If six months ago you would have told me: “Vincent, you should really get into vintage looking dress watches” I would have probably scoffed at you. I am a die hard sports watch guy and to me, any watch I would consider adding to my collection should be robust and able to handle the most extreme conditions—and perhaps ridiculous situations—I would find myself in. So, a dress watch? Really? Get out of here man. You obviously do not know anything about me. But if I were to consider looking at such a watch—perhaps in a million years and in another dimension—it would have to do something special. For example, feel like a vintage timepiece, be small, have an interesting dial layout, good specifications and be within my affordable price range.
Wait…did I just describe the Branch Sector?
Yes, I did. You got me there. I have had an inkling over the past couple of years that I could actually enjoy classic looking, dressier watches. When I saw a photo of the Branch Sector—a brand I knew nothing about—I thought it looked special. Sometimes you just get that feeling which you can’t rationalize. You just know you’re going to like the watch even though you have not even read the spec sheet or seen said watch in the metal. Well, as soon as I received the Sector I knew that my intuition was right. So, what is it about it that made me change my mind about classical horology? Well, let’s find out.
I am a small watch guy which means case diameters between 36 and 40mm, and more precisely, between 36-37mm. Given my 6.25”/16cm wrist circumference, this is my sweet spot insofar the watch doesn’t have ridiculously long lugs. The Sector comes with a case 37mm in diameter, 44mm lug-to-lug, 10.5mm case thickness, and 19mm lug width. This is small and thin and sits just right on my wrist. (As if we were meant for each other.) Despite its humble measurements, the Sector is a capable watch that oozes yesteryear horological magic. One element that contributes to its capability is the domed acrylic crystal which will indeed scratch—and scratches can be scuffed—although it is more resistant to shocks.
Powering the Sector is the manual wind Sellita SW210-1 movement, a little marvel of watchmaking that was clearly destined for vintage-looking modern timepieces. It beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 42 hours of power reserve. There is a thing though about this movement in this watch that is unique. I wouldn’t be able to explain the why and the how of it but here it is: when I wind the watch, I feel a subtle ratcheting sensation similar to that of vintage watches. And the crown spins backward a smidge when I let go of it. I’ve only experienced these phenomena with really vintage high-end timepieces and I kind of like it a lot.
Although we will discuss the dial design in great lengths below, I wanted to point out the blued hands. The Branch website describes them as “Flame-blue hands” which I assume equals to “heated blue hands” which is the proper way of treating hands so that they have superior resistance to tarnishing and corrosion. This is a neat little detail which many brands that slap blue hands on their watches do not bother going the extra mile for. And all three hands have received this treatment which makes the Sector even more slightly interesting to me.
When we speak of a classic-looking everyday watch, we must speak at greater lengths about its design. Because unlike a sports watch, it is not its specifications that make it shine extra bright but the way it looks. And the Branch Sector has a lot going for itself. As its name indicates, it has the traditional sector dial layout meaning that the dial is endowed with two or more concentric circles of various diameters. This makes it possible to layer the information displayed on the dial, and sometimes, it is just about the way it looks. Sector dials are synonymous with vintage horology and have been very popular as of late from giant Swiss brands and micro/independent ones.
Branch opted for an intricate dial layout which is both beautiful to look at and functional. Starting outward, we see a fully graduated minute track where the five-minute increments are highlighted with Arabic numerals. The seconds hand reaches out to the first minute track which aids in legibility and in setting the precise time—should that be something you are into. There is then another disc where the hour markers are printed in black. The markers at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions are indicated with Arabic numerals that circle around the dial—meaning that the 3 and 9 are laid out horizontally. This creates a visual harmony and doesn’t take away the legibility of the dial.
The remaining hour markers are indicated with batons. All hour markers are thicker than the markers on the outer portion of the dial, again referring to the fact that sector dials are unique in the ways in which they make it possible to layer information on the dial. By this I mean that the most important information—the hour markers and hands—are the most visible while the minute hash marks are more discreet. (Each minute is indicated on the same plane as the hour markers but with shorter lines.) In the middle of the dial there are two lines that cross at the center and a small Branch logo printed in black above the pinion.
I honestly thought I knew about all watch hand designs but I must admit I wouldn’t know what to call the hands that come on the Branch Sector. They seem to be a cross between leaf and sword hands, displaying an arrow-shaped tip that tapers outward from their base. The hour hand is larger than the minute hand—as it is the case 99.99% of the time—while the seconds hand looks like a needle. Long and thin. It does come with a little something extra: it turns down toward the edge of the dial to compensate for the distortions that come with the domed acrylic crystal.
There is more to the design which I will discuss below.
At Hearth of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Branch created a classic looking watch that feels vintage although it is modern. Most of the time, brands that make vintage-looking watches focus on the way they look and not how they feel when being handled and strapped on the wrist. While many watch enthusiasts and collectors praise watches that look vintage or those that have been artificially aged by way of chemical treatments and overly aged lume, Branch managed to find the right balance between looks and feel. As mentioned above, the winding of the movement is reminiscent of 1960s Swiss watches which is something I like very much.
Furthermore, Branch put a lot of attention to details. I haven’t mentioned the finishing on the Sector before because I wanted to use it as an example to showcase how far small details go. Except for the high-polished fixed bezel, the rest of the case received a satin brushed finish. The juxtaposition of these two types of finishes accentuates the thinness of the case whilst providing exquisite light plays when light hits the bezel. Honestly, the case seems to be thinner than the domed acrylic crystal, making it disappear on the wrist at any angle. The case design is simple yet highly effective.
Branch went even further by making the crown small and slim. It does have enough knurling to make it easy to grab and operate, something necessary with a hand-wound mechanical movement. The crown’s design further reminds me of vintage watches and is perfectly proportioned in relation to the case. The Sector is all about the dial layout and its legibility. The case-back doesn’t come with the typical spec-sheet because it actually doesn’t matter. Perhaps the brand saved up a few bucks by keeping it sterile and I’m rather glad they did. (Honestly, how often do you flip your watch over to look at the case-back even when it is engraved with a cool logo or design?)
By the time you reach the end of this review you may have gathered that I can indeed be a classic/vintage looking watch type of guy. I owned a few vintage Seiko’s a couple of years ago but they did nothing for me. They were great watches but it was not the type of vintage I was looking for. So I kinda gave up on the idea of finding and writing about this type of watch. But today, I’m happy to say I have been converted. Thanks to Branch and the Sector’s impeccable design and dimensions, I could totally see myself buying one. Speaking of buying, now would be a good time to mention its price: roughly $800. Although they are currently sold out, a restock is expected in the coming two weeks (by the end of April 2023.)
For more information about Branch and the Sector, I suggest checking out their website here.