The surprising wrist presence of the Baltic MR01 Gold PVDBuffy Acacia
The difference between a $1,000 watch and a $10,000 watch could be the attention to its finishing, the value of the raw materials, the origin of the movement, or the limit of its availability. The thing that’s become clear in the past few years however, is that you can’t put a price on vibes. All of the luxury appointments in the world can’t save a watch which just doesn’t have the “it” factor, and microbrands frequently prove you don’t need big budgets for attraction. The Baltic MR01 in gold PVD is absolutely drenched in lavish, old-school sophistication, and it won’t drain your bank account.
Most analyses of Baltic’s style revolve around their vintage inspirations, but I actually think that the MR01 is surprisingly contemporary. Even handling the watch physically can’t prepare you for how it wears on the wrist, as the slightly upscaled dimensions and modern PVD finishing offers a different flavour of gold. It may not look overly complex, but Baltic know how to make their details pop. Plus, the micro-rotor movement gives budget-focused collectors an opportunity to fill a rare niche.
A modern case with antique origins
Gold plating has been around for hundreds of years, but it’s finally been made redundant by coatings such as PVD. Where electroplated gold can easily start showing its wear within a couple of years, PVD will remain bright and durable for much longer. It’s not trying to fool anyone into thinking that it’s solid gold, but it captures the best visual properties well. With this edition of the Baltic MR01, the gold tone is much less openly gaudy than some other affordable yellow gold finishes. The front view is entirely polished, with the crisp edges of the bezel and lugs catching light for a sparkling glamour. Where the sides of the case have been brushed, there’s a notable change in colour temperature as the microns-thick PVD layer starts to reveal the lustre of steel beneath it. In gold terms, it simulates something like a two-tone layering of 18k and 14k.
The style of the case is very much based on the early wristwatches of the 1930s and ‘40s, mainly coming through thanks to the wide, flat bezel. It telescopes out of the case and slightly draws the eye, and actually makes the watch feel a bit larger than its 36mm diameter. 36mm is already bigger than this style of case would have been back in the day, so considering its wrist presence, there’s definitely an air of modernity. The lugs swoop down nicely, extending out to 47mm from tip-to-tip. The lugs are also 20mm wide and drilled for easy spring bar access, making me excited to think of all the different straps I could pair it with.
Black and gold is always going to be an instant winner when it comes to jewellery, and the dial of the Baltic MR01 is nothing less. Each detail is dripping in decadence, from the applied Breguet numerals to the off-centre small seconds hand. The gilt chapter ring is also slightly raised from the dial’s surface, giving it an even greater sense of depth. The blacks pull you in, and the yellow gold swathes you in luxury. The leaf hands catch light easily, making them bright and easily legible in plenty of different lighting conditions. Baltic describe their crystal as “high-domed”, but although it rises out of the bezel, it actually seems quite flat. That’s not a bad thing though, as it makes it easier to read at an angle. The use of hesalite (also known as acrylic) does open up the possibility of scratches, however plastic polishing compound is easy to find and even easier to use. In theory, crystals breaking is also less likely than with something brittle like sapphire.
An affordable movement with nuance
Micro-rotor movements have had a real resurgence recently, both because they allow watches to be thinner and because they look much, much prettier. Baltic are determined to keep their prices accessible though, and breaking away from the established workhorse movements can be risky. The Hangzhou CAL5000a has been popping up more and more among microbrands, and it’s starting to earn its reputation as a good quality budget calibre. Baltic’s 24-month warranty is a good sign of its reliability, but in total honesty, there will probably be a question mark about the movement for another few years at least. The total thickness of 9.9mm is definitely a positive with the MR01, but there are definitely other thin mechanical movements such as the Miyota 9039 which could achieve this.
Where the movement choice really starts making sense is when you flip the watch over and look at its decoration. To think that this is a A$1,025 watch with a calibre this beautiful is quite shocking. It’s not just the surface finishing, but it’s also how the Hangzhou CAL5000a takes up all of the case’s space without the need for huge movement rings or thick caseback bezels. But, the finishing is great too. The golden micro-rotor itself gleams with its segmented brushing, as do the surfaces of the plates. Below them, the pearlage is neatly executed. There are also blued screws and lovely purple rubies, and all of it is easily visible with the naked eye. It may not quite be at the same level as something out of Glashütte, but it redefines what people will usually think about Chinese manufacturing.
I had a preconceived notion of the Baltic MR01 in gold before I held it in my hands, and then it changed again once I strapped it to my wrist. I have a huge preference for smaller watches, and its massive presence actually surprised me when I was expecting a demure 36mm case. There’s nothing demure about it, but neither is it ever over-the-top. It hits the Goldilocks zone of exuberance, and exemplifies why black and gold is such a classic combination. The Hangzhou CAL5000a movement may not be to everyone’s taste, but as someone who loves oddities, I’m glad it’s been given a home here. The decoration will have you wanting to flip the watch around on a daily basis, and I’m happy enough with the positive reviews from consumers online. All in all, this is a fantastic dress or smart-casual watch for the price.
Baltic MR01 Gold PVD pricing and availability
|MR01 Gold PVD
|36mm (D) x 9.9mm (T) x 44mm (LTL)
|Stainless steel with gold PVD coating
|Glossy black with gold accents
|Black calf leather strap, PVD gold steel pin buckle, quick release
|Hangzhou CAL5000a, micro-rotor automatic
|Hours, minutes, small seconds