HANDS-ON: The Haigh & Hastings Classic – Aussie style with a serious Swiss pedigree

Editor’s Note: Last year we held a special week of stories focusing on local watch brands, and in a fit of creativity we called it ‘Australian Watch Week’. Twelve months down the track, many of the brands have come up with a fresh crop of models, and we’re going to be having a close look at some of the stand outs over the next few weeks. First up, Haigh & Hastings.

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Perth-based Haigh & Hastings has spent the past few years developing a reputation for solid sports and diving watches, as we saw with the M2 Diver last year. The brand continues to go from strength to strength, bringing in former Audemars Piguet head of design Emmanuel Gueit to lend his expertise to their latest model: the Haigh & Hastings Classic. Gueit’s input on the Classic is immediately obvious; it’s a clean, simple design that’s very well balanced, and avoids many of the design pitfalls that so often plague young watch brands. Things like short hands, poorly sized date windows – the sort of problems you get with an off-the-shelf product. The Classic is a strong design and the decision to bring Guiet’s skills onboard has clearly paid off.

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Firstly, the internals. As with previous models, H&H elected to run a Seiko NH35A automatic movement, which is known for its reliability, accuracy and all-round robustness. The Classic isn’t pitching itself at the adventure market like its peers, but the Japanese mechanism is an excellent match for general duties, able to withstand life’s usual knocks and bashes. There’s a clear undercurrent of sturdiness throughout this piece, particularly evident in the case and crown.

When it comes to its case, the Classic walks the difficult line of being large enough without being too big. The case measures in at 42mm across and 12.2mm high, and there’s a genuine presence which announces itself without being too bold or arrogant. It’s a proper masterstroke from designer Gueit, who has created millimetre-perfect dimensions throughout the body.

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On the wrist, it’s a comfortable piece, and the sort people will notice without the watch screaming “look at me”.  In daylight, the radiant blue sunburst dial is quite stunning and works well with the lumed hands and markers. At night, the chromed bezel catches light and the dial creates a warm blue glow. The distance between the sapphire and the watch face is quite deep, casting some interesting shadows and giving the watch a feel of substance.

It’s a very good watch, but there’s still room for improvement. Although both the polished bezel and brushed case stainless steel case look good, side-by-side the two finishes don’t quite harmonise. But it’s the fit of the sapphire that is unfortunately our biggest qualm. When looking straight on, the gap between the sapphire and the bezel reveals the white gasket beneath. The millimetre-perfect design hasn’t translated into the manufacturing. Of course, when considering the watch’s numerous strengths, there will be many willing to overlook these foibles, particularly considering the sub-$800 price tag.

The H&H Classic tested came fitted with a blue crocodile-style leather strap, which is perhaps a touch dressy for the sports casual piece, but it’s also offered on a khaki NATO, which looks great. Even better would be aged brown leather pull-through, to offset the crisp lines and blue dial, and to help it play off its strengths. In our eyes the watch is a bit like James Bond – tough inside, hardy outside, but elegant at face value and entirely useable, even in difficult circumstances. If you’re looking for a timepiece that is versatile, resilient and good value, the Classic is worth considering.

Haigh & Hastings Classic Australian pricing

The Haigh & Hastings Classic retails from $788 AUD.

Images by Jason Reekie.

 

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