The watch industry is a big space. That space is often filled with “in the moment” trends that many brands tend to follow because it’s what’s hot right now. This can get monotonous for contributors to the community and we often find ourselves drawn to something different – something challenging – as a form of mental reset from all the momentary hype around a particular topic.
This year has hands down been the year of the GMT – specifically those of the Pepsi variety. And while I’m definitely a fan, the topic has gotten deserved, but exhausting coverage from small and big players alike. Since the GMT is probably my favorite complication, I stumbled upon a tattoo-clad, motorcycle marketed, little gem that caught my eye, provided a serious challenge to my typical sense of style, and stretched my tastes and appreciation – that watch was the Franck DuBarry Revolution Fileteado GMT – featuring an engraved case, an interesting stamped silver dial, and a GMT function.
Perhaps it was all the art classes (yeah yeah, I know) I took in college and the many cultural artistic expressions that were so interesting to me, but I can’t say for sure what drew me to the eccentric brand, or the Fileteado GMT. I can say that both are a wild departure from what I would normally be drawn to. The brand itself comes from the mind of Franck DuBarry, former CEO of TechnoMarine, a brand I was quite fond of early on in my watch enthusiasm. Franck DuBarry’s eponymous brand launched in 2016 and draws influence from art and history to create some pretty unique designs – the most interesting to me, being the Fileteado art style used in the Revolution GMT collection.
Fileteado is an artistic style well known in Bueno’s Aires, Argentina, a place where Franck spent many years during his travels while developing a sharp focus in bringing the designs to his watches. Fileteado is typically identified by broad strokes filled with colorful ornaments and phrases that can be brooding, funny, political, or insightful depending on the artist. Many examples can be a combination of a large palette of these themes. The Revolution Fileteado GMT pulls from those influences through and through – and the result is a brash, bold, and what many would call “offensive” watch that caused me to go through many different opinions the longer I wore it.
Considering its 43mm size, the case is remarkably light. The lack of weight eventually grew on me, as it’s part of the identity of the watch and a major theme I feel is important to the overall case design. Just about everything from the case material, the bezel material, the buffer material (more on that in a second), and the strap material is designed to minimize the weight.
Let’s start with why this watch is so light. The case is made of brushed grade 5 titanium that’s been heavily engraved. And if that wasn’t enough, the watch features a lightweight “forged” carbon-fiber bezel that’s very difficult to capture well in photography but is very fitting for the watch. Adding to the industrial look is something the brand calls a “Soft Touch” buffer between the bezel and the case, and the crown and the case. This “Soft Touch” buffer is Neoralithe – a relatively new resin-like material that’s lightweight, and shock-absorbent and honestly just really cool looking. It reminds me of Singularity Black paint, and gives the appearance that the watch itself is dropped into the case, and not an extension of it – further adding to the almost ad-hoc industrial design of the watch.
Which brings me to what I consider the second major piece of the watch’s identity – the case engravings. I’ve handled enough to find that there’s rarely a mediocre engraved case – they’re either well done, or they are not. I’ve seen my share of the latter, but the Fileteado GMT has some seriously high-quality engraving, though I do have my qualms with it – mostly due to how the engravings interact with the case shape.
While the face itself is round, the case and lugs feature very industrial, flat, and contrasting edges and the engravings tend to “stop” at each edge. This leaves an awkward line through the engravings where they approach an edge. For instance, the flat lugs feature an edge that is aesthetically pleasing, and something I found unique (really reminded me of the Linde Werdelin cases), but the arch goes straight through the engravings – leaving this awkward gap in the design.
I imagine this is due to the difficulty in keeping the engravings from appearing shifted on the edges, something that many other brands offering engraved cases either build into the design itself or design around. Unfortunately, the Fileteado GMT did neither, and for me, the gaps were glaringly obvious even if they were designed to draw attention to the case shape, and impair what would otherwise be a more a visually enticing engraving.
The third part of the watch’s identity and the focal point of the Fileteado GMT is most definitely the dial. Everything on the watch is designed to draw focus to the motif. It’s what first drew me to the watch, and the aspect I find most interesting. The dial is stamped silver (think of a coin) that is then heat treated to create a burned effect that looks and feels very organic – unlike many watches that use the same technique and fall victim to looking over manufactured. I couldn’t help but be reminded of an old Dia de Muertos coin fastened to the dial.
The design itself channels a bit more of the brooding side of Fileteado art with its dark, menacing, and almost intimidating design. A skull and crossbones image is featured above 6 o’clock with extended wings behind it, and a rose right under the cool Franck DuBarry logo 12 o’clock index. Filling the rest of the space is an intricate ribbon featuring “Franck DuBarry” and “GMT Automatic.” Since a staple of Fileteado art is creating the illusion of depth by using various degrees of shadowy negative space, the top half of the dial features a climbing vine and flower motif reminiscent of many prominent Fileteado artwork of the ’70s. Surprisingly to me, the 3 o’ clock date window does a great job of blending into the dial, and not distracting from the overarching theme. Overall, the actual design and implementation behind the stamped dial are superb.
In contrast to the rest of the models in the collection, this “Carbon” model uses a monochrome color scheme that makes the watch much more legible than its counterparts. Though, I feel it’s where the watch still has some work to do. While the red-tipped Skeleton GMT hand fits the watch beautifully and doesn’t interrupt the design, the thick, bulky, baton hour and minute hands feel thrown on and ill-fitted, and bring a manufactured vibe to the otherwise organic-feeling dial.
I recognize that may sound harsh, and I understand where the hands needed to be contrasting to not get lost in the dial, but I think bright red or white, skeleton hands would have fit the watch far better and not covered what the watch is portraying. The hands as-is feel like an afterthought with a forced industrial spin, and I feel they detract from the intricacies of an otherwise natural-looking dial, without providing the legibility one would expect.
Inside the Fileteado GMT is the ETA 2893-2 – a rather capable movement. I actually recognize the movement from my Glycine Airman which is still running strong many many years later. Would I have liked to see a more interesting movement? Probably. But I don’t foresee the purchaser of this watch being a stickler for something interesting being inside. Plus, they can’t see the movement anyway because the caseback is solid.
Because it’s solid, the caseback is also decorated with engravings, though I think I would have preferred a sapphire caseback with the effort spent on creating a badass Fileteado inspired rotor instead of the generic feeling solid disc. Because of the screw-down caseback, the watch carries a water resistance of 10-ATM. While the brand’s website doesn’t mention it, it’s probably safe to assume that the power reserve is around 38 hours.
My gripes about the rest of the watch aside, the strap became one of my favorites – like, that I’ve ever worn. Franck DuBarry uses what’s called “Elastogator” for the strap. Very Zenith/Hublot-esque (I’m reminded of the strap from the Zenith Defy El Primero 21), the strap utilizes a rubber underbelly with an alligator top inlay and an oversized titanium buckle. The difference I felt with the Franck DuBarry strap and other brands with similar offerings, was night-and-day.
The Elastogator strap has a light, hollow feeling to it that wasn’t sticky, annoying with sweat, arm-hair catching, or inflexible; and I think that’s largely due to the structure of the strap, the way it’s fastened to the case, and the textured material that’s used. Typically with rubber straps, there’s a grip to them that’s designed to keep the watch tight, and prevents it from sliding around even if the notch isn’t perfectly sized for your wrist.
The problem with that grippy and glossy material is that it can be irritating if something (like arm hair) gets stuck in the “grip.” With the Elastogator rubber, the material is much more of a matte finish instead of a glossy finish. Not to mention incredibly light. So the rubber carried the structural properties of a traditional rubber strap, without the hair-catching grip or weight that can be obnoxious with watches that are heavier in nature.
Another great feature of the strap is simply the way it’s designed. Instead of the rubber and leather meeting on the side of the watch and creating a seem, the rubber wraps all the way up to the top of the strap, and the leather sits inside of a thin edge. It acts as a bumper and provides an even lesser possible irritant. The bumper also prevents fray and protects the leather portion of the strap from getting damaged or scratched when the wearer slides their wrist against something sharp (as I’ve done on the edge of my desk countless times).
That being said, I liked the watch but found it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t an issue with the quality, I simply couldn’t get past certain design choices I never would have caught without seeing the watch in person. I found myself getting hung up on elements that could have been more refined. I don’t see the hardcore watch enthusiast being turned on by this model, but I do see the hobbyist Fileteado artist, motorcycle enthusiast, or part-time accountant with an inheritance and a penchant for showing his office mates he’s more than spreadsheets and calculators (you know the type) giving into the emotional response the watch produces.
The Franck DuBarry Revolution Fileteado GMT will come with a price tag of $7,900.