Lately, I’ve realized that the longer I spend entrenched in the world of watch collecting, the more I desire a return to basics. There was a time when only a handful of smaller boutique brands dominated my attention, and it was a simpler time for watch enthusiasts. I fondly remember browsing the early watch blogs and getting excited about releases like the old Nodus Trieste and early-generation Raven Trekker. These two brands—along with names like Gavox, Halios, and Mk II—can be considered some of the early “OG” pioneers of the microbrand space, and it’s incredible to see how far they’ve come. Today, LA-based Nodus and Raven Watches (out of Kansas) have announced the TrailTrekker, a watch that combines the very best each brand has to offer.

Recently, on Episode 9 of the Making Time Podcast, Nodus Co-Founder Wesley Kwok took some time to revisit the early days of Nodus and emphasized the importance of knowledge-sharing between microbrands. He credits names like Bill Yao from Mk II and Steve Laughlin from Raven Watches as some of his earliest sources of guidance and wisdom when the time came to launch the Nodus brand. It’s well worth a listen, putting a watch like the Nodus x Raven Watches TrailTrekker into perspective. Looking at this watch, I think it represents longevity, friendship, and collaboration that seeks to elevate the world these small brands operate within. I’m also just incredibly stoked that I got to spend some time with it.

Nodus x Raven Watches TrailTrekker Specifications

Case Size39.5mm (diameter) x 46.6mm (lug-to-lug) x 11.8mm (thickness)
Water Resistance200m
MovementMiyota 9075 flyer-style GMT
Power Reserve42 hours
BraceletFlat-link 20mm-16mm taper with NodeX™ clasp
Lug Width20mm
CrystalBox sapphire with blue AR coating on the underside

Grey DLC matte stainless steel case

The second I pulled the TrailTrekker out of its box, I instantly thought, “damn, this is such a Mike watch.” I’ve been on a DLC kick lately, and the watch’s 39.5mm case looks excellent with this subtle grey coating. Black would’ve felt too cheesy, and I think the tone is perfect for this combination of the Nodus Contrail and Raven Trekker platforms. By the way, this is essentially the premise behind the watch, as each model captures the design ethos and personality tied to their respective brands. It also doesn’t feel mismatched in any way, and I’m excited to see future Contrail releases, considering this case effectively reintroduces the platform for Nodus.

On the wrist, the TrailTrekker maintains a subtle, low-profile look. It just feels like the watch is ready for anything, with appointments like a sapphire crystal, a burly black DLC screw-down crown with aggressive knurling, and 200m of water resistance. But the bezel is the standout feature, sporting a sand-colored Cerakote® finish and a 24-hour scale to help you track a second timezone. The texture of the bezel, along with the high-contrast numerals, results in such a profoundly utilitarian look—it almost feels like a piece of issued military gear. I never tried the watch on the included ballistic nylon strap, but I’m sure the case’s dimensions would give you a balanced fit no matter what you wear the watch on. I also think the lack of any polished surfaces helps give the watch a sportier feel.

Trekker dial with Cerakote® finish

On the dial side, we see a design that calls back to some of the most recent Raven Trekker models, with the date window moved to the 6 o’clock position. Like the bezel, we get a matching sand-colored Cerakote® coating and texture—no glitz, no glamour. According to Nodus, this color tone, combined with the matching gunmetal hands and applied indices, is meant to pay tribute to the rugged terrain of the Midwest (the Raven/Kansas part of this collaborative equation). Those hands are aggressively brushed, by the way, except for the yellow GMT hand. That may turn some folks off but adds to the rugged styling. I may be crazy, but I think the yellow tone they used on the GMT hand is the same as what I saw on the seconds hand on older Raven Trekkers. Everything lines up, and that big GMT hand stretches out all the way to the bi-colored day/night chapter ring.

Lume is also adequate with a generous application of Super-LumiNova® BGW9 Grade A on the hands and indices. It looks like an aqua/blue glow. While it wasn’t torch-like or anything, it got the job done. Other dial appointments include a balanced date window at six with the Raven logo just above. The Nodus wordmark and ‘TrailTrekker’ are nestled just below 12 o’clock. While the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I get it, and the font hierarchy makes everything flow nicely. There isn’t much I’d change on this dial, really. I’m just glad that the co-branding elements didn’t crowd up the space or hinder legibility. Well done, guys.

