I have said it before, and I will say it again: This is the year of the dial swap, with many brands taking existing models from years past and updating them with new dials. With Baltic, however, the brand has released a new set of dial variants for two watches that were introduced just this year. That might be a new record for the dial swap – only, it makes sense because the original models were the small-production HMS and Bicompax Salmon Dial Limited Editions in partnership with Worn & Wound, released in March.
On Friday, Baltic (re)released the HMS and Bicompax “002,” which is essentially a regular production collection of the limited edition design – only now in a variety of dial colors. In all, there are three dial options to choose from – blue with gilt accents, silver with black or blue accents, and black with white accents – for both models, as well as a host of strap options to choose from. Baltic hangs its hat on the moniker “vintage-inspired,” and these dials certainly fit the bill in that regard.
While the salmon dials are no more (there were only 100 available in each model), these watches are just as interesting and offer more variety. The new dial variants maintain the sector-dial aesthetic, including the mixture of both texture and material, which were key elements of the limited edition models. Making up this two-watch collection are the HMS (time only), and the Bicompax (chronograph) – each featuring the same overall dial design. Both the HMS and Bicompax remain at the vintage-evocative 38mm sizing, which is extremely wearable, especially so with the Bicompax.
First, let’s look at some of the dial features which have been carried over into the regular production 002. The sector dial is probably the most pronounced aesthetic design choice on the watch. The concentric circles which separate each sector of the dial are separated not just by circular borders, but also by a mixture of texture and color. The central, and innermost, dial portion has an almost sandblasted texture, whereas the portion containing the Arabic numerals boasts more of a sunray metallic finish. As you travel to the outer section and minute track, you again find the textured finish. Depending on the light, this affords a host of interesting viewing angles. On a lot of sector dial watches, you might find color differentiation between each sector (or, at the least, different shades of a single color), but here, the effect is rendered through texture alone. Each section remains the same color, and same shade, within each dial variant, but utilizes a different material to generate the effect.
Along with the sector motif, both models feature crosshairs at the center of the dial. This is far more pronounced on the HMS than it is on the Bicompax, where the chronograph hand obscures the vertically oriented line of the crosshairs. To that end, the Bicompax offers crosshairs in the small seconds subsidiary dial (overall, there are two subsidiary dials, hence the naming convention Bicompax). This feature makes the Bicompax a sector dial, double crosshairs, which may sound like a passing route in American football, but it nevertheless looks interesting on this watch and is a feature not present on the LE version.
It was nice to see the Arabic numeral design maintained here. I mentioned this part of the watch in my write up for the salmon dial limited edition, and I still consider this to be my favorite part of both of these models and an improvement over the Baltic 001 line. The typeface used here appears as both wholly original and vintage leaning. I especially like the flipped orientation of three and nine.
Even though these design elements are not new per se, it was nice to be able to see them up close and personal, as well as experience them on wrist. But, at the end of the day, it is the new dial colors which are the main attraction on these watches.
First, is the blue dial. I experienced this one on the HMS model, although it is also featured on the Bicompax. This is a rich blue – something of a navy, but a lot darker. The mixture of the blue dial paired with the warm gilt effect of the numerals, logo, and basically all other markings on the dial, gives this watch a very specific feel. Gilt dials are certainly reminiscent of vintage watches, but blue dials, however, are not. Mixing these two elements made this watch feel, at once, both old and new. The gold color of the hands was a nice way to tie the whole effect together. In direct sunlight, the textured portions of the dial capture light in a really unique way, which allows you to see the most granular aspects of that texture.
The black dial was the pseudo-sleeper of the bunch. I experienced it on the green strap, and while I am not usually one for strap colors of that sort, I found this to be a very interesting combination. Many people will say black dial watches are boring, but boring can also be another word for lasting. There is a reason so many iconic watches that we know and love sport black dials with white accents. I am not calling this watch an iconic design, but I will say that, next to the more colorful and lighter dial options, the black still managed to stick out from the bunch – especially on the green strap.
Lastly, is the silver dial variant. To me, this color is the most closely related, ideologically, to the salmon dial LEs. Somehow, the silver coloring in the sector dial layout gives off a similar effect – or evokes the same sort of feelings – as the salmon-colored dial. If I can pinpoint where that is most obvious, it would have to be the section of the dial containing the Arabic numerals. Unlike the black and the blue, the silver variant displays as more metallic in appearance. The contrast between this metallic sheen and the textured inner and outer dial sections is therefore more pronounced. I was able to handle this one in both the HMS and Bicompax configurations, and I am glad that I did. On the Bicompax, the silver dial is paired with black accents, the same as the HMS – except for one key difference: The HMS has a handset that is done in blue. The blue is a nice little add-on for this watch, giving it a punch of color that the Bicompax does not have.
Just like with the salmon LEs, the movements in these watches remain the same: The Miyota 821A automatic movement for the HMS, and the Seagull ST1901 (tested and regulated by Baltic) manually wound chronograph movement for the Bicompax. Before anyone complains about the movements, understand that they are one of the key contributors to the brand’s ability to keep the prices where they are. A lot of what makes these pieces “vintage-inspired” is the aesthetic (i.e. acrylic crystal, leaf hands, and drilled lug holes), which Baltic has decidedly nailed here, and while the movements may not be haute horlogerie, they still allow the watches to do their job. As is standard on all of the models offered by Baltic, these movements are housed behind a closed caseback. On both the HMS and Bicompax, that caseback is engraved Baltic and features the movement name engraved around the outer edges, along with other important bits of information such as the water resistance – which, by the way, is 50m.
In the year of the dial swap, Baltic has certainly delivered. The HMS and Bicompax 002 regular production line is a colorful addition to the Baltic collection. If you missed out on the 100-piece run of the salmon-dial limited editions, these new watches are a more than serviceable consolation prize. As mentioned, each model comes in three dial colors resulting in six watches in all. Both models come in dramatically under the $ 1,000 (or euro) price mark, with the HMS priced at €332.50, and the Bicompax at €540.83, at the time of writing. Baltic may be out of the salmon, but it has certainly made it clear there are other fish in the sea.
The Baltic HMS and Bicompax 002 are 38mm in diameter, 12mm in thickness with a lug width of 20mm. The HMS houses an automatic movement powered by the Miyota 821A. The Bicompax is a manually wound chronograph powered by the Seagull ST1901. Leather straps in a variety of colors, drilled lug holes and acrylic crystal. Three dial color options: blue with gilt accents, black with white accents, and silver with black (and blue in the HMS) accents. All of these pieces are available for purchase on Baltic’s website. Price: €332.50 for the HMS and €540.83 for the Bicompax. For more, visit Baltic.com.
Photos, Kasia Milton