicely.
The Chronicle has very wide, integrated lugs which gives the case more of a squared-off appearance. Also, watches below 38mm typically have 18mm straps, but Mitch Mason gave the Chronicle a 20mm lug width.
The lugs also extend away from the case, giving the watch a large-for-its-size 43.5mm lug distance. Because the area between the long lugs is straight across rather than curved, the Chronicle avoids having an unsightly gap where the strap meets the case.
The bezel is fairly thin, and the rehaut slopes away from the dial drastically, adding to the appearance of depth below the crystal.
All of the above factors are what give the watch a bigger visual "feel" on the wrist than the diameter measurement would indicate.
The thickness of the Chronicle is 12mm, or 13.5mm if you include the domed crystal. When the watch is off your wrist, the thickness looks a bit chunky compared to the small diameter.
The case-back sits fairly flush to the case though, and the case itself has a curved shape. When you strap it on, the proportions look much better balanced, and the watch never feels thick.
The case-back has intricate engraving, featuring the expected specifications, and the Mitch Mason logo and crest. Production models will be rated to 20 bar (200 meters) of water resistance.
The ends of the lugs feature interesting angular bevels. They look great on the prototype, so I can't wait to see them on the production model with improved finishing.
The Chronicle's polished screw-down crown includes a Mitch Mason logo on the face, and helical cut grooves.
The grooves are fairly smooth, making the crown a little tricky to grip, but don't worry! Ben tells me that production models will have a reduced number of ridges, and increased engraving depth. This should improve the grip, and make the crown just about right.
As mentioned earlier, the Chronicle will initially be offered with four dial options. Besides the obvious color change, the different dials are intended to give a different feel to the watch.
Steel Blue and Jet Black dial models feature lumed sandwich construction, and add the MM logo, and red Chronicle text.
The Field Grey and Desert Sand versions have flat dials with reduced text and no logo. The result is that you can configure your watch with more of a contemporary look, or a subdued vintage field watch look.
The Field Grey demo that I received had a very clean dial with large curved arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6, 9 that are not lumed. The other hour markers also feature smaller numerals. The sandwich models feature two digits for all hours (i.e. "01" rather than "1").
All versions of the dial have a rail-style minute track with one unique feature. The lume application at the "corner" hour markers (Old Radium Superluminova), stretches the span of four minutes on the minute track, giving a unique look when the lights go out.
This gives the watch a fun look at night, and makes it easier to orient when reading the time in total darkness. If you are a little anal retentive like me, the only minor drawback is that it makes it a little more difficult to line up the minute hand if you happen to have to set the watch during one of these minutes. It's a minor complaint, and something that you should not encounter often.
The Chronicle handset is one of its most unique elements. Mitch Mason says that the hour hand is designed to resemble a knot of twine.
I can definitely see that, but sometimes I would also see a clenched fist when I looked at it!
Either way, the proportions of the hour and minute hands are just right on the Chronicle. Both hands have thin pointers at the end, aiding legibility. The hour hand reaches each hour marker, and the minute hand perfectly stops at the the center of the minute track.
The seconds hand is where most Chronicle models add a splash of color (a pleasing bright blue in this case) You might notice from the photos that the hand extends a bit too far past the minute track. Ben tells me that this is a quirk of the prototype, and the production version will be slightly shorter.
The hands feature the same Superluminova as the dial. The unique shape and width of the hour hand makes the watch very legible at night.
The crystal is sapphire, and has a 1.5mm dome which is an appropriate amount of dome for the size of the crystal.
The edge of the crystal protrudes slightly above the bezel, and distortion is fairly low.
The prototype had 1 layer AR coating front and back, but production versions of the Chronicle will have 5 layers of AR coating on the underside of the crystal. I like this decision, as I prefer not having it on the front of the crystal. AR tends to pick up fingerprints easily, and can be scratched.
Sandwich dial versions of the Chronicle feature full-grain vegetable tanned Italian leather, but the more subdued field dial versions will come with top grade suede leather with calf leather liners.
The suede strap is quite comfortable, and features quick-release springbars. Mitch Mason chose to include one large keeper rather than two small ones. At first I was not sure if I liked it, but I didn't have any issues, and it gives it a more casual look. The keeper features a subtle embossed MM logo, and the unique polished and brushed buckle is also signed.
The Chronicle is one of those watches that could completely change up its appearance with a simple strap change. You could dress it down with a nylon strap, or dress it up with nice leather. The underside of the lugs also has a chamfer to allow easy use of pass-through straps.
I'd also love to see Mitch Mason develop a straight link bracelet to fit the Chronicle, as I think it would look great!
This prototype did not have the production movement installed, so I won't comment on its operation. Production versions of the Chronicle will have a Miyota 9039 movement. For the price, it's great that Mitch Mason upgraded from the 8 series.
So is Mitch Mason correct in calling the Chronicle a beater watch? Its sapphire crystal, 200m water resistance, and robust movement should allow it to stand up well to abuse. For me though, the polished surfaces and leather strap make it too nice to be a beater (and that's a compliment). The Chronicle best sits between stylish casual clothing, to business casual. You could, however dress it down or up with strap changes, or the right aftermarket bracelet.
Mitch Mason's Kickstarter launches on September 1, 2020 and will run for 21 days. At that time, early adopters will be able to pre-order their Chronicle for $379. Once retail sales start, the price will increase to $499.
That price puts the Chronicle in a crowded segment of the microbrand watch world, but considering its smaller size but larger appearance, it doesn't have as much competition as I'd first thought. There are not as many choices available for those who prefer watches in this size range, especially not ones this nice.
Considering the finishing upgrades that production models will see, as well as the 9 series Miyota and high quality strap, the pre-order price makes the Chronicle a great value. Even at the retail price, you are getting a unique and quality watch for the money, but why wait to pay $120 more?
Watch this space for an updated review when production models are available. Until then, you can learn more about the Chronicle at MitchMason.com.
What do you think of the Mitch Mason Chronicle? Do you plan to pre-order one? Let us know on the forum!