People are of two minds when they see the Mr Jones Watches Step Right Up LE. They either consider it whimsical or juvenile, clever or tacky. I admit to adoring the concept – as far as unconventional watches go – from first digital sight. I love my Mickey Mouse watch. Step Right Up is something more . . .
It’s a “novelty watch” with an entire sepia-toned, semi-animated, carnival scene (a family affair). More pretentiously, it’s a cloisonné enamel vignette. Belied is the fact that the Step Right Up tells the time at all.
I was giddy to see the watch in the flesh. Mr Jones’ carnival themed packaging maintained the new-toy-under-the-Christmas-tree excitement. Pavement drifters and heroic donothings need apply? Sign me up!
The first thing I noticed: the dial’s three-dimensionality. Mr Jones’ British assemblers printed the carnival scene directly on the back of the lightly domed mineral glass crystal. There’s no viewing angle where you can see colorless glass. As Wallace might say to Gromit, it’s like no dial I’ve ever tested.
While not somber, Step Right Up’s color scheme is earth tone neutral. Right answer. Any number of jewel tones would have ruined the watch’s sartorial utility. The watch’s colorful scenery goes with everything and clashes with nothing.
Look ma, no hands! Clear discs powered by an unspecified “single jewel quartz mechanism” replace the hour and minute hands. On closer examination, the minute wheel is a tad higher than the hour, same as normal hands would be. There’s no third row for seconds.
The time window is appropriately sized for the scene, but size challenged. I gripe about small seconds sub-dials, but the entire visible working area here is no bigger than an average example – about 11mm wide by 8mm high.
I was wearing distance glasses when I first donned the Mr Jones Watches Step Right Up LE. I immediately realized why RF (a.k.a., Mr. Legibility) had passed the horological baton. I had to do the geezer move of lifting my glasses and raising it a few inches from my eye to read the time.
Mr Jones’ official time-telling instructions aren’t the clearest. Here’s how it works . . .
The white circles on the yellow ducks on the top row are the hour markers. The fives are blue and the tens are red – except for the zero minutes marker (the hour), which is a red and white bullseye. The ducks move clockwise. The left is the start of the hour, the right is the end. Counter-intuitively, when the relevant duck is centered, it’s thirty minutes past the hour.
It gets even tricker; two anatidae occupy the aperture at any one time. Illustrator and pinball aficionado Ryan Claytor thinks those itty bitty waves under the top row of disks are visible enough to be of assistance. Either I’m too impatient or my maculae are too degenerated to agree.
The lower minute row – delineated by pie plates in five-minute intervals – is simpler. A centered pie plate indicates the current time. It requires a bit of one hand watch-esque interpolation to judge the time between the five minute intervals.
Stepping out with the Step Right Up, time-telling orientation and direction kicked in after a couple days. I found myself looking at the minutes first; they hint which section of the hour display is relevant. It takes a fraction of a second to process, assuming good vision, but it’s worth the price of admission.
The crown is almost perfectly recessed, out of the way both physically and visually. The left side has a slightly smaller monogrammed button-looking thing. It’s purely ornamental, providing some symmetry. I presume it’s there for when they spin it around for their models with a left hand crown at 9 o’clock.
The lugs curve downward, just enough that to keep the case back aloft when laid on a flat surface. But they are long; Step Right Up wears like a larger watch. The lug ends swell out like little cups around the spring bars, a sculpted touch even if the shape brings vintage telephone handset ends to my mind.
The band is a padded and stitched Hirsch Boston golden brown buffalo calfskin. (I guess the buffalo aren’t endangered if their calves are becoming watchbands.) I totally forgot it had quick release spring bars for the first few days. Then I realized that the little nubs are visible from the front in the big gap from the long lugs. They can’t be unseen. Convenient for band changes, but I’m tempted to delete them. #narrowwristproblems
The band length is ideal. The dual keepers were filled, with just the little tapered end protruding. Of course I have small 6-1/2″ wrists, so this may be a problem for others (who will appreciate the quick release spring bars). There’s no skimping on the monogrammed buckle, mercifully free of bulk.
It should come as no surprise that there’s no lume for you. The use of white aids in blacklight (a.k.a., UV) legibility, if that helps.
In terms of making watches fun, Mr Jones Watches has their ducks in a row. I’m attracted to this model and RF likes A Perfectly Useless Afternoon. If the eponymous Mr Jones, (who is an actual person) reads this, please step up and release an unlimited edition of Step Right Up. It’s not a perfect watch. But as a novelty time display, it’s a masterpiece.
Model: Mr Jones Watches Step Right Up LE
Price: $245 (sold out)
Case diameter: 37mm
Case thickness: 10mm
Lug to lug: 46mm
Lug width: 18mm
Case metal: 316L stainless steel
Band: Hirsch Boston Buffalo calfskin, golden brown
Largest strap diameter: 205mm (8.07″)
Smallest strap diameter: 150mm (5.9″)
Weight: 44g (1.5 oz), without band 34g (1.2 oz)
Crystal: mineral glass
Movement: single jewel quartz
Water Resistance: 5ATM
Functions: Hours, minutes
Guarantee: 12 months
Design * * * * *
I have yet to tire of the quaint Tintin-seque illustration, and the incorporation of function into form. Rare is the tasteful novelty watch. This is best in class.
Legibility * *
Rounded up from one and a half stars because there are much more illegible and indecipherable weird watches out there. This is child’s play in comparison, but the time-telling area is date window sized, with no magnifier.
Comfort * * * *
It’s hard to screw up the comfort of a smaller quartz watches, and they didn’t skimp on the band. Crown hides away. Lugs could be shorter, but my wrist could be thicker.
Overall * * * *
The Step Right Up is boyish charm in a bottle. For quick time telling, look elsewhere as this is more fun than function. As a minimally compromised small-batch craft oddity, the Mr Jones Watches Step Right Up LE watch hit the bullseye.
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