The idea of a “bang-for-your-buck” wristwatch is a topic that’s beaten to death, almost as bad as the subject of “luxury watches” itself. I know, we’re guilty of it too. After all we did start an entire podcast about it. But after years I’ve found that watches featuring this kind of label can miss the mark quite often. Something cheap-ish and passable can easily be packaged as a budget-friendly “value” piece by reviewers in this space. But in the case of the Dryden Heartlander Automatic Field Watch, I have to say that I can’t remember the last time I saw $500 take you this far. I got to spend time with two of them and I’m still blown away by what you get.
Truthfully, $500 can still be a lot for a watch. This is a price range Seiko seems to be leaving behind lately and new players like Dryden and Nodus can come into the fold with strong offerings meant to pull in budget-conscious collectors. I’ve always seen Dryden as one of the top contenders here and the Heartlander Automatic Field Watch is the brand’s most high-end model—at this price. They have a couple of other designs available but this is the watch I see when I think of Dryden.
It pains me to say it—but it takes a lot for me to like a “field watch” design. Generally, I’m more into divers and pilot watches and typically see field watches as more disposable and less durable. I only say “disposable” because of those older mil-spec models that actually were disposable come to mind. But when I saw this on Jerry’s wrist (the founder of Dryden watches) at a watch event in NYC, I knew this was something different. It felt hefty, durable, compact, and like something I wouldn’t mind wearing every day if I needed to. Not long after, a couple of the Dryden “traveling watches” were sent my way.
The Dryden Heartlander Automatic Field Watch is just 38mm in diameter, 46mm lug-to-lug, and 11.2mm thick with the domed sapphire crystal. My favorite feature—by far—is the inclusion of a 6.5mm, heavily-knurled screw-down crown that helps with the 100m of water resistance. Like I said when Timex released the Expedition North Titanium Automatic, it’s a feature that’s so hard to find on field watches and I get excited any time I see brands go the extra mile to put that in a watch like this. The lugs are just 20mm in width and the stainless steel “president” style bracelet tapers down to 16mm at the clasp.
Speaking of the bracelet, it features quick release spring bars and fully-articulating screw links. The dual push button clasp is fully milled and there’s some cool polishing along the edges. While it is a nice bracelet, I’m just not a fan of this style and often found myself wishing it was on something more closely resembling an Oyster bracelet. Maybe that’s just the Tudor fanboy in me speaking. But if Dryden offered that option at checkout on their site, it would really take the whole package to the next level.
Dryden Heartlander Automatic Field Watch Specs
- Case Diameter: 38mm
- Case Thickness: 11.2mm
- Lug-to-Lug: 46mm
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Water Resistance: 100m
- Movement: Miyota 9015
- Crystal: Domed sapphire
- Bracelet: Stainless steel + push button clasp
- Price: $500
And when it comes to the dials, well, you can probably tell where some of this inspiration is drawn from. The good thing is that Dryden offers so many options when it comes to color and layout combinations. The Explorer-like 3,6,9 dial is called their “Classic Sport” version while the model featuring a date and the full scale of Arabic numerals is called the “Traditional Field.” Depending on the version/layout you’ll be getting Swiss Superluminova BGW9 or Old Radium C3 when it comes to the lume. Finally, the watch is powered by the Japanese Miyota 9015 automatic movement. Cheap. Serviceable. Wonderful.
Seeing so much go into such a budget-friendly watch has really revived my interest in picking up something in this kind of style. And with the exception of the bracelet type, I really don’t have much to criticize. Sure, you can bark your way into the whole homage debate but the fact that Dryden offers several dial color/layout combos makes that difficult too. Overall, this is the kind of watch I’d be happy to recommend to seasoned and beginner collectors alike—maybe even a beginner suffering from some of that recent Seiko sticker shock. You can learn more about the Dryden Heartlander Automatic Field Watch by visiting the brand’s official site.
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.