I’ll just come right out and say it. I really did not want to like these watches. I’m something of a purist by nature and the idea of reviving the Ikepod brand without Marc Newson just seemed wrong to me. It’s like if Genesis decided to go on a reunion tour without Phil Collins…or something. However, it’s sometimes best for us to set our more knee-jerk impulses aside, even if reluctantly. I can whine all I want about Ikepod no longer involving Marc Newson, but those days are in the rearview mirror and I can either take the new watches on their own merits or let them pass my unnoticed. I decided to the do the former and I’m thankful that I did. Looking at them objectively, Ikepod’s two new models are excellent design-driven quartz watches made to an exceptional standard and offered at a fair and affordable price.
The brand is under new ownership and management since it shuttered in 2012, and today they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a pair of new watches, the time-only Duopod and the chronograph Chronopod. Both recall Ikepod models of old, playing on the same profiles, visual tropes, and design ethos. If you didn’t know better, you might not know that this was basically a new brand. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time with prototypes of both, and they thoroughly impressed me (despite my initial hesitation).
First up is the Duopod. The simple two-hander is the more basic of the two new models. The design team opted to forgo the running seconds hand with both this and the Chronopod so that you can’t tell at a glance that the watch is powered by a quartz movement (from Miyota, in case you’re wondering). The case measures 42mm across, but it definitely doesn’t wear like it. Because there are no lugs, it sits lower to the wrist and looks a hair smaller – the Ikepod folks say it wears more like a 39mm watch, though I’d edge more toward 40/41mm. I found the Duopod extremely comfortable, especially on the rubber strap. It’s got some weight, but not too much and the rounded profile means you never feel any sharp edges.
The details though are what make this watch so good. All of the dial options, from the semi-glossy white to the brushed metal to the black bubbles all have something a bit extra that sets each apart, all without being flashy or attention-seeking. For me, that brushed dial is the clear winner, and I could genuinely see myself wearing this watch quite a lot. It whispers instead of screams, but it’s whispering something sort of strange and enticing. I’m also glad that the designers held back and didn’t add a date here. That would have been all too easy, but it really would have spoiled the look too.
The Duopod will be priced from $590 after the Kickstarter campaign ends.
And then there’s this guy. The Duopod’s big brother is a chronograph with a 24-hour dial to boot (again, letting you skip any running seconds indicators that would give away the watch’s quartz movement). In addition to being much more complicated, the Chronopod is also physically larger, coming in at 44mm across. Again, Ikepod says it wears like a 41mm watch while I’d suggest it’s more like a big 42mm ticker. It’s still super comfortable and looks unlike anything else on the wrist. Its sort of mind-blowing that in the half-decade since Ikepod originally folded that nobody has been able to successfully ape their unique styling, but they just haven’t.
While the Duopod’s design is all about that extreme simplicity, the Chronopod is about the details for me. The way that the pushers are set into the case shows an extreme attention to detail and the red tips add a little bit of extra pop too. There are enough markings on the dial so as to make the chronograph easy to read (the seconds register is at six o’clock, the 30-minute totalizer is at nine o’clock, and a 24-hour dial is at three o’clock) but the dial still has plenty of negative space. I particularly like the choice of slightly lower-contrast printing that makes the dials look a hair richer and more cohesive.
The Chronopod will be priced from $725 after the Kickstarter campaign ends.
Two things to note right off the bat about the prototypes you’re seeing here: 1) They do not have anti-reflective coatings on the crystals. This is purely due to them being prototypes and the final watches won’t suffer from the blue glare and incessant reflections that you see throughout these photos; 2) The date disc in the Chronopod will have smaller numerals on the final production pieces. After hearing feedback from collectors and press, the brand has decided to shrink the numerals to give them some more breathing room. I think this is a smart move, as this was initially one of my biggest complaints with the watch overall.
Alright, now that we’re past that, let’s get into the good stuff. The cases on both new models are exceptional. I’ve seen watches with prices three, four, and fives times as much as these watches that aren’t made half as well. The brushing is consistent and even, the geometry is smooth and elegant, and there’s a weightiness to these watches in the hand that you don’t really expect from a quartz watch. I also love the pushers on the Chronopod, which again punch way above their weight class. You might remember that the old Ikepod watches had seamless casebacks, with the movements and dials that slotted in from the front. These do not do that, instead loading from the back and sealing with screw-down casebacks.
This sense of quality continues onto the dials. There are a number of dial colors and finishes available for each model, all designed by Emmanuel Gueit. In case you need a reminder, Gueit is the man responsible for the design of the original Royal Oak Offshore and a number of other well-known watches. If you need someone to come in and do a seriously good job without going overboard, he’s the guy you hire. And it shows. The colors are rich without being silly and they all feel very on-brand. One thing these dials have that many sub-$1,000 watches miss is depth. There are different layers and engraved elements on all the dials, and these go a long way toward making the watches look more expensive than they are.
Now, my only real misgiving about these models is that they do away with the pin-closure Ikepod straps of days gone by. This likely isn’t of their own volition – look at an Apple Watch Sport Band and you can probably guess who owned that intellectual property and who is in control of it now. The new Ikepod straps are still rubber, and they’re very nice, if not the most remarkable. For my own entertainment I did some digging and it looks like old Ikepod straps would almost certainly fit the new watches, so you could do a little eBay hunting and cobble a new/old combo together if you really wanted to. Just saying…
Okay, ultimately, what do I think about the new Ikepod? I’m kind of into it. These watches are solidly made, beautifully designed, and have a bit of insider cachet, all for under $600. I know quite a few people who will almost certainly be buying at least one over the next few months. There are supposed to be mechanical models coming out next year, but I’d just go for the quartz watches right now instead of waiting, to be honest. There’s something about these watches that’s rebellious anyway.
Be sure to check out the brand’s Kickstarter campaign here to learn more and pre-order. Watches should start delivering in May 2019 and there are special pricing tiers for early campaign pledges – you can get a Duopod starting at $343 and a Chronopod starting at $426. At the time we’re publishing this story there is already well over $100,000 in contributions from over 200 backers.