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Schofield Obscura Watch Review

The Schofield Obscura

Starting with one of brand founder Giles Ellis‘s rather poetic quotes, the tone for Schofield’s latest watch is set for a very different kind of wristwear: “In summary, the Obscura is an artifact. Something that, if discovered in the undergrowth, should probably be left alone or handed in.” Quite. Look at the spacecraft canister-cum-travel box, and you’ll get it. With its massive aluminium and steel construction, it weighs in at 1,630 grams and resembles an Alien transmitter or fusion power source.

All of Mr. Ellis’ creations are different, and Giles himself appears as a cross between hipster scholar and mad scientist. To my mind, all this creativity is cause for rapturous celebration while also making for vastly polarizing designs. A truth that is evident in the patterned steel of the hand-crafted futurism of the Obscura.

The Schofield Obscura

The Schofield Watch Company has remained a studied choice for discerning collectors of crisp, modern designs without a single touch of homage. And that premise is remarkable while the watch industry at large surfs the frothing wave of nostalgia, a self-powering beast that will not relent. The Schofield Obscura battles the trends, taking a head-on approach, a large, 44mm-cased David versus the trendy, small-cased Goliath. His ammunition is rendered in matte, clean-cut metallurgy with sharp graphic dials. There are no polished applied indices and sixties sword hands here. Yes, that makes the watch an acquired taste, but Giles the Sussex Don likes it that way. As do I, for that matter.

The Schofield Obscura

This is why the Obscura is quite remarkable and bears a closer look. It feels like a different beast while still being part of a quirky South Coast family of micro machines for the wrist. In fact, the brand’s ethos and very essence defy logic and inspire poetic prose in me, the Journalist. So, how does the Obscura look and feel? Big and heavy.

The Schofield Obscura

However, unlike most other first impressions, that’s a compliment that leaves a mark while the unpacking of details commences. And for the wearer of the Obscura, said unpacking will not be complete after day 1, such is the seemingly minimal complexity. And it is why handling a Schofield 44mm watch differs greatly from perusing press shots. Starting with the basics before strapping it on, it has a jaw-dropping case of Damascus steel. Like some alien lizard skin, the surface is tactile, much more than appears on shots of the patterned surface.

The Schofield Obscura

Damascus steel is a process known from ancient sword and knife-making, involving hammering and folding steel to harden it. In the case (sorry) of this British metallurgic marvel, the 44mm case has metal forged by Vegas Forge in the US, where massive Nazel hammers have pounded many layers of steel into textured submission. Upon arrival in Sussex, Giles dons a lab coat and protective gear and gets to work acid-etching the surface and buffing it up. The result is a large but curvy-comfortable case that looks organic with monochrome complexity.

The Schofield Obscura

The big black DLC crown has the trademark Schofield nail groove and broad design, with a fiery pink lumed logo. As with all details by Giles, it leaves you with a feeling of understanding. Understanding a design process has taken close to seven years for the Obscura to come to life. With its dark look, the shape of the crown also offers a similar totemic vibe as the container for the watch itself. The dial seems like a very restrained version of Schofield’s aesthetics with a soft, mute scale of greys and greens and a cheeky red pop in the small seconds’ lollipop pointer.

But within its deep grooves lie a scintillating blend of Super-LumiNova waiting to be awakened. Of the two main hands, only the hour hand is lumed, matched to the skeletonized minute hand’s cut out. At dusk, they are encircled by a bright mix of blues, reds, and greens that subvert the Obscura’s character. Perhaps it is signalling for the Mothership to return to Earth? No matter how you interpret its wrist-flashing colours, the Obscura leaves you feeling bombarded by impressions, and it is carried on to the quirky-cool case back.

The Schofield Obscura

The rather well-made screw-in caseback in steel has a lot to offer. And like the grooved dial with its shape-shifting abilities, there is much to unpack here. Instead of the standard clear sapphire case back insert, Mr. Ellis has gone for a scientific, enigmatic threesome. Three smoky sapphire windows offer small glimpses of the hand-wound Unitas/ETA 6498-2 calibre with 46-hours of power reserve.

The almost symbolic (Predator-symbol anyone?) design would look out of place on any other watch. But the triple-threat caseback feels a natural part of Giles’ saturated imagination. It also leaves me with a fitting conclusion. The world needs Giles Ellis and Schofield, and Obscura’s inspired take on horology is well worth its £9,558, including VAT. I have a feeling that the very personal 40 pieces will sell out rather quickly; in fact, they deserve to be.

Price and Specs:

Model: Schofield Watch Company Obscura
Case: 44mm diameter x 15mm thickness, Damascus steel
Dial: Multi-layered matte grey with multi-coloured Swiss Super-Luminova application
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Unitas/ETA 6498-2, manual winding, 17 jewels
Frequency: 18,000 vph
Power reserve: 46h
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
Strap: Cloud grey leather (24/22mm) with calf leather inlay
Price: £9,558, limited to 40 pieces

More details at Schofield Watch Company.

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About the author

Thor Svaboe

As the sole Norwegian who doesn’t like snow or climbing mountains, Thor has honed his florid writing skills at Time + Tide, and is now an editor at Fratello Watches. This Viking would fearlessly go into battle under the banner of independent watchmaking, and his End Game watch would be the piece unique Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1.