Shinola Detroit Detrola Collection
The Detrola Collection
By Mike Conklin / August 22, 2019 3:49 pm

Shinola watches have become standard among a certain kind of stylish young man who knows enough to want something good-looking on his wrist but isn’t quite ready to dive headlong into the world of haute horology — or to become the type of person who says haute horology.

With the brand’s newest line, the Detrola, it appears Shinola is trying to reach a younger demographic, one less interested in achieving that accessible heritage vibe they’ve mastered with the Runwell line, and more concerned with having a bit of fun. The Detrola is priced at $395 and is available in seven different colorways, ranging from the not-at-all playful all-black Model D to the perhaps overly playful Islander model, which features heavy doses of pink, green, and orange. 

When singling out a model to review, I of course went with the all black Model D because I am prone to joylessness and, at age 40, unsure of my ability to pull off something more whimsical. 

So, here’s how that went.

Model D

What I liked:

  • The strap. Each of the seven colorways comes with a silicone strap that is a pleasure on the wrist. I tested out this watch in the middle of August in New York City, commuting to work in disgusting heat and humidity, and it never once bothered me. Also worth mentioning: the straps have “quick release” functionality, not unlike the Apple Watch, making it very easy to switch things up a bit. Which is a nice option to have, as I admittedly began to regret not choosing a more interesting color combination.
  • The markers on the dial. One of the signposts of high-end watches is that the writing you see on the dial, whether it’s the numerals or the hour markers or even the brand logo, is “applied” rather than painted on, meaning they are literally placed, one by one, onto the dial, creating a raised effect that is only visible on super-close inspection but is awesome nonetheless in that it assures you that someone, an actual person, worked very hard on it. Now, the Detrola’s markers are … not applied. But whatever painting or embossing process they used succeeds in creating a sense of depth that isn’t actually there.
  • The date window. Nothing to get too excited about, of course, but it’s a nice touch that’s tastefully incorporated into a watch at a price point where you’d have to forgive them for leaving it out.
  • The crown. It’s got a pretty significant presence to it, almost resembling that of a … slightly more expensive watch.
  • The luminous hands. Yes, your phone tells time. No, you shouldn’t take it out of your pocket during the movie. This will help.
The Ace Detrola 43MM

What I didn’t:

  • The size. Well, let me qualify that. The Detrola comes in only one case size, 43 millimeters, which is not crazy, but it is on the larger size. I’d like to see it offered in a more traditional 40 or 41 millimeters as well.
  • The branding. The Shinola logo is a little too large for my taste, placed directly under the 12 and incorporating the lightning bolt thing, the word Shinola, and the word Detroit beneath it. It just feels like one (or two) lines too many. And all of that is in addition to the Detrola logo down above this 6, which, admittedly, looks really great.
  • The markers on the dial. “Wait, but you said…” Yeah, I know what I said. It’s a neat little trick they played, making painted-on markers look like applied markers, and it certainly elevates the overall look of the watch. But something about it feels almost disingenuous?
  • The case material. I know this is actually supposed to be one of the watch’s biggest selling points, in that it adds to the playfulness factor, but the “durable TR90 resin case” can wind up looking a little cheap.
  • It’s quartz. I know there are a lot of people out there for whom this does not matter at all, but at $395, I can’t help but think about all the mechanical watches available for right around the same price. Again, though, I realize this is more of a me thing.

Conclusion

If I was going to buy a watch for a style-conscious, say, college student relative of mine whom I wanted to introduce to the world of watches as sort of marvelous little machines but also as a really respectable, timeless (heh) accessory to rock whenever it seemed appropriate, I would without question look long and hard at the Detrola. Or if I were the kind of guy who wanted to have a bunch of different watches without making a huge investment in any of them, I would also consider the Detrola. It’s not a particularly versatile watch, in that the materials they chose (along with some of the wackier color options) preclude it from anything even approaching formalwear. The point of the Detrola, though, is that it’s not really meant for people who have much of a reason to care about formalwear.

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