Founded back in 2013, Weiss Watch Company is one of the older brands in the current wave of American watchmakers. These usually-small companies are bringing varying degrees of American design and manufacturing to horology, offering something different from the usual Swiss manufactures. Based in Los Angeles, Weiss has focused on classic field watches, and the 38mm Automatic Issue Field Watch, the brand’s first self-winding watch and its first in a smaller diameter.
The Automatic Field Issue is a significant departure from the other watches in Weiss’s collection. Sure, it still has a basic field watch look (down to the sub-seconds at nine o’clock), but that’s about it. The case here is 38mm instead of 42mm and the movement inside is automatic instead of hand-wound. The result is something much more wearable that you wouldn’t have to think about too much or fuss with in the morning before strapping it on. The overall effect is something much more understated, and I could see a lot of people finding this a great size to wear day in and day out.
The steel case has that hefty, bullet-proof feel when you pick it up. The caseband and lugs are brushed, while the bezel is domed with a polished finish. The contrast in angles and finishes gives the watch some extra personality. The case is a little on the thick side though for a 38mm, time-only watch. It’s just a hair over 13mm (including the double domed sapphire crystal), and when you first strap the watch on you really notice it. Over time, however, I found myself getting used to it and didn’t mind the extra size.
The dial is one of my favorite things about this watch. It’s a rich blue color that can look dark navy or electric blue depending on the light. The numerals are crisply printed and the logos relatively restrained in size. I’m a fan of the luminous syringe-shaped hands too – they add some vintage charm without going overboard. The dial itself is made of high quality brass, which is a nice touch even if it’s something you can’t see. There are also versions of this watch available with white and black dials, if you’re looking for something a little more traditional.
The Automatic Field issue is powered by the Weiss caliber 2100, which you can see through the sapphire back. The movement nicely fills the case, though the finishing is extremely spartan. I like the idea of a movement without excessive decoration (and I do like the simple rotor with the "Weiss" cutout), but the grained bridges could use some bevels or something to add a little three-dimensionality. The caliber 2100 is based on the Swiss Eterna caliber 39, an extremely versatile movement that’s proving very popular with smaller brands. It has a 65-hour power reserve, built-in shock protection, and hacking seconds.
Ultimately, I only have two real complaints with this watch. The first is the crystal. It is one of the most reflective crystals I’ve ever seen on a watch. You can see in the wristshot above what I’m talking about. Trying to shoot photos of the Automatic Field Issue was a real challenge, and I even found it tough to read the watch in some situations. Then there’s the price. At $1,995 as seen here, it’s a little expensive for what it is. Sure, you’re getting some American-made components (more on that below), a good story, and a watch that isn’t what everyone else will be wearing, but there are so many great automatic field watch options out there for $700-1,200 that you’d need to really love this watch to pony up for it.
There are a lot of small American watch brands popping up these days – and that’s a great thing. However, it does mean that each can have a slightly different definition of what it means to be "Made in America," "Designed in the U.S.A.," or whatever other marketing jargon can be concocted. It’s important to be honest and transparent, and when I spoke to Weiss Watch Company founder Cameron Weiss, he gave me a very straightforward rundown of what is meant by the "Los Angeles, CA" signature down at six o’clock on his watches.
First off, all Weiss watches are designed by Cameron and his team in Los Angeles. Easy enough. All of the non-movement components other than the hands (which are Swiss) are also made in the U.S. From there it gets a bit more complicated. All of the final assembly is done in Los Angeles, though the movements are a mix of Swiss and American components, and come to Weiss in varying states of assembly. In this watch, just the winding rotor is made in L.A. and everything but the automatic winding module is assembled in Switzerland. For the manually-wound movement in other Weiss watches (based on the ETA 6497), most components are made in L.A. and the calibers are assembled there as well. The goal is to get the full construction of the manual caliber 1003 under on roof in Los Angeles first and then to maybe move on making the automatic movements in-house as well.
If you’re looking for an everyday watch with some American roots, the Automatic Field Issue could be a good option for you. Sure, that extremely reflective crystal is going to make Instagramming your new ticker a little tough, and there are a lot of good watches out there for around $2,000, but the 38mm size and simple, classic styling make this my favorite Weiss watch yet.
The Weiss 38mm Automatic Issue Field Watch is available in three dial colors: black or white, both on a green Cordura canvas strap and both priced at $1,895, and blue, on a natural Horween shell cordovan strap and priced at $1,995 (as seen here). For more, visit Weiss Watch Company online.