Few watches entice me from a picture alone but this one got my heart racing when I saw it. I mean what kind of paint job is it that decorates the Air Defender Hydro Dipped Tie-Dye from Tockr? It is certainly eye-catching enough for one to take a second look.
How is this paint job achieved? Well, I learned something new when discovering this watch.
Have a look at this to get an idea:
The process is called hydro dipping or water transfer printing. Basically, a design is made and printed onto a polyvinyl alcohol hydrographic film that is suspended on water. The object to be painted is then dipped into it, with the surface tension of the water allowing the pattern to curve around it, no matter the complexity of its shape. After that, the object is allowed to dry and a sealant is applied to protect the painted surface.
That in a nutshell is how the process works, and it is quite commonly used in the painting of automotive parts. In its appearance in the Air Defender Hydro Dipped, it certainly is the first instance of such a painting method used in watches that I have seen.
For more detail on how Tockr themselves tackle the painting of their cases, have a look at this impressive article by our friends at ablogtowatch.com (linked below), who visited the factory where the work is done.
So a few words about the Tockr brand. It was founded relatively recently in 2017, by an American by the name of Austin Ivey, with a focus on aviation style watches. Part of the inspiration of the brand came from Ivey’s grandfather who was a pilot who flew C-47 transport planes on the “hump” route from India to China. As a result, Tockr is a brand that combines American aeronautical design with traditional Swiss watchmaking.
The American part of the brand is obvious enough if you have a look at the watches on offer at their website that take inspiration from American planes from history.
The Swiss part of the brand is also evident enough from the feel of the quality of the watch in the hand, and came as a result of Ivey partnering with Sophy Rindler and watch industry veteran Serge Aebischer as CEO to create the brand.
On the wrist, the Air Defender Hydro Dipped certainly feels like a well made watch, with the pushers of its premium Valjoux 7750 calibre beating within, operating smoothly and assuredly. The dial, markers and case, all and have a distinct air of quality, so much so that it makes its US$2850 asking price seem entirely reasonable. The same goes for the box that the watch comes in, a well sized wooden box with an extra strap, that does feels well made for the price.
As a purposeful and useful watch, it comes with a day and date feature, as well as a rotatable inner bezel that can be used to time a secondary event aside from the main chronograph. Lume is also very nicely done, as can be seen in this picture below, with the syringe style hour and minute hands glowing blue and the hour markers glowing green.
How does the painted case feel in the hand? It’s actually kind of weird as it is smooth like a pebble, and not cold at all, as you would find if you touch bare metal. The effect of the smooth surface is evident with the watch on the wrist, with the large 45mm wide cushion case being very comfortable.
So one of the things I was curious about is why the sample I received looked different from the picture of the same model of the watch on the website. If you understand the process of hydro dipping, then you’ll realise that each watch will necessarily be unique. Each case is dipped by hand, which results in variations in the outcome. So bear that in mind if you do order one.
Something else that is also notable is the brand’s emphasis on a high level of reliability with regards to the coating. As Tockr told me, to date, of the pieces that have already been sold, there have been no complaints or returns related to the coating.
However as they explained to me, like every kind of coating, the hydro dipped surface can be exposed to scratches which will require attention to fix. In any case, scratches can be repaired even if the process is complex.
Being an American brand, US Residents are well taken care of with a number of retailers around the country where the brand is available. However, for customers outside the US, aside from Hong Kong where there is a local distributor, purchases can only be made online at the Tockr website. That being said, plans are underway for a more robust global distribution network.
The model pictured here is called the Hydro Dipped Tie-Die, but there are quite a few other designs available than just the one pictured. No doubt it’ll be easy for Tockr to come up with more unique designs given the process of how the cases are painted.
Quite apart from the watch itself, I must say that I’m also very impressed by the way that the company is run. It is a difficult thing to run a successful watch brand, and many small ones might be good in most things, but are lacking in some critical way. This can be in their marketing, their product quality, their customer service, or even in the overall concept of what they are about. With Tockr however, every aspect of the company, as far as I can see, is as good as it can be, which is a rare thing. How do I know? My interaction with the company has been smooth, positive and enjoyable. Those guys run a tight ship, and while what they offer is at its core, a product with many competitors, it’s the little details that the company takes care of that make a difference. I have no doubt that Tockr will continue to impress into the future.
How do I feel about the watch? Well, I liked it enough that I asked Tockr to send me one to have a closer look, something that I do rarely. The wearing experience, as you might expect, has been fun, because while it is a little crazy and a little weird, I think it comes with a joyous burst of colours that acts as a mood uplifter. It also helps that the watch is so well made, that acts as a serious counterpoint at some moments when the colours might feel a little too playful.
Check it out, and maybe buy one online at tockr.com