Today I’m gonna take a look at an interesting diver. It comes from a company called PolAm. It is a very small microbrand from the US. I found this company through their Kickstarter project which sadly failed, but that didn’t stop the founder Joe from making the PolAm watches a reality. I really like the design of this watch, as it is completely different from what you mainly see in the microbrand watch world. Mostly everyone tries to make a homage to Rolex Submariner, but this one is something special. Before I review the PolAm Hamtramck diver, let’s do an interview with Joe:
Hi, my name is Joe Wichowski – born and raised in a suburb not far from downtown Detroit, Michigan. I still live and play there – and work as little as I can! I have an adventurous family – my daughters, wife and I love to travel and experience the world around us.
2.What started your watch passion?
I’d say I’ve always been attracted to watches (or more specific – the look of certain watches) at an early age. The first I ever got was from my parents for my 16th birthday – a gold and black leather Wittnauer. It was a simple slimline quartz model but was square. I found it very unique at the time. I wore it every day – and pretty much haven’t had a “watch free” day since. So I’d say that was the kickstarter for me – just an early introduction from my parents that clicked.
3.What makes a good wristwatch to you?
I’m 100% about design and meaning when it comes to watches. I want a design that pops – a bold statement, without people looking and thinking WTF. I think great watch designs can be as simple and classic as a U-Boat, or as in-your-face as a Tag Monaco Steve McQueen. Just don’t go so far as Azimuth Roulette. So there is a definite line for me between good design and a bad idea – not all designs should be watches, and not all watches have a good design. But when they do, I gravitate right to it. Pretty much like a magnet, as I’m sure many of your readers can agree.
As for the meaning part, I like to wrap my watch purchases around events, people, or memories. For example, my Zodiac dive watch was my go-to travel watch – especially when in Grand Cayman. The watch and the place are so entwined, that when I wear it now and again, I always remember snorkelling at East Bay, the smell of the ocean, the Ceviche at Over The Edge, and the drinks at Rum Point. So I like to use my watches as reminders of the places, people, and events I love so I can experience a little of them every day.
4.How much watches do you have in your personal collection?
I used to have about 10, but now am down to about 5 or 6 in my regular rotation.
I regularly wear (in no particular order):
- Zodiac ZMX03 #98 (This is my vacation watch and has seen a lot of action. 26 countries and counting!)
- Time Force Sport TF3071M01 square dress watch (picked it up in Cabo my first time there)
- Festina F16272 Orange with Black Carbon Fiber (the first watch I bought myself over $300)
- Shinola Runwell Black and Tan (I had a chance to visit the factory before it opened, and snagged watch #184)
- Nixon The Platform square dress watch (cherished gift from my best friend)
- Nixon The Tangent diver tide watch (bought this one on impulse, and is a bit too big for me so probably giving this one away as well)
But to be honest, since I made my own watch, all of these just sit in the box these days. Maybe its time to take them out and dust them off!
5.Who is your ideal customer?
Obviously, anyone who has Polish blood in their veins needs a watch from my company – simply put, there is nothing else out there like it. We are a Heritage-first company, and anyone of Polish, Prussian, or East-German descent is the target (like me!). But I think even The Hamtramck without the Polish Eagle logo is such a unique design and set of colours – I truly believe it’s unlike any other all-sport + formal watch out there. Anyone who likes Oris, Omega, Vostok, and Zodiac should definitely give us a look – you’ll see a little of each of them in our designs.
6.Tell about what you like to do outside of watches. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I built the watch for myself, mainly because it was hard to find 1-watch that did everything I wanted it to do. I wanted a watch that I could snorkel with, then wear on the beach, then take it home and use it in the kitchen (I know weird – but I build it purposefully with a 20min countdown timer not so much for diving, but for cooking), then strap it on with a suit for a night out to the theater. One watch that I could take on vacation – any vacation – without feeling like I’m packing a watch bag larger than my carry-on.
So, I was going to buy an Oris Regulateur, but they changed the style recently (which I didn’t like) and I didn’t want to buy a used one. Then I was looking at the Omega Planet Ocean, but I wanted Orange and feared it would look too silly in a suit and tie. Then I was going to buy a Zodiac Super Sea Wolf – but before pulling the trigger, I wondered if I could just make my own watch. So I began my research, and thus my journey as a watchmaker.
7.How do you see PolAm watch brand in future?
I’d like to continue to play on the heritage focus of my first watch. I see PolAm as being that go-to watch company for those of Eastern European heritage – both in the USA and all over the world. In fact, I have several people direct from Poland who have purchased The Hamtramck – pretty awesome! So even though I am Polish-American (thus The PolAm Watch Company), I do feel I can take inspiration from these great counties of history – the Prussians, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Duchy of Warsaw, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Pols – and celebrate their spirit and energy as they were not only a major player in the stage of Europe, but now have emigrated far and wide to carry out their ambitions across the globe.
8.Are there any new watches coming anytime soon?
Yes, I have a Ladies version of The Hamtramck coming in a 32mm version with garnet stones in the bezel, since the current 46mm is too large to fit on my mother’s wrist. And I am in the design process of a new model I’m calling The Prussian, which will be more of a black-on-black-on-yellow special ops / military style watch paying homage to the Prussian logo. Those will hopefully reach the market in late 2018.
