X-Frame Vulcan by Umbrella Watch Co.

This watch has got me so conflicted. On the one hand, it’s a cool looking watch. On the other, it has what I consider to be a fatal design flaw – which ended up exposing the horrible after sales service of this company.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to wear to this day 1 And the only reason I could enjoy it was because of my own efforts, which you’ll find out about later – it’s just not something I could recommend to anyone.

But before I go on narrating my whole “ordeal”, let’s at least give the cosmetics a once over to appreciate the good in it.

The Good

While it definitely isn’t a traditional looking watch. It’s a looker. If you’re a fan of AP, Hublot, or any of the more aggressively designed watches, it’s not difficult to appreciate the cues this watch has taken from them. Personally, the case reminds me of an AP Royal Oak Concept.

Then it’s got an open heart escapement for that tourbillon-esque look; dual time complication from its PTS M3111C automatic movement; and apart from the text, the multi-layer honeycomb dial elements has its charm. Finish it up with crisp machining and sell it for a song during the campaign – it was a solid project worth backing.

The Bad

Cosmetically, the only thing that ruins the visuals would be the logo/text on the dial. Just imagine the “X-FRAME” and “VULCAN” gone – it would’ve been much better and elegant. The most frustrating part about all this was that they actually held a poll as to how the branding (or none at all) would pan out. For some reason, the majority chose the original concept as is. This is why we can’t have nice things 🙁

Another design flaw it had – and which turned out to be the cause of all my woes was the fact it was using a proprietary watch strap system. Now this is a flaw for obvious reasons that need not be personal. Just the fact that you’re forced to just be using proprietary straps from a company that has no history is not a good thing. AP, Hublot, Apple etc. have their own strap systems but at least you know those companies aren’t going anywhere.

This microbrand hasn’t proven itself and it insisted 2 The majority of backers urged him to switch to the regular springbars on a proprietary strap system. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it failed miserably in the after sales support of such a system – which proves my point – and brings me to the ugly

The Ugly

By now, you know the straw that broke the camel’s back had something to do with the strap. But before you think I’m just being such a snowflake about it, let me tell you what I had to experience throughout this campaign and tell me if I didn’t have a right to be pissed.

Backstory

When I first backed this, I had commented that I would be interested if the watch would be unbranded – else I would pass on it (and cancel my pledge). There was nothing wrong with this assertion. I wasn’t forcing anyone to take out the branding – if the branding was there, then so be it, no worries – I would simply cancel my pledge (which wouldn’t affect the success of the campaign) and be on my merry way.

The reason I stayed was the creator had mentioned that there would be a chance that it could happen (unbranded) as he would be making a poll asking for feedback on how to go about the dial details. This conversation was before the end of the campaign so there was time to set up that poll and for me to see the result to know if I would go ahead and stay as a backer or not.

Long story short, the poll wasn’t created until after the campaign ended. That was strike 1, but sure, I could live with that since I was pretty confident that nobody in their right mind would want a watch with the branding the way it was presented. You’d have to be totally tasteless or a creator looking to get exposure from branding (which isn’t wrong, but don’t pretend that it would make your watch look better). Unfortunately, as I said earlier, for some strange reason, people chose to leave the branding on.

Now that I think about it, the polls were never made public, so it’s not an impossibility that he had just made the results up so he could force the branding. Honestly, I dare anyone to defend how it makes the watch look better. The honeycomb is busy enough as it is, then you have the dual date, and open heart already taking some real estate. If you can convincingly justify those text as a cosmetic asset – I’m going to send you this watch for free

The watch came in multiple color combinations. I figured to make up for my locked pledge I’d ask him in private if I could request the watch in a slightly different combination of parts (I wanted the crown guards and that left protrusion 3 I don’t even know what that’s called, but it was added to balance out the dimensions to be in black, so it would make the watch profile slimmer. The creator said that he would be willing to make an exception for me (as long as I didn’t tell anyone). The only caveat was that I was going to get my watch later than usual because he had to prioritize backers who were fine with the stock options – which was totally fair.

So the arrangement was pretty clear, I didn’t even really complain about the strap system, I agreed it wasn’t the best approach, but I’m pretty careful with my watches so I don’t think I would be forced to change straps anytime soon – as long as the strap it came with was good and usable, I could live with it.

My watch eventually came, I was one of the last people to receive it – which I expected because of our agreement. But things started to go sideways.

Color Combination

I was surprised to see that the color combination I had gotten was not what we agreed on. What I got was one of the stock choices which I could’ve gotten as soon as the units were shipping. I basically waited for nothing! That was strike 2.

Strap Issues

The first thing I do when I get a watch is to get a deployant clasp for it (if it didn’t already have one) – so was glad to see that the rubber strap came with one. But I noticed that the thickness of the strap where I needed to secure the clasp on was too thick that the clasp wouldn’t lock at all. Horrible QA on this strap obviously that they didn’t test the clasp at every fitting hole… strike 3

Since I’ve always been the type of guy who made the best of the cards being dealt, it came with a leather strap that was much thinner (and would definitely work with the deployant). Problem solved, I just needed to use the leather strap instead, right? WRONG

Because while I was trying to take out the straps, the heads on one of the screws on this god forsaken strap system broke off and another got a loose thread. Essentially, I couldn’t get the rubber strap off at allstrike 4. This was frustrating because since I had gotten my watch very late, there were already reports of the screws being faulty. So I had wanted to believe by the time he shipped my unit, that the problem would’ve been solved.

But again, tried making lemonade out of lemons. So I figured I could just use the leather’s regular tang buckle on the rubber strap. But lo and behold, the rubber strap was just for deployants – it didn’t have a slit for the buckle pin.

Customer Support

At this point, I decided to message him by this time and tell him all about the issues. The gist of his responses were:

  1. The next model released will have better screws – which doesn’t help my case at all. Strike 5
  2. Cut the rubber strap and create the slit myself. 4 I wouldn’t call this a strike, but I’m not a fan of having to manually solve what essentially is a poorly thought design.
  3. Even if I shipped the watch back to him (which wasn’t economical given my location) he couldn’t fix my watch without damaging it, nor was he willing to replace it with one without issues. Are you kidding me!? You can’t even fix the watch you friggin created!? Strike 6
  4. He was willing to refund the watch but he wouldn’t pay for shipping – so I would still be at a loss for something that wasn’t my fault.

So in short, the only two solutions was I either live with using the rubber strap with the tang buckle (when I prefer a deployant) and damaged screws or I send it back to him for a refund but still lose money from the shipping. All those answers, from an after-sales, customer-service perspective are unacceptable and horrible. All the solutions were infuriating but the one that pissed me off the most was the implications of #4. I mean I get he’s not a customer service guy – and the karma for that lack of “care” for customers needs will catch up to him soon enough 5 His brand will never make it as more than a novelty micro brand – but the inability to fix the stuff you create just speaks of how incompetent he apparently is.

And you know how I can claim this without a doubt? Because, being the lemonade man, I took the initiative to ask my favorite local watch guy what solutions he can think of – because the creator is obviously retarded when it came to these things. He was actually excited with the challenge. I left the watch with him, and after a week I had this:

Not only was he was able to extract the damaged screws, but he also was able to tap a larger thread that allowed for a more robust one which uses hex heads instead of the stock flathead. He now assured me that its next to impossible for the threads to strip no matter how many times I change straps.

So let that sink in: a local watch watch guy was able to fix what the creator himself could not. If that doesn’t justify calling the creator incompetent, I don’t know what will. See, this is why the time-tested springbar design is still being used even by the bigwigs. I really don’t get the need to go proprietary especially from a company that not only hasn’t proven the quality of its products, but also isn’t competent enough to service them as well!

Conclusion

Thanks to my, and my efforts alone 6 Well mine and Mang Loy’s I was able to salvage this watch to a totally usable state that made it wearable again – but it’s a bittersweet feeling because enjoying the watch is like giving credit to the guy who created it when he really doesn’t deserve any praise at this point. Hence the love/hate relationship. And why I simply cannot recommend this watch to anyone.

Make no mistake though; that I was able to service this thing doesn’t change the fact that if you’re unlucky enough to have the strap system fail on you – you’re literally shit outta luck. Your only recourse is to get a refund, or do what I did – which we can agree any paying customer shouldn’t really have to go through if the watch company was competent enough in taking care of its clients.

Pros

  • Cosmetics
  • Dual-Time function
  • Refundability

Cons

  • The 6 mentioned strikes in the review/rant
  • Branding diminishes visual appeal
  • Needlessly proprietary strap system
  • Poor customer support
  • Technical incompetence

Notes   [ + ]

1. And the only reason I could enjoy it was because of my own efforts, which you’ll find out about later
2. The majority of backers urged him to switch to the regular springbars
3. I don’t even know what that’s called, but it was added to balance out the dimensions
4. I wouldn’t call this a strike, but I’m not a fan of having to manually solve what essentially is a poorly thought design.
5. His brand will never make it as more than a novelty micro brand
6. Well mine and Mang Loy’s

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