MICRO MONDAYS: The Tsao Baltimore Legacy delivers a host of vivid dials with proud American roots.Thor Svaboe
I’ve had quite a few microbrands in my personal watchbox. In fact, my first new mechanical watch after a waning vintage obsession was a microbrand. Due to the smaller nature of these businesses, one of the main attractions of buying these watches is the possibility of interacting with the brand owner during the retail process and even developing a relationship of sorts. In addition, there is something cool about the ability of these plucky small manufacturers, many of which are run by one person, to go out alone and stand up to the greats. Alan Tsao of Tsao Baltimore is one of these guys and the 32-year-old founder has now released a brand new model: the Tsao Baltimore Legacy.
A small producer like Alan has the agility to feel the pulse of the watch-collecting community and respond fast, releasing models that hit the sweet spot at the right time. Liberated from the bureaucratic rigmarole that working with a large design team involves, he’s able to make quicker decisions and jump on trends while they’re still beginning to crest.
If the owner has the right eye for design and colours, there can be a hyper quick turnaround compared to, say, a three-year committee gestation period. The flipside is that personal taste is, of course, inherently subjective and might be polarizing to say the least. But here we have a cool and colourful diver’s watch that hits a few nails on their heads in a total of 12 variations. Yes, that’s right. Twelve!
The Legacy Raven is a compact, tough steel diver’s watch with a classic Super Compressor design and a bevelled, angular case. Alan has managed to design the end links of the bracelet so we actually get the image of an integrated bracelet with the classic no-lug steep angled case-end. The proportions are just-so at 40mm and, with only 75 pieces of each version being made, you better be quick if you want to nab one. The signature large crowns have a design I haven’t seen before with a refreshing variation: the bottom crown is serrated and knurled for grip, and the upper crown at 2 o’clock is delicately striated.
The bezel is slim with a vertical brushing that matches the brushed fume dial and a sharp polished bevel. The Legacy has an interesting and detailed side profile, underlining the solid value proposition. There is a choice of the solid link steel bracelet, or some very soft-looking hand-stitched leather straps with all models available in either steel or bronze.
These small details are what set these Tsao Baltimore watches apart. Shrewd design choices that belie the age of such a young company. From a monochrome grey-black with small pops of orange, to a full-on colour assault purple grape flavour with vertically brushed dial (my favourite, for sure), the Legacy Raven is a balanced design, free of homage clues.
Alan’s graphic design background comes through clearly in the proportions on the dial, with another crisp detail being the Panerai-ish sandwich construction revealing a warm beige lume on the bronze versions, and a crisp white Super-Luminova on the steels. The inner rotating bezel is clearly marked and matches the design ethos of what is a classic Super Compressor look.
This is not a “Swiss manufactured” watch – the MD-1 is a movement with a proud local twist and build. The MD-1 is an ETA 2824 clone, with the primary difference being that it is fully assembled, tested and regulated in Maryland. At 40mm, this tough tool hits the sweet spot for many with a go-anywhere 200m depth rating. The comfortably short lug to lug of 48mm ensures comfort on the wrist with an appropriate tool-watch thickness of 13.6mm.
Tsao Baltimore also has a GMT version of the Legacy, at a slightly higher price of $899, even here with the choice of a brushed and bevelled steel or bronze case. With the same compact size as the time-only Legacy, I’m not making any outlandish claims here by stating that here we have superb value for a GMT that’s once again available in a choice of options. The Legacy Bronze GMT comes with the proven Soprod C125 GMT movement that delivers a 42 hour power reserve. The bottom line: this is a microbrand that’s putting Baltimore on the watchmaking map.
Tsao Baltimore, Prices and Availability:
Legacy Steel in all colours is $650 USD, on leather strap or steel bracelet
Legacy Bronze in all colours is $650 USD, on leather strap or steel bracelet
Legacy Bronze GMT in all colours is $899 USD, on leather strap or steel bracelet
All references of the Tsao Baltimore Legacy are available for pre-ordering at Tsao Baltimore while stocks last.
Made in partnership with Tsao Baltimore. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.