So let’s dive into the review. The watch we are gonna look at today is the PolAm Hamtramck dive watch. It comes in two variations. With the eagle or with no eagle on the dial. The eagle is Coat of arms of Poland. And me myself has some Polish blood too, as my great grandparents come from Poland. Also, my surname and name of this blog “Kaminsky” comes from Poland. So the watch also has a connection to my own roots.
So the Hamtramck came in this red leather box with Poland’s Coat of arms eagle on the box. You open the box and here is a watch. The box kind of reminds me of 70s watch boxes, with the simplicity and the bright red colour. Especially from Eastern Europe. Inside you have the Hamtramck in all it’s glory. First impressions were that it doesn’t look that big. Before I received the sample for review I went to check the specifications of the watch and discovered that it is 46mm big. But in reality, it looks like a 43mm watch. I actually have a diver in 43mm which in size looks the same as the Hamtramck. Also, I was excited to see the shark mesh bracelet they come with, as I never had a proper shark mesh bracelet in any of the watches I review.
The case is made of 316L stainless steel. The case shape is round with short lugs that slope down. The whole case is finished in brushed finish, the only parts that are polished are the top of the lugs and case back. The finishing is done really good, can’t see anything wrong with it. All the lines of the case are sharp. The diameter of the case is 46mm, the thickness is 13,6mm. Lug to lug is 53mm and lug width is 22mm. I really like the proportions of the watch, as it is big when it is sitting in the box, but when you actually wear it, it has nice size and it wears really good. On the right side of the case, we have a screw down crown. On the end of the crown, we have a red dot, which goes with the red/steel colour scheme on this watch. The crown threads really good, no issues there. It is quite easy to grab and operate. The bezel on the watch is 120 clicks unidirectional one. The bezel action is really nice, there is no play in the bezel and it is pretty easy to grab it and turn. The aluminium bezel insert has this interesting colour scheme that I only remember seeing in vintage watches. The silver and red really look good on the bezel. The bezel has a 20-minute countdown to zero feature, and as Joe in his Kickstarter project said, he mainly uses it for cooking, as most of us 😀 The countdown to zero bezel is actually a throwback to the old school Vostok watches, as they had this function too. The case back is a screw in and has high polish finishing on it. I think that it would look better with brushed finishing as then it wouldn’t scratch that easily. On the case back we have Poland’s Coat of arms eagle engraved, as well as PolAm logo, which number from production you have and phrase in Polish “kuj żelazo póki gorące” which means “Strike While The Iron Is Hot”. I like when micro brands put something inspiring like this on their watches. On top of the dial, we have a domed sapphire crystal which really makes the dial pop. The watch is rated at only 100m (10ATM) which I think is too little, with the specs the watch has, it should easily be capable of 200m.
The dial is again something new to me. As this is the first dive watch with a white dial that I like. When I saw the renderings on the Kickstarter project I was blown away how well the colours go together. The silver and red bezel with the white dial with red accents looks pretty cool. So the bezel is in white colour, but in some lighting, it looks even very light silver/metallic. Around the dial, we have a black minute track. The hour markers are applied. They are square and have a silver outline, the inside is white and they have lume inside. The markers at 9, 12, 3 and 6 o’clock instead of white insides have red ones, but those have no lume on them. The hour and minute hands are shaped like arrows. The outline of the hands are red and have white inside which is also lumed. The hour hand is dwarfed, so the minute hand is a lot bigger. The same we have on the Doxa watches, as divers need the minute hands to be seen the best as that is what matters the most when you are underwater and want to see how long you have been under water. The second’s hand is in silver with polished finishing. At the end of the hand, you have the arrow triangle with red outline and white inside just like the other two hands. At 3 o’clock we have a square date window with a red outline. On the dial, we have a printed PolAm logo, under the logo we have “Automatyczny” which from Polish means “Automatic” and the name of the watch “Hamtramck“, also we have the depth rating. The printing is very nice and crisp. Also all the markers and everything lines up beautifully. The lume is also pretty good and lasts pretty long.
Movement in the watch is Japan made Seiko NH-35 automatic movement. It is pretty good and reliable mechanical movement. The power reserve is 41 hours. It has 24 jewels and 21,600 bph vibrations per hour. The movement is hackable which for some is a good thing as you can match the time with other watches. Accuracy wise this one was in around +9 seconds range.
The shark mesh bracelet that came with the watch is just amazing. I never had a proper shark mesh on any of the watches I reviewed in the past and I never bought one myself as I heard these are a hair pullers. But it actually doesn’t do that. The mesh on the bracelet is really nicely made, and cut neatly at the ends. The flip lock buckle is pretty good quality. It is milled and has brushed finish on it. Also, there is engraved the eagle on the bracelet and the PolAm logo. So how do you size it? Well, I was surprised to discover that it has small links with screws. You just unscrew the screws, take out the links you need and screw it in back. Pretty easy to do.
Overall the watch is a pretty good one. You get a nicely made and finished case, cool and functional design, automatic movement, domed sapphire crystal and that nice shark mesh bracelet. What more do you need for a vacation watch? Of course, I would like it to have 200m water resistance instead of 100m, but I at the same time this watch isn’t focused on that diving aspect, it is meant for everyday use. Joe actually wanted to make a watch that you can take on a vacation, on the beach and in the evening go to the theatre. Aycase it is a pretty good deal for the price he is asking.