Melbourne Watch Co Portsea Review

PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 3 Feb, 2015.

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CATEGORIES £250 - £500 / Brands / Melbourne Watch Co / Reviews

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I’ve been a supporter of Melbourne Watch Co since they launched their first model, the Flinders. You can read my review of that watch here, and you can also read my review of their second model, the Hawthorn, here.

Now we come to Sujain’s 3rd model, the Portsea, which has also been funded on Kickstarter. Its goal was $35k AUD, and it smashed it by receiving just over $100k AUD. It’s now available at an RRP of $775 AUD, or £405.

The Portsea is named after a seaside locale on the Mornington Peninsula southeast of Melbourne, and is Sujain’s own version of a traditional ‘marine chronometer’, which he describes as usually referring to the combination of a simple a white dial (traditionally enamel) and either black Arabic or Roman numerals.

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One things for sure, you can’t deny that it’s a striking and classy watch. Let’s take an in-depth look at it to see if it’s worth the £405 price tag. 

The case

First off, the size. It’s bang on point at a sensible 40mm in diameter. This is large enough to provide wrist presence, especially as it’s pretty much all dial. 

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The Portsea has a height of 12.5mm, which isn’t really that tall, but does actually look quite impressive when looking at it side on. I think this may be by the pleasant lines breaking up the case; one where the bezel meets the main case, and one between the case and caseback. It’s also quite a square shape to it, thanks to the angular bezel edge. It’s not sharp by any means, but has a slightly curved squared edge which provides a definite rim. 

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The Portsea has a 48mm lug to lug length. This means the lugs only protrude 4mm at either end of the case, which isn’t a lot. The outcome of this is a comfy seating on the wrist, and a watch that can easily fit wrist sizes of 7″ and above. Interestingly, whilst the lugs are angled down, they don’t actually go farther than the caseback. So they don’t actually hug the wrist as much as they could. They do have a gentle angle out towards the edge of the case, merging with the sides by means of a join which looks like a crease/fold.

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The watch in total only weighs 91g, which is heavy enough to feel like a quality watch, but not crazy heavy to make it hard to wear. I can easily wear this watch all day. 

The case is made of 316L stainless steel, and is fully polished. The polished finish is completely unblemished, and really suits the watch. There’s no sign of sharp edges or poor machining anywhere, but rather the case is made with accuracy and precision.

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As you’d expect, the Portsea boasts a sapphire crystal. It also has an anti-reflective coating on the underside, which was one of the stretch goals of the Kickstarter campaign. Boy am I glad it was reached, as it’s brilliant. White dialled watches always look great anyway, but this crystal has super clarity and you’d barely notice it’s there. This is just another area where the Portsea punches above its weight. 

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The water resistance rating is 100m / 10atm. This apparently means that you can swim in it. But I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t do that. Yes it’s a marine watch, so you should definitely wear it whilst on your yacht. But I personally wouldn’t trust watches with a standard push-pull crown to be fully submerged for a period of time. 

Moving into the push pull crown, it has a flat end, with the Melbourne “M” logo etched in. The grip is reasonable; the teeth are not unnecessarily large – but rather subtle, matching the watch well, and good enough to use. Just like the case, the crown is completely polished and excellently manufactured. 

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Located at 2 on the side of the case is the month pusher. Not a great deal to report here, apart from it being pleasantly understated. The actual pusher itself is concave, and is surrounded by an outer ring. Although you don’t get a little tool to use, I find my strap removal tool to work perfectly.

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Finally, we move onto the exquisite caseback. This is a gem reserved mainly for the owner, as the bast majority of people looking at the watch won’t even know it’s there. It’s stamped with a nautically themed scene rather than the traditional engraving or embossing. This creates an excellent 3D feel and look and is much more impressive. In fact, it has such deep engraving it almost reminds me of casebacks you’d find on watches such as the Omega Planet Ocean.

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The entire caseback is polished bar the stamped scene, and is fixed into place by 4 screws. Surrounding the scene are various details for the watch, such as details about the movement, and that it’s rated at 100m water resistance. 

The one tiny niggle I have with it is in the centre – Melbourne Watch Co’s logo is lightly etched onto it. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but it just doesn’t do the rest of the caseback justice. It looks a little lost which is a shame. 

All in all, the case is spotless and intricate, with the caseback being the standout star.

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The dial

The dial is quite possibly the key factor behind the Portsea’s success. Just look at it. It’s simple, clear, classy and elegant, and I haven’t found a single person who doesn’t love it.

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It’s triple layered, providing a delightful sense of depth to it. It lets off a sense of luxurious aura that makes the whole watch appear much more than it’s worth. 

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The outstanding design, coupled with the beautifully clear crystal makes it an affordable masterpiece. The crystal makes a difference as you can see the intricacies clearly. 

The top level is a small ring encircling the outer edge of the entire dial. This accommodates a rail-road style minute track beautifully designed and precisely printed. 

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The next level is the ceramic main plate with the main hour indexes and subdials on. This is below the minute track, but surrounds the bottom centre level. The subdials are shaped like a disc with the centre cut out, giving them the appearance of a pair of glasses. This is all very nicely shaped, and of course, perfectly made. 

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The base layer of the dial contains a 3D striated pattern to further enhance the depth effect. There is the logo located in the top half and Portsea in the bottom half of this base section, both on their own raised platform to print on a flat surface. 

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The printing on the whole dial is extremely fine and precise. From the arabic numerals acting as the hour indices, to the day and month subdial markers, everything is sure and definite. I especially like how jet black the ink is, creating a brilliantly high contrast between the print and the dial.

