Archer Watches is a tiny independent watch brand located in St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Archer Watches is a one man operation, its staff consisting solely of a watchmaker named Al Jenskey. I had the pleasure of meeting Al at a Timezone dinner this past October and not only did I enjoy the opportunity to see much of the Archer range in person, but also to experience Al’s passion for watches and watchmaking. Al assembles all of the Archer models, which range from aviators and more dressy designs, by hand in his workshop. The Sterling fits into the casual space between dressy and sport and is a sound example of the marine officer style which offers excellent legibility and refined classic detailing.

  • 42 x 11 mm German stainless steel case
  • 51 mm Lug to lug
  • Domed sapphire crystal with internal AR
  • Sapphire display case back
  • ETA 6498 Hand-wound Swiss movement
  • 925 Sterling silver dial
  • 22 mm Lugs
  • Black leather strap

The Sterling is a rather understated design which relies on a simple Arabic dial and blued Breguet style hands. The hands appear black except when reflecting light and provide an excellent contrast with the off-white dial. The dial is actually made of 925 Sterling silver and carries a very unique frosted finish that has a subtle sparkle to it, not at all like any other dial finishing I have seen.

The Sterling measures 42 mm across its German-made stainless steel case which features straight 22 mm screwed lugs and a double round style bezel. Thickness is a very wearable 11mm including the slightly domed sapphire crystal, which has an internal treatment to reduce glare and reflections.

The Sterling is powered by a hand-wound ETA 6498 which uses 17 jewels, has a power reserve of 48 hours and is quite nicely finished and features some Archer branding. This movement provided excellent timekeeping and a completely charming audible ticking sound thanks to its pocket watch roots. The original design for the ETA 6497/6498 is from a company called Unitas (eventually bought by ETA) and, being quite a large and hand-wound movement, it was originally used for pocket watches.

Providing the a potential watch is large enough to suit the movement, the ETA 6497/6498 (the 8 refers to separated sub seconds, seen at six o’clock on the Sterling) is a proven and bulletproof caliber. The only drawback to note is the lack of hacking seconds (the second hand does not stop when the crown is pulled out) and there is no date complication. The lack of a date display is something to keep in mind if it is a feature you cannot live without. Speaking personally, I found the acclimation time to be quite short and feel that a date aperture may spoil the balance of the Sterling’s dial, depending on its implementation.

The Archer Sterling, thanks to its flat sapphire display back, sits flat on your wrist and the 42 mm size should not be too big for any wrist. The Sterling’s long and straight lugs give it a somewhat long lug to lug size of 51 mm. Generally speaking, anything over 53 mm becomes too long for my wrist but I had no trouble wearing the Sterling and found it to be perfectly comfortable and well balanced.

The dial is excellently matched with the case and while none of its details are flashy, all have some charm in their own right. Legibility is excellent with crisp and clear Arabic numerals and long hands that appear black except when turned against the light to show their iridescent blue finishing. The railway design that encircles the main dial is matched in the seconds register and makes for an excellent minute or seconds scale. Both the minute and sub-seconds hand are long enough to reach this scale and make glancing at the time or measuring short events very easy.

Included with the Sterling is a soft and comfy black leather strap, an Archer ballpoint pen, a custom wood case, a pressure test receipt showing resistance to 50 m, and a DVD. Insert the DVD into your computer and you will become witness to Al’s level of passion for the Archer watches he builds.

Included among the files on the Sterling’s dvd is a 28 page PDF showing your watch being assembled by Al in his workshop. This PFD is mostly photos explaining that the movements, as they come from the factory, are not up to Al’s standards. They are torn down and rebuilt so everything can be checked for proper build and lubrication (you even get a 4 page PDF explaining how the escapement is properly lubricated).

Once the movement is rebuilt, the dial and hands are then installed. Everything is mounted into the case and the crown stem is custom cut to ensure proper action. Al has sought to keep as much of the quality control in house as possible. The included DVD serves as step-by-step proof that your watch was personally assembled by the same person who is accepting your payment.

Al makes one of these DVDs with every watch he sells. In his workshop he has the ability to pressure test and accurately regulate every movement that eventually makes it into an Archer design. It comes as no surprise that when Al isn’t hand assembling Archer watches, he is servicing or rebuilding other watches from many other brands.

When I asked for a review unit of an Archer Sterling, I had no idea this level of fanaticism and attention to detail was present in their assembly. The Sterling is sold directly though the Archer Watches website for $975 (~$950 USD). Similarly styled models like the Stowa Marine Original sell for 940 EUR (~$1228 USD) and up. We really like the build quality, reserved but detailed styling and excellent attention to detail seen in the Archer Sterling and feel that the asking price is quite fair and more than competitive on the market.

We would like to thank Al at Archer Watches for loaning us a Sterling model for this review.

16 Comments

  1. That caseback is drop dead gorgeous.

    Reply
  2. Not very happy with that hour hand. The design feature that’s typical for Breguet style hands – the circle with the second, smaller off-center negative circle at about two thirds of the length of the hand – looks differently in the hour hand. It looks right in the minute hand, but in the hour hand, it looks misproportioned and too flimsy to me.

    Speaking of attention to detail: it’s a shame that so many small (and not so small) manufacturers think that they don’t need to have their logo and the typography of the box design etc. done by a professional designer.

    Apart from that, nice take on the old marine watch theme.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Pezie. 

      These hands are closer to what is seen on the Baume and Mercier Flyback Chrono than a traditional Breguet handset which is generally thinner. Perhaps it is a weakness in my photography but the minute hand does not feel flimsy or out of proportion in person, quite the opposite actually. 

      Concerning your comment about the logo, Al informed me that the Archer logo was designed by Timothy John, a very successful Autrailia based creative artist and designer (http://www.greenhillgalleriesadelaide.com.au/show-artist.php?id=265). It is a simple and effective design that wont clutter a dial but is still recognizable and pays tribute to the brands Canadian roots.  

      Thanks again, 

      James Stacey

      Reply
  3. Hey James.  Thank you for this review of the Archer Sterling watch.  I think you are right
    about this watch being quite outstanding, but personally, I find the stuff you write about
    him and his one man company very interesting.  You put “meat on the skeleton”, so to speak.
    There are a hundred watches out there, but very few with a human  face and hands  behind them.

    You seem to always pay attention to value.

    You point out  the twists and turns that make a watch work for the average guy.

    Thank you for this great article.  I have put my order in right away.

    Reply
    • Wow, thanks so much. I’m glad you liked the review and appreciate your kind words. 

      The Archer package seems pretty unique and centred around transparency and value ads, I haven’t seen any other brand include a DVD like Archer one (that isn’t to say no one does, I just haven’t been witness to it). The Sterling is a great watch and one that I will genuinely miss now that it has gone back to Archer.

      Congrats on your order and tweet/link a photo to @ Watchreport  or on our Facebook. 

      Thanks again,

      James

      Reply
      • A very excellent review, wonderful photography! It is just fantastic to see such a quality watch being made right here in Canada! By a wonderful guy, I might add, who does some wonderful posts on the watch forum that I frequent.
        This is really one of the best looking – and beautifully made – Marine style watches I have seen. I just love thelook of that Sterling dial. Sudually, for a watch of this type, I would prefer an ename dial, but in ths case the sterling apeals more. Having just pruchased two new watches, it might be a while, but I think there will be an Archer watch in my future.
        Cheers,
        Carl

        Reply
  4. Love the look of this classic style watch. Love the Breguet style hands although I think the hour hand is a little long in comparison to the minute hand. The crown is fantastic. Also I would have liked to see a slightly larger sub-seconds dial and a little higher up the dial. Unfortunately the logo is a little dissapointing, but an overall great looking watch for the price.

    Reply
  5. Hi James,

    I really love your reviews, but the thing I’m interested in, is what kind of recording equipment are you using for recording such a great video reviews?

    Thanks and regards,
    Vlada

    Reply
  6. Hi James,

    I really love your reviews, but the thing I’m interested in, is what kind of recording equipment are you using for recording such a great video reviews?

    Thanks and regards,
    Vlada

    Reply
  7. The caseback is drop dead gorgeous. Love the railway dials on both the main dial and the sub-dial. I still have an issue with the hands; I believe they are to long, the minute hand going past the minute markers. Would love to see Al’s next model with Roman numerals and a slightly smaller logo. I agree with you James that the flat 42mm caseback makes the watch very comfy on the wrist.

    Reply
  8. Also the circle on the minute hand looks kinda strange when the minute hand is over a numeral; such as in your photos showing it over the 2 O’Clock position. I don’t think the circle on the minute hand should stretch as far as to cover the numeral. Not a good look, but lots of credit to Al for providing a DVD showing the dissasembly and reassembling of each and every watch he builds. This does show and prove his true passion for horology and watchmaking. Overall a great watch for the price.

    Reply
  9. I already own two of Al’s hand-built watches and will be purchasing the Sterling in the new year.  Al is an exceptional person to deal with and I have had 6 of my other watches repaired / serviced / refurbished (vintage work) via Al.  His attention to detail, integrity and professionalism are excellent.  And he is very reasonably priced, and backs his work without question.

    Another great watch, Al!  Congrats.

    James A. DeBruin
    Ottawa, ON
    Canada

    Reply
  10. Great review and fantastic pictures, James.  First look on this watch and it reminds me so much of my grail IWC Portuguese FA Jones (limited to 3000 pieces).  The dial design, use of blued Breguet hands and index markers, caseback showing a 6498 Swiss Unitas movement, and even the crown is a close match.  And a fraction of the price of the IWC.  The Archer logo on the dial could have been smaller though…..  But overall, a fantastic piece given the time, effort and passion which the owner has invested on it’s production.

    Reply
  11. I love this watch, I plan to get one. First it was Japanese knives and performance flashlights, now I’m getting into watches. As a Canadian, I love the logo, A for Archer, A for Avro Arrow, A for Awesome!

    Reply
  12. Great review of a beautiful watch.  I own two Archer timepieces – and Aero pilot-style watch and an elegant one-off dress piece with a vintage Hamilton cal. 917 pocket watch movement.  Both are superbly finished and have run flawlessly for years.  Al has not only a great deal of passion for watches but a great deal of skill as well.

    Reply
  13. Wow, the best thing to come out of Canada in years. I love the simple elegance of this watch. Sure the circles on the hands would look more astatically pleasing if they were more centered but what a fantastic watch. Also, very good review.

    Reply

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