It was only recently that I first heard of Daniel Wellington, a Swedish watch company founded in 2011 by Fillip Tysander. So if it was Fillip who founded it, who’s Daniel Wellington? The story goes that Fillip was inspired Daniel Wellington by chance on an Australian adventure – Daniel being a Brit with a penchant for vintage watches on weathered NATO straps.
It was this chance encounter which led to the company’s existence, and its name. From there, these Chinese-made watches with Japanese Miyoto movements have lead to Daniel Wellington hitting $220m in revenue – a year.
Every review I’ve seen so far has been on hard-line fashion websites – and naturally have focused on aesthetics. I want to look a little deeper at quality, materials, and the St Mawes’ movement. This watch isn’t a sample; I bought it for complete balance.
The initial reception is certainly enjoyable. The St Mawes comes well presented in a book-esque box, covered in faux-but-nice leather. Opening it up, the implication is that you start your own story with this watch – a clever idea, if intentional. A small DW marked tool is included for swift switching of straps.
The St Mawes watch itself is strikingly slim and shines its rose gold colour brightly in any light. Towards the rear of the case, it gets slightly thicker to a peak of 6mm, going through a number of smoothly staggered levels to get there. The rear of the case is truly gorgeous, and almost needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Material wise, this particular Daniel Wellington watch is stainless steel and only coloured rose gold, so there’s very little intrinsic value in the materials – but what were you expecting for the price?
Its window is completely flat mineral crystal, which has its positives and negatives: It is an extremely clear material which isn’t particularly susceptible to reflections, but can also have issues with scratches and marring over time.
Keeping the time is a Japanese Quartz movement made by Miyoto. If you are unfamiliar, quartz watches work by vibrating a crystal accurately at a certain frequency, it then measures this frequency and sends an electronic pulse every second. At this price point, these movements are great for reliability, accuracy, and lack of maintenance.
In my experience the Quartz Miyoto movement keeps accurate time, to approximately 1 minute per month. Of course, this is harder to measure without a second hand, but is accurate enough to allude to aesthetics being the driving factor behind the omission of a second hand – not hiding abysmal time-keeping.
Its face is finished in a subtle satin sheen, perhaps very slightly more of a cream than pure white. Around the edge are crisp baton markers at 5 minute intervals, and impeccably printed minute markers. This arrangement of minute markers isn’t unusual, but the precision at which it is done is. All lined up, and as sharp as the eye can perceive, I’ve had watches at multiples of the St Mawes’ price execute this half as well.
Onto the strap – an important part of Daniel Wellington’s marketed ethos. Going back to the brand’s roots, part of the inspiration was Daniel Wellington’s – the person – penchant for wearing vintage watches on “old, weathered NATO straps.”
Whilst the St Mawes has a leather strap, one can assume the intention to be worn into a fine patina continues on regardless – and that it does well.
As with most leather, the first few wearings of the strap aren’t the best – it’s stiff and unforgiving. As time goes on, it becomes more and more comfortable and develops a fantastic patina which it wears well. The longevity is largely unknown – unlike your grandfather’s classic Barbour, the oldest DW straps are just five years old.
The strap is made of Genuine Leather which, contrary to popular belief, is the lowest quality of real leather. As the pictures reveal, it is made by bonding several layers of low quality leather together with glue, and is typically then painted to look like it’s a higher quality than it is. Genuine Leather is the chipboard of the leather industry – made from what is left after creating the most desirable items.
There’s nothing wrong with this per se – it is a comfortable strap to wear – but perhaps hints at disparity between the brand’s image of long-wearing quality and reality.
I’ll be clear; this isn’t the type of watch that I would usually like. However, I find it hard to get away from the fact that it is an exceptionally pretty watch – if not slightly boring/minimalist in design. The way the rose gold accents catch the light is hard to convey in pictures and text alike, making it truly a watch to see in real life.
Whilst the popularity of Daniel Wellington is undoubtedly due to cunning marketing, the flame would’ve died down if they weren’t reasonable – if not good – watches too.
It is refreshingly light to wear on the wrist, and at a refreshing price point too. Your day might be ruined if you lose or break this watch, it won’t ruin your year. At the £75 mark from Amazon, it’s hard to go wrong with what is a versatile, attractive watch.