Raven Watches Review: The Venture
By: Kaz Mirza
Raven Watches continues its long standing tradition of creating unique and reliable timepieces with their latest release: the Raven Venture. I first saw the Venture at Wind Up NYC 2017 while I caught up with Steve Laughlin – the founder, designer, and operator of Raven Watches. A few months later when I had to chance to spend some time with a final prototype I jumped on it as quick as I could.
Initial impressions, “Man, this thing feels solid!” That’s not surprising since Raven Watches makes these pieces specifically for utility and reliability. But with that solid feel there was finesse as well. Raven Watches are meant to be used – worn in all kinds of conditions, because when the time comes for you to have to rely or need that watch, it needs to be dependable. That’s the design perspective that Steve Laughlin has always brought to Raven and every other project he’s worked on. But does the Raven Watches Venture stack up to its brand predecessors? Let’s find out.
The Raven Watches Venture measures in at 42mm in diameter, approx. 49mm lug to lug, and 13mm in height (with the domed sapphire crystal). There are two case finishes offered: brushed and sandblasted. For the review I have the brushed case and the quality is definitely where you would expect it from Raven Watches – that is to say it’s done very well. The overall shape profile of the case is classic and forward-facing. The Venture has a curvature to the case that allows it to conform to the wearer’s wrist while also sitting “chest out” to make the dial super visible. This supports legibility, which has always been a very important factor for Raven Watches ever since the beginning.
The case curvature is really driven by the lugs. You can see from the top of the brushed lugs that the lugs angle and gradually shift down to create that ergonomic wristhold. However, the caseback is relatively flat, which has two effects: (1) it certainly supports the bold “I’m-wearing-a-goddamn-bulletproof-tool-watch” vibe and (2) the Raven Watches Venture is definitely at the top end of the 42mm case wearability spectrum. That is to say the watch is perfect on the bracelet or Raven Watches Rubber Strap (pictured a bit further below); however, on a nylon strap or any type of pass-through NATO that has to go under the case, wearability may be hindered because the watch will sit just a bit too high.
The crown is approx. 7.9mm in diameter and extremely fun to operate. The size lends itself very well to setting the watch or winding it… or you know, just playing with it. Plus the omission of the crown guard only serves to make the crown feel even larger while also making sure the case doesn’t appear too large with a lot of “visual weight.”
Say it with me, guys – “Legibility is the name of the freaking game.” The Raven Watches Venture carries on the tradition of optimal legibility across the Raven Watches family. But there are some really interesting departures that are worth noting.
The 4 compose rose positions of the dial feature a triangle at “12” o’clock, and Arabic numeral at “3,” “6,” and “9.” Between these are classic bar markers. The Raven Watches logo is directly beneath the “12” o’clock position while the features “Automatic” and “300M” are parallel and just above the “6” o’clock marker.
When you first look at the dial you think its straightforward – you look once and can immediate take it all in. That’s really a good thing – that’s the corner stone of legibility. You shouldn’t have to look at your watch and take a second to understand what time it is – you need to look down and *BAM* – got the time. But what I found really fantastic about the venture is that after that first glance, if you take the time to really observe how the dial and bezel are constructed, there’re some really great finer details.
For instance, when you look at the seconds ticks on the outer most perimeter they seem pretty normal. Ticks, got it. But then you’ll notice they’re segmented every 5 ticks with a little triangle that’s designed to be a visual callback to the larger triangle that lives in the 12 o’clock position. Then you’ll notice how those little triangles are also on the bezel in the “3” and “9” o’clock positions. It’s that type of attention to detail and continuity that makes the watch really special in this Broke Watch Snobs opinion. By the way, the bezel has a coin edge grip, which is really easy to grab onto. And it clicks very well – solid and no play.
The hands also support legibility by being bold and standing out in bright contrast against the dial. The vintage Tudor-esque spear hour hand adds a nice “outdoor adventurist” type feeling to the watch. The minute hand is a sloping rectangle with a very thin taper at the end closest to the center of the watch. The seconds hand is a very classic arrow-shape that’s actually available in two difference versions. You can get a Raven Watches Venture with a white seconds hand or an orange second hand (like the one I’m reviewing).
The hands, dial, and bezel all feature some killer Superluminova. Combined with the double domed sapphire crystal complete with anti-reflective coating, you’re going to have a lot of fun just staring at this watch when the lume kicks in. Please note that the lume image/clip above is directly from Raven Watches’ Instagram feed. I opted to use that clip because the watch that I’m reviewing is a final prototype and doesn’t feature the full lumed bezel included on consumer production models.
It’s never easy to get a bracelet right with a microbrand. The truth is that sometimes a good bracelet can cost a microbrand owner as much (if not more) than the entire price of the timepiece itself. So often you see bracelets being skimped on or left off altogether to save cost. So when I saw that the Raven Watches Venture featured a bracelet, I was intrigued and cautious.
The Venture’s bracelet features screw-links, which made it just the easiest and most convenient goddamn thing in the world to size. I have a hard time trying to size traditional collar + pin bracelets – it feels like I’m trying to start a fire by rubbing two water balloons together – it’s just such a futile effort sometimes. So I was thankful for the screw-links. In addition, the end-links are solid and feel great. To tell the truth, the overall quality of the bracelet is really good. Much like the case, the bracelet links are brushed all over, carrying through that really sturdy looking brushed look from the case. The links are finished well and everything feels right. Towards the end-links the bracelet is 22mm but tapers to 18mm closer to the clasp. The clasp itself is 20mm.
The clasp is a folding pin-locking type with two buttons on the side of clasp that release the pic-lock mechanism. Plus, the diver’s extension is a ratchet release type and its probably one of the easier diver’s clasps I’ve ever had to use. Just press the button and that’s it – extension activated. The Raven Venture bracelet also features appropriate micro-adjustment features. All in all for the price of the watch I’m happy with the bracelet. There’s attention to detail and dedication to quality which is something I always appreciate but don’t always see. So to know that the Venture bracelet is pulling it off is good to know.
The Raven Watches Venture is powered by the ubiquitous and widely popular ETA-2824, a Swiss automatic movement with 25 jewels. The ETA-2824 features a date wheel (in this case a black one), an approx. 40 hour power reserve, plus it manually winds and hacks. My experience with this movement in the watch has been solid as is expected from the 2824. That’s basically all there is to say about the 2824 – it’s well known, reliable, and generally easy to service, which is basically what this type of watch needs.
So the main question – how does the Raven Watches Venture stack up to previous Raven releases? Pretty damn well if you ask me. There’s one thing in particular I find most intriguing and attractive about the Venture. In this Broke Watch Snob’s opinion the congruence of elements that make up this watch will lend themselves very well to wear and aging. The Raven Venture is really designed and tested to go with you wherever you go. Inevitably, those places will leave its marks on the watch – scratches, dings, scraps, discoloration – all of it. And I believe that this watch will wear its scars proudly and well in a way that most watches can’t achieve. The legibility, durability, and reliability of the piece’s construction and design will find good home in most watch enthusiasts’ collection.
Check out the Raven Watches Venture page to find a dial color that suits you best – currently offered in grey (reviewed here), black, green, and orange – all priced at $650 USD.
Also check out our Podcast interview with Steve from Raven Watches!
Kaz has been collecting watches since 2015, but he’s been fascinated by product design, the Collector’s psychology, and brand marketing his whole life. While sharing the same strong fondness for all things horologically-affordable as Mike (his TBWS partner in crime), Kaz’s collection niche is also focused on vintage Soviet watches as well as watches that feature a unique, but well-designed quirk or visual hook.