Nodus Watches Review:
By: Mike Razak
I want to talk to you about the Nodus Watches Avalon. But first I want to talk to you about the Nodus Watch Company. It was founded by two guys who’ve known each other since they were in high school, played in a band together, went their separate ways and stayed in touch, and then serendipitously bought each other watches as gifts one year. Neither knew the other was getting him a watch, but at that point, the future seemed foretold. Wes Kwok and Cullen Chen are watch nerds just like you and me: They have solid and diverse collections, they get angry about cheap materials and bad design, and they put their pants on one leg at a time (though I have it on good authority that Wes just jumps into his). But in addition, they’ve created a brand that consistently turns out watches that get better with each model. They started in early 2017 with the Trieste, a dive watch that Wes and Cullen both see as essential, but also essentially part of the brand’s past, not to be revisited.
As with many of their subsequent watches, the Trieste stood out with its hands and bezel colors, but you could tell it was a first effort. The next watch was the Retrospect: a vintage-inspired diver that saw the brand hit its stride and knocked us all out with its inward-sloping brushed bezel and stunning sandwich dial. In June of this year, the guys dropped the Contrail and the Contrail 39 (with and without 12-hour bezel, respectively). The watch was met with much fanfare and with good reason: impeccable styling, gorgeous finishing, textured dials, and a killer bracelet.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to grab drinks (and then dinner, and then karaoke) with Wes and Cullen. I was blown away by their passion, their knowledge, and their desire to make something more than a quick buck. Imbued with those virtues and building on its predecessors, the Nodus Avalon is the brand’s fourth model. And, not surprisingly, it’s a stunner.
Let’s get the inevitable Seiko comparisons out of the way. If you want a Seiko-based point of reference for how the Nodus Watches Avalon case looks, I’d describe it as somewhere between the Sumo and the Turtle. However, this thing isn’t either of those — it’s better. Let’s call a hybridization. While the general shape echoes the barrel-like Turtle, the details of a wider chamfered edge give a nod to the Sumo. But unlike the Sumo, the Nodus Avalon’s shorter lug to lug distance at 48mm means you aren’t limited to NATOs or straps with fitted ends (lug width is 20mm); and because of the more aggressive curvature of the case, the Nodus Avalon hugs the wrist better than the Turtle. At 12.9mm it’s thinner than both.
All of this makes for a gorgeous look, but it also helps with comfort and how the Nodus Watches Avalon sits on your wrist throughout the day. The undercut on the 43.5mm case allows for better wrist mobility and the 6.5mm screw-down crown is nestled into the case’s curves rather than jutting out completely.
As such, you’ll get no case or crown digging into your wrist, so feel free to flap your hand around like a madman. The stainless steel bezel (also available in matte ceramic) is an interesting design I haven’t quite seen before. It slopes downward and the edge features lattice-textured segments that take up half the depth of the entire bezel.
It’s a great design that allows for easy functionality and sleekness consistent with the rest of the case. The 12 o’clock triangle is lumed and the clicks are exceptionally satisfying. Flipping the Nodus Watches Avalon over we see the screw-down caseback has (1) a sword wrapped with a vine (2) text indicating the brand and model, (3) and a reminder that the Avalon is designed and assembled in Los Angeles.
Why the sword? It’s Excalibur. And Avalon is the island in Arthurian legend where Excalibur was forged. And swords are cool. So mostly because swords are cool. But also because of the Avalon thing. And the case rated for 300m of water resistance. TAKE THAT, SEIKO!
The Dial and Hands
As a brand Nodus has always stood out with the dials and hands on their watches. It was true for the Contrail and it’s no less so for the Avalon. For me clean and legible dials are tops and so I wasn’t surprised to find myself enjoying the Nous Avalon’s dial presentation. I test drove the Spectral White (which plays less spectral and more alfredo due to a slight sheen), but the watch can also be had in blue (think Tudor Pelagos), orange (think Doxa), black (think your darkest nightmares), or green (think 1992 Toyota Tercel).
The big, bold sword hands seem to be what the Nodus Trieste’s hands should have been and complement the applied tapered indices quite well. A stoplight seconds hand extends just to the beyond the edge of the dial to almost scrape the chapter ring.