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The date window is cut out of the base plate of the dial, and also penetrates into the ceramic plate. The text of the date wheel is an appealing light weight serif font, suiting the air of the watch and promoting the sharp design.

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The alpha styled ion-plated hands are the epitome of class, being delightfully thin and elegant – the minute hand reaching out to the edge of the dial, and the hour hand stretching to the rim of the ceramic plate. The second hand features the Melbourne “M” as a counter weight as can be found on all of their watches. The subdial hands are of “modern” style, as in thin points with a small disc serving as a counterweight. All the hands are of impeccable taste and craftmanship.

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The dial as a whole is beautifully designed and executed.

The movement

The movement in the Portsea is a Miyota 9120. It’s one that is lesser used, mainly due it’s unique functions – it’s a triple-calendar automatic. Triple calendar means it measures 3 stages of date – the day, date, and month. The date is located in a date window at 6 (which I love), the day is in the left subdial, and the month is in the right subdial. 

It’s fairly easy to set, too. Pull out the crown to the first position, and you can set the date the normal way by twisting it clockwise. Turn it anti-clockwise, and you can set the day. 

Pull out the crown to the second position, and as usual, you’ll be able to set the time. That’s all fairly standard for watches with a day/date indicator. 

The obvious addition on the Portsea is the month  indicator. This is extremely easy to adjust, thanks to the tiny button located at 2. Simply press it with a small metal tip (I use the end of one of my strap tools) and it’ll advance the month. 

The Miyota 9120 is a high beat movement, running at the standard 28.8k bph (8 ticks a second), providing a high quality smooth sweep for the central running seconds hand. The movement also boast 26 jewels, not that you can see them to count them. 

The automatic rotor winds the moment uni-directionally, which means just one way. The winding direction is clockwise (looking at it from the caseback). As long as you wear the watch enough, this shouldn’t really affect you – just keep in mind that it won’t wind as quickly as a movement that winds bi-directionally. 

The 9120 also has hand winding capabilities (when the crown is fully pushed in) is , and a hacking second hand – pretty standard things you expect in a watch costing this much. 

The accuracy straight from the factory is -10~30 secs/day, but the Portsea is proving to be much better than that – being no more than 10 seconds out a day. It also has a standard 40 hour power reserve. 

Miyota are fast becoming a favourite for small boutique brands. They offer excellent, yet affordable movement that are readily available. There doesn’t seem to be any difference in quality with the 9120 – although you can see it, it performs perfectly well, and feels good in the hand when adjusting it. 

The strap

The strap is made of German leather, and is obviously higher quality when compared with the straps on the other Melbourne watches. Rightly so too, as the Portsea is their flagship model.

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The brown leather is a beautiful deep chestnut colour, matching the watch aesthetics perfectly. 

It’s a little stiff to begin with, but that’s something that I’ve become accustomed to as it more or less happens with every brand new strap. Within a week or so it’s softened right up, and fits a lot better on the wrist. 

The strap is 21mm wide at the lugs, reducing to 18mm at the buckle. This is the correct size to match the watch, and balances the head perfectly resulting in a comfortable wear – it doesn’t have the tendency to spin around on the wrist. But – if you want to replace it, 21mm is a little bit of a strange width and you may find it difficult to find your favoured strap in that exact size. This is probably one of the only minor gripes I have with the watch.

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On the underside of the shorter end of the strap is the Melbourne Watch Co’s logo, which is impressively large. The underside is very velvety, and is soft on the skin – again resulting in it being super comfortable whilst wearing the Portsea. 

The buckle is fully polished, and is just like all the other Melbourne buckles; a pleasantly unusual shape and perfectly made. 

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It is of interesting design, characterised by a large bulge to contain the logo. It also has a welcoming detail of two lower edges running down both sides. Just a little thing, but it breaks up the buckle nicely.

It’s all very well made and is very easy to use – sometimes it can be hard or awkward to get a strap on just the right hole. But it’s quick and easy with the Portsea – and it’s probably mainly due to the quality of the leather strap too.

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The strap or bracelet of a watch does carry a lot of weight when it comes down to overall presence on the wrist. The strap on the Portsea definitely reinforces the high quality aura of the whole watch. 

The competition

Doing a quick search, it’s actually pretty hard finding an alternative watch if you’re looking into ceramic dials. Obviously ceramic is more traditionally used for the bezel. So in this regard the Portsea is actually fairly unique. 

When it comes to the styling, though, there’s quite a few nice choices in the Marine style. 

The two I think are my favourites are both German. The Stowa Marine retails at €570 / £425. It’s well rebounded as being a lovely watch. But unfortunately they’re pretty hard to get hold of, you’ll end up waiting a good couple of months.

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The Steinhart Marine 38 retails at €400 / £300 and is very good value for money in my opinion. It’s very clean and crisp, but a little simple when compared to the Portsea.

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Final comments

Yes £405 is a lot, there’s no denying that. But what you get is a watch that oozes class and has a wonderfully high level of build quality – that of a watch much higher priced. And don’t forget too that you get a 2 year warrantee.

The fact that it’s completely custom designed by Sujain, and that it’s all built to his specification is remarkable on his part. He’s done a great job creating such a beautiful watch. 

Would I wear it? Hell yes. Would I buy it? Of course. Many other owners have shared their positive impressions too, so it’s proving to be a real hit.

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1 thought on “Melbourne Watch Co Portsea Watch Review”

  1. > Greg Newby says:

    That Portsea is one terribly attractive watch, wow !

    It oozes quality and visual appeal by the bucket load.

    I imagine quite hard to find nowadays.

    Great review as always. Thanks


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