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10 Best Wooden Watches Review for Aug. 2019: Getting Back to Nature
When Eco-Friendly Choices Go All the Way to Your Wrist
Does it seem that our world is suffocating in plastics and pollution? Since the famous sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg began calling out the impacts of climate change, a lot of people have started to think seriously about this global issue.
The need to use environmentally sustainable goods has affected manufacturing trends and spurred change for the better.
For some, this is no surprise, since eco-consciousness predates Greta Thunberg’s efforts. On the consumer marketplace, there are companies, big and small, all doing their share of work to render our world cleaner and more natural.
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Watchmaking is no stranger to this green initiative. While it is next to impossible to create a clockwork movement out of biological material, some watchmakers are, instead, experimenting with the dial, the case, and watchbands. These components, which make up most of a wristwatch, can be made with natural materials, the lion’s share being wood.
With all of that in mind, let’s look at some of the top choices for this year.
The 10 Best Wooden Watches
1. Jord Meridian Series Automatic Movement in Dusk Walnut & Olive
Jord is one of the best-known manufacturers of wooden watches. They manufacture a really impressive lineup of watches, both mechanical and quartz-based.
The company is an expert in the seamless integration of metal and wood in its timepieces. Jord creates some amazing results, which are among the best in this peculiar branch (pun intended) of horology. Their integration comes from the use of CNC-controlled precise toolmaking, handmade sandblasting, and the use of Tung oil, as a natural additive that conditions the raw wood, adding a light sheen to its surface, highlighting the natural tone and grain.
As a standout, we have picked the Meridian, which is one of their more expensive models, because it is a first for the company. In this model, Jord has mounted its own branded of automatic movement, the JHLS32. Watch enthusiasts will be pleased to check this lovely dual-wheel caliber, beating at 21.800 bph, featuring 47 jewels, and40-hour power reserve (with an indicator), through the sapphire crystal glass. It is truly a great sight.
The matching bracelet is also quite a feat. It is made of wood and metal, and features a dual locking deployment buckle and a reinforced, secure clasp. Moreover, it is adjustable, via removable metal pins which secure the links together.
Also included for your money is a truly complete “homecare set.” In addition to the watch, you get a special Cedar wood humidor box to safely preserve it, two cleaning cloths, one for the watch and the other for the crystal, and a special citrus oil cleaning pen, plus an instructional booklet on how to best treat your new tick-tocking friend.
2. Treehut Silver Ebony with Stainless Steel Quartz Analog Watch HUT004
Treehut is a well-known, environmentally conscious company. Treehut manufactures handmade timepieces using all natural ebony wood and silver-toned stainless steel. No toxic materials are used in the making of their watches, making them safe to wear without fear of irritation. Also, the design of this model we have chosen is sleek and minimalistic. The wooden dial displays the beauty of its wood grain with only a few applied mark and the three hands.
The Silver Ebony mounts a high quality Japanese Miyota quartz movement with an estimated battery life of about 5 years. The bracelet, another very sound element of this watch, has a stainless steel structure fitted with flexible wooden link bands that can expand up to 8 ½ inches. Achieve a customized fit by adjusting the screwed pins. If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, visit your jeweler or local watch repair shop.
3. WeWood Kappa Black Ro Military Wood Watch WW15008
WeWood is another company specializing in wooden accessories. They not only make watches, but also glass frames (you might want to check them out). The company collaborates with Trees For The Future to plant a tree for every wood watch purchased, and since 2011, WeWood has planted over 600,000 trees.
The Kappa is WeWood’s flagship timepiece, featuring a circular wooden case with matching bezel and windows for the military hour, day of the week, and date set into a natural wood grain face covered by a scratch-proof mineral glass. The version we have chosen is made from African Blackwood, which is among the densest and hardest woods in the world. Its durability and rich coloring makes it a popular choice for woodwind instruments, but it would look stunning on your wrist as well.
The timepiece mounts a Japanese-made quartz movement, the Miyota 6P29, and displays the time and day of the week through its three subdials. The bracelet is wooden, with four removable links on each side, and it features a locking stainless steel clasp (which might prove a bit difficult to unlatch, to be fair). But otherwise, it is an impressive watch nonetheless.
4. Viable Harvest Walnut Waterproof Watch 4332867635
This Viable Harvest timepiece features a fusion of the eco-sustainable trend with a post-industrial design. The face is made from walnut wood, while the case is made of black stainless steel, which looks modern and feels great on the wrist.
The watch is super lightweight and waterproof with 30 meters water resistance, as well as protection from casual contact with water. This model is customizable, since it is supplied with a leather wristband and supports stock models. The band is of a standard 20 mm size, allowing you to easily change the look of your watch.
This timepiece mounts a Japanese-made quartz movement for constant and accurate timing, which is ultra-quiet and super low maintenance. The button battery lasts up to four years and is easily replaced.
