Monday, March 29, 2010

Xetum: Refreshingly Clean Originality

While Imitation May Be the Sincerest Form of Flattery . . .
Originality Requires a Bold & Creative Imagination!

Xetum (pronounced "zehtum") joined the ranks of small U.S. watch companies in December 2009. Unlike many small startups in the watch industry that build "homages" imitating well-recognized brand styles, Xetum is one of the others that has taken the bolder path. Their two introductory models, the Tyndall and Stinson (cream dial versions shown above) have a clean, practical, and very original style. The creativity expressed in them establishes a clear Xetum character with a unique brand identity at the outset.

  • Unique with their own character
  • Well designed to fit properly on a small wrist
  • Big enough it won't get lost on a large wrist
  • Aesthetically attractive, clean lines that maintain functionality
  • First rate, very durable materials used throughout
  • Excellent, reliable and durable Swiss ETA movements under the dials
  • Assembled in Switzerland with Swiss movements, they are "Swiss Made" watches
  • Priced competitively with "high range" brands (e.g. Longines, Rado, Union)
  • Direct purchase available through their Web Site:
I had the privilege of a long phone conversation in mid-January (2010) with Xetum's founder, Jeff Kuo, about his new watch line . . .
Jeff is no newcomer, he has been in and around the watch industry for about 10 years. This shows in the aesthetics, it's found in the movements and materials selected, and in the the small mechanical design details of the watch case. The work to create Xetum and their watches began in 2008. The goals he had in designing the Tyndall and Stinson included:
  • Contemporary style
  • Clean shapes
  • Uncluttered "instrument" type dial and hands (easy to read)
  • Versatility (can be worn with nearly anything, anywhere)
  • Utility (not just wrist jewelry; works easily as a useful timepiece)
The model names come from geographic locations in California, where Xetum is located. Mount Tyndall is part of the Sierra Nevada range, in the eastern area of central California near the Nevada border. It was first ascended by a pair of climbers with the California Geological Survey. They were attempting a first ascent of Mount Whitney, only to discover they had climbed the wrong peak. Stinson Beach is a very small unincorporated community in Marin County, along the California coastline just north of San Francisco. It's a popular day trip destination for those living in the San Francisco Bay area. The name, "Xetum," as Jeff described it, has a "convoluted" origin, with a process that involved how it looked in print, how it sounded when spoken, and research to ensure he would not encroach on any trademarks.

In addition to the cream dial above, the Tyndall is also offered in a black dial. It's powered by an elaborated grade Swiss ETA 2895-2 mechanical auto-wind movement. This is the seconds sub-dial version of the venerated 2892-A2. This movement and its variants are found in many prestige watches costing substantially more than the Tyndall.

The seconds subdial is located just above the "6" with the date just inside the "3" and an inner 24-hour time track marked with 13-23 plus Xetum's logo, a green hexagon in lieu of the "24" marking. Main hour markings are bold at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 without overpowering the dial. The "Xetum" name is found vertically under the "12," and provides visual balance with the seconds sub-dial. The overall aesthetic result is pleasing to the eye with uncluttered appearance that maintains utility. Reading the time is easy and quick with just a glance.

The Stinson is offered in three dial colors. The black and off-white are the same as offered in the Tyndall, plus the Stinson is available with a brown dial. It's powered by the Swiss ETA 2824-2 mechanical auto-wind movement. The dials have the same date just inside the "3" with bold hour markings at the 3, 6, 9 and 12. The "Xetum" name is found left of the central pinions, and provides visual balance to the date window. With the same attractive aesthetics and utility, it's obvious the same person designed the Stinson.

The dials and hour/minutes hands on both the Tyndall and Stinson are lumed with Super-Luminova which is among the brightest and best lume available. The 3-6-9-12 numerals are fully lumed on the dial, and the hour/minutes hands have lume along their entire length. One should have no problem reading the time at night, all night (provided the dial and hands have had enough light exposure during the day).

