Third Man Out: An Exclusive Hands-On Look At The New Brew Retrograph Espresso
We went to Nashville’s Third Man Records to rock out with the micro brand’s coffee-colored chronograph.
We already knew that New York-based upstart Brew was cool. But when Watchonista got the chance to shoot the brand’s newest watch – the Brew Retrograph Espresso – ahead of its release, we wanted to see how hip this timepiece would be in Nashville. Specifically, the center of Music City’s independent scene, Third Man Records.
A Novelty Among Novelties
The physical heart of guitarist Jack White’s world headquarters, the space not only houses the offices of Third Man Records but a photo studio with a dark room and a live venue with an analog recording booth. A storefront also offers vinyl records, oddities, and merchandise, as well as the opportunity to use the Third Man Record Booth, where you can record your voice on a six-inch record.
Among the curios the Third Man shop has to offer, there is also an eccentric collection of coin-operated novelties. These include a Dip-n-Dunk Photo Booth, a Mold-a-Rama machine, and the world’s only public, working Scopitone (a viewing screen that projects campy mini-movies that were the forerunners of music videos).
So, it’s a bit fitting that we took the Retrograph, which takes its name from a specific category of chronographs, also known as “telephone timers,” to this space for a photoshoot.
It’s a quirky retro playland and the perfect place to experience the Retrograph Espresso.
Play It Again
Chronographs known as “Telephone timers,” if you are unaware, were distinguished by the special markings that divided a sub-dial into three-minute intervals. And as each three-minute marker was reached, the wearer was reminded to insert another dime into the payphone in order to continue their call. Hence the nickname of “telephone timer.”
So, what happens when you combine that piece of horology trivia with Jonathan Ferrer’s idea of founding Brew coming from watching a barista time espresso shots? The Retrograph Espresso – a watch that features specific markers to indicate the timing of the optimal java draw (between 25 to 35 seconds depending on the barista and the machine).
A Fine Brewmance
We’ve written about Brew’s unique aesthetic before, but the Espresso stands out from past editions in many ways.
First off, when we think Brew, we expect to see some ’70s-style stainless steel surfaces. But the 38 x 41.5mm case of the Retrograph Espresso comes in electro-plated PVD rose gold. Plus, while the Espresso shares the cushiony silhouette, shrouded lugs, and radially brushed bezel of previous versions of the Retrograph, the glowing gold coating brings out these details.
Eventually, when you turn the watch over to take in the caseback, you’ll discover a third texture on the horizontally brushed surface secured by four flat-headed screws. Moreover, the chronograph pushers are substantial, and the crown, which is signed with Brew’s coffee bean logo, is easy to grip.
Then there is the radiant café au lait dial. The rich sunray effect is complemented by the matte brown finish of the sub-dials. And all of these earthy hues are beautifully set against a rich, brown leather, quick-release strap.
Fun Fact: The way light plays on the Espresso’s dial is remarkably similar to the top of a vintage Sunburst Gibson Les Paul.
A big part of the Jack White legend (apart from claiming that his bandmate in The White Stripes, Meg White, was his sister), is that he values inexpensive guitars that can take a beating as much as his rare safe queens. In fact, in the 2008 documentary, It Might Get Loud, you can watch White play his “pawnshop prize” guitars, including a red and white mid-’60s Airline, a JB Hutto Montgomery, an Airline Town & Country, and a Harmony Rocket.
In the film, White offers up this bit of advice to axe collectors, but it also applies to watch enthusiasts as well: “Start with whatever you can afford. Starting with a top-of-the-line guitar won’t facilitate anything. I think someone young should struggle a bit because they’ll find their own relationship to an instrument and all the kinks that are involved with it…They need to have that. It has to become their own.”
The Retrograph Espresso offers excellent value for the money – the hybrid meca-quartz movement allows for an accessible price point while still providing a satisfying, almost analog chronograph reset experience. And as a young brand, it’s easy to make this watch your signature.