We are living in a sort of microbrand watch Renaissance, and outfits like Brooklyn-based Carpenter Watches provide a good example of small-brand watchmaking done right. The young company’s second model, the Brooklyn Gent, is restrained in size and design, well-executed, and backed up with solid specs, including a Swiss automatic movement. Its understated simplicity is what will divide who is attracted to it from who is underwhelmed by it, but those for whom the sober character resonates will find it offers a solid value.

Notable: Being a down-to-earth indie brand from Brooklyn, New York, is an important part of Carpenter Watches’ identity, and denoting it on the dial will surely charm a certain portion of the brand’s intended audience. (Count this reviewer among them.) The Brooklyn Gent watch straddles the line between mid-century dress and tool watches, but manifests it in a tasteful way that feels utilitarian. Its 38mm diameter is on-trend and wears smallish by modern standards, somewhat like how a lot of vintage watches do.

Who It’s For: The Carpenter Brooklyn Gent is versatile both in the sense of what kind of people will enjoy wearing it as well as in what kinds of situations. It’s stylistically neutral, neither dressing up nor dressing down most outfits. Those looking for a first mechanical watch under $1,000 will be well-served by it as a piece of basic, handsome, everyday wear. Brooklyn hipsters and watch fans, especially those of the vintage persuasion, will appreciate the throwback sizing and other retro cues like the domed acrylic crystal.

Alternatives: Perhaps even five years ago, Carpenter’s watches would have stood out for their American provenance and value offered for a Swiss automatic movement and other enthusiast-friendly specifications. Now, however, there are a number of American watch brands jostling for your attention, and even more indie brands at and around Carpenter’s price point. In New York alone there are brands like Martenero, automotive-themed Autodromo, and coffee-themed(!) Brew Watches, all generally competitively priced, and Mercer is not too far away in New Jersey.

A symbol of the burgeoning modern American watch industry is Shinola in Detroit (as denoted on its dials), and their Runwell Automatic, which features a similar Swiss automatic movement, seems like it may appeal to some of Carpenter’s same demographic, though it’s priced slightly higher at $1,095. Finally, the Weiss 38mm Standard Issue Field Watch, with “Los Angeles” on the dial, features a manually wound Swiss movement, comparable sizing and a price of $1,150.

Review: Like craft beer in Brooklyn (or across the country), the startups of the watch world have a charm all their own. Now more than ever before, watch enthusiasts are able to connect with suppliers around the world and see their visions realized with relative ease, and the final products are limited only by their imagination and what they think they can actually sell. Quality largely reflects dedication to refining the details. Microbrands can offer a more direct and personal connection than large watch companies because there is less filter between the creator’s concept and the watch on the consumer’s wrist.

Founder Neil Carpenter clearly admires the handsome, pragmatic designs of mid-century watches genuinely intended for daily use by regular people. “Brooklyn Gent” might sound gimmicky or fashion-focused, but Carpenter’s approach is totally unpretentious. Is it a dress watch or a tool watch? It’s hard to tell, but that’s perhaps a good line to straddle. Despite lacking any flash or eccentricity, it was surprising the number of comments, compliments, and inquiries the Brooklyn Gent attracted while wearing it around.

At 38mm wide, the Gent is as conservative in its size as in its design. This is about as small as a contemporary watch can be before it’s subjectively considered “small,” but a little bit of girth offsets its diameter and gives it some more wrist presence. It doesn’t quite fit under a sleeve as easily as one might want for a watch made for a city that calls for long sleeves, and layers of them, for a good portion of the year.

Adding perhaps a millimeter or so to its thickness is a tall domed acrylic crystal over the dial, which the brand describes as “old school.” Interestingly, the case back’s display window is sapphire, which makes the choice of acrylic seem more deliberate than cost-saving. Through the display case back one can see the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement which operates at 4Hz and offers about 38 hours of power reserve. This is a common movement, but many will consider it a step up from the Miyota movement in the brand’s first watch, the Brooklyn Field.

It’s hard to find any “mistakes” in the Carpenter Brooklyn Gent’s safe design or execution, but distinguishing the 12 o’clock marker from the remainder of the indices would probably help balance the dial a bit and orient the eyes more quickly when reading the time. What perhaps stands out most is the “Brooklyn, NY” on the dial, and this is the kind of thing you have to look pretty closely in order to appreciate. It can be a meaningful touch for locals or transplants, but the New York City borough is famous enough that it can have wider appeal as well.

Verdict: The Carpenter Brooklyn Gent offers a decent value and a fine daily wearer for people with the right disposition. Precisely by not standing out, it offers a quiet dignity, but the brand could perhaps do a little more to get attention. A matter of personal preference, a sapphire option might also elevate the wearing experience — as well as better resist scratches. Despite a screw-down crown, water-resistance of only 50m is less than expected. Finally, the bracelet is nice enough, but its clasp can be “sticky” to open and close. These mostly subjective quibbles aside, the Gent’s overall sober style, quality construction, and local charm offer the wearer a private satisfaction that doesn’t rely on pomp or bling.

What Others Are Saying:

• “The Gent is a handsome, classically-styled watch that should make do as a daily driver…Altogether it’s a neat little package from Carpenter Watches” — Ilya Ryvin, Worn & Wound

KEY SPECS
Case Diameter: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Crystal: Domed acrylic
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic

Carpenter Watches provided this product for review.

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