On the Wrist: the Spinnaker Bradner
A Casual Wear Dual-Crown Automatic? Yes, Please.
Words/Photography: Me / Model: Bryce McD
Not long ago I reviewed the Overboard, a 1000m overbuilt dive watch that can go deeper than you’d ever take it. At the same time I received the Overboard I also took delivery of the Bradner, a casual-wear moderately sized automatic watch that carries a 150m / 500ft water resistance rating. Not bad.
The Bradner’s dual crowns help it stand out from other watches in your collection. Dual-crown watches are relatively uncommon, and each dual-crown watch I’ve worn or owned have all been notable for one reason or another. In this way, the Bradner is in the same company two other watches in my collection: the Seiko Alpinist and Dan Henry 1970.
I like the Bradner’s casual style and wrist presence. Let’s take a closer look.
Disclosure: Spinnaker provided this Bradner at no-cost for the purposes of this review.
Spinnaker Bradner TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Automatic, Seiko NH35
Approximately 41 hours
150m / 500ft
Does the Bradner Seem Familiar to You?
If you’re looking at the Bradner and thinking “haven’t I seen this before?”, you might be thinking of the Dan Henry 1970. The Bradner and 1970 share several styling cues as well as the movement, but there are notable differences between the two. As it just so happens, I have both watches on my desk so let’s take a high-resolution look:
There’s no denying that the two look like family. Brothers, maybe, but definitely not twins. A few thoughts come to mind:
- The Bradner feels thinner and looks more athletic due to its smaller bezel (note: the 1970 here is the 44mm version, you can also get it in a 40mm version).
- The 1970 has a superior water resistance rating, if only just.
- The inner rotating chapter rings have a similar style.
- The lugs on the Bradner are more rounded and downward curved compared to the straight and angular lugs on the 1970.
- The Bradner has a sunburst dial.
- The 1970 comes fixed with a silicone strap, whereas the Bradner has a “water-treated” leather strap.
- The 1970’s caseback features an embossed squid, whereas the Bradner has an exhibition window that shows off the Seiko NH35 within.
Seen side by side, I find that the individual items seem similar but the watches wholistically feel very different. The Bradner’s outer profile is darker, and the indices almost float. The outer ring looks streamlined and precise. By comparison, the 1970 looks portly thanks to a thicker outer dial and compressed inner dial. I also quite like the sunburst dial on the Spinnaker, which adds a hint of complexity and depth.
Both are good looking watches, but it’s the Bradner that’s better suited for everyday wear. Its style is less “dive themed” and more “dive inspired”, a distinction that makes it easier and more flexible to wear.
I think it’s a good looking watch, but I wish it was 41mm or 40mm instead of 42mm. 42mm is the biggest I can get away with, and the dual crowns cause the case to feel bigger on the wrist than your typical 42.
It hugs the wrist, though, and doesn’t feel as thick as its weight implies. It looks complementary on the wrist, and thanks to good water resistance and the use of a sapphire crystal, the Bradner is well-suited for daily wear.
This particular model, the SP-5057-02, is my least preferred version. The brown and black combination is nice, sure, but a long way away from the blue-dial versions (SP-5057-03 and SP-5057-05). The blue sunburst really pops and lights up the dial- it delivers a wrist presence that is much more impactful than the more muted brown and black combination I have here.
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A Workhorse Automatic for an Everyday Watch
I own and have reviewed nearly two-dozen watches powered by the Seiko NH35. It’s a workhorse movement with acceptable specs and proven reliability that can also be had with a date wheel. It is bi-directionally wound and is able to hack/stop-seconds. It ticks along at 21,600 bph and can be hand-wound. Accuracy is specified to be -20/+40 seconds per day.
The decorated and customized rotor looks good and matches the theme of the watch. The rest of the movement is minimally finished. It’s always nice to be able to peek under the hood.
The NH35 is inexpensive in comparison to higher-end Japanese or entry-level Swiss automatics and is a pretty good value. As a result, it is commonly found in automatic microbrand watches. If I were to build an entry-level automatic watch, I’d use the NH35.
Build, Strap, & Other Details
The bottom crown at 4 o’clock is engraved with the Spinnaker logo, while the 2 o’clock crown at the top is polished. Both crowns fit snugly, with the 4 o’clock crown screwing-down to provide maximum water resistance.
Both crowns move with a feeling of tightness and precision. They are satisfying to manipulate and provide appropriate resistance and feedback throughout their radius. There isn’t much play in the motion of the crowns- tactile feel is strong. It gives a good impression with respect to build quality. Mechanically, the Bradner feels well built.
The top of the thick leather strap is soft and plush to the touch, while the underside trades that softness for a more durable coating. Spinnaker has water treated the strap, which should help it retain its shape and coloring. I still wouldn’t take it with you in a pool, hot tub, or steam room, but I wouldn’t worry about it if you’re caught in the rain or when you’re washing your hands.
Spinnaker is engraved on the clasp, though it is very subtle. You won’t see it dead-on; a bit of reflection on the buckle shows it nicely, though.
The hands and indices appear to be free of defects, and each is given a healthy treatment of Swiss Super-LumiNova. Alignment and tolerances are consistent across the dial. Nothing looks out of place.
This feeling of polish continues when you turn the watch over, revealing a clean and blemish-free movement. The case is also finished well- tolerances are tight, even on the lugs. I wish Spinnaker would have used quick-release for the springbars, as the lugs will certainly get scratched up when it’s time to change straps.
In any case, the Bradner appears to be acceptably made for a watch priced under $300.
Lume & Night Visibility
It is very easy to see in the dark, and the lume lasts notably longer than most watches. Every main component of the dial is lumed up, which looks quite smart when seen in the dark.
Who is Spinnaker & Dartmouth Brands?
Spinner is a brand that lives under the Dartmouth Brands umbrella. Founded in 2013, Dartmouth Brands utilize modern manufacturing (most of which is done in China) and focus each of its sub-brands on a distinct theme and style.
A common theme among Dartmouth’s brands is good value. I’ve reviewed watches from Avi-8, DuFa, James McCabe, and Spinnaker and all have been great watches to wear. I haven’t encountered any quality or build problems among the half-dozen watches of theirs I’ve worn.
While still a young company, Dartmouth Brands watches show a level of polish and attention to detail that leaves me confident in their quality. Every one I’ve worn so far has felt worth more than it cost.
What I appreciate most is their price points. This Spinnaker is about $300, for example, and it feels very much worth that.
The Bradner is Happiest on Your Wrist
Clearly, I like the Bradner. In short, I think it’s a good value that delivers on everything that it needs to in order to feel like a good watch. It’s sized right and universally fit for nearly every man, and its casual good looks help it fit in with most outfits. Plus, sapphire glass and solid WR ensure that it can survive daily wear without looking worse for it.
For $300, you have some pretty good choices available to you in terms of an everyday watch, but once you add an automatic movement into the mix you usually have to start making compromises. Often, a $300 automatic with sapphire means that the movement is sourced from a Chinese manufacturer. In this case, you get a Japanese-made movement and one that will last a long time if taken care of.
You can get the Bradner in something subtle – like the version I have here – or with a more dramatic blue sunburst dial. While I’d opt for the blue dial personally, there’s no denying that the Bradner is attractive in all its variations.
If you want a reliable and robust watch to wear on the daily, the Bradner is a good option.