A Tasteful & Reserved Dress Watch From a Japanese Microbrand.
The last several years have been interesting for the world of watches. You could say that crowdfunding has kickstarted new life into an old industry, and microbrands like Karl-Leimon are the result. This particular watch was successfully Kickstarted in late 2017, with backers beginning to receive their watches now.
Karl-Leimon’s first watch model is the Classic Pioneer, a modestly sized and conservatively-styled dress watch. It proudly boasts its “Made in Japan” credentials, and that is part of what helps differentiate the Classic Pioneer from many of its quartz-powered microbrand peers.
As of today, you can get the Classic Pioneer in this white dial/black leather scheme or in a black dial/black leather combination. However, four other color choices (including a very fancy looking blue and rose-gold version) are in pre-order status and due to enter production soon.
All this can be yours for just under $300. Let’s take a closer look.
Karl-Leimon Classic Pioneer Technical Specifications
- Model Number: Classic Pioneer White
- MSRP: $285
- Case Diameter: 38mm
- Alternate Models: Six color schemes in total
- Movement: Quartz, Miyota 6P00
- Complications: Triple calendar, moonphase
- Battery Life: Estimated 3-5 years
- Water Resistance: 50m / 165ft
- Crystal Material: Sapphire
Proof That Classic Never Goes Out of Style
The watches I appreciate most are the ones that I can wear every day. A watch is a luxury, and one that should be enjoyed and appreciated as often as possible. When a watch is conservative and classic, what it may lack in creativity is more than made up for in versatility.
This version of the Classic Pioneer is the most classic combination of all: a stainless-steel case, black leather strap, and flat-white dial. Paired with stainless-steel hands and indices, the flat-white and black-printed minute-markers/subdials appear modest and deliberately reserved.
The grooved subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock give the dial some texture, while the beveled indices help give the dial some depth. These classic design choices are a suitable pairing for the moonphase subdial.
As I said when I reviewed the Frederique Constant Classics Business Timer, if you’re going to get a moonphase, get one with a quartz movement. As much as I love the mechanical novelty of an automatic or hand-wound moonphase movement, most people – myself included – will forever be having to reset the moonphase position when the power reserve dies. Not a problem for a quartz.
Classic Style, but With Modern Convenience
This version of the Classic Pioneer ships with a black crocodile-grain leather strap on a stainless-steel deployant clasp. The leather is comfortable and, thanks to the butterfly clasp, should be long lasting as well. The springbars are quick-release, so if you want to dress-down the Classic Pioneer a bit, it’s a cinch to swap the strap.
I love quick-release springbars because, despite having changed out 100+ straps over the 6 years I’ve been reviewing watches, I still can’t seem to pull it off without scratching at least one of the lugs. With quick-release, it’s a literal second to take a strap off (and with no scratches left behind, either).
The deployant clasp is also pretty good, staying nice and snug when locked down. It looks good and is otherwise a pretty standard unit.
Made in Japan
Stringent quality control is one of the core attributes that Japanese manufacturers work hard to be known for. Most watches created via crowdfunding are made in Chinese or Malaysian watch factories. This is because the quality of build is usually “good enough” while allowing the price of the watch to come down a fair bit.
Subsequently, this is where the $285 MSRP of the Classic Pioneer is most evident. $300 is a competitive price for a quartz-powered moonphase that comes with a sapphire crystal. It’s even more competitive when you consider its Japanese construction. It’s worth the investment, though, as high-resolution macro inspection of the dial shows off good overall build quality.
If you open the full-size 1920x1280px image and zoom in, you can get a clear indication of how well parts of the watch were made. The steel hands and indices, for example, are uniform in their coloring and do not have any dents/dings/scratches in their finish. They’re mounted/aligned correctly.
The same is true of the printed components of the dial- their finish appears even and uniform overall. All three subdials are clear and easy to read. This is also the case for the moonphase wheel- the stars, moon, and sun look great up close.
Many of the microbrand watches I have reviewed over the years have had finishing problems in the hands and indices. This is commonly the case on a brand’s first model. Karl-Leimon has not made those mistakes here and has clearly paid attention to the details that matter.
The Classic Pioneer is a Great Quartz Moonphase Watch
I love when something is made to be affordable and high quality. The Classic Pioneer very much aligns with this sentiment, embracing both of those qualities.
The Classic Pioneer is priced fairly at $285 considering its build quality and the materials used. This Karl-Leimon offers a true moonphase triple-calendar at a price that comes in a couple of hundred dollars less than some of its Japanese or Swiss-made peers.
The reality is that there aren’t a lot of good moonphase watches available for under $300, though we can add this one to the list.
I don’t have much to criticize about the Classic Pioneer. It touches on all the right things for me: it’s perfectly sized at 38mm, offers sufficient water resistance, comes with a comfortable quick-release leather strap and deployant clasp, and is fitted with sapphire. What’s not to like?
Now, all that said, if I were to get one today, I’d pre-order the blue and steel version. Check out that moonphase dial!