5. TruWood Marine Black Sandalwood and All-Wood Watch 5060412381000
TruWood represents another notable player of this peculiar niche, manufacturing watches, glasses frames and fashion accessories, such as bracelets and necklaces. TruWood takes its commitment to sustainable practices very seriously. For every watch sold, the company plants 10 trees.
Talking about the design, this timepiece goes well with everything: the blue dial, textured in a petite tapestry pattern, provides a lovely contrast with the dark texture of the wood and looks very stylish.
The watch features an original Japanese-made Miyota Quartz chronograph movement. The glass is made from a difficult-to-scratch sapphire coated mineral crystal. The case and integrated bracelet are made from 100% natural sandalwood. The clasp features a butterfly closure and has undergone significant quality testing.
6. Original Grain Brewmaster Collection Reclaimed Barrel Wood and Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch OG-CH-BRW-GO
Original Grain wants to take a new approach by creating hybrid, that is, wood and steel, watches. This Brewmaster Collection uses, for the wooden parts of the watches, authentic reclaimed wooden beer barrels from South Germany, treated with a tempered carbonization process which makes them really unique.
Additionally, the company pledges to plant one tree for every watch sold. Sustainability and upcycling all in the same place!
The timepieces have a distinctive design, with an almost cyberpunk-ish streak, that you are bound to love, and they are made and finished to perfection. The dials have an unusual but endearing look, with a bicompax design, and are protected by a scratch-proof mineral glass crystal.
The watches mount a Japanese-made chronograph movement. The face features a date indicator at six, and they are water-resistant to 50 meters, which is almost double the resistance of other watches in the same category. This makes them a good option for light marine activity. Remember to dry them well afterward, though.
7. Pono Woodworks “The Waterman” Hawaiian Koa Stainless Steel and Wood Watch
This watch from Pono Woodworks barely fits into this review However, due to its handsome dial, it looks so good that we couldn’t leave it out.
The company is based in Honolulu, and manufactures several objects out of wood. There is a big tradition of woodworking, since the original Hawaiian watermen used Koa wood to make outrigger canoes, surfboards, and sailing canoes. Pono Woodworks, following tradition, put the best Hawaiian “curly”-grained Koa wood (from the Big Island, Hawaii) into these watches.
This is a rather big and beautiful watch. Its wooden dial displays a subdial at six, and the face is covered by a scratch-proof sapphire crystal. It houses a Japanese-made quartz movement. As the case is stainless steel, this watch is water-resistant up to 100 meters, so it can be enjoyed for serious marine activity and even snorkeling.
The timepiece comes with a premium stitched silicon band with a quick deployment clasp in a standard 22 mm size, so it can easily be changed if needed.
8. Bewell W109D Sandalwood Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch ZS-W109D-BKRD
Bewell is primarily an OEM manufacturer of wooden products made with the highest quality woods. Bewell also sells a personal line of watches under its own brand, which look very good especially considering the rock-bottom price.
The case and matching bracelet are made in contrasting red and black sandalwood, which offer it a very nice visual effect. The bezel seems affixed to the black wooden case, through a sort of protruding silver rivet, placed to mark the hours. The dial and subdials are in the red sandalwood, and show a military inspired and very legible tricompax design in white, with a date window at three. Overall, this model features a great design.
The watch mounts a Japanese-made chronograph movement. The integrated bracelet, made from alternating elements of red and black sandalwood are very well-made, but has attracted some criticism for the difficulty it poses in removing or adding links. However, to its credit, the company includes a pin-remover tool with the package, and the customer support is highly rated and responsive.
9. Bobo Bird Luxury Lightweight Red Sandalwood and Ebony Wood Mechanical Watch R05-2
The Bobo Bird company features a wide array of watches with different movements. We picked this model, even if calling it “luxury” seems a bit far-fetched, because of the nice effect of the skeletonized movement powering it. This gives the face a great contrast with the natural hues of the case and bezel.
The case and bracelet are made in 100% natural ebony and red sandalwoods, which are sustainably sourced from Europe and Tanzania. They provide a great frame to house the watch’s automatic movement, a self-winding Sea-Gull movement, which is one of the best-known Chinese watch movement manufacturers.
The design of the dial blends these elements very well into a nice package. It displays an odd off-centered dial at 9, while the azure-colored seconds hand is in the center. The dial is covered by a scratch proof Hardlex mineral crystal.
The wristband integrates contrasting colors and comes with a pin remover tool for making adjustments. The closure features a dual-locking deployment buckle and a reinforced secure clasp. Additionally, the watch gift box, a lidded bamboo cylinder, looks very nice. One last bit of advice: This timepiece is not waterproof. Keep it away from water. Yes, even when washing your hands.
10. Ovi Watch Cursus Walnut Wood Quartz Watch
Last but not least, we find the Ovi Watch, a young but very determined micro brand with a definite plan. This Latvian company was founded in 2016 with the aim to create masterpieces from environmentally friendly materials. It manufactures wood-based accessories of every kind.
