I have a small collection of watches and I like to switch up my timepiece on a near daily basis. But every once in a while, I enjoy wearing a watch so much that it becomes a go-to choice.
I was recently introduced to Aulta and their sporty watches, which are designed to appeal to people who are into a surfing lifestyle but don’t want to spend all their time on a beach, chasing waves. They have jobs, commitments, and are interested in a watch that can go from surfboard to board room.
That’s the pitch, anyway. Aulta was started by three guys with surfing in their backgrounds. Abe Allouche created a surfwear brand called Island Daze. Marty Pomphrey worked for Nike and later Fossil, the big fashion watch brand. Pancho Sullivan was a pro surfer.
The trio is currently selling a lineup of two watches, with a variety of face and band options. The Seaward is a simple timepiece with an easy-to-read face and a day-date function. It sells for $US95, is a fairly large watch at 42 millimetres, and is powered by a workhorse Japanese quartz movement. It’s sufficiently water resistant for surfing.
It’s a nice-looking watch, but it was superceded by the Leeway chronograph, the watch I tested. The Leeway is also a big watch at 42 mm and it’s powered by a chrono version of the same Japanese movement that drives the Seaward. The design is very clean, with sticks in lieu of numerals, a pair of subdials, and a tenth-of-seconds enclosed bezel. There’s a single date window at the 6 o’clock position. The watch I tried had a black face, silver hands, a red seconds hand and red hands on the subdials. It has a bit of lume, but it’s not very powerful and so the Leeway really can’t be considered any kind of serious dive watch.
Overall, the design evokes the famous Heuer Carrera chronos of the 1950s and ’60s. It’s hard to go wrong borrowing a layout from these watches, which were created by the legendary Jack Heuer and intended to be used for timing motorsports. They’re famous for their legibility.
The Leeway is $US105 and can be ordered with a variety of straps but no bracelet (for that, you’ll have to go with the Seaward).
It doesn’t feel like a $US105 watch, however. My tester came with a black rubber strap that’s comfortable for all-day wear. The watch takes up a lot of territory on the wrist and is substantial, but it doesn’t feel heavy. The subdued styling pairs up well with everything from a business suit to — naturally — a swimsuit. I can’t vouch for the absolute water-tightness of the timepieces, but the screw-down crown is solid. The chrono pushers are crisp and the timing action is great. The quartz movement kept impeccable time.
As watches go, the Leeway is comparable with a wide variety of Japanese quartzes that go for anywhere from $US100 to $US400. It doesn’t quite have the upscale craftsmanship of some of the entry-level Swiss quartzes, but it doesn’t really come off as a “fashion” watch, either. And the good looks elevate it above the status of a “beater” watch. Aulta has said that by selling its watches only online, it can pass on savings to consumers, effectively making a $US200 watch into a $US100 watch.
Over the month or so that I tested the Leeway, I looked at it first when it came time to choose the day’s timepiece. Interestingly, this made me consider my other watches more carefully, pondering why I liked the Leeway so much. Ultimately, the price wasn’t a huge factor — Who wouldn’t like a really great watch at a really great price? — but I’m impressed that the Aulta guys could do what they have done for around $US100. Ultimately, it was a fun watch to wear, versatile, and not too attention-getting, apart from the size.
If you aren’t obsessed with “status” watches or a collector of fine timepieces, the Leeway makes for a good everyday watch. The Aulta team is stressing the surf-lifestyle tie-in, but that’s really not a dominant component in the watch’s presentation. If there are any drawbacks, it’s this this is a shiny watch that looks terrific new, but might not age particularly well. The wearer will have to wait and see on that one. And this isn’t a watch that’s going to impress serious watch people. But by the same token, it’s sharp enough that they might want to play around with it for a few minutes.
Sure, for a few hundred more, you can get a much nicer chrono, with more intricate detailing and a better band or strap. For a few hundred more, you can get a watch with a more stupendous reputation. And a watch this big isn’t for everybody.
But the bottom line is that this is a watch at a very nice price that achieves what it set out to do: be a timepiece that you can wear to do pretty much anything, 24/7. It will be worth keeping an eye on Aulta to see what they do with their next few designs.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.