Bristol-based independent watch brand, Alkin, headed up by ex-furniture designer Charlie Fowler, has released its latest budget-friendly watch collection, the Model Three.
As the name suggests, this is Alkin’s third watch design, although in some ways it could actually be their third and fourth, as the Model Three comprises two styles, a Dual Time and a Diver, based on the same case shape and internals. The key differences are the dial designs, bezel type and colourways.
The GMT comes in three colours, yellow, powder blue and the brushed copper featured here. The diver also comes in three colours, blue, green and my review colour, black. The GMT features a steel 12-hour bezel for tracking a second-time zone, whereas the Diver features a countdown bezel which either matches the dial colour, or in the case of the green, contrasting black bezel.
The Model Three is available for pre-order now, priced at £375, after which the price will increase to £445. Estimated shipping is January 2024.
The 316L stainless steel case has a diameter of 40.5mm and a lug-to-lug measurement of 48.5mm. Overall thickness is 12.5mm. These are certainly crowd-pleasing dimensions, which provide a good balance between wrist presence and wearability, so the Model Three should look right at home on a wide range of wrist sizes.
The modern, angular three-section case is entirely brushed for a tool watch vibe and features elegant lugs, sharply cut. The bulk of the watch is in the mid-case, which is straight-sided and vertically brushed (from dial-side to caseback). This suits the design of the watch perfectly and helps give the profile a distinctive look. The tops of the lugs feature longitudinal brushing from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock and the low-profile caseback helps the watch to sit flush on the wrist.
The case is weighty, and it feels and looks precisely engineered. The brushing is carried out to perfection and the transition lines are crisp and precise. The standard here is very high and the perception of quality is far beyond its price point.
The screw-down stainless steel caseback and grippy, well proportioned, screw-down crown help provide an ample 200m water resistance. The caseback has a circular brushed finish and is engraved with the key specifications and model name, including a nod to the brand’s Bristol heritage. The 6.5mm crown sits at the 4 o’clock position, something which I personally love as it means that there’s no chance of it digging into your wrist. The crown is engraved with the brand’s logo, and it engages confidently, winds smoothly and pops out freely.
The 120-click rotating bezel is unidirectional on both the Dual Time and the Diver models. The three Dual Time watches feature a brushed stainless bezel insert with BGW9-filled lume pip at 12 o’clock and laser-etched Arabic numbers denoting hours, which are filled with black paint. Whilst you couldn’t call these watches GMTs, the 12-hour dual-time feature does at least speed up telling the time in a second time zone, although I’m not sure as to the reason why a 24-hour bezel wasn’t used.
The Diver variants have traditional elapsed-time dive bezels with lumed Arabic numerals at 15, 30, 45 minutes, and lumed hash markers for every five minutes between. A black bezel is used for the black and green dials, whereas the blue dial features a matching blue bezel. The brushing on bezel insert of my black Diver prototype was off axis, but Charlie is already on the case and I’ve every confidence that he wouldn’t let a production model be sent out to a customer with such an issue. Bezel alignment on both of my review models was accurate with no backplay, although the bezel action on the GMT felt slightly smoother, more refined and ‘lower-pitched’.
All versions of the Model Three will be supplied with a brushed stainless steel bracelet that tapers nicely from 20mm down to 18mm. It has solid end links and a milled clasp. Adjustment links are secured by single-sided screw pins and there are six-stops of micro adjustment so it’s easy to achieve the perfect fit.
Much like the case, the bracelets on my review watches were engineered beautifully and brushed to perfection. However, on my prototype Diver I did have some issues. The security fold-over catch wouldn’t stay shut under tension from flexing the wrist, and the main outer clasp didn’t want to lock into place either. Whilst these two things combined are significant negatives, I’m sure these are prototype niggles rather than inherent design faults. Charlie at Alkin has been very receptive to my feedback and offered assurance that production watches will be thoroughly inspected as part of quality control process and not released to customers like this.
The only negative for me in terms of bracelet design is that the end links of the bracelet have a slightly soft, rounded finish which is at odds slightly with the sharp geometry of the lugs and case.
