Etien T01 Review

The Etien T01 is a hand-built watch from Singapore with a Swiss movement. Does it add up to more than the sum of its parts?

Etien T01 Review

The Etien T01 is not a cheap watch, at $1388, but it is a unique one: you’ll have spotted that dial in the photos, but you really need to see it in real life to experience it. Output is very small, as each dial is hand-made. The review sample I borrowed is in emerald green; there is also a ruby red option.

At a glance

Etien T01

$1388 (approx. £1000) plus VAT
Case size
Water Resistance
Swiss ETA 2824-2

The presentation of the Etien T01 is spartan, but I did like the softwood box that the watch comes in – the magnetic closer being a nice touch. There could do to be some more padding at the top, though, as the watch rattles about inside it – the watch arrived sealed in vacuum packing; when I return the review watch, I will be sure to add some additional packing to keep the timepiece safe in transit.

Case and Movement

The Etien T01 is based around a Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement. I’m a fan of this movement, although I tend to prefer clones as they are functionally identical and somewhat cheaper than the ETA version. It’s reliable, accurate and easy to get serviced by any competent watchmaker. The case is nicely made, with no sharp edges. I liked the bezel, which is nicely rounded. It really helps to focus the eye on the dial – which is, after all, the star of the show.

I was less impressed by two aspects of the case design. The screwed-in case back is perfectly adequate but rather plain compared to many watches I have reviewed. A display back may have been too ostentatious, but the lightly engraved solid case back just didn’t do it for me. I know some very expensive watches also have plain case backs (I’m looking at you, Rolex), but I felt a nice engraving or just something more than flat metal would have added a touch more class. The second disappointment was the crown. It works perfectly well, but I would expect a decent engraved or embossed design for this price. Yes, a plain crown is better than a lightly laser-etched one, but I felt it was a missed opportunity to give another subtle indication of quality.

Dial and Hands

The Etien T01 dial is handmade from a CNC engine-turned guilloche, covered with layers of cold translucent enamel. It looks amazing, moving in the light and giving a sense of depth that draws the eye towards the centre of the dial with a three-dimensional quality. It’s amazing to behold, and I was suitably impressed.

The nature of the dial limits the opportunities elsewhere: there is no date function – quite rightly in this case – but I did find myself missing hour markings. There is a graduated chapter ring, but it has too many markings to use as a time-telling tool at a glance. Indeed, I felt it was a bit too busy given the detail on the dial. I would have preferred Etien to have used this space to give at least a clear indication of 12, 3, 6 and 9 – if not every hour. The other thing I really missed was a second hand. Clearly, a dial of this design is not ideal for accurate timekeeping, but a second hand is a useful indication that the watch is running.  Even a tiny rotating disc would have been preferable to nothing at all.

Strap and Buckle

The strap is listed as being made of Italian full grain genuine leather. I did not notice any real improvement on some of the more basic straps provided with watches at and below this price range, other than a noticeably higher-quality backing. I felt that a watch as beautiful as the Etien T01 deserved something a bit more exotic. Although replacing a 20mm watch strap will be a simple matter for a watch enthusiast, for this kind of money, you could reasonably expect a better OEM offering.

The buckle is the same basic unsigned design you would expect from an unbranded watch strap from eBay. Like the crown, I prefer plain to a laser etching, but I had hoped to see a more unusual design.

Etien T01 – Video Review

What I Liked

What I Didn’t like

  • That dial looks absolutely superb
  • The watch case is nicely finished and comfortable to wear
  • It’s a unique design, and that has to be celebrated
  • I expect a better case back, crown, strap and buckle for this kind of money
  • The lack of dial markings makes it hard to read the time at a glance
  • Dial aside, there is a lot of otherwise similarly-equipped competition at and below this price point

Etien T01 – The WRUK Verdict

I have mixed views of the Etien T01: on the one hand, the dial is stunning, and it wears really well. It will provide a talking point, and you are unlikely to ever bump into anyone else wearing one. On the other hand, it feels like the bulk of the £1000 asking price has gone into the dial. As a result, costs have been cut elsewhere: the case back, buckle, strap and crown are all of a lower standard than I would expect in a £500 watch, never mind one twice the price.

Ultimately, if you can live with the case back and are prepared to put down another £100-£200 (or more) on an upgraded strap and buckle, you are getting a good watch for your money. Of course, if you do not like the dial, then you could find something matching most of the other specifications for half the price – but that is hardly the point here. As I said from the start, it’s all about that stunning dial. If you can afford the outlay and want something truly unique, then this watch could well be what you have been looking for.

Buy an Etien T01

A limited number of Etien T01 watches in ruby red and emerald green are available at the brand’s website

By Mike Richmond

Mike spends what little spare time he has writing for WRUK; and what little money he makes building up his collection of timepieces.

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