Mandala Burst (2023)
The Highest Value Everyday Watch
A few months back, I wrote about my first encounter with Second Hour, an Australian brand whose motto is “Where design and quality intersect.” I actually didn’t notice the motto the first time around, but now that I’ve looked at one of their models (the Sattelberg), I can enthusiastically say that yes, their watches are indeed the result of a perfect symbiosis of design and quality. One thing that was clear to me is the fact that Second Hour packed the Sattelberg with lots of value and, in particular, high quality manufacturing and finish. Second Hour is the type of brand that can easily put any established Swiss brand into a soul searching expedition—one that would hopefully lead them to conclude that they use to offer better quality.
Ah, times were better back then.
This is not to say that Second Hour makes better watches than say Omega, not at all. However I believe they offer higher value horology. Value in getting a solid watch for less $1,000, the unquantifiable value that stems from their unique designs, as well as the emotional value (or freedom) of knowing that your watch won’t attract the attention of the wrong kind of folks. And indeed, I said unique designs. A Second Hour watch is not an homage to another popular model, nor does it use commonplace design elements often found in many, many other independent brands. And when I say all of this, you might be surprised to hear that their newest release, the Mandala Burst in Burnt Orange and Green, retails for roughly (and only) $560.
Once you’ve reached the end of this review, you may agree with me that the Mandala Burst is the highest value everyday watch. (Hang on, this will hopefully make sense in a few minutes.)
So, the Mandala Burst is an everyday watch. It shows the time and date and fits my 6.25”/165cm wrist like a glove—the latter being a non-negotiable quality that makes it an everyday timepiece. It fits so well, actually, that it feels like the perfect pair of slip-ons or tailor-made suit. (I only had a tailor-made suit once in my life, so calm down.) The case comes in with a diameter of 40mm, a lug-to-lug of 46mm, and a thickness of 10.5mm. The 9-link bracelet (we will talk about this one later) has a 20mm lug width. Within this perfect package beats the Miyota 9015 caliber, humming at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and continuously ticking for as long as 42 hours on a full charge. Second Hour regulates the movement so that it runs at -/+9 seconds on a bad day.
This is personal but an everyday watch should be able to withstand being immersed in water, preferably down to 40 meters. (This is the deepest I’ve ever dived.) Because in my subjective head, if a watch can handle 40 meters of depth, then it can handle a rainstorm, a dust storm, and even a hurricane. I know, all of these are extreme-case scenarios but who knows? We never saw Tom Cruise’s *Ethan Hunt* sport a Cartier Tank or an A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia in his most daring adventures, and there is a reason for that. He needs water resistance just like James Bond and Jack Ryan did. In any case, this is all to say that the Mandala Burst comes with 100 meters of resistance which is a plus in my book.
Further going to the list of specifications we will find a double sapphire construction, meaning that the case-back is see-through. It is also screwed-down, as is the crown that is small but easy to grab and operate. The finishing on the case of the Mandala Burst showcases a fine alternation of brushed surfaces on the top of the lugs, case sides, the edge of the bezel as well as roughly half the tiny links of the bracelet, and polished surfaces on the superior part of the bezel and a thin chamfer running along the case sides. This type of finish, and the fact that it is repeated on the bracelet, contributes to making this model an everyday timepiece. (I find that all-brushed cases tend to look too utilitarian and all-polished ones too fancy.)
One last element of the specs which I no longer know where to fit in a review is the lume. The Mandala Burst comes with generous applications of SuperLuminova BGW9 on the hands and applied hour markers. Yet another detail that makes it an “everyday” watch for yours truly.
In the introduction I made the bold claim that Second Hour creates unique designs. Yes, they do. Or at least I should say—in order to sound less subjective—that I’ve never seen anything like the dial of the Mandala Burst before. The brand has a knack for combining things that are never seen together and for creating a design language that is unique (here is that word again!) to them. Here I am referring to three things: the hands, the dial, and the hour markers. The hour and minute hands have an elongated triangular shape that ends with a split. They are fully polished—which makes them hard to see at certain angles—and perfectly proportioned in regards to the markers. The seconds hand has a more classic appearance as it comes with a triangular lumed element.
The dial pattern and color are perhaps the two largest elephants in the room. (Or should I say, Mastodons?) The attention-grabbing dial has a fine guilloché pattern that extends beyond the hour markers, complete with a dégradé finish which highlights the bright colors at the center of the dial. The dégradé is so pronounced that the orange and green turn black at the edges. It looks outstanding in person, although these are not the first red/orange and green dials I’ve seen before. However, the unique combination of these colors with the guilloché pattern and dégradé finish really make the new Mandala Burst models stand out from the crowd. And now is a good time to remind you of the price of these marvels of horology: $560.
Lastly, the hour markers also constitute something unique to Second Hour. The brand likes to highlight the markers at the four, eight, and twelve positions by making them larger. (Typically, brands only make the marker at the 12 o’clock larger.) On the Mandala Burst, the one at the 12 is actually larger than the ones at the four and eight, and together they create a subtle target-like pattern which points to the center of the dial. (These three markers are also recessed into the rehaut.) Speaking of the markers, they are majestically polished and filled with generous quantities of lume so that the Mandala can easily be used in low-lit conditions. It should also be noted that a fully graduated minute track is printed on the rehaut.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Second Hour does indeed offer outstanding value. Value is a notion that is highly subjective, however, and here I’m speaking in terms of originality—how much of “I-have-never-seen-something-like-this-before” you get. Let’s face it, $560 is a lot of money to spend on a watch for many horological enthusiasts. And the competition at this price point is fierce, to say the least. And although I haven’t yet really spoken about the manufacturing quality of this watch—something I mentioned in the introduction—I can tell you that it is really good. The tolerances are tight, the finishing is fine, and the case has a delicate profile and smooth edges. The bracelet, furthermore, looks unique and is well-made, and its design perfectly integrates within that of the dial + case combo.
Because I write novel-size reviews, you may have forgotten the fact that Second Hour regulates the movements. This is a plus in my book and something that brands do not generally do, especially for a watch that retails for $560. What’s more is that the Mandala Burst is delivered with a stretch fabric strap with a color matched pinstripe, so that it is easy to change how the Mandala Burst looks and feels depending on what you’re up to. I do appreciate the inherent versatility of having two options to secure a watch on the wrist, especially when they are as well manufactured as they are here. Ah, I almost forgot to mention the hardened case that measures 800 on the Vickers’ Hardening Scale.
When I first took a look at the Second Hour website last year to gather information to write the review of the Sattelberg, I saw “$690.” I thought this was a good price given how nice the watch felt in my hands. Later on, I noticed the three letters that follow these numbers: “AUD.” Oh boy, I wasn’t looking at the price in American dollars but in Australian dollars! $690 AUD is $450 USD, and the Mandala Burst’ $850 AUD price tag becomes $560 USD. Given all of what the Mandala comes with—great dimension, solid movement, and unique design—wouldn’t you agree that it could make it the highest value everyday watch? Again, here I’m talking in terms of how much stuff you get for what you pay. Not the best movement. No precious metals. No tourbillon.
Objectively speaking, we cannot pin a dollar amount on originality. It takes an enormous amount of time to come up with a unique dial design, a different case profile, and combining high quality parts in a harmonious manner. In other words, making a watch that represents how unique the designer is by making the watch look and feel unique itself. Anyway, I appreciate your taking the time to read this review and if you want to learn more about Second Hour and the Mandala Burst, I suggest checking out their website here.
Just so you know, the Mandala Burst in Burnt Orange and Green will be available for purchase on June 16, 2023 directly from the brand’s website.