Let me start this by saying that I’m not a big fan of microbrands. Aside from the obvious fact that brand recognition and heritage are virtually non-existent, most of their designs are generic and uninspired and while the majority of them offer good value, a good watch is more than just a sum of its parts.
Many of the microbrand owners are not watch enthusiasts themselves, but rather entrepreneurs looking for a way to make a quick buck from a growing market. They don’t start with the idea of making a great watch; instead, they aim to make something that will sell well. And that, in my opinion, is their biggest flaw and the reason for so many microbrands with watches that are ultimately undistinguishable from each other.
However, occasionally, a true watch enthusiast will set off to make his perfect dream watch – they will pour their love for watches, their experience, their heart in soul in the project – and the result will be something rather special. Canister watches is one of those brands.
The man behind Canister, Chris Lewington, is a true watch enthusiast and collector of affordable pieces, that goes by the handle @islandofmisfitwatches on Instagram. He is also a Canadian Army veteran, where he spent his years as an artillery officer. His experience in the military taught him the importance of having a reliable timepiece and after breaking several watches in the field, the desire of creating a rugged toolwatch was born. The lockdowns during the pandemic finally gave him the free time he needed to set about this project and make his dream watch come true. And that’s how the Fieldmaster came to be.
Now, as far as backstories go, this one really resonated with me. It felt straightforward and genuine. No pretentious claims about “disrupting the industry”, “revolutionizing the way we read the time” or “reinventing the wristwatch” – just someone trying to make a reliable, dependable watch that would be a great companion, no matter the circumstances you find yourselves in.
The fact that I’ve been following Chris on Instagram made me appreciate the time and effort he put into making this watch even more. The entire journey, from the first drafts and sketches he shared, to finally having the watch in his hand, was truly a fascinating one.
Let me share my thoughts on the Fieldmaster and explain why have I come to appreciate it as much as I do. Even though it’s meant to be a fieldwatch, it defies the classic perception many of us have in our heads when we think of a fieldwatch. It has a rotating, unidirectional bezel with a lumed triangle, screw-down crown and 200 meters of water resistance. And thank God for that – one of my main issues with today’s fieldwatches is the poor water resistance – while 50m may have been enough in the ‘50s and ‘60s, anything that’s not a dress watch should have a decent WR rating in the 21st century.
The lines between a field and a dive watch are further blurred by the case – the Fieldmaster has the shape of a skin diver, which to me resembles the Seiko 62MAS but in all fairness, there were a bunch of other divers with similar looks back at the day. The dial however is pure fieldwatch. An interesting design choice has been made here as well, as the dial doesn’t feature the regularly-seen 24-hour track, but rather 5 to 55 minute markers. Combine that with the graduations on the bezel and you get a much more usable timing instrument on your hands.
The size is on point as well – 41mm in diameter, 50mm lug-to-lug and 20mm lug width. Now, I know that this goes against the trend for smaller watches, but to be honest, that fad is getting a bit out of hand. While I loathe 50mm monstrosities as much as the next guy, I think that 40-42 isn’t too big at all, especially if we’re talking toolwatches, where legibility at a glance is a must. So the Fieldmaster, at least for me, is sized perfectly.
The choice of movement is also quite nice – the high-beat Miyota 9015 is a welcomed change from the microbrands favorite pick – the NH35. As reliable and rugged as it’s 3Hz Seiko counterpart, but with a smoother sweep of the second hand, the Miyota is also quite slimmer and this is a feature that has been put to good use by the Fieldmaster, as it’s only 12mm thick.
I’d also like to applaud the use and application of lume on this one. More often than not, microbrands tend to overdo it – insane lume is the main (and often only) selling point for a good amount of microbrands. But let me assure you, there is such thing as too much lume and in the case of the Fieldmaster, the application is just right – only the hands, the hour indices and the bezel pip are lumed – enough to offer solid night time visibility, but not in a way that would make everyone in a dark room give you suspicious looks. But if lume is your thing, you’d be happy to hear that the production units will have double the amount of C3 Superluminova applied.
The watch is also full of interesting details and subtle nods to Chris’s military background. Take the name of the brand – a canister shot is a type of artillery anti-personnel ammunition – think shotgun shell, but scaled up in size. The brand logo is a military map symbol used for an artillery observation point. The caseback is engraved to resemble an artillery shell casing and it proudly features the Canadian maple leaf as well.
All of this doesn’t mean that I think the Fieldmaster is THE perfect watch. But I was glad to hear that most of the issues I had with it will be addressed in production models – the crown size will be increased, drilled lugs will be added and the end-links will be refined, in order to shorten the effective lug-to-lug for smaller wrists.
As we’re getting to the end of this article, it’s inevitable that we talk price – since the cost is a major factor in determining the value of any watch – especially a for microbrand offering. Currently, the Fieldmaster is 290$ in the early bird special in the Kickstarter campaign. And what do you get for your money? – an all brushed stainless steel case and bracelet, ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal, C3 Superluminova on the dial and a Myiota 9015 in the back. You also get an additional NATO and a rubber strap, a watch roll and a cardboard canister as a part of the package.
To put things in perspective, I’ll compare it with the watch the Fieldmaster reminds me most of – the Marathon GSAR. And while the similarities are there, the watch Canister made is very much its own thing. And while the GSAR is Swiss-made and MIL spec’d, the Fieldmaster is the more wearable and, in some instances, the better (bezel and clasp) watch. Not to mention, around 5 times more affordable.
When you factor in the asking price and the specs, it becomes clear that this is very much a passion project, not a way for the owner or the brand to make an easy buck. No And offering a great product and sharing something you’re really passionate about with the public is the thing that makes the concept of microbrands so great in the first place.
Finally, I think it’s important to mention that this article was in no way influenced or sponsored by Canister watches – in fact, I’ve backed this one on the first day of the Kickstarter with my own money. The truth is, I’m passionate about this project just because I like it so much and I sincerely wish for it to succeed. And that’s perhaps the best thing about microbrands – the ones that truly resonate with you can make you more passionate about them than any well-established brands with centuries of heritage.
Visit Canister watches: https://www.canisterwatches.com/
Check out the Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lew79/canister-watches-fieldmaster
All images featured in this article were provided by Chris Lewington.