Oak & Oscar Sandford Review
My name is Enrique Muyshondt. I run Muyshondt Enterprises, a company that creates high quality, high performance LED torches, some of which have been reviewed by Aaron Shapiro and Russell Nanney here on GearZeit. I’m writing here today to discuss a different art, though, and hope you’ll enjoy what insights I can offer on a most excellent piece of work by a relatively recent watch microbrand named Oak & Oscar.
About Oak & Oscar
Oak & Oscar was started by Chase Fancher, who left a professional career office job to start his own watch company – an inspired move, considering that watches are a pretty well established product at this point, and that the “luxury” watch market has had a challenging last few years.
Nonetheless: Chase made the right choice.
There is a lot to like here, and I’ll preface everything here by saying this is one of the most well-executed watch designs I’ve handled at any price, and that I consider the achievement truly exceptional, both in its own right, and particularly as the second outing of a freshly minted microbrand.
The Sandford was named after Scottish engineer Sandford Fleming, a proponent of standardized time zones who was responsible for the development of a significant portion of the Canadian Railway System, and whose time-mission began in earnest after missing a train due to a typo on a train station’s timetable.
The watch comes in at a stately 40mm, with a nice, large crystal and thin bezel, devoting much of its attention to the features of the dial. The case is a beautifully brushed finish, void of any polished contrast, which would only detract from the look at feel in this design.
The dial is a smooth, matte grey sandwich type dial, with Arabic numerals designed in a font which Mr. Fancher worked hard to create to provide a compelling visual appeal, without looking like a cheap stencil font. The dial is surrounded by a 24 hour ring for reading a second time zone, which rotates, allowing you to track up to three time zones on the watch.
The hands of the watch are also a dark grey in similar character to the dial itself, with a stripe of lume on the minutes and hours hand, as well as the GMT arrow, and accented with a splash of tangerine orange for the minutes hand and GMT arrow. This makes it easy to see what you need to see in the watch immediately, and without distraction – you can easily read the time at a glance. The principle function of a watch is to tell the time, after all, and this has not been forgotten in the very intelligent design of the Sandford.
Finishing off the dial is the Oak & Oscar logo, which has a “Stonehenge effect” with the counterbalance on the seconds hand, which aligns perfectly over the top of the logo once a minute, along with a color matched date wheel.
The mechanical design of the watch is finished off with a meticulously crafted display back, engraved with the company name, water resistance, material, and serial number, and showcasing the first-ever use of the new Swiss Soprod C125 GMT Movement.
The rotor is finished in a “turbine swirl” machining pattern, and decorated with four six-pointed stars (a reference to the flag of Chicago, Mr. Fancher’s hometown), blued screws, and is a beauty to behold.
Of particular note is the action of the watch when setting the time – the feel of the crowns as you unscrew and turn them. I was very pleasantly surprised to find the action of the watch, in combination with the Soprod, to be exceedingly pleasing. Most watches I’ve handled to date are fairly unremarkable in this regard, but the Sandford has a superior action to nearly every watch in my collection, comparing quite favorably to my Omega Speedmaster, and Rolex Submariner.
Pulling everything together, figuratively, and around your wrist, is a stunning strap made from Horween leather in a beautiful finish that will only get richer with time and age.
For an industry that sells items that are generally not considered inexpensive by any stretch, watch packaging tends to be found lacking in across the board. It is thusly noteworthy, then, that Oak & Oscar chose to dispense with convention and actually make an unboxing experience worth of its own section in a review.
I could tell you about it, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking instead:
The same leather as used in the straps for the Sandford comprise the exterior of the watch wallet, which is lined with a German wool felt, and grey, soft, suede pouches for holding three watches and a strap tool. The pouches are also detachable, allowing you to take a single watch with you on the go if you so desire. (as a minor aside, the design of this wallet apparently turned heads even at Omega, who appear to have “borrowed” pretty substantially from it as packaging for some of their limited edition watches at Basel 2017)
The unboxing experience is an absolute joy. I’ll make a ridiculous reference and say that it’s like an onion, with several finely crafted layers of anticipation until you reach the prize within, but unlike an onion, it won’t make you cry. (Or, if you do, it will only be tears of joy. 😉).
I’d like to take a moment to close out some thoughts I’ve had on the Sandford, and Oak & Oscar in general, as well as talk about what it is that has been achieved here.
Details are everything, and they’re all accounted for here – from the packaging and unboxing initially, to every little feature on the watch itself. Designing anything is difficult – and a watch in particular is one of the highest orders of industrial design possible. In a watch, you have a roughly 40mm circle of design real estate that requires a very careful arrangement of features to look right – tiny differences in size, a slight change of font, a subtle change in the shape of the hands, can completely alter the appearance in a fundamental way. It is easy to make something too busy, and to make something too plain. It’s very hard to get something balanced, where there is nothing left to add or detract.
Mr. Fancher has achieved this well, and done so on only his second outing. He has created a watch with all the details done right, with a brand new movement, and a style all his own, with a quality and execution that duly merit a comparison with players in the market who have been around for over a century. His passion for details shows in every element of this design. The Sandford is worthy of its price, worthy of your attention, and worthy of your time.
They are, very unfortunately for anyone looking for one presently, all sold out, and you’ll have to chase one down on the secondary market if you want one.
Of course, this is a review of one particular watch, which is no longer in production, but the takeaway should be taken more broadly: Oak & Oscar has done something truly noteworthy here. They’ve achieved an uncommon level of excellence in design and execution that few others have managed to do ever, at any price or time, let alone on their second outing. The Sandford beats almost anything at or below its price point, and has its sights on things much higher, too.
While the Sandford may be out of stock, I’m greatly looking forward to Model No. 3, and you should be keeping an eager eye out as well.
If you'd like to read more about the Oak & Oscar and stay up to date on their offerings, you can check out their website here: http://www.oakandoscar.com/
Additionally, if you'd like to learn more about the author, Enrique Muyshondt, and the products his company offers, you can check out their site: https://shop.muyshondt.net/