Over the last 5-10 years, we’ve seen a ton of small, independent brands pop up selling quartz watches for a few hundred dollars, usually with a hip, Scandinavian or mid-century aesthetic. Many of these companies are selling tens or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of watches each year, which means more and more people are opting to put something on their wrists instead of using their phones to tell the time. No complaints about that here.
Bravur is one such brand. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Bravur was founded in 2011 as a project of two industrial designers who wanted to make simple, affordable watches that embodied their minimal aesthetic. Until now, their creations have all been quartz-powered, but the new BW003 is the brand’s first mechanical watch and it uses a Swiss-made movement to boot. Always a fan of Bravur’s designs, the BW003 is the watch that finally got me to take a closer look.
The BW003, despite the less than exciting name, is a striking little watch. It has a 39mm diameter case made of polished stainless steel from Sweden (Scandinavia is well-known for producing outstanding steel and many of the best watch brands in the world source their steel from the region). The profile is nice and slim at 10.5mm, with the domed sapphire crystal giving the watch an extra dose of personality. There’s a bit of fluting around the outside edge of the bezel you can barely see it looking straight-on, but from the side it is more pronounced. The lugs are slim and a bit on the short side. At first glance I thought they might be too short, but the watch actually wears very comfortably on the wrist and they look totally in proportion there too.
There are two dial options, sunburst silver and black, each with a contrasting outer track (that is graded to 30-second increments) and a matching date window at six o’clock. In both cases, the stick-shaped hour markers are applied and then filled with SuperLuminova, as are the tips of the skeltonized, rhodium-plated hands. The outer track has subtle Arabic numerals at the five-minutes. Overall, the look is uncluttered, but also not austere. The integration of the circular date window, which has a small polished ring around the inner edge of the opening, is very elegant, and it fits well with the shapes of the hands. Personally, while the silver dial is really pretty and takes on warmer and cooler tones in different light, I’d opt for the sleek black version myself.
My only real complaint with the dial is barely visible it’s buried down at six o’clock, on the outer edge of the 30-seconds track. It says “Swedish Soul / Swiss Heart” on either side of the “30” at the very bottom, right between the lugs. I get that Bravur wants customers to understand that they’re getting something that still has Bravur’s ethos and style, but with a bona fide Swiss automatic movement inside, but this just feels a little goofy to me. I can’t help but wince when I see it there at the bottom of an otherwise crisp and respectable dial.
Now, about that Swiss automatic movement. It’s a Sellita SW300, which has a 42-hour power reserve and 25 jewels. The finishing isn’t fancy, but there’s some perlage on the plates and bridges, and a custom-engraved rotor, so Bravur definitely hasn’t skimped out here (some versions of this movement can be downright industrial looking). In gold foil printing across the underside of the sapphire crystal is Bravur, partially obscuring the view of the movement. Honestly, I could do without this extra bit of branding as well, but again it’s not a deal-breaker for me. There’s a subtle ring of fluting around the rear crystal too, echoing the bezel up front. You can opt for a stainless steel back on the BW003, which makes it a tiny bit slimmer and $115 less expensive, but both models I checked out has the sapphire back.
On the wrist, the BW003 was very comfortable and looked great. I was even pleasantly surprised by the quality of the included straps, which are always a spot of contention with me. I could have done without the included deployant buckle (as always), but I’m willing to let that slide. Sometimes skeletonized hands can make a watch tough to read, but I didn’t have any issues during my time with the BW003, and I got more than a few interested “Oh, what’s that!?” questions from fellow HODINKEE team members when wearing these two watches around the office.
But after my time with the BW003, I had a nice conversation with Bravur co-founder Magnus ppelryd and got a little more insight into the watches and the brand itself. It turns out, he and co-founder Johan Sahlin originally wanted to make mechanical watches from the start, but decided against it for two main reasons: 1) To keep their watches in a particular price range and 2) Because they didn’t have the infrastructure to offer servicing and didn’t want to leave customers hanging. He also told me that “The choice to build the new model in Sweden is an important step and a part of our long term strategy. Our ambition is to source materials as well as production in Sweden, which is easier said than done considering there is no established watch industry in Sweden.” It will be interesting to see how this develops, considering the struggles and successes we’ve seen with brands trying to do this in places like the United States.
Ultimately, I think the BW003 is a pretty successful first venture into mechanical watches from Bravur, and after talking with Magnus, I’m optimistic that things are only going to improve from here. If you’re looking for a cool automatic that can be worn in nearly every situation and doesn’t come from one of the usual-suspect Swiss brands, the Bravur B003 is definitely worth taking a look at.
The Bravur BW003 is available with either a silver or black dial and a few different strap options for each. You can opt for either a stainless steel caseback (from $1,350) or a sapphire display caseback (from $1,465). Each is individually numbered and built to order. For more, visit Bravur online.