Discovering Excellence: The Cincinnati Watch Company
Every so often, a watch crosses my path, leaving me wondering, "How is this the first time I'm learning about this brand?" Like many watch enthusiasts, my healthy obsession with timepieces means that images of watches constantly grace my phone screen, whether while scrolling on Instagram, perusing watch publications, or chatting with friends. This constant immersion in the world of horology usually keeps me updated on new brands and models as they are released, rather than discovering them years later.
I recently had this very experience with the Cincinnati Watch Company when a fellow enthusiast shared a wