Can a microbrand challenge the integrated bracelet game? Enter the Phantom II
We all know the history of the Royal Oak and how it helped (other ones believed that it saved) the industry for the big bad wolf called quartz. In all honesty the Royal Oak was like anything else seen in the market at the time, a steel square body watch with an integrated bracelet costing more than any mechanical gold watch offered by competitors, weird right? I still have no idea why it worked but it did. Fast forward to 2019 and many of the big brands have an integrated bracelet offering on their line up and usually they are the most popular model (not sure what happened with the Tudor North Flag but that's another topic). Given the popularity of the integrated sports models they have become very expensive, I still cannot understand the reason why? Maybe is because is harder to machine? Or is it because the design process is more complicated? Whatever the reason is they are on the higher price bracket for any brand and this is of course if you can find any.
Lots of brands tried to ''democratize'' the price of this iconic design like Choppard and Bell and Ross but again the watches ended up very pricey, less than the current AP and Patek offerings but of course, but still very pricey. The design of an integrated steel watch is aimed to a luxury clientele, someone who doesn’t need a bezel, a tachymeter or a helium escape valve, so naturally has to be elegant and refined, this is when I encountered Spectre and their Phantom II. My initial question was can I microbrand challenge not only by looks but also by quality the steel watch offering? I got a message from Gulshan who is the founder of the brand and we started talking, he told me why he decided to launch the Phantom and of course answer my questions. I was very impressed by the whole package and in week after our conversation the watch was with me, below are my findings.
If you try to create something in the luxury watch world unfortunately to get credibility you need a good and reliable Swiss movement (unless you are Grand Seiko), I see many microbrands using Seiko and Miyota movements and they are great, I love them but there is a bit (if not a lot) of snobbery with non-Swiss mechanical movements when it comes to watch collecting, in my opinion these Asian offerings are very robust and they get the job done while keeping the price down but, in the world of watches, tradition and Switzerland go hand in hand. After all that cleared, I cannot deny that I was very happy to see the Swiss made STP1-11 automatic movement with pelage finish on the display case back of the Phantom II, Spectre when even a step further and decorated the bridges and base plate with 'perlage' a detail that is appreciated. The case is 39mm making it perfect for almost every wrist and with that beautiful integrated bracelet feels at home. The dial is a sunburst black making it a delight to watch and includes a date window at 6 o'clock keeping all in symmetry with a touch of elegance. The STP1-11 also helps the watch to stay thin at 11.4 mm making it very wearable and slim for those fancy strolls on the sea side.
On the wrist:
The Phantom II as mentioned wears like a dream, the thickness, size and the short lugs are part of the reason but the integrated bracelet is the key here. I was so curious on weather a well made steel bracelet could be achieved on a watch that is under 500 GBP, to my surprise the quality was even better than watches costing 3x the price.There is no sharp edges, they are all well rounded and machined to perfection,
everything fits where it should and with a brushed surfaces makes the watch not only stand out but also to blend in. The dial layout is very intuitive and legible, those applied markers and long hands make the watch easy to read and good looking too, the Phantom II is a bit of a mystery, it screams quality but in a subtle way, nothing is too loud.
As you can see I was taking by this beautiful piece, the way that wears and looks is something that I haven't experienced before, every time you look at the dial you feel that exquisite quality of something made with passion, something that is not just a product which I think is why I am so drawn to it.
I started reviewing microbrands and I have to say that sometimes you feel that you are looking at the same watch with a different name on it, like it was chosen from a catalogue and did not had a proper design process, this is not the case with the Phantom II and Spectre, it is true that takes inspiration from those legends that helped (saved) the Swiss mechanical watch industry but why shouldn’t? , to me this watch challenges our pre concepts on micorbrands offerings, yes there is a lot of noise out there but there is also some good music, you just have to be lucky and find the right tune, I am sure someone is Switzerland is raising an eyebrow and thinking: '' maybe we are charging too much for our watches..'' to me this is a big win for a brand like Spectre, a true challenge at the industry based not only on low prices but also on quality.
For more info visit https://www.spectre-time.com/
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