KeepTheTime is pleased to introduce the Wrist Lore Blackbird LE Automatic. After months of teaser posts on social media, this timepiece will be available for pre-order on Kickstarter starting today, October 31, 2019!
Since Kickstarter and the resurgence of interest in watches, new micro-brands come and go. We receive dozens of emails from fresh blood every week. Some are copy and paste emails where they even forgot to replace our site name, but every so often, we’re contacted by a newcomer exploding with sincerity and enthusiasm. Wrist Lore is one such brand. They contacted KeepTheTime to see if we’d be down with checking out their prototype before the launch date.
At the time, the name of the piece was still either undecided or under wraps, but we had an idea what it was going to look like from a few shots they posted on their site. While the prototype was in transit, we found out that the piece was called the “Blackbird LE” and was inspired by the Lockhead SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
The LE in the watch name stands for limited edition, with only 1,966 individual pieces being produced. 1966 significant as it is the year the SR-71 was introduced.
The package flew in all the way from Australia, where Wrist Lore hails from. In the box was a bag of Vegemite spread and a handwritten note from the founders. Maybe they took cues from this review, nice touch!
The first thing that stands out about the Wrist Lore presentation is the color coordinated box that opens to a thoughtful layout of watch and papers sealed with a bow.
Inside the envelope you’ll find a user guide with the brand’s story, pilot information, and the aircraft that influenced the Blackbird design. There is also a plastic warranty card. Everything is nicely designed.
Thanks to the flat sapphire crystal, the Blackbird stands about 14.5mm tall with a lug-to-lug of almost 59mm.
Wrist Lore has since unveiled two more colorways: steel and rose gold plated. The more choices the better, and the two additional colors look great, but we recommend sticking with the black model if you want to stay true to the reconnaissance aircraft the watch is named after.
The dial is what really attracted us to wanting to do a hands-on review of the Blackbird.
The skeleton-like design is assisted by the Miyota caliber 82S0 automatic movement within.
It is a rarely seen member of the 82XX family that so many microbrand watch companies use, with the main difference being the open balance wheel design on the dial at 7:00. Learn all about this movement here.
Among intricate cutouts, applied gears, and a mock mainspring are touches of red found on the seconds hand and logo, as well as time-lapse markers from 10-20 seconds on the rehaut. This colorway is consistent with the SR-71 Blackbird shown above.
You might feel some visual familiarity with the appearance of the integrated bracelet and square design on the push-button clasp.
Yes, you’ve seen it before.
No, you’re not crazy.
There will be critics who squawk at the homage bracelet, but how many watches are using Oyster bracelets or sharkproof mesh? Maybe they could have gone a different route with the band, but at least it looks suitable on this piece.
The anticipated criticism here would be that the watch is supposed to be based on a sleek and fluid aircraft, but the bracelet comes from a watch that Gérald Genta designed after he was inspired by traditional dive helmets.
For the strap addicts in the crowd, you’re stuck with steel for now. Integrated means that the bracelet is made specifically to fit the case, and there’s no way to swap it out unless you get something custom made or Wrist Lore starts selling extras.
The links are screw style which makes for easy sizing. The height of each link is smaller than most bracelets, which means that you shouldn’t have an issue getting a comfortable fit despite having no micro adjustments on the clasp.
Canteen Crown System
The screw-down canteen style crown is secured by a dual hinge system, quite similar to what we’ve seen used by U-Boat, TW Steel, Tom Carter, Ballast, and others. This helps make the Blackbird 100m water resistant.
Canteen watches were invented for increased water resistance during WWII, and are a historical part of the industry’s quest for watches capable of performing underwater. While this style of crown is not exactly aviation related, nor was it used by pilots, it fits well with the rest of the watch and is one of the nicer looking canteens.
The screwing and unscrewing could be smoother. The threads had to be perfectly aligned or it would jam. Again, we’re reviewing a prototype here, but it’s worth it to nit-pick everything so that Wrist Lore has feedback they need to make any necessary improvements.
We get that the inspiration behind the Blackbird is a stealth fighter jet, but it becomes literal in low light conditions. The luminescence on the prototype was almost non-existent. Not every watch collector cares about this, but we’re suckers for lume.
We did some editing magic to brighten the lumeshot up so that you could see the application. Wrist Lore has confirmed that they will be using Super-LumiNova SL-C1 on the final production pieces, so they should be a little less stealthy when the lights are out.
On the wrist the watch looks fantastic. The way the lugs tilt downwards and the bracelet attaches closer to the bottom of the watch makes for a comfortable wear.
Wrist Lore did a great job of coordinating reviews and getting a prototype in as many hands as possible. One thing we’d recommend in the future, is to give more time for the reviewers to have impact on improvements or adjustments to the final product. Far too often, microbrands want to get the exposure that comes from watch blogs like this, but don’t seek out advice for actually making a difference to the piece. It could also be that few blogs are actually willing to give detailed criticism for fear that they won’t be used as a media source in the future, but brands certainly aren’t pressing for it either.
Minimalism has been hammered into the watch market ethos to the point that it has lost its meaning. Case in point: The Blackbird is far from a minimalist watch, but the word “minimalist” is part of their brand focus on the Kickstarter page:
Our primary focus: creating modern, minimalist, and hand crafted timepieces with a stylized balance of elegance and form, whilst staying true to the spirit of aviation. This excellence embodies the core belief of Wrist Lore.
And in the manual:
Maybe the term is subjective, but we say what makes this watch so unique is that it isn’t minimalist. Wrist Lore left no millimeter untouched and wasted no space with the design of the Blackbird. And although some purists may be offended by the Royal Oak bracelet or non-functional gears applied to the dial, the watch still looks fantastic and has a lot to offer in the affordable price point.
Unlike many crowdfunded watches, the Blackbird does not appear to be a one-off from Wrist Lore. Their plan is a create a line of aviation inspired timepieces, and they have already announced their plans to introduce upcoming designs based on legendary aircraft such as the Supermarine Spitfire, B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, and the F-22 Raptor.
After the early bird specials are claimed, the full retail price is slated to be $550 USD. The thought and consideration that Wrist Lore has exuded throughout the project, the uniqueness of the Blackbird dial, and the overall fit and finish of the watch and presentation… we think it’s a fun watch that will get more wrist time than you expect.
Check out their official site here. Pre-order the Blackbird on Kickstarter here, or check the KTT watch shop at a later time.