Flat-link bracelet with NodeX™ clasp

The bracelet on the TrailTrekker felt a lot like what I experienced with the Nodus Sector Deep. The flat links sit close to the wrist, and the bracelet doesn’t feel too bulky overall. Much of this is likely attributed to the ample bracelet taper running from 20mm at the lugs to 16mm at the clasp. That’s spicy. As I mentioned before, this bracelet matches the watch’s looks and finishes flawlessly. While an olive-drab nylon strap is included, I’d probably never take this watch off the bracelet just because of how well it fits and tapers. Well, maybe a rubber strap with matching hardware would look pretty cool. Oh, it’s also worth noting that you also get easy-to-use, quick-release spring bars at the lugs.

The proprietary NodeX™ clasp is also part of the package. This time, I found myself using the on-the-fly adjustment quite frequently, which really helped with our recent bipolar Washington weather. This can be activated with a simple “PUSH” button found on the clasp’s underside. I’m happy to see Nodus venturing into this effort, as it’s a risk I’m not sure many smaller brands would take. In total, this feature gives you 10mm of extra adjustment to mess with along five locking positions. I even see that Nodus is now offering to license the design to other brands—a pretty big move. Also, the bracelet can easily be sized with the help of screw links. Together with the flexible clasp, finding the perfect fit should be no issue.

Flyer-style Miyota 9075 GMT movement

Yep, you read that right. Unlike many recent microbrand efforts seeking to capitalize on the GMT craze, the TrailTrekker uses Miyota’s 9075 movement. This was my first time using a watch with this movement, and it exceeded my expectations. Everything lined up at the top of the hour, and the jumping local hour hand was smooth and easy to use. The movement itself is tucked away under an engraved case back, which features an image of a caravan similar to what would’ve been used during early pioneer journeys from Kansas to California. Nodus states that “the caravans represent the sheer determination and resilience of the pioneers who braved the harsh terrain and unpredictable conditions in pursuit of their dreams.”

I’m certainly quick to dismiss the whole flyer vs. caller GMT debate, but when it comes to a fixed-bezel 24-hour scale, the flyer type really helps. Like similar movements, jumping the local hour hand lets you manipulate the date. This specific example ran like a dream. I never set it down on the timegrapher, but it would only clock in a few seconds ahead of atomic time whenever I made a rough comparison. Nodus also says they regulate the movement in-house to a range of +/-8 seconds per day. Longterm, I think we still need to see how these movements serve watch wearers, seeing as how the 9075 was only just introduced in 2022. But I have confidence knowing that it’ll probably offer rock-solid performance for a while. I wonder if it would be worth buying a spare Miyota 9075 so that you can just swap in a new one when the time comes for “servicing.” Just a crazy thought.

What I think, and why you might consider it

Seeing this kind of collaboration in the watch world is something I hope to witness even more as time goes on. Speaking candidly, Nodus and Raven were two of the first brands to ever take a chance at working with this site and trusting us with review models. After all these years, Nodus and Raven’s wisdom is truly something special, and I see a desire from both brands to be welcoming and helpful to new players entering the game. This is evident in other Nodus-driven efforts like the Intersect Watch Show, which is co-managed with brands like Formex and Jack Mason. The same culture of knowledge-sharing mentioned earlier in this review is now being carried on by Nodus and their Nodus Design Lab, the vehicle by which this TrailTrekker was developed. All of this comes together in the form of a watch that pulls you in for its looks, its utility, and the people behind the product. People that are helping advance the future of the small boutique brand space. Brands that, in many cases, are accessing the same quality components and supply chains as the big guys.

It’s funny. I recently thought about taking time to track down my old Raven Trekker. Some part of me wants to feel like an earlier version of my watch-collecting self, and I figured finding that watch would help. Some days, I miss my Contrail, too—a watch that accompanied me on my last big trip to Italy. But it seems like the TrailTrekker is coming at a perfect time for me and other collectors interested in this kind of vibe and functionality. It looks like the kind of watch that can guide you through a ton of adventures while reminding you of the fun-loving people behind it, who came up with the crazy idea of starting a “micro” watch brand. The TrailTrekker will be available for sale on Friday, March 15th, at 9 AM Pacific.

Nodus | Raven

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