Dufrane City Limits: Review


Once upon a time, a local PBS station created an intimate in-studio concert series celebrating locals’ love of country, rock, jazz and what else you got? Today, Austin City Limits has been shortened to ACL and expanded to a dozen indoor and outdoor venues. A hundred bands vie for the attention of music industry types, college kids and tech workers. Enter the Dufrane City Limits watch. Yes sir, times have changed . . .

The Dufrane City Limits harkens back to the good old days, when cowboys and hippies worked together — well, smoked weed, drank beer and did ‘shrooms together — tryin’ to keep Austin weird. The invitation to horological nostalgia is right there on the City Limits’ dial, written in the same typeface that ACL uses to this day.

As someone who actually lived through the 70’s, the Skin & Bones typeface looks like one of those outdated-from-the-git-go “computers are coming!” fonts; the print equivalent of Disney’s Tomorrowland.

Thanks to failing eyesight, the Skin & Bones numbers look slightly fuzzy, rather than deeply anachronististic. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen smaller numbers on a watch — unless they’re the GMT numbers running around the dark blue bezel.

The tiny numerals are a boon for overall legibility. The City Limit’s big ass blocky white hands sail through a small universe of negative space. A quick time read is as easy as tapping a foot to three-bar blues.

The City Limits cranks-up the musical theme to 11 with a watch face grooved like record. Well, that’s what the ad copy says. As far as I can remember, a record’s grooves are a tightly gathered spiral. The City Limit’s grooves are concentric circles. I’d count them for you but the effect is way too hypnotic.

Actually, that’s something of an issue.

The City Limit’s grooves draw your eye to the center of the dial, just when you need to peer at its outer edges to see the Lilliputian markers. Wait. Is that a date window? So there is something smaller than those Skin & Bones numbers.

Meanwhile, a day-glo second hand sweeps the dial, demanding your attention. Thankfully, only the tiny arrowhead atop the GMT’s pointer is visible.

Speaking of visibility, the City Limits is blessed with absolutely killer lume: blue C3 SuperLumiNova on the hands and markers. In fact, the watch really comes into it own in the dark.

Take that as you will. And this: I reckon the City Limit’s retro design is best appreciated after smoking a joint. As befits a non-sports watch with the words “adventure awaits” etched on the side of its exhibition case.

I say non-sports, but the City Limits is built like a brick shit house. If you’re a heft-loving horologist you’ll be pleased to know that the 42mm timepiece weighs-in at 3.6 ounces. It’s fashioned from 316L marine grade steel — just as well for a watch boasting 200m’s water resistance.

On the flipside, the City Limits’ exhibition caseback puts its Sellita SW330 caliber on display. It’s a boring looking movement with a boringly engraved rotor. Dufrane missed an opportunity to funk the funk.

Then again, engraving costs serious money. For $1400 Dufrane will sell you a well-built limited edition City Limits (300 total) assembled by Americans in America, complete with a strap inspired by guitar straps, with 15 holes for a precise fit.

I can’t say I love the Dufrane City Limits more than my monochromatic Dufrane Barton Springs 656 Diver. I can say I love it less on a lot of levels. But if the Austin City Limits TV show was your happy place and you want a durable timepiece to evoke memories that probably went up in smoke, you’ll be plenty damn happy with this watch.

Model: Dufrane City Limits
Price: $1399


Width: 42mm
Thickness: 12.85 mm
Height (lug to lug): 47.6 mm
Inside lug width: 22 mm
Case: Marine grade 316L stainless steel case (Brushed or PVD), screw down crown, quick release spring bars
Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with dual anti-reflective coating
Lume: Blue C3 SuperLumiNova lume on hands and markers for easy visibility
Water resistance: 20 ATM (200 Meters)
Movement: Sellita SW330, 25 Jewels, 28.8k vibrations/hour 4 Hz, Incabloc shock protection, Rhodium rotor, 42-hour reserve, hacking seconds

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Design * * *
Keeping Austin weird with Austin City Limits typeface, tiny markers and a record groove-inspired dial. Well-executed but not my thing.

Legibility * * * * *
Surprisingly legible in an unintentionally minimalist way.

Tactility * * * * 
It’s a hefty old girl, but none the worse for it. There’s a worrying bit of play in the fixed bezel, but don’t worry, be happy.

Strap * * * * *
I went for the soft squishy rubber option; the strap mimicking guitar straps are a more thematically suitable — and equally comfortable — accompaniment.

Overall * * * *
The Dufrane City Limits is solid, well-made, fun and funky fresh. It’s sings a tune that ain’t my style, but does so with near-perfect pitch. Or something like that. Peace out.


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