Automotive inspired timepieces are nothing new. They have, in fact, become something of a subgenre of watches unto themselves, with no end of stylish racing inspired chronographs and dials that take cues from instrument gauges. Most often, however, these watches that take motorsports or car culture as starting points for a design rely on what many consider the golden age of motorsport, which happens to coincide with a pretty important time period for sports watches: the 1960s. The British brand MHD Watches takes a somewhat different approach, and their newest release, the Type 1, takes inspiration from vehicles of the 1920s, what some would say was a far more inventive period in automotive design.
MHD Watches is the brainchild of Matthew Humphries, who has a background in design at the Morgan Motor Company. Car enthusiasts who are familiar with Morgan will immediately understand the connections between Humphries’ 20s focused watch designs and the car world. Morgan is an historic British automaker with an aesthetic that’s clearly rooted in early 20th century design, and a focus on small batch, handcrafted work that is rare in the auto industry.
The Type 1, according to MHD, has been influenced by classics like the 3 litre Bentley, Bugatti Type 35, and Zagato bodied Alfa Romeo 8c. These cars, built for speed, have sleek, curvy features that expose their engineering details in ways that mass market vehicles of the time did not. This can be most clearly seen in the Type 1’s case, which is stainless steel and has an “exoskeleton” design that can be easily viewed when the watch is in profile. The case barrel has been given a DLC treatment that contrasts nicely with the skeletonized lugs that appear to wrap around the entire case. This multilayer construction, which can be plainly seen from any angle, is the clearest bit that’s been borrowed from classic cars, but it doesn’t specifically steal from any particular car – the Type 1 simply pays homage in a general way.
There are plenty of other little details that can be found upon close inspection that will please watch fans who admire the small detail. The bezel, for instance, has a nice radial brushing effect, and there’s a knurling to the DLC coated piece that gives the watch the impression of an actual tool. Humphries has clearly thought about every tiny component, down to lume color and the use of visible screws on the case. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s undoubtedly a genuine expression of the designer’s intent, and quite thoughtful.
The dial has vague callbacks to dashboard gauges, but like the case it’s not specific or overpowering, but it is pleasant to look at, easy to read, and well executed. The Type 1 dial utilizes a sandwich construction method with lume on the lower level that has been colored to look aged. A power reserve at the top of the dial is perhaps the most overt reference to an automotive design language, with coloration under the dial cutout indicating the watch is nearly out of gas, needing to be wound or worn.
Powering the Type 1 is the Miyota 9130 automatic movement, a simple three hand plus date caliber. It’s a stalwart at this price point and has proven to be reliable, and features hacking and has a 42 hour power reserve. and can be seen through the sapphire crystal display case back, although decoration has not been prioritized, which is expected and completely appropriate for a watch under $ 1,000.
At 40mm across and 11.5mm deep, the Type 1’s size will be familiar to anyone who has played in the modern watch game over the past few years – dimensions in this range seem to be almost standardized at this point, easily wearable and comfortable for most. My guess is that because of the skeletonization of the lugs, the Type 1 will wear smaller and lighter than a watch that typically sits at 40mm.
The Type 1 is priced at $ 996 and delivers in November. The sub $ 1,000 watch market is highly competitive, but in terms of specs the Type 1 stacks up. It has sapphire on both sides of the case, a case that is clearly not off-the-rack, and employs multiple finishing techniques. The greatest value proposition the Type 1 has to offer though is the uniqueness of the design, and a certain level of authenticity that Matthew Humphries brings to the project from his days at Morgan. MHD Watches