The Radcliffe Haxel is a new Kickstarter chronograph with the same underpinnings as the perenially popular Seagull 1963.
Radcliffe Haxel Review
Radcliffe kindly loaned us one of the prototypes of their new Hazel chronograph which comes to Kickstarter on 10th November, with prices starting at £249 for early birds. This puts the watch in a similar price range to the Seagull 1963 Chinese military Chronograph. It must be pointed out that this watch is a prototype: Radcliffe plans several upgrades on the production models which will be detailed later in the review. However, I can only give my opinions on the watch that I have in front of me, so please bear that in mind when reading this review.
The Radcliffe Hazel’s 42mm case is a good size for a chronograph, although I was surprised to find it in almost 14mm thick, with the heft accentuated by slab-like straight sides. Compared to svelte lines of the Seagull chronograph I usually wear it seemed very tall: more like a Valjoux-7750-equipped automatic watch than the ST-1901 it contains. The open case back is a nice touch with this particular movement, as it looks great, and the engraved text at the back is suitably deep.
The short lugs help keep the watch manageable on the wrist, and it wears a lot better than the dimensions might suggest on my 7.5″ wrist. The case finishing is not great, but it will change from brushed to either polished or sandblasted in the production models. A sapphire crystal is a step up from the acrylic that is often found on watches with the Seagull movement. Overall, if you think the Seagull 1963 is too small, you will likely enjoy wearing the Radcliffe Haxel.
Dial and Hands
There are a few dial colour choices for the Haxel Radcliffe chronograph. I expect the black and white “panda” will be the most popular. This watch is a “reverse panda” with white subdials set into a black dial. The hands are plain sticks which are easy to read, and the orange subdial hands add a splash of colour. This sample had a misaligned chronograph hand which, Radcliffe assures me, will be remedied in the production models.
The cushioned sides of the sub-dials means that the hands aren’t long enough to reach the markers. That it would make it hard to read the elapsed minutes, except in this sample a longer hand would not fix the problem as there are actually 36 markings on the dial! Whilst I am promised this will be fixed, I’m surprised the watch was sent out for review with this flaw. I was unconvinced by the way the markings around the edge of the dial are offset where they meet the subdials. Personally, I would have preferred them all to be around the edge of the dial. Still, the colour and style is attractive and I think the watch has a lot of visual appeal.
Strap and Buckle
The supplied strap is made of soft but unremarkable leather. The signed buckle is nicely engraved, but I’d be changing the strap straight away – something that is made easier by the inclusion of a quick-change system.
Radcliffe Haxel – Video Review
What I Liked
- The colour options all look good
- A 42mm Seagull-ST1901-equipped chronograph will prove popular.
- The price is very good compared to most mechanical competitors.
What I Didn’t Like
- The watch is a touch too tall and slab-sided for my taste.
- I’m not convinced by the placement of the minute track on the dial.
- This is a prototype, but buyers might have some quality-assurance concerns as no reviewers have handled anything close to the “final” product.
Changes in production models
Here are the key changes in the watch when it comes to Kickstarter: I’ve tried to avoid commenting on these areas to avoid confusion:
- The case finish will be proposed in either polished or sand-blasted
- The final strap designs will be a “vote” between 2 or more styles where backers can choose which one they prefer to have with the watch.
- The R on the crown will be smaller.
- Backers will have the choice of the hour/minute hands to be either black or white.
- The dial hour indices will be upgraded to 3D metal-plated pieces with 12-9-6-3 Lumed indices.
- The Tachymeter will be switched from steel to ceramic.
Radcliffe Haxel Chronograph – the WRUK Verdict
The Radcliffe Hazel presents me with a significant problem as a reviewer: the parts of the watch that I think need improving are going to be changed in the watch you’ll receive if you back the Kickstarter. On the other hand, almost every part of the watch is going to be changed: the subdials, the hands, the strap, the case finish, the crown and the bezel. I can’t really give an opinion of what remains because there is little left except the movement (of which I am an unavowed fan). Personally, I think Radcliffe ought to have made another prototype rather than send this watch out for review.
What it comes down to is trust: can you trust a new manufacturer on Kickstarter to keep their promises when it comes to fixing the problems with the watch – some of which are major: Putting the wrong number of markings on a 30-minute dial and still sending it out for review is either a sign of confidence that the product is good enough that it does not matter or a sign the brand does not care. Having been in touch with the creator, I am absolutely convinced that Radcliffe intends to make a high-quality product – demonstrated by the long list of improvements for the final watch.
As it stands, I can’t honestly recommend the watch I have in my hand, but the Kickstarter upgrades promise to turn it into something I would most likely be giving a glowing review. It is up to potential buyers to decide for themselves if they are confident about what the changes will mean to the watch’s look and feel, and whether they are reassured that the level of quality assurance on the final watches will be better than that of the prototype.
Buy a Radcliffe Haxel Chronograph
The Radcliffe Haxel is coming to Kickstarter on November 10th: you can sign up for more details at radcliffewatches.com. Early bird pricing starts at £249 for the first 100 pieces, then 100 at £275 and £299 for the rest.