The dial is where the main differences lie between the Dual Time and the Diver, and where each sibling finds its own personality. I feel that the Dual Time is a modern design, whereas the diver has a more vintage-inspired dial. Both versions featured dual-layered dials, but the execution is completely different. On the Dual Time the centre of the dial is cut out purely to add depth and interest to the dial, with the base layer being the same colour and featuring the same vertically brushed finish as the upper layer (the blue and yellow version aren’t brushed). The diver features a sandwich dial construction with the hour markers cut out to reveal the white of the layer beneath.
The hands and applied markers on the Model Three Dual-Time share a ‘stadium shape’ design language, giving the watch a more clean, modern look. The black frames of the hands and applied indices contrast nicely against the dial, and they are filled with Super Lumi-Nova BGW9 which glows strongly at night. The indices also have considerable height which brings a sense of depth to the dial. These factors combine to ensure excellent legibility in any lighting conditions. Dial text is kept nice and simple, with just the brand name above the pinion and ‘Automatic’ below. Attention to detail is evident in a few nice design touches on the dial. Firstly, the outer rounded end of the minute hand perfectly aligns with each index as it passes over. Secondly, the length of the hour hand perfectly reaches the edge of the centre dial cut-out. And lastly, the simple stick minute hand has a lumed lollipop disk, the centre of which perfectly aligns with where the inner and outer dials meet. It’s all very pleasing to the eye, symmetrical and satisfying!
Indices on the Diver are a mix of circular hour markers and larger triangular markers at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 positions. The indices at 3, 6 and 9 are also printed with black Arabic numerals. The Diver has an all-white handset, with an arrow-shaped hour hand, a pointed sword for the minute hand, and a stick seconds hand with circular lume pip. The green dial variant of the Diver features Super Lumi-Nova X1 C3 for hands, indices and bezel markings,whereas the blue and black dials have Super Lumi-Nova BGW9. Again, lume application is consistent and glows brightly, lasting well into the night. Dial text on the diver comprises brand name above the pinion and ‘Automatic, 200m/656ft’ below.
The flat sapphire crystal on both models has an anti-reflective (AR) coating to the underside which does a reasonable, but not exceptional job.
Dial execution is impressive on both variants, with precise printing, well applied/cut-out indices, consistent brushing on the copper dial variant of the Dual Time, and nicely textured upper dial layer on the Divers.
The Model Three is powered by the Miyota 9039 Japanese automatic movement, from global brand, Citizen. This extremely reliable movement beats at 28,800 vph / 4Hz, which gives a smooth 8 ticks per second, and it’s a close competitor to the Sellita SW200 in all respects bar accuracy, which is within -10s / + 30 seconds per day.
The Alkin Model Three offers plenty of choice for buyers, with two core styles and six variants. To my tastes, the design of the diver is more successful when combined with the colourful and playful blue and green dials, which also have contrasting colour accents courtesy of the seconds hand. I feel the black and white is just a little austere for the retro design. However, there will aways be buyers for more conservative dial colours, so I’m not at all surprised that black is offered as an option. The GMT works well in all colourways and I love them all, but if I had to choose, I’d probably pick the brushed copper dial variant.
Provided Alkin can resolve the niggles that were evident with my prototype models, it’s difficult to find much to complain about considering the price point. About the only negative I can find is the end-link design, which I feel could be sharpened up a bit to better match the sharp lines of the case. A nice-to-have would be on-the-fly bracelet adjustment, but it’s certainly not expected at this price point. And I guess some people might like to see quick-release bracelet, but again, as the lugs are drilled this is not really a big negative as strap changes are relatively easy.
The Model Three offers great value for money at the full retail price. At the pre-order price of £375, it’s virtually theft! It’s solidly built, very well-designed, fit and finish is impressive, and it’s comfortable to wear. Add in strong lume and 200m water resistance and you could argue that there’s no need for another watch. However, on the flip-side, although every Model Three shares the same core attributes, the Dual Time and the Diver are sufficiently different that you could have one of each and feel like you’re not wearing the same watch!