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Nodus x Raven TrailTrekker Slate

One Shade of Gray Horological Treasure to Travel With

Two or three years ago, we watch enthusiasts didn’t have access to attainable true GMTs. Back then, if one wanted to acquire this quintessential travel watch, one had to dish out what I always considered to be way too much cash to spend on non-essential stuff. Then, Miyota had the great idea to create the 9075 caliber and to make it available to brands big and small. This constituted a revolution as it opened the doors for micro and independent brands to make their own proper GMTs. A similar phenomenon took place when Seiko released the NH34 caliber, roughly at the same time. And the brand we’re going to talk about today (at least, one of them) was one of the first ones to offer a better product than the Japanese giant. 

I’ve written a lot about Nodus for other publications, notably Fratello. So today is a special day as I get to tell you, on Mainspring, about what I see as being one of the most  exciting releases of the year: the Nodus x Raven TrailTrekker. This watch is the product of an intimate collaboration between two popular American brands and the result is nothing short of exceptional. If you know of Nodus, then you’ll be familiar with the spectacular quality of their timekeeping devices. And working with Raven just seems to have made the end product just that much better. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this stealthy, robust, and reasonably-priced model. 


The few times I watched or read reviews of popular travel GMTs such as the Rolex GMT Master II or Tudor Black Bay GMT, I often heard complaints of how big they are. Thick, especially. And this has always been justified by the fact that these models have a GMT caliber (which takes more vertical space than a non-GMT one) and good water resistance. Guess what? The Nodus x Raven TrailTrekker has a GMT caliber and good water resistance, yet it fits perfectly on my 0.928-Evan wrist*. I would actually say that it is quite the idyllic dimensions for this type of timekeeping device: a diameter of 39.5mm, a lug-to-lug of 46.6mm, a thickness of 11.8mm, and a lug width of 20mm. And these measurements are even more so impressive when you read what follows. 

*This is a reference for super geeky watch nerds who, just like me, are huge fans of @youreterrific.

Within these compact dimensions we find the following horological goodness: a regulated Miyota 9075 “true” GMT caliber that runs at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 42 hours of power reserve (Nodus and Raven regulate them to run at +/-8 seconds per day;) 200 meters of water resistance thanks to a screw-down crown and case-back; an obscene application of BGW9 SuperLuminova on the hands and hour markers; a boxed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating; a matte gray DLC-coated stainless steel case and a fixed bezel finished with a Cerakote coating (which protects against shocks, scratches, and oxidation.) 

I don’t like to say it but: “Damn, all of this for $875 USD? Get out of here.”

Fine, I’ll get out but you must face the reality of what I’m telling you. Now is the time for radical acceptance of what you are seeing and reading. Radical acceptance of the simple and objective facts of a watch’s specifications. And although this is the very first review of a Nodus I’m writing for Mainspring, I’ve reviewed most of the brand’s models and “Hot Damn” has always been my reaction. Though I have never reviewed or handled a Raven watch before but heard great things about them as well. So take it as you wish: the TrailTrekker Clay is solid and constitutes an amazing dollar-per-value ratio. 

Furthermore, this model comes with a DLC coated stainless steel bracelets where we find screwed links, female end-links, quick-release spring-bars, and a double-pusher deployant clasp complete with Nodus’ patented NodeX on-the-fly quick-adjust clasp. Nodus, and by association Raven as well, always has and still offers the best value watches available on the market. And this is my humble opinion, that of someone who has reviewed a couple hundred “micro” and “independent” watches. 


Lucky me, I also love the way the Nodus x Raven TrailTrekker looks. Especially the matte gray-DLC coated treatment which makes the watch subtly fly under the radar and look tough whilst being soft to the touch. This is an unusual combination of features and feelings to express when looking at a timepiece but I couldn’t find a better way—a more articulate way—to express how neat this watch is. The additional advantage of such DLC treatment is the fact that the hour markers and hands pop without being “in your face.” This was made possible by perfectly color-matching the dial to the case (which I know is not an easy thing to do,) and to endow the hour and minute hands, as well as the applied hour markers, with gunmetal surrounds. 

All of this means, visually, that reading the time is as easy as it could be, especially on a GMT which tends to look too busy to my taste. (In the sense that telling the local time from the time in another time zone often does not feel organic.) And the fact that Nodus and Raven opted to make the GMT hand orange and to equip it with a bold, slashed arrow-shaped tip means that reading the time in another time zone is also quite easy and doesn’t get in the way. This is important since, when traveling, we mostly want to know what time it is right now right where we are. And the two brands found a genius way to make this possible by playing with the dark tones of the dial and of the DLC coating, and by painting the 24-hour scale on the fixed bezel black. 

By the way, Rolex does not have a monopoly on this bezel design. 

The TrailTrekker is therefore a beautiful exercise in visual restraint and maximization. And we can see the same care being put when designing the framed date aperture at the 6 o’clock which, luckily, has a white date wheel and black printed numerals to ensure maximum legibility. The crown is nothing short of being magnificent as it is small, comes with a good grip, and is protected by two small crown guards. Lastly, I would like to direct your attention to the case design: short and fat lugs, a wide chamfer between them and the case flanks which visually reduces its visual footprint. Did you notice the subtle double-branding on the dial? I didn’t at first and that's a good thing. 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter are two facts. First, that Nodus and Raven joined forces and combined their respective experiences and expertise to design a great watch that comes with its own design language and superb set of specs. Second, that we—watch enthusiasts, collectors, and nerds—can now purchase a relatively affordable, robust, and proper “travel watch” (I hate these words but they mean what I want to say here) which is legible and flies under the radar. The latter element is very important to some of us and it certainly is to me. At $875 USD, you get, simply put, a great GMT and that’s all some of us wish for Christmas. 

I would also like to point out how Nodus and Raven managed to combine their respective design languages—which are compatible to begin with—and to create something unique whilst repurposing some design elements we are all familiar with. From the multifaceted, triangular hour and minute hands and the arrow-shaped lume element on the seconds hand to the 24-hour scale engraved on the fixed bezel as well as the design of the bracelet links. Because creating novelty in horology is not always about coming up with 100% original designs, as in the latter case watches often come with exorbitant price tags. 

No, I believe that novelty in horology also comes in the form of re-imagining how a pragmatic, robust and well-finished travel GMT should look and feel like. And I for one would say that being able to accomplish this and to make it their own is what demarcates brands such as Nodus and Raven from the thousand others that exist today. 


The only bad news I have for you today is that pre-orders for the TrailTrekker Slate are closed and won’t open again until August of 2024. So I am late in writing this review but I wanted to do so regardless of my tardiness because the Nodus x Raven TrailTrekker is an outstanding piece of horology and demonstrates the best that can come out of the collaboration between two passionately-run independent watch brands. If you like what you saw today, I suggest taking a closer look at the TrailTrekker on Nodus’ website.

Thanks for reading.


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