Inside & Out: Niall One.M
How I got this watch: I spoke with Niall Luxury about reviewing a timepiece. I was sent the One.M which I wore for 10 days. This is not a paid review.
The Niall One.M. It's meant to cause a little controversy
Those were words spoken by Michael Wilson, founder of Niall Luxury and now Chief Technology Officer at Niall, when he spoke to Gear Patrol about the One. M. I first heard about the One.M in January when I interviewed Michael where he spoke about working with law enforcement personnel to create an extremely durable and lightweight timepiece. Members of the Kansas City Police Department came to Niall asking for a watch that could be worn on the beat and was affordable to them. At the time Niall didn't have a timepiece like that, so they went and made one. The result was the One.M, an ultra lightweight carbon-fiber watch
The One series was Niall's first watch and was released in 2014.
The tonneau steel case is reminiscent of Gerald Genta's iconic designs from the 1970s, especially with the raised bezel with visible mounting screws. There have been two more One series since release, the One.2 and the One.3, with the One.4 set for release in late 2017. After the One series came the GMT, a watch with a more traditional case shape and profile. The hard angles and bezel screws were swapped out for a more approachable case design that housed Niall's first complication. The GMT series has also evolved with different dial variations atop the same Eterna movement.
When picking up the One.M, the first you will notice is the weight. Or the lack of it. Those who have worn titanium watches will know the odd sensation when your brain is telling you that the watch should weigh more than what your hand is telling you. I've handled a few titanium watches in my time but the lightness of carbon fiber blew my mind. The watch weighs 29.7 grams (That's barely an ounce for those using Imperial measurements) and it took me a few days of wearing it to get used to the lightness. This lightness was crucial for Niall's goal of providing a timepiece that could survive the rigors of active, daily use. The more a watch weighs, the more inertia is exerted onto the dial feet and movement.
By using a quartz movement and an ultra lightweight carbon fiber case, Niall are able to reduce the amount of inertia exerted onto the movement, thus making it more durable. As Niall designed the watch to be worn by members of law enforcement and the military, the durability of the watch is paramount. Starting with computer simulations, Niall tested for thermal shock, stress testing, pull force against the spring bars. Impact, shake and vibration tests were performed to see when a point of failure was reached. After simulation came live testing by law enforcement and military personnel, whose feedback helped shape the look and feel of the One.M.
Carved out of a single block of American made carbon fiber with just two seperate pieces, the bezel and caseback, the One.M is soft to the touch.
Unlike the cold, hard feel of steel, the carbon fiber case has a warm quality to it that's very hard to describe. It was especially noticeable on the edges of the watch, even the harsh lines near the case lugs didn't have that same texture as if they were in steel. I don't know whether this is a trait unique to carbon fiber or whether it's a result of the ceramic coating Niall used but it's like nothing I've felt. The two 'bumps' on either side flow out and back into the main case and their smooth finishing is in stark contrast to the large, flat areas above the lugs. Despite the softness of touch, the carbon fiber case is actually 10x stronger than steel !
No matter its use, whether it be in bicycle frames or luxury car interiors, I always think of carbon fiber as only looking like a black/grey weave. Yet looking on the large, flat facets of the One.M at 12 and 6, it's clear that we're only used to seeing carbon fiber from one angle. Diagonal slices through a single block reveal a unique pattern that is similar to Damascus steel or wood grain. The contrast between these two patterns, the familiar industrial weave and the exotic wood grain, is a real selling point of the One.M and something I've never seen before. The caseback also shares the pattern and the customer will have the choice between an engraved or non-engraved caseback.
What I really enjoyed was how the light bounced off the dial to create a rather enthralling effect. We're used to seeing traditional sunburst finishing on a dial but the carbon fiber weave is something totally unique to that material and unfortunately it's quite hard to replicate it in photographs (Or at least for a photographer of my limited ability).
The watch would be almost unnoticeable on the wrist if it weren't for the long case
The 42mm wide tonneau case wore large on my wrist but it was never uncomfortable. The lugs themselves are quite short but the large facets above and beneath the bezel take up a lot of space and effectively doubles the lug length. The wrist profile of the watch is only made larger by the added bulk of the nylon strap which adds a few millimeters to the 12.8mm thick case.