The seconds hand is two-toned (except on the orange dial), matching the color of the “Avalon” text, which I thought to be a nice touch (but I’m a guy who usually coordinates his tie to his socks, so of course I like it). The Nodus Watches Avalon’s hands and indices are all coated with SuperLuminova C3 X1, which charges incredibly quickly and seems to shine impossibly bright. Surrounding the dial and its components is a steeply-sloped, color-matched chapter ring with cutouts for the indices.
Due to the aforementioned sheen of the dial, the color match with the chapter ring appears just a touch off. After wearing this watch around for a while, it’s not something that you notice or that bothers. One thing you do notice when taking a close look at the dial (and the entire watch for that matter) is how little there is to notice. Which is to say, good design doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Everything about this watch is complementary and congruous. It all just works without you having to think about why. And I think that’s no truer than under the crystal (which is double-domed sapphire with blue AR coating).
I’m decidedly happy to say that the bracelet on the Avalon is comfortable. I think bracelets are one of the weak points when you get into microbrands. That’s because it takes a lot of effort and design acumen to make a bracelet that both looks and feels good (that’s to say nothing of finding a manufacturer who can execute as well). The H-link bracelet on the Avalon features solid end-links and tapers from 20mm to 18mm where it meets a flip-lock button-release clasp. Adjusting the bracelet to the perfect fit is made easy thanks to screw-in pins and 6 micro-adjustments on the clasp. I did notice the branded flip-lock wasn’t flush with the area where it was nestled, but was told that this is a matter of practicality; the clearance allows you to more easily operate the clasp itself.
As you may know, I am incapable of having a watch on just one strap option. The Spectral White Avalon won’t pair with everything, but it’s complementary enough that I thought it looked great on orange, green, brown, and black straps. And I’m sure the right slate blue would look stunning.
The Nodus Watches Avalon features Miyota’s newest movement from the 9000 line: the 9039. Previously brands were hamstrung by limited choices for no-date movements. The easiest way to do a no-date watch was to use a movement with a date function and put it behind a dial without a date window. While many manufactures produce automatic, no-date movements with open balances or skeletonization, an off-the-shelf, automatic, no date, no frills movement remained elusive. The Miyota 9039 changed that by updating the well-known Miyota 9015. The Miyota 9039 removes the date function and shortens the center post, which allows the hands to sit lower. On the wrist all this equates to a thinner case, no phantom-date when operating the crown, and the spec sheet of a robust workhorse movement.
The Nodus Watches Avalon was equipped with the Miyota 9039 no-date movement as a matter of practicality; it’s a dive watch, not a travel watch. Why do you need to tell the date when you’re diving? Are you really under water for that long? Hold on, I’m gonna send help. With the Miyota 9039 you still get the same robust workhorse features of the 9015: a 24-jewel, automatic movement with hand-winding and hacking, 42-hour power reserve, accurate to -10/+30s per day. But the gents at Nodus Watches have done us all a solid and regulated the 9039 in the Avalon to -8/+8s per day.
It’s hard to dislike a watch when you like the guys who made it so much. But I’ll try to put that aside and be as objective as possible. Wes and Cullen have created a strong offering for those who like great watches and good design (and who doesn’t?). And coming in under $700, with its sleek contours, vibrant lume, unique bezel, comfortable bracelet, and practical specs, the Nodus Watches Avalon certainly punches above its weight class. I do wish that clasp were flush, but I’d rather have it be functional than address my nitpicking. And while I understand the color match is perfect for all other options, I wish it were so for the Spectral White. When the Avalons first started shipping, the #watchfam photos had me yearning for the Spectral White with the black bezel, but after having the stainless steel on my wrist for a bit and rotating straps, I’m smitten. So count me in for one Nodus Avalon. Spectral White. Stainless steel bezel. And remember: swords are cool.
Mike became obsessed with watches in 2015 after spending an inordinate amount of time finding the perfect wedding watch (the Frederique Constant Slimline Automatic). He prefers a well-executed date window or none at all, and strives for a diverse collection with limited overlap. When not fretting over which watch to wear with which strap, he works as an emergency mental health clinician in Northern Virginia, where he lives with his wife and son.