Despite now having written somewhat extensively about the world of gorgeous and standout minimalist watches, I somehow, to my shame, managed to miss the Rob Hayes brand. It was only brought to my attention when designer Aladin Galjic reached out to me to see if we wanted to review one of his watches.
Well, it wasn’t my idea to tie the pride of a brand to its national and local identity. That idea came from two lifelong friends and founders of Nordgreen, a Scandinavian watch company founded in Copenhagen.
After quickly looking through the Rob Hayes website, it became almost immediately clear to me that I needed to get my hands on one of these watches. After all, their various collections seemed to be right up my alley as far as having a sense of minimalism while paying attention to all the right details. Unlike many watch manufacturers who can’t be bothered to tell you the story behind their creations, Rob Hayes has thankfully done the opposite. Included on their website is the story behind their brand as well as a detailed description of the materials they use. It’s nice to see a brand highlight the craftsmanship that goes into every single one of the watches they make.
Rob Hayes is a young brand, having started in 2015, but they have already made a name for themselves through their dedication to creating quality timepieces. That includes sourcing some of the most excellent materials that watchmakers can get their hands on. Their manufacturing process is laden with over 393 different quality assurance tests. And that’s really no surprise given the fact that they are manufactured in one of the world’s watchmaking meccas, near Lugano, Switzerland. With 5 collections available for both Men and Women, there’s plenty of choice for fans of the minimalist watch look.
Design & Aesthetics
This watch is stunning, and no amount of photos I took and used in this review will do it justice. The unit I was sent is the Black / Black version with a finely crafted stainless steel Milanese loop as the strap. However, the Berkeley 38 collection is available in numerous colour options and finishes. The watch is also available with a leather strap instead of the Milanese loop. To truly appreciate what this minimalist watch will look like on your wrist, its best to have a quick peek at the professionally done photos on the product page. But what about its design gives it this polished feel that will make you feel more than comfortable wearing this timepiece to a fancy night out on the town?
Upon closer inspection, the immediate standout feature is the design choice to make the “12” the only hour on the watch face that is written out. Normally, I’m not a fan of Roman numerals being used in minimalist watch designs. But the fact that Rob Hayes chose to only use the numeral on the “12” was a smart choice. Everything about this watch is subtle yet sublimely detailed. A perfect example of this is the other 11 hour markers whose shape can only be described as the slimmest of arrow pointers. While faithful to its overall aesthetic, the “Rob Hayes” logo is small and unobtrusive; I would have preferred the smaller more stylized initials only version of the logo: RH.
Other design standouts are the finely crafted, mirror-like finish of the back of the watch which sports the shortened RH logo. This same logo appears nicely stamped on the strap clasp. Finally, like myself, only minimalism fans will appreciate that this watch’s face contains exactly zero complications. This watch was designed for one thing and one thing only, to tell the time, while looking great.
When you first arrive at the Rob Hayes website, you’ll be greeted with default display pricing in a currency whose shorthand is “SEK.” If you’re not a currency trader or live somewhere in Europe, you’re not likely to know that this is shorthand for the Swedish Krona. Because Rob Hayes is an international brand that sells its products around the world, you can easily switch the currency displayed for its products. I bring this up because we are at the point of this review where we must briefly talk about pricing. This Berkeley 38 watch with a Milanese loop is currently priced at USD $225.
I think it’s unfair to judge any watch, especially its build quality without first understanding where it fits into the market. Any reasonable connoisseur of watches, especially one tasked with offering a fair opinion of a product like this should have a good understanding of what kind of build quality to expect from a watch at a specific price point. Given the aforementioned price, the build quality is simply outstanding. Sure it’s no Patek Philippe, but then again at this price point, I wouldn’t expect it to be.
The Case and Caseback of this watch are made from surgical grade 316L stainless steel that complements the all stainless steel Milanese loop. Additionally, Rob Hayes uses a diamond cutting technique to achieve an incredibly sharp and fine finish to the indexes and hands on the dial.
I’ve been fortunate enough to own a few watches with varying qualities of Milanese straps attached to them. Some are not woven tightly enough, leaving hair pulling gaps that aren’t comfortable for anyone to wear. Others don’t have the right finish or quickly have their paint chip away at the smallest of accidental bumps. I’m happy to say that the Rob Hayes strap, in my five days of wearing this watch so far feels right up there with the most elegant Milanese straps I’ve worn. This includes the Apple Watch Milanese Loop whose quality is exceptionally high.
Size & Feel
Any watch that you have to wear all day should be comfortable. That said, some watchmakers like to sacrifice comfort for other aspects of a watch. Some people don’t mind that, and in my twenties, I also didn’t mind wearing watches that more closely resembled a battleship on my wrist. Case in point, my Nixon 51-30 Tide watch illustrated in the photos here as shown for size comparison sake.
But as I get a bit older, more grumpy, and let’s face it, a bit less spry, I’m becoming more conscious of wearing watches that “feel right.” Part of that feeling is wearing something that gets out of the way. Something that becomes an extension of yourself and is light enough and svelte enough that doesn’t become instantly ostentatious. That’s part of what I like about this Rob Hayes watch. It’s relatively small (38mm) size makes it an excellent fit on any size wrist, but where it truly excels is its incredibly thin profile. Scroll down to see how amazingly thin it is compared to my Series 2 Apple Watch.
I’m also happy to report that in my five days of wearing this watch, it’s felt perfectly comfortable. The Milanese mesh has not subjected me to any unwanted arm hair yanks, which is always a bonus.
Presentation & Packaging
Even most casual watch collectors will attest to the fact that packaging and presentation play an integral role in what people think about that brand. Price point again plays a role here. The Rob Hayes watch box is actually a modest cut-above what I would expect for this price point.
Despite the dominance of global watch sales by a notable company out of Cupertino, California, the advent of cheap Chinese manufacturing has spawned hundreds if not thousands of new watch brands. All are looking to capitalize on increasing margins and access to a global customer base through the miracles of e-commerce and affordable shipping. That said, it’s easy to spot the ones that don’t have a real passion for watchmaking with the patience to sweat every small detail. I’m pleased to report that Rob Hayes is not one of those companies. Instead, they are well on their way to following the design principles and ethos of great watch companies that have come before them.