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Ember Rocket-5

Ember Watch Company launches its first watch in August, the appropriately named Rocket. Even at first glance it’s clear that the design of the Rocket is a step above, especially for an inaugural watch. But what is it about the design that makes it so successful?

Before I get into the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at the hard, cold facts. The Rocket will launch on Kickstarter in August 2024, with an early bird price of £296. Ember’s first run will be for just 300 pieces in total, split across four colourways. My review model is the orange and blue, but you can also choose between pink dial with black chapter ring and yellow accents, black dial with blue chapter ring and yellow and pink accents, or white dial with a mint chapter ring. Once the early bird pricing ends, the price will increase to £395. Ember Watches is based in Honiton, England and brand owner John is a furniture designer by trade, but he has always had a deep passion for watches. I guess therefore it was inevitable that John would want to turn his own watch ideas into a fully-fledged design, and then turn that design into reality. His aim was to create unique and distinctive watches that do not follow traditional conventions. Now, after four years of blood, sweat and tears and numerous prototypes, he is ready to launch. 

When I first saw the Ember Rocket come up on my IG feed, I was immediately drawn to its angular design, so much so that I immediately got in contact with brand owner John Glinister, despite being on holiday at the time. Thankfully he was kind enough to satisfy my curiosity by sending me a loan watch well ahead of launch. But great design doesn’t always result in a well-executed watch in the flesh. So how has the Ember Rocket fared after spending a week with it on the wrist? Has my initial enthusiasm fizzled out, or is the fire still burning?

Ember Rocket Case Design and Wearing Experience 

Let’s not be backwards in coming forwards here, it’s all about the bass…I mean the case! Whilst the rest of the watch is great, it’s the case design that is the crowning glory of this watch and what a masterclass of design it is. You can clearly tell that this is a design-led watch penned by an experienced designer, albeit from a different field. John has clearly gone through the same processes and put the same level of thought into the Rocket as he undoubtedly does for his furniture. It didn’t end up looking this good by accident, and it hasn’t just been assembled from a bunch of factory-ready parts, which is why it doesn’t look quite like anything else on the market.

The case dimensions will be in the sweet spot for many, me included. The 40mm bead-blasted matt stainless steel case has a 47mm lug to lug, and a height of 12mm. The caseback is also slim, which means that the watch sits very well on the wrist, nestling down, rather than sitting on top, resulting in a well-balanced and comfortable watch.

I’m a huge fan of sharp, angular geometry. It’s why I love my Grand Seiko so much and it’s also why it was love at first sight for me with the Rocket. The top side of the case is octagonal, but the Rocket has more than 30 facets in total, each one precisely cut (I stopped counting at 30!). Other microbrands have used angular cases, but the Rocket takes it up a notch and crazy as it sounds, this alone is worth the entrance fee. The proportions and angles of each facet just work to perfection and the bead-blasted finish is befitting of the modernist approach. Sometimes when a bead-blasted finish is used it can ever so slightly soften the crisp edges, but not here. Each perfectly flat surface meets the next with an ultra-crisp and precise transition. The polished bezel provides just a hint of contrast against the cool, steely grey of the case and an unsigned, unguarded screw-down crown helps the watch to achieve a water-resistance rating of 100 metres. The crown is small but grippy. A flat sapphire crystalprotects the dial and the internal anti-reflective coating does a good job of minimising reflections. The screw-down caseback is solid and has a nice geometric pattern engraved into the central section. Around the perimeter you have the brand name, ‘designed in England’, WR rating and movement used (this text is an update to my prototype).

The case is cut straight across between the lugs, something which I find contributes to making a watch a strap monster, and that’s certainly true here. Mind you, you probably won’t want to swap out the quick-release rubber strap that comes with the watch. It’s the perfect thickness and tapers from 20mm down to 18mm. It’s pliable, comfortable and has a nice bead-blasted signed pin buckle. The strap is embossed with a crosshatch pattern to the top side and has two floating keepers. Flip the rubber strap over and you’ll notice another little design feature; a geometric pattern which ties in nicely with the same pattern found on the solid caseback. My only complaint is that the additional supplied leather strap is just ok. It has a nice matt texture to the top face, but I’d describe the overall quality as average. And it’s black, which is a bit of a dull choice that doesn’t pair particularly well with my colourway. I feel mean complaining about a second ‘free’ strap, but when every other detail has been so well thought out, it just seems like a bit of an oversight. I’d like to see a choice of colours offered at time of ordering. At risk of stating the obvious, a matching blue or orange leather would be lovely. Finally, whilst it’d certainly be a challenge to design a metal bracelet for the Rocket, I’d love to see John have a crack, as I’m sure others would!

