The Urban Wolf from Japan
I feel that the watch market goes through cycles that range from exciting and novel to boring and repetitive. First we all got overwhelmed by the huge amount of vintage-inspired divers that saturated the market around 2020/21. Then it was GMTs in late 2022/early 23, then integrated bracelet sports watches in all sizes, styles, and colors. (And oftentimes, the micro and luxury markets follow one another and, sometimes, in surprising ways.) When Tissot reissued the PRX, well, everybody wanted to make this kind of watch. And because Miyota released the 9075 true GMT caliber and Seiko the NH34 in 2022, micro and independent brands had no choice but to make a crap load of GMTs so that those of us who cannot afford a Rolex GMT Master II or Grand Seiko SBGM221G could own a proper travel watch.
I mean, it was great and all but originality went out the window pretty quickly.
What does any of this have to do with Namica and the Okami (“Wolf” in Japanese)? Well, the Okami is the type of watch I didn’t see coming and this very fact makes me very happy. I wrote the paragraph above because I wanted to make the following point: it’s hard to get surprised these days. We tend to see the same types of watches come to market and things can get very boring very quickly. The excitement that was born from seeing the Seiko 5 GMT in 2022 quickly dissipated as soon as dozens of microbrands decided to make GMTs too. (I owned one and quickly sold it.) So the Namica Okami is a breath of fresh air as it looks like nothing I’ve seen before whilst having what I consider to be the Namica DNA. So, without further ado, let’s talk about The Wolf.
First things first, the Okami will come in three versions and two options for each. The Neo Tokyo, Kurayami, and Turbo Blue. Each version comes with either a hardened titanium case (which the brand calls “A.T. Shield”) or a DLC one (Diamond Like Coating.) Either version means the watch is robust. In the former case, the titanium comes with a hardness coating upping its resistance to 1,200 HV on the Vickers scale (eight times stronger than naked stainless steel.) In the latter case, the diamond coating also increases the case’s resistance to shocks and scratches. The Okami is therefore a watch meant to be manhandled by its lucky wearer. Two other elements that give away the Okami’s tough nature is the sapphire sandwich construction (sapphire on the front and back) as well as the 100 meters of water resistance thanks to a screw-down case-back but a push/pull crown.
Inside the Okami beats the premium Miyota 9039 caliber which runs at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and has 42+ hours of power reserve. I would choose a Miyota over a Sellita, Soprod, or Ronda any day of the week as they tend to run better out-of-the-box. (As in the single digits of daily variation.) This is an excellent choice for a movement as it is a clone of an ETA 2824 which means getting it serviced will be easy*. All models display generous amounts of BGW9 or C3 SuperLuminova, with the exception of the Kurayami (“The Darkness” in Japanese) for which the C3 was mixed with black paint to achieve the black-ops, blacked-out look. In other words, lume on the Kurayami is less potent but nevertheless very cool to look at. Lastly, all Okami variants come with a custom-made FKM rubber strap complete with quick-adjust spring bars.
*The point of having an ETA clone is that these movements were designed specifically to fit inside watches that had ETA calibers. In other words, if you have a watch with a dead ETA 2824, you can swap it for a clone. Furthermore, ETA movements were so widespread that any decent watchmaker could easily service them.
The star of the show here is the case. It has an air of Blade Runner 2049 as it looks unique whilst being very comfortable to wear. I mention comfort because in appearance, the Okami seems larger than it actually is. Indeed, it measures 39mm in diameter, 42mm lug-to-lug, 10.7mm thick and comes with a 22mm lug width. So the case is more rectangular than round, and the 22mm lug width balances its appearance. Although I’m now in a period in which I prefer smaller watches, I do appreciate the strong yet subtle presence the Okami commands on my wrist. The FKM rubber strap aids with the comfort aspect as the gentle taper towards the buckle visually narrows the watch’s footprint on the underside of my wrist. I honestly think that Ryan Gosling’s character of Officer K, in the aforementioned punk sci-fi feature, would have approved of this watch.
I’m not a car enthusiast so please take the following analogy with a grain of salt: the case profile reminds me of some kind of 1980’s toy car Lamborghini I used to play with as a kid. The case flanks and lugs form one entity where either the lugs melt into the case sides or vice versa, creating a bold and geometrical look that is visually impressive. The case around the crown is shaped in a way that it creates crown guards, though Namica went the extra mile by elongating the left side of the case to make it perfectly symmetrical. (Something that is not always a given with these types of designs.) The portion of the case between the lugs is straight so that the rubber strap sits flush against it, while the stepped, fixed bezel completes the look.
The entirety of the case comes with a matte finish on both versions, endowing the Okami with a strong utilitarian appearance. This is made even more apparent looking at the dial which blends aspects of futuristic watchmaking with those of pure tool watch goodness. The hands remind me of Grand Seiko as they showcase brushed upper sections and polished sides, where the tip of the hour and minute hands protrude out ever so slightly. The seconds hand is thin and comes with a large counter-balance. The tip of the seconds hand is colored blue on the Neo Tokyo, white on the Kurayami, and yellow on the Turbo Blue. The hour markers are applied and come with color-matched surrounds for a seamless look.
Lastly, I appreciate the dial treatment on all versions, especially the dégradé effect on the Neo Tokyo which highlights the vertical brushing. Each version also showcases a painted inverted triangle at the 12 o’clock on the rehaut, the latter being tall and encompassing the edges of each applied marker, an element of horological design made famous by the Tudor Pelagos.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Namica managed to surprise me and to create a second model that does not look like anything else I’ve seen before. Their first model, the Shirahama, looked a little bit like a Squale diver on neon steroids, and although the case and dial treatments made it unique, I couldn’t help myself but to make the above connection. The Okami, on the other hand, does not look like anything I’ve come across thus far in my young career as a watch journalist, though that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been made before. (I don’t claim to know of all watches that have ever been made.) What’s perhaps more important is the fact that the Okami will retail for $429 when it launches on Kickstarter in early 2024.
This, in my opinion, is a small price to pay for such a thoughtfully designed timepiece.
I often say that it’s hard to put a price tag on design and the Okami perfectly illustrates my point. $429 is, again, little for what you get here besides the way the watch looks: a good movement, strong lume, decent water resistance, a sandwich sapphire crystal construction as well as a custom-made FKM rubber strap. All of this alone can easily justify the asking price during the upcoming Kickstarter campaign. (Full retail will be known later.) Add to that a novel design that is well executed, here redirecting your attention to the interesting lug/case sides design and the overall futuristic aspect of the case. This particular design was also repeated on the buckle and case-back, both of which display dramatic angles.
As I often say, I’m so glad to be writing about watches and not designing them. I wouldn’t have the patience to come up with something that is novel and interesting, as well as being wearable. By the latter I mean a watch that we can actually wear everyday, not a bizarre, machine-like horological creation that we can neither afford to buy nor feel comfortable strapping on our wrist. The Okami looks futuristic and is built like a modern watch, being equipped with a solid movement and being endowed with the right specs to be, as the brand describes it, a tool for urban exploration. While it isn’t the type of watch I would wear to the opera, I could wear it in most other situations I realistically find myself in. After all, it’s cool, different, and well-priced.
Although the Kickstarter campaign for the Namica Okami won’t be announced until early 2024, you can already check out the full range of the new collection here and sign up to receive updates on the campaign.
Thanks for reading.