I can’t recall seeing a watch like this in person before. I’ve seen wooden watches – where the case and bracelet are also wooden, usually fitted with a cheap quartz movement and sold for novelty value alone. There’s also the ‘Teak’ dial of the Omega Aqua Terra line which takes its moniker from the mimicking of a yacht’s Teak decking. A quick Google also shows dials of glorious polished wood in several pieces from Universal Geneve, Movado/Zenith and of course Rolex. These were mostly produced in the 1960s and 1970s and—as gorgeous as they are—look very much of that era. Even those watches are fairly uncommon and there’s no recent trend towards a re-emergence of that look.
On its own, the Walnut dial of the Batavi seems strange. As part of the new Architect series it makes a little more sense. Three dials representing the building materials Copper, Steel and Wood are each housed in the same sporty and angular stainless steel case. I find the Walnut variant to be the most unusual of the three, so that’s what I’m looking at today.
Hands-On With The Batavi Architect
Sapphire with AR coating
Integrated bracelet / brown leather
39 x 47mm
It’s easy to think that the Batavi Architect is all about the dial, but after a few days spent with it I find myself forgetting the rich grained surface of the dial and instead appreciating the crisp case lines. The angles are plentiful without a curve or soft edge in sight. The angle between the lug surface and the top part of the case is notably brutal, but the case sides and bracelet links all exhibit the same sharpness. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your own preference, but it does give quite a modern and austere look to the case that any combination of dial colour and texture would struggle to overcome.
In terms of size, the diameter is 39mm excluding the crown. The lug to lug measurement is a little more difficult to pin down. The case alone is 47mm, but when fitted with the bracelet the first end link is fixed rigidly in position, and measuring to that point would put it at 51mm. With the prototype strap adaptors fitted in place of the integrated bracelet (more on that later) the number increases further to over 56mm, but on the final production version should stay roughly in line with the 51mm length above. At under 11mm from the case back to the crystal, the Batavi is fairly thin and the watch wears true to that measurement. The thin bezel protrudes a couple of millimetres above the case, as does the case back below, leaving a fairly svelte mid-case.
The entire case features light vertical brushing which continues on through the length of the bracelet. The brushing is light enough that each link catches the light and shines individually as you roll your wrist, almost glistening in sequence. As the bracelet spans the width of the case where it meets, there is a strong taper down to 18mm at the signed butterfly clasp. However, pretty much all of that taper happens in the first four links. The sudden difference between four strongly tapering links and then the remaining links following a straight line isn’t really noticeable on the wrist, but does look slightly odd with the watch laid flat.
Without doubt the most intriguing and eye-catching aspect of the watch is the dial. Batavi have chosen Walnut here which gives a combination of pronounced visible graining and lightness, without being too overpowering. Each dial uses a very thin piece of Walnut, and each single one will be slightly different. The printing of the Batavi name directly onto the wood also shows a little imperfection which I quite like as a contrast to the crisp and clean case.
The polished, applied indices catch the light, as do the polished dauphine hands. However, I do find that readability in low light is a little hampered as the hands look dark over a similarly dark background. The slither of lume running down the center of the hands does offer some contrast to pick out. Added to the fact that the hands stop a little short of their maximum potential radius, their thinness towards the tips means they can look a little short when they aren’t catching the light.
As mentioned, both hour and minute hands are lumed, as are the dots at each hour marker within the matching Walnut chapter ring. The lumed areas are fairly small, so although you can make out the time if you study hard, there isn’t much at-a-glance night time legibility to speak of.
The Batavi Architect series is powered by the Miyota 9039. This is the dateless automatic calibre that sits in Miyota’s 9000 series. My own experience of watches fitted with a movement from this series is that they all perform with reasonable accuracy, often much tighter than the stated -10/+30 specs. The power reserve of the Miyota is 42 hours, and the automatic winding is normally pretty efficient – getting up and running with just a couple of small swirls of the wrist rather than requiring a good few turns of the crown each time. The choice of movement here is also reflected in the crown; no date on the dial or in the movement also means no middle crown position for date setting.
The Miyota 9000 series is common among watches in this price range, with good reason. It’s a perfectly good choice here too.
Straps & Wearability
Wearability is going to be influenced heavily by the flatness and length of the case compared to your wrist. I find that the fixed first links of the bracelet sit nicely on my seven inch wrist, but I expect that on a wrist that is either considerably smaller or larger than mine then those forced angles might not conform so well.
Included in the package is a pair of handy little strap adapters that give the watch a little more versatility as well as potentially giving a better fit to some. Both the integrated bracelet and these adapter links are equipped with quick release spring bars, so changing from one to the other is a breeze. I’m impressed with the fit and continuity through the lugs that both options offer, though in strap-mode the Batavi looks a little awkward at first.
The additional strap included here is a light brown Hermès style leather which works rather well, and despite the fixed first link coming into play even more it still feels good on my wrist. Make no mistake, the brown walnut dial is going to be tough to pair the right strap with, but I’ve got to give Batavi credit for giving the wearer a solution to what is often cited as a downside of integrated bracelet watches.
It’s easy to dismiss a watch with a wooden dial as, well, just a watch with a wooden dial. I do think the Batavi does well to go beyond that with a stylish case construction and the adaptability of the strap options. The other two ‘materials’ in the Architect series are Copper and Steel, and in both of those variants the dials are perhaps a little less directly linked to their namesakes. Although I have grown to like the Walnut dial more than I expected, or even to forget about how unusual it is, I expect one of the other models might feel like more of a complete watch by the absence of such a prominent feature.
Regardless, the case shape and finishing, especially when combined with the bracelet creates a sharp looking watch. The package is only let down slightly by the legibility in certain lighting.
The Batavi Architect Kickstarter campaign goes live in April with prices starting from €349 (~$ 421). More from Batavi.