The Movement

The movement is a standard Seiko NH38A automatic, a common choice for affordable automatic watches, but when you take what the Rocket offers as a whole package this is more than fine with me. This 4Hz movement ticks at 21,600 VPH giving a reasonably smooth sweep to the seconds hand. The power reserve is 41-hours and you can hack the movement to stop the seconds hand and set a precise time. 

The Dial

Although it’s the case design where this watch really shines, the well-judged dial colour combos are close behind. You can choose from four dial variants, each with a matt, finely grained finish. My review watch is the orange and blue, but the pink looks particularly striking too. 

Working from the outside in, the deep and slanted orange rehaut / chapter ring also has a fine-grain finish and is printed with double Arabic numerals for every five minutes. Inside of the chapter ring is a minute/seconds track printed in white. Where the dial gets interesting is when you realise that it’s of sandwich construction, with the negative space between where the hour indices would usually sit being cut out of the upper dial in curved rectangular strips, so you can see through to the white base layer which is coated in Swiss Super-LumiNova BGW9. The lume looks really cool at night and the combination of sandwich construction with the orange and blue is lovely in the day. 

The hour and minute hands are polished and have a simple baton shape design with very generous strips of Super-LumiNova BGW9 lume running the entire length. The contrasting orange seconds hand is a simple tapering stick and not lumed.

The dial design in uncomplicated and well-balanced with perfect symmetry and no date window to interrupt the flow. There is just enough flair to keep your interest whilst staying true to the overall modernist look. Dial text is minimal and the somewhat ‘80s futuristic’ angular font used for the brand name perfectly suits the case shape.

Final Thoughts on the Ember Rocket

In recent years the microbrand sphere has been bursting at the seams with new brands creating well put together watches that offer great value for money. However, sometimes original design takes a bit of a back seat at the expense of competing purely on price and specs. As a result, enthusiasts are overwhelmed with choice, so much so that it becomes difficult for us to know where to put our money. A nice problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. This is where watches like the Ember Rocket provide a welcome respite. It adds the missing element, fresh design! It’s a striking watch that is instantly recognisable and the bead-blasted finish complements the bright, matt colourways, lifted by just a hint of polish for contrast. It’s contemporary but not minimalist.

I’ve really struggled to come up with negatives for the Rocket. The only real one from my subjective point of view is that the leather strap isn’t up to the quality of everything else and that different coloured leather straps aren’t offered. The fact that this is my only complaint is remarkable.

‘Spec sheet buyers’ may be a little disappointed that the movement is a Seiko NH38A, rather than the higher beat Miyota 9015. However, if you’re like me and buy watches based on the overall package (with a slight bias towards design), that would seem unjust given the price. The only other thing to consider is how well the bead-blasted finish will hold up over time. If you have the funds, I can’t think of a reason not to splash your hard-earned spondulicks on one!

My only other negative relates to the ordering process, not the watch itself. Delivery of production watches is expected to be Summer 2025. Bearing in mind the Kickstarter campaign launches August 2024, this is a long time for customers to wait for their watches. However, provided you’ve got patience, and that the Kickstarter process is handled well and customer service is good, the Rocket is a textbook example of how to bring out your first watch.

At the regular retail price of £395, the Ember Rocket is worth every penny. At the Kickstarter launch price of £296 the value on offer is insane. So, get a comfy seat on that early-bird train, sit back and wait for the package to drop on your doorstep. I defy you to be disappointed! I loved this watch so much that I’ve put my name down for one already. I just can’t decide between the blue and orange or pink! Which is your favourite?


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