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  • Writer's picturePhilip Dashiell

district time Review - A celebration of micro-bands

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

On Sunday, September 30th I had the pleasure of attending the District Time watch event, held in the District Architecture Center venue, in Washington, D.C. This event expo was dubbed as a showcase of micro-brand designers and distributors, and it did not disappoint. The event was sponsored by Janis Trading Company, McDowell Time, and The Time Bum. The event sponsors, as well as some of the represented brands, donated watch accessories and a few timepieces to the event, to be used a door-prize giveaways, more on that a little later.

The event was scheduled to run 5-hours, between 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM, and my hindsight being 20/20, I would've definitely taken advantage of the opportunity to interact with the collective of vendors and watch enthusiasts for the entire time allotted. After a late start on my short trip from Central Maryland down to the District of Columbia, fighting the usual traffic slowdowns within the district city limits, and the Easter egg hunt for public parking, I finally settled into the event a little before 1:30 PM.

My first move into the venue, was to check-out the sponsor / vendor donated items that would be offered-up for the door prizes, which included some very high-quality straps. watch accessories, micro-brand timepieces, and vintage timepieces. I would be remiss in stating that there was vintage watch representation at the show as well. After perusing the giveaways, it was time to start making my way through the exhibit and begin interacting with the various watch vendors and designers.

My first stop was the Watch Gauge exhibit. John Keil and his team at Watch Gauge have created a site and community dedicated exclusively to micro-brands, consolidating brand information within their site, to create a one-stop-shop for researching and purchasing micro-brand timepieces. Brands that Watch Gauge represents include: BOLDR, Elliot Brown, Gorilla, Hemel, Lew & Huey, Melbourne, Mercer, NTH, Reverie, Sartory Billard, Seals, Straton Watch Company, and Vortic. At the Watch Gauge display, I was able to handle a few examples of Straton, BOLDR, and NTH timepieces (which I've only seen prior in pictures on the internet). Watch Gauge is definitely doing their part to further the growth of the micro-brand industry, by offering a vehicle to promote the brands and grow the community simultaneously, good stuff!

After visiting with Watch Gauge, my next stop was with TSAO Baltimore. TSAO Baltimore is a personal favorite of mine, as I jumped all over their initial TSAO Baltimore, Limited Edition offering, TSAO's interpretation of the deck watch style. I've interacted with Alan Tsao a few times over the past year or two via social media, but this was my very first time meeting him in person. As great as his TSAO Baltimore, Limited Edition timepiece is, his next project, the Torsk Diver, is sure to be another hit. Alan allowed me to hold one of the first Torsk Diver prototypes, while giving me an in-depth explanation on all of the design enhancements he is currently tweaking on the Torsk Diver. So expect big things upcoming from TSAO Baltimore, with the expected release of the Torsk Diver in early 2019.

The next booth that caught my interest was the AquaDive display. As a subsidiary of the Doxa brand (which I had no idea), one would expect the AquaDive to have supreme diver capabilities, given the lineage. The watches are serious, professional dive rated watches, with price points to match, so this may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you like dive watches, and are looking for a serious dive watch suited for the true rigors of professional diving, an Aquadive may be your watch. And of course the AquaDive watches stay true to their Doxa bloodlines with the cushion, vintage-style cases.

There were a multitude of other vendors showcasing their innovative designs: Lesablier, introduced their modern take on the classic pilot's watch, featuring a bead blasted case, and day / night, 24-hour read-out. The brand was literally launching their crowd-funding campaign the day of the District Time event.

Watch company Aevig presented a more-than-modest collection of timepieces, with styles ranging from sport designs with a racing and pilot themes, to more classic dress watch designs, offering an array of models for any adventure.

The brand Moduco, presented both quartz and automatic timepiece offerings, contained within a very modern case and strap configuration. The case and dial on this timepiece are very unique, given the initial impression of an homage piece, sporting a raised topography on the dial at the 12 o'clock position, and sandwich dial. Co-founder and Chief Design Officer Jacob Hood said their intention was to create a timepiece that could easily transition between the business environment, casual and relaxed settings, or more elegant affairs.

The brand Sakab, offered their interpretation of the classic Tonneau style case design. Their project is still in the works, and tweaks and changes to the current case design are already in the works, but I think they are on to something, if you're going to strike out, and try your hand at something, at least be daring and different, far from ordinary.

When the online ad first popped-up on Facebook, regarding the District Time event, I must admit, one of the first timepieces that caught my eye was the McDowell Time, Maxton Chronograph. This racing-inspired timepiece offers a stainless steel square case, with a round ceramic bezel, and silver chronograph eyes against vibrant dials, hands, and index markers, all with a vintage flair. And the 3-hole, Horween racing straps exude incredibly rich quality. And the bonus, as I found with many of the vendors exhibiting at the show, McDowell Time is local to the State of Maryland, based in Rockville, MD. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Maxton, by McDowell Time, in the very configuration pictured below, will find it's way into my collection very soon!

McDowell Time, Maxton Chronograph, District Time watch event Vendor.
McDowell Time, Maxton Chronograph

I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention Pierre Brown and his brand Hager, another Maryland based brand, and their timepiece offerings were nothing short of spectacular. Based in Hagerstown, MD (thus the name) and using only the highest grade materials, Hager showcased some amazing diver's and pilot themed timepieces, with their GMT Traveler just simply jaw dropping in person. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to snap some pictures of their display, but it was something to behold, along with providing a hardness testing demo of the sapphire crystals used in their timepieces. Pictured below are the GMT Traveler, the Commando Professional, and Hager Flieger, compliments of the Hager website. And my wish list of timepieces continues to grow.

My last visit was literally with, and no pun intended, Visitor Watches. I had a very nice conversation with founder, designer, and owner Phil Rodenbeck, and it was informative to get his insights on what inspires his timepiece creations. Visitor designs timepieces for every occasion, though I would describe Visitor watches as adding a modern flare to classically designed timepieces. Other than sharing first names, Phil and I are also avid fans of the Indianapolis Colts, so who would've figured two Colts fans, would meet in DC, the home of the Redskins, and a stones throw from Ravens territory? Visitor had a nice display of their offerings, and apologies as I was unable to capture the true essence of the timepieces that Visitor had on display, but pictured below is one of the flagship models, presented from the Visitor website, the Duneshore, in a couple of variations, with a diver version of the Duneshore currently in the works.

There was so much activity at the District Time event, and so many vendors that participated that were gracious enough to talk with, and interact with every visitor of the event. This truly was a fan friendly watch event. As noted earlier, a few of the sponsors and vendors donated an assortment of watches and watch accessories, that were given away randomly, to those in attendance. I'm am very pleased to say that I was able to win one of the most hallowed of prizes up for grabs, in the design prototype of the TACS, Automatic, Vintage Lens II timepiece. Just a very unique watch whose case and bezel design are meant to replicate the look of a vintage camera. I certainly didn't have anything like this timepiece currently in my collection. Pictures are below, but I'm currently working on an unboxing video for my YouTube channel.

I can definitely say attending the District Time watch event was an absolute blast. Being immersed in an environment where most everyone, besides those that were dragged there unwittingly, or just happened to stumble across the event, had a true passion for watches and watchmaking, was a great experience; meeting people who turned a passion for timepieces, and their creative vision, into reality, and having watch collectors appreciate the hard work and sacrifice put into that work. It truly is a real-life mutual admiration society. I'm already looking forward to next year's District Time event, and I'll be sure to take-in and experience it all, from start to finish, next time.

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