Case and Strap:
Materials used to house the movement and dial are first rate, robust and durable. The Tyndall and Stinson share the same case design. The 40mm diameter lug-less case is made of solid surgical grade 316L stainless steel. While this may seem on the smaller side to those with very large wrists, the nearly "all dial" design with very thin bezel "wears larger" than its dimensions, giving it a larger appearance when worn. It won't look lost on beefy arms with large wrists. The case diameter combined with a modest 11mm height and lug-less design allows the watch case to be worn on small wrists without overwhelming them.
The screw-down crown is subtly signed, carrying the Xetum hexagon in its shape, with very slightly rounded corners and edges. Its size should make it easy to grip and turn. Although I wouldn't suggest continuous water immersion to any depth (it has a leather strap and it's not a diving watch), the screw-down feature gives them a 10ATM (100 meter) water resistance rating. It allows exposure to outdoor elements in all weather conditions. Grooves ringing the case above and below the crown provide some visual eye relief to the case sides while maintaining clean lines. Crystal on top is sapphire (corundum), the most scratchproof crystal material made, and it has an anti-reflective coating on the underside to reduce reflective glare. With its durable materials, water resistance and dial lume, the Tyndall or Stinson could just as easily be used as a "field watch" while its aesthetics make it equally sutiable for the business atmosphere of a corporate board room.

The case back is held on with four screws and features a movement display window made of K1 hardened mineral glass. The movement auto-wind rotors are signed with the "Xetum" name, and one can see, and admire, the fine workmanship that goes into ETA watch movements. Looking at the balance wheel oscillating can become mesmerizing. Most lug-less cases use integrated, custom made bracelets or strap. Not so with Xetum. The straightforward "hooded" strap attachment to the case using standard springbars, can be seen on the underside. This allows easily changing the strap to a different style, or even using a metal bracelet or mesh band (with straight ends) if desired.

Xetum's straps are signed on the back side and reflect their "conservation" culture. Made of natural, vegetable tanned leather, they're lined with comfortable Italian cork. All the materials are "renewable." Clasp is a signed, stainless steel butterfly deployant. Xetum's eco-friendly philosophy doesn't stop there. While not as visible to folks as the watch straps, it's everywhere in the company. Watch boxes are made from the rubberwood of rubber plantation trees felled after their latex producing life-cycle ends. They would otherwise be burnt in monstrously large bonfires. The carton surrounding the watch boxes is made of certified Rainbow 70 paper. Xetum is also working with to offset its carbon footprint, and their website ( is hosted on an eco-friendly service using low power draw service and also works to offset its carbon footprint.

Swiss ETA Movements:
ETA is part of The Swatch Group which owns a dozen and a half brands from the lowly Swatch to the extremely expensive luxury Glashütte Original, Blancpain and Brequet brands. Their 2895-2 used in the Tyndall is a hacking, 27-jewel, 28.8kbph (4 Hz) high beat automatic, and is the sub-seconds variant among ETA's 2892-A2 series. The 2824-2 used in the Stinson is a venerated workhorse. It's a hacking, 25-jewel, 28.8kbph (4 Hz) high beat automatic, and is the date variant among ETA's 2824/2834/2836 series. These movements are among the most preferred and desirable in affordable high-range watches for their time-keeping accuracy, reliability, and long-term durability.

Bottom Line:
  • Utility and practicality in a unique, artistically aesthetic design that isn't pretentious or gaudy
  • First-rate materials and movements for accuracy, reliability and long-term durability
  • Design details that enhance versatility and comfort when worn
If you're looking for a watch that is unique, attractive, useful for telling time, and can be worn just about anywhere, for any occasion, the Xetum Tyndall or Stinson may be just what you're looking for. Current MSRP (March 2010 and subject to change without notice) is $1395 for the Tyndall and $995 for the Stinson. They can be purchased directly from Xetum, either in person at their design studio and showroom on Market Street near Union Square and the Financial District in San Francisco, or on-line through their web site:

Important Notes:
I have no financial interest in Xetum, or any business association with Jeff Kuo or Xetum. Opinions and observations expressed herein are mine alone, drawn from a phone conversation with Jeff Kuo about Xetum, and from the Xetum web site.

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