A Pleasant Upscale Surprise from Thomas Earnshaw
When a rep from Dartmouth Brands – parent company of Thomas Earnshaw – contacted me about reviewing one of their new pieces, I must admit that I was somewhat apprehensive. At this point I have reviewed a number of Dartmouth watch brands hands on – Avi-8, DuFa, Spinnaker, James McCabe – and all have been pretty good for the money, but a quick Amazon search of Thomas Earnshaw shows dozens of overstyled skeletonized watches… many using low-end movements but with higher-end pricing.
However, I believe that the merits of a watch are what should define its assessment, and it was with that spirit that I opened the Thomas Earnshaw Precisto Bauer Fumée when it arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I have to say that my fears of a low-quality overstyled watch quickly washed away. The Precisto looks as good in person as it does in photos, and perhaps even a bit better.
Most importantly, it appears to be made well and it uses a Seiko NH35 automatic movement (which is a considerable step-up compared to no-name movements Earnshaw has used in the past). The look comes with a fairly hefty MSRP of around $550 USD (after exchange)- I’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s worth it. Let’s take a closer look.
Disclosure: Thomas Earnshaw provided this Precisto Bauer Fumée at no-cost for the purposes of this review.
Thomas Earnshaw Precisto Bauer Fumée Technical Specifications
- Model Number: ES-8809-02
- MSRP: Appx $550
- Case Diameter: 42mm
- Alternate Models: Quite a few
- Movement: Automatic, Seiko NH35
- Complications: None
- Power Reserve: Approximately 41 hours
- Water Resistance: 50m / 165ft
- Crystal Material: Mineral
You’re a Handsome One, Mr. Precisto
The Precisto showcases several visual elements that help it simply pop off the wrist. The first and most noticeable is, of course, the open heart window at the 9 o’clock position. Inside you can see a ruby red jewel surrounded by the in-motion balance wheel. As I’ve said a few times before, every watch enthusiast goes through a skeleton phase and the open heart dial shown here is a more reserved way to enjoy said phase.
The next component that grabs my eye is the dial itself. The fumée dial – fumée meaning “smoke” in English – is a looker, changing its depth and refraction based on the light and your angle to it. It never quite looks the same no matter how you assess it, creating a very engaging visual. It looks fantastic.
The gold hands complement the gold Earnshaw logo at 3 o’clock, and the whole lot accents the open heart display. Or is it the other way around? I suppose it depends on which part of the dial you place the most emphasis on.
The anti-glare coating also plays a part in the eye candy. As seen in the photo above, with the right angle it lends its own coloration to the dial and the result is simply visually astounding. The entire piece – from the two-tone brushed/steel case to the clean and beautiful dial – alludes to class and sophistication. It feels and looks luxurious.
In this case, luxury is also attainable. While the Precisto Bauer Fumée may come with an MSRP close to that $500 mark, you’ll easily find it sold far below its MSRP. As of the time of this writing, Watches.com has it for sale for just under $220.
However, opulence does not come without some visual compromise and that compromise is primarily made when it comes to accessibility of timekeeping. Two roman markers sit prominently at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions, though their coloration helps them blend into the dial. The dots that encircle the dial mark the minutes, but they’re relatively small and easy to miss.
Still, if you’re wearing this watch, function is less important than form… and the form looks fantastic.
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Hello NH35, It’s Great to See You Again
This is my first experience with Thomas Earnshaw, and it’s a pleasant one thanks in part to the movement they are using: the Seiko NH35. Many microbrand watches are powered by no-name Chinese-manufactured automatics, and my research on Thomas Earnshaw suggests that this used to be the case for them as well. However, like several of the Dartmouth Brand watches I’ve reviewed recently, such as the Spinnaker Bradner and Spinnaker Overboard, inside the Precisto is the NH35.
The Seiko NH35 automatic movement is, for lack of a better term, a workhorse movement. It’s proven to be quite reliable, if not technically average in terms of specifications and abilities. At this point, I’ve reviewed more than two-dozen automatic watches powered by the NH35 and all have been consistently good.
The NH35 is a 24-jewel movement that can be bi-directionally wound, hand-wound, and hacks/stops-seconds. It beats at 21,600bph and is accurate to -20/+40 seconds per day. The accuracy is average at best, hardly better than a lower-spec movement (such as Seiko’s own 7S26 automatic found in the Seiko 5 and Recraft line of watches, among others).
Despite its mechanical mediocrity, the NH35 is a perfectly suitable choice for an entry-level* automatic watch.
Build, Strap, & Other Details
The Thomas Earnshaw Bauer Precisto Fumée is acceptably made and finished, looking good under close inspection. As we’ll see shortly, you can indeed get real close to the dial and case of the Precisto and feel confident in its build. The same is true of the caseback and exposed movement that peeks through the exhibition window. So, let’s have a look at the strap, case/crown, and dial in more detail.
The brown genuine leather strap feels good to the touch and quickly molded to my wrist. The initial finish is positive, but I am somewhat concerned regarding long-term durability. I noticed the strap showed wear lines quite quickly, though they remained restricted to their initial developments over the course of my four-week test session.
Stitching on the strap is even and there are no frayed stitches or uneven cuts. Disappointingly, Thomas Earnshaw has not participated in the growing trend of shipping watches with quick-release springbars in the straps. Quick-release springbars make changing a strap a cinch, saving both time and wear on the watch (who hasn’t scratched up a watch case changing a strap?).
The case and crown are finished well. The case is two-tone steel: polished on the sides and bezel, brushed on the top. I always appreciate the two-tone look with steel cases as I feel it breaks up the metallic monochrome you get without it.
The crown is knurled and embossed with the Thomas Earnshaw logo. I don’t see any machining flaw in either section.
“Earnshaw” is engraved on the side of the case opposite the crown, and as you can see, it is a clean and even job. The interior finish of the engraving is brushed, again contrasting against the polished steel surrounding it. It’s a nice visual break that, again, I can see no flaw in.
Lastly, the dial easily stands up to up-close inspection (as seen in the photo above). Note the cleanliness of the movement, uniformity of the hands, and the application of the Earnshaw logo at 3 o’clock. Looks great to me.
About the Brand: Thomas Earnshaw
Thomas Earnshaw, the watch brand, should not be confused with Thomas Earnshaw, the English watchmaker. While they share the same name, they are not the same entity.
The modern incarnation of Thomas Earnshaw is an example of a popular trend: buy the rights to a famous figure in horology’s name and apply them to a modern watch brand. I have no opinion on whether or not this is a good thing, but it is something worth noting.
As mentioned earlier, Thomas Earnshaw the brand is a member of the Dartmouth Brands family, a UK-based conglomerate that empowers each of its sub-brands to grow into a specific theme or niche. Avi-8 is aviation focused, James McCabe is all about motorcycles, and Earnshaw is very classic/vintage and dressy.
They also offer good service for their products. In the case of Thomas Earnshaw, you have a 28-day return policy if you buy directly from their website and their watches come with a 2-year warranty.
Is This Thomas Earnshaw Destined for Your Wrist?
I have two criticisms of the Precisto. The first is its MSRP, which is anywhere between $450 and $550 depending on the exchange rate (the MSRP is listed as £440.00 which is roughly $550 USD as of today). That’s a chunk of change for a watch using a basic Japanese-automatic.
The second is the use of a mineral crystal, which frankly is a long-term miss on a watch that costs this much money. Sapphire crystals are considerably more durable and, thanks to the wonders of manufacturing efficiency, don’t cost much more than mineral crystals today. The use of mineral on a watch with a £440.00 MSRP is a misstep.
All that said, it only took me a minute of Googling to find it for sale for roughly $220ish USD. At that price it’s much more reasonable, especially considering the movement within.
Ultimately, the Precisto Bauer Fumée is not a value-superstar, but it is indeed a fine looking and acceptably made dress watch that I think anyone would be happy to wear. It may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn good.
- Thomas Earnshaw Precisto Bauer Fumée Technical Specifications
- You’re a Handsome One, Mr. Precisto
- Hello NH35, It’s Great to See You Again
- Build, Strap, & Other Details
- About the Brand: Thomas Earnshaw
- Is This Thomas Earnshaw Destined for Your Wrist?
- High-Resolution Photos