The Melbourne Watch Company Portsea is a modern take on the classic marine chronometer, and for less than $1,000 offers a hefty dose of charm in a well-constructed and attractive package.
If you’re unfamiliar with Melbourne Watch Company, that may be because it was founded just three years ago, in 2013, after a successful crowdfunding of its first model, the Flinders. The company’s goal is “to create premium grade watches that are accessible to watch enthusiasts, casual collectors, and beyond,” and I’ve spent over two months with the Portsea, first released in 2014, to see if the model and the company live up to their self-set standards.
As you might have guessed, Melbourne Watch Company is based out of Melbourne, Australia, and each of their models is a nod to the city in some way. Portsea is a town on the Mornington Peninsula, which is southeast of Melbourne. As the city is a 23-hour flight from where I’m located, I chose not to visit it for this review, but according to TravelVictoria.com it is the former site of numerous military fortifications and now known for its “upmarket dream homes” and “scenic coastal features including pristine beaches, cliffs, reef platforms, and turbulent seas.”
Fortunately, the seas weren’t too turbulent the day the watch was shipped out for review, and it arrived safely. The watch came enclosed in a small black leather box with the company’s logo pressed into the top. Upon opening, I was presented with the Melbourne Watch Company Portsea watch with its rose gold-colored case in 316L stainless steel and navy blue leather band, along with two cards tucked into a small pocket sewn into the lining of the case. The first was a warranty card with information about the two-year international warranty and the other was a quick reference guide on how to set the calendar (more on that later).
It wasn’t long before I had strapped the Melbourne Watch Company Portsea to my wrist, and my initial reaction was that the watch felt weighty and well-constructed. There are items you pick up once in a while that immediately channel a sense of quality through you – the last time for me was picking up a Zippo Armor lighter – and the Portsea gave me the same feeling. Even now, after weeks of wear, when I pick up the watch in the morning before affixing it to my wrist, there is a moment of pause when I just hold the watch, letting its presence register in my palm before moving it to it’s place of prominence for the rest of the day.
The Portsea wears comfortably at 40mm wide (43mm with the crown) and at 48mm lug-to-lug. At 13mm thick, it does stick out from the wrist somewhat, and on my 16cm wrists, I noticed this fact – though someone with larger wrists would certainly be less bothered by it. The lug width is 20mm, and the lugs are slightly curved so the watch wears more comfortably.
The strap is one of the nicer details of the watch. Padded dark blue leather with an alligator skin pattern, it is very flexible and soft. The choice of blue adds immensely to the marine aesthetic of the watch, and though there are other case and strap combinations available for the Portsea, the rose gold and blue struck me as the most interesting (others are: black strap, silver case, black dial; blue strap, silver case, blue dial; and brown strap, silver case, white dial).
Although inspired by classic marine chronometers, the watch will most likely be worn as a dress watch in semi-formal and office environments, and wearing the watch to work with my standard white dress shirts felt appropriate. The coloring and style is refined enough to blend in when you want, but offer enough flavor to keep you interested and catch the eye of any watch-collecting co-workers. Over lunch, my former colleague and friend who has a small collection of mechanical watches immediately took notice of the Melbourne Watch Company Portsea and it quickly became the topic of discussion as we ate.
With the Melbourne Portsea, there is a lot to discuss. Already mentioned was the coloring of the case and strap, but when you get up close to the dial you begin to appreciate the amount of thought that has gone into the design of this timepiece.