The watch came to me on a black Zuludiver nylon strap with black PVD buckles and keepers. It's a simple strap that works well with the tacti-cool look of the One.M, but if you don't like it then it's only a matter of seconds before a different nylon can be swapped in. Soon Niall will be replacing these straps with ones sourced and sewn in Kansas City, adding another line to the long list of parts that Niall sources in their home town.
Niall offers a small amount of customization on the One.M with customers able to choose the color of the dial (Black/Blue), bezel screws (Grey/Black) and second hands (Yellow, White, Blue and Red). The watch I wore had a bright red seconds hand which contrasts well against the black carbon fiber weave and the bright white printed markers. The One.M shares the same thin paddle hands as the One.3 and whilst they are a nice length, they do look delicate on such a sporty watch. The bright white lume on the hands aids legibility and visibility but I would have preferred something even thicker. (Maybe a pair of hands like those on the Sinn U1 S).
Something that has improved since my first experiences with the Niall GMT Panda is the fidelity of dial printing. That watch had a few hour markers that were bleeding out onto the dial, but every marker on the One.M, including the printing Niall name below 12 o'clock, is razor sharp. Printed markers are a necessity for any watch brand looking to keep costs down and as long as the markers are as legible as printed ones, I don't mind at all.
Now, The movement.
The One.M uses a Swiss quartz movement. I'll be honest and say that it's hard to wax lyrical about a quartz movement; it's accurate, it's reliable, it does the job it was designed for without pomp or circumstance. Some of you reading might be wondering why I decided to review a quartz watch as this is only the second quartz watch I've reviewed (the other being the Bulova CURV chronograph). Every other week I politely decline several offers to review cheap, minimalist sub-$200 quartz watches from brands that leave the stage almost as quick as they enter it. My reason for declining is because there isn't anything behind the marketing sleight of hand for most of these brands. It's not because they use a quartz movement.
I might not care all that much about the quartz movement used in the One.M, but there is something about Niall worth talking about. Hamilton are more Swiss than American now and the less said about Shinola the better, so at the moment it falls to Niall to be the saviours of the mass-produced American watch. Those that follow Michael Wilson on Instagram will know that there is an automatic variant of the One.M in the works which will be releasing sometime in 2017.
My thoughts on the concept of the One.M are mixed.
It's rare that the needs of police officers and military personnel converge with the world of luxury watches. One prizes efficiency and precision whilst the other favors decoration and indulgence. The closest I've been to been to a tactical situation is the unhealthy amount of time I've put into Rainbow Six Siege, but there are aspects of One.M that even I find lacking. There is no way of marking or tracking elapsed time, no individual minute markers for precise reading and even though it's water resistant to 100 meters, there is no screw-down crown. As a luxury watch there is no issue with any of that but as a durable watch meant for active situations, it falls short of what I imagine my needs would be.
By being lighter, more durable, more affordable and being powered by a quartz movement, Niall enter into a market dominated by cheaper watches. Would I as a police officer want to spend nearly half my monthly salary on a watch? I don't know. As a luxury watch for those interested in revitalizing American watches, the mechanical One Series was an expensive alternative for dedicated horological patriots. I do wonder whether the quartz One.M will inspire such passion, but as Thomas Paine once said, "Time makes more converts than reason"; $1,850 might be a high price to pay for a quartz watch, but maybe it is the passion of those at Niall and their willingness to put themselves all in that will convert customers, not reason.
For more information on the Niall One.M, please visit www.niallluxury.com
- Gear Patrol: Review, Niall One.M Carbon Fiber Watch
- Instagram: @WilsonSpeaking, February 3rd 2017
- IW Magazine: Niall One.M
- Niall Luxury: (Cached) Niall One.M
- Watch Ponder: Micro Brand Watch Update Winter 2017 Part 1
- Timepiece Chronicle: Being All In, Talking American Watches with Michael Wilson of Niall
- Youtube: Niall Conversations | Episode 2 | American Manufacturing
- Youtube: Watch Ponder, Niall One.M Watch Review