In Focus Watches

Kartel Watches Show Why Whisky and Watches Go Hand in Hand

Kartel Watches

Craft, heritage, a certain level of artisan skill; there are a few things we could be talking about and, given the nature of the magazine, the first that jumps to mind is watches. Well done. But it also pertains to one of our other true loves: whisky. Both have been made for centuries, and other than the occasional technological innovation here and there, have both stayed largely the same in their lifespan. And both are obsessed with time.

For watches, that relationship’s self-evident; it’s the reason every timepiece exists. It’s in the name. For whisky, it’s a little more nuanced, but no less important as it’s time that makes whisky what it is. And yet despite these crossovers, the two very rarely meet outside of the occasional, painfully well-heeled private members club. That’s something that Kartel watches are looking to change.

Kartel Watches
Kartel Watches

Founded in 2015, Scottish brand Kartel have all the hallmarks of a great, straight-to-consumer watch brand. That means small batches of impeccable watches available exclusively through their stores (or online, of course), cutting out the retail middleman. Most brands use this to create the kind of boutique that works as an extension of the brand, echoing their design ethos and tastes. Well, Kartel have taken that quite literally with their latest outpost in London’s Coal Drops Yard – just down from St. Pancras International – by combining a unique watch buying experience with a few good drops of scotch.

At the core of the Kartel experience is a hands-on approach to watch customisation. You start with one of the brand’s watches as a base and work your way through every detail with a plethora of different components available to switch in and out as you see fit. It’s not quite watchmaking in the truest sense, but it will certainly scratch that mechanical itch, using watchmakers’ tools to turn a stock watch into something bespoke.

Kartel Watches Knoydart

Kartel Watches Knoydart

Deciding on your final design might be easier said than done, but while there you can always indulge in a dram to help you mull it over. Whisky: the thinking man’s drink. What else would you expect from a Scottish brand? And don’t just expect the dull, mass-produced liquids your local boozer specialises in either, these are top shelf drams, many from small batch producers in line with Kartel’s own approach to timepieces. Even if you’re not a whisky aficionado, a well-stocked bar is never a bad thing, particularly when there’s someone on hand to give you a few pointers. It’s not as overwhelming a choice as customising your watch, but it is close.

Kartel Watches
Kartel Watches

As your mind is already likely abuzz with hands-on opportunities, it’s worth looking at the watches actually in Kartel’s portfolio. Across the board there’s a less-is- more approach in terms of dial layouts and colours both. The Cameron, for example, is a pared-back automatic number that, if it weren’t for the seconds numerals at the tips of the indexes and the date window, would be tantamount to Bauhaus, handsome, refined and minimal. The same goes for the Sinclair day-date, where its retro TV shape is its defining feature. There’s nothing else on the dial bar the handset and the combined day-date window.

This minimalism carries through to complications, too. Both the Cuillin calendar and Knoydart chronograph offer similar tone-on-tone looks – no pandas here – with only a flash of colour on the full black versions to keep things practically readable.

Kartel Watches Munro 282

Kartel Watches Munro 282

Kartel’s tool watches take in land and sea, with the 100m water resistant Blackmount offering accessible diving looks with a funky dial, and the Munro 282 field watch aesthetically in line with some of the heavier hitting IWCs, with its overt pilots’ feel. Although it does have the addition of a day indicator and smaller 41mm case, making it a solid daily wearer, even if you don’t regularly climb the mountains it’s inspired by.

Kartel Watches

Finally, we have the Blair, which is one of the more handsome British watches around the £500 mark. Combining Roman numerals 12 and six with slim indexes across the rest of the watch, it’s a juxtaposed combination of classical and modern, underpinned by line-up of colours that make it one of the more versatile pieces in Kartel’s arsenal. In fact, if we were to pick one watch to take into the customisation experience, it would be the Blair.

If that’s enough food for thought to get bespoke versions running through your head, you can arrange your own Kartel watch experience through their website – kartelwatches.com – or drop into their shiny new boutique in Coal Drops Yard, N1C 4DQ. Either way, have a dram or two on us. You deserve it.

More details at Kartel.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.