Cursus, the model we have chosen, has an understated, clean design which is similar to a three-dimensional compass. It is simple, yet intriguing to look at. It is a great accessory and timepiece that will complement a modern but elegant style.
It is tooled by CNC machining and hand refinished from Walnut wood, to offer a very aesthetic look on the go. It sports sapphire crystal glass and mounts a Swiss quartz movement. It is complemented by a dark brown pure vegetable-tanned leather strap, which is burnished, dyed, and waxed by hand.
All in all, this is one of the lightest watches of this review, weighing only 22 grams, and like a feather, it’s very easy to forget that you’re wearing it. As a final bonus, they are available in a gorgeous wooden gift box.
A Buyers’ and Users’ Guide to Wooden Watches
Why Make Wooden Watches?
When it comes to eco-friendly materials, wood offers many advantages over plastic or metal. First of all, it is completely renewable. Wood can be recycled, and its processing generally offers a lower environmental impact, due to less energy consumption.
Additionally, wood sourcing is strictly monitored. This means, you can’t just go into a forest and chop down a random tree to make your watch. Instead, companies are bound by international agreements that help to protect forests. All sources of wood, used for industrial consumption, such as furniture, and smaller consumer goods including watches, must be certified. Companies must comply with guidelines issued by a certification council, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which are two of the largest worldwide. These certifications often involve policies, such as reforestation, meaning that for every tree harvested, at least one more must be planted.
These certifications help you to remain confident that the watch you’re wearing is as sustainable as possible.
Now that we have you convinced that wood is an eco-friendly material, you may be wondering what type of wood makes for the best watches.
Luckily, talented watchmakers have discovered techniques that make almost any kind of wood suitable for creating watch cases and bracelets. You’ll find watches made from the local hardwoods to the most exclusive and peculiar tropical woods. Almost every kind of wood can be used for this application.
What’s more, wood is a much more natural material than others. While your skin might be allergic to silicon or plastics, it’s much rarer to experience irritation with wood. This is because wood lets your skin “breathe.” Wood is also lighter than metal, and much more neutral to ambient temperature, resulting in a more comfortable wearing experience.
Last but not least, all the wood watches we have examined and put into this selection range from affordable to very inexpensive. This is due to wood being much more workable as a material than metal, so the watches can cost much less. Also, the movements installed in the wooden watches are generally quite simple, ranging from the most economic quartzes to less sophisticated mechanicals.
The Downsides of Wearing a Wooden Watch
Even though wood has many good points as a material for watchmaking, there are some fields where wooden watches would not be well-suited.
In general, wooden watches require some maintenance, just like your wooden furniture. Wood is a natural material, so to preserve its shine and texture, it must be regularly cleaned and treated with nourishing oils and essences.
This isn’t particularly difficult, but remember that it is something you have to factor in.
Also, humidity has an effect on watches. Some wooden watch companies will send you a special humidor box, that helps to preserve the watch. So, if you are a bit careless with watch wearing, a wooden timepiece would not really suit you.
This susceptibility to moisture means that if you are a dedicated diver, it’s best to find alternatives to wooden watches. As you will see, except from one notable exception which has the wood only on the dial, wooden watches generally sport a low water resistance of just 30 meters. Remember also that our wooden friends here are made with green practices. This means they are not varnished with various chemicals to preserve them, like your typical wooden boat would be, so you should really avoid any continuous contact with water.
Another area which might prove unsuitable for wooden watches is heavy-duty use. If you subject your watch to a more taxing use then just normal activity in an office, then you might prefer another kind of watch.
For example, if you spend your working hours in a workshop, or in areas with extreme temperature conditions, like a furnace, or if you frequently work using your arms and hands and maybe tend to hit things with your watch, then you might find better alternatives to wood. Since wood is a fine material, it tends to be sensitive to hits, meaning that it could break where a metal case would only get a dent.
A Last Horological Note Regarding Wooden Watchmakers
The niche of wooden watches is a very recent one, and most of the companies operating here are very young. That is, some date back two or three years.
This means that they have little experience in true horology, and what it takes to create a watch that satisfies horology experts, who are looking for more than just an interesting watch made of wood. Experts will consider things like the model of movement it uses, the kind of glass it employs, and its characteristics, including water resistance, all of which are important for a watch buff.
If you are in for a watch with a good to excellent movement, or are interested in the finer details and elements of your timepiece, wooden watch manufacturers are not really there yet, and you would be better of reading our other luxury watch articles:
The movements used in wooden watches are mostly dependable and precise quartz-based ones, but the horology freaks out there might not really appreciate this kind of decision.
So, there is a definite niche to be exploited here. Anyone up for it?
About the Author: Franz Rivoira is a Chartered Journalist and Marcomm Professional operating internationally in the world of high-end and luxury products, mainly watches and design objects.
He lives in Italy, but frequently travels the world, especially to Asia. He is a regular contributor to www.ddnblog.it, a reference for everything design-oriented. He is also very active on Quora, the most read Q&A portal in the world, where he has been nominated as one of the Top Writers for 2018.