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.