A field watch seems like a rather easy thing to design and make. Most do little more than keep time. But without fancy features to hide behind, every tiny detail draws scrutiny. And that’s why I love the Vaer Heritage Dark field watch.
There is much to consider when creating a basic wristwatch. Subtle things like font choice and the size of the numerals determine readability. The shape of the case, placement of the crown, or fabric used for the band establish the foundations for the overall aesthetic.
Material choice influences resistance to daily abuses, and, of course, the mechanism within must record the passing of time with unquestionable accuracy.
These are the elements of design Vaer’s founders, Ryan Torres and Reagan Cook, pined over before starting their small watch company in 2015.
It’s why they chose to assemble their watches, like their Heritage Dark, in Los Angeles. It affords the opportunity to sweat every detail from the chamfer of the bezel to the radius of case lugs and make changes as necessary.
From their workshop, they see each component carefully placed, by hand, by their own craftsmen. It’s an old-school way of making timeless timepieces.
Vaer Heritage Dark: Form Meets Function
Like many people, I don’t need a wrist-top computer. I just want easy access to the time and date. As a frequent international traveler, I prefer the simplicity of a classic watch. As I pass from one time zone to the next, I needn’t toggle through layers of digital menus just to advance the time an hour. Analog is sometimes best.
Of the things I like most about the Vaer Heritage Dark ($229), the classic styling and material quality win my praise. For the last 8 months, it has only left my wrist three times, each of those to swap out the included bands. I cringe to think of how much neglect and misuse it has endured.
And yet, it looks as good as it did out of the box. The beautifully sculpted and brushed 316L stainless steel case doesn’t show a single nick or scrape. I’m hell on watches, and the sapphire crystal has yet to display a single imperfection.
It’s participated in a dramatic motorcycle crash in the Himalayas and a mountain bike tumble in Chile’s Atacama — not that anyone would ever know. Although I’m not much of a water guy, I know it will survive a plunge to 100 m.
Despite the recent trend towards monstrous watches, the 40 x 9.5mm case doesn’t sit on my wrist like a doorknob. It’s sleek. I think that alone keeps it from smacking into things. The crown sits at the 3-o’clock position, out of harm’s way, and features deeply cut knurls for a sure grip when making finite adjustments to the time or date.
Inside the case, the Swiss-made Ronda 763 movement keeps superb time. If it gains or loses time, it can’t be more than a few seconds stretched over weeks. That’s certainly good enough for me.
Like most modern field watches, the Heritage Dark features luminous hands. Vaer recently upgraded its glow-in-the-dark lume to Super Lumi-Nova BGW9 blue for longer light retention and brighter glow. I wish the brand would have applied the same material to the numerals, but that’s a minor quibble.
Speaking to the big impact of tiny details, the choice of red for the second hand makes for a nice contrast to the black-and-white watch face. I don’t know what it is about a simple color choice, but it makes an otherwise innocuous feature stand out.
One of my favorite attributes includes the use of nylon and leather single-pass wrist bands. Swapping one for the other takes but a few seconds and does not require the removal of the retention pins.
The nylon bands include brushed metal hasps and strap retainers for a classic and finished look. My box included a Horween leather strap, which, I have to admit, doesn’t seem quite as refined as the nylon bands.
8 Months of Daily Use Later
Before I fawn too much over the Heritage Dark, I concede it owns two minor foibles.
With my less-than-hawk-like eyesight, I can’t often read the date once it rolls into the double digits. And, to get downright nit-picky, the lume on the numerals fades too quickly. It’s a little tough to read in the dark or in low light.
At $209, with a second watch band, there are other field watches with similar features for less. But watches are rarely about pure value.
The high-quality stainless steel and sapphire crystal drive the price above lesser watches, but it’s the provenance and sharp looks that will win customers — like me. I like things assembled in America by entrepreneurs gutsy enough to give it a go.
If you don’t need a watch capable of counting your steps, recording your location, or notifying you of incoming texts, the Vaer Heritage Dark might be the perfect antidote for information overload.
I know one thing: I love it when people ask me for the time. It gives me a chance to admire my watch.