“With a watch like that,” said the Greenpeace signature-hound standing on the corner, “you must have some time to talk about the environment!” He made no sense, and I kept walking, scuttled right past his too-broad smile and across the taxi-laden street, wishing I was anywhere else, but especially back in Wyoming, where a forest-green Filson Mackinaw Field Watch ($600) on your wrist fits right in and doesn’t get you hassled.
The rigors of a journey through Wyoming, a rugged, wild state, is a decent litmus test for a modern field watch. The field watch has military origins, and it’s still fair to hold one to the same standard as during WWI: must survive long stints in the muck, doesn’t fall off the wrist, and gets you over the top of the trench (or back on the road) on time.
In this capacity, Filson’s watch line has succeeded. Indeed, the victory can just as equally be handed to Detroit-based Americana darling, Shinola. They made the watch, along with 24 other styles, for Filson’s watch line, released in January of 2015. (Both companies are owned by Bedrock Manufacturing.)
It’s a reminder that Big Sky Country is waiting for you, making style relative with all its simple, roughin’ it, homely charm.
Shinola’s hallmarks — large case diameter and thickness, brushed steel hardware, the Argonite-715 Swiss quartz movement’s name emblazoned across the dial in fine-tipped cursive — live throughout the new Filson watch line. While several watches look like near-copies of their Shinola counterparts (see: the Rambler GMT and the Journeyman), the Mackinaw stands apart from its cousins. It seems to naturally fit into the flagship position for Filson as the most affordable and simplest watch of the line. This is a good thing for Filson, who make their goods in America and care more about their own brand of rugged utility than the slick little details that so obsess clothing and bag makers in hipper places, like Europe. Filson isn’t subtle; it’s blunt.
So is its watch. The Mackinaw is big and expansively easy to read at 43mm, with military-tool-looking hands and numerals, all emblazoned with SuperLuminova that lights it up like Times Square at night. It uses a tick-tocking quartz movement that can take more of a beating than a mechanical watch; a scratch-resistant crystal is thick and curved enough to distort the dial when viewed from an angle; its tooth-edged bezel looks more ready to dent than be dented; its screw-down crown is chunky like a lug nut. The detailing on its brass case back is thick and a little ugly.
This is just how it works for a good field watch: its victories in a place like Wyoming become downsides in a place that values suave, like New York and its fashionable concrete canyon lands. It stands out, gets noticed by passersby. There’s no shame in that. There is only lots of utility, and a small plea for country stubbornness in continuing to strap it on day after day in the places where it’s out of its element. It’s a reminder that Big Sky Country is waiting for you, making style relative with all its simple, roughin’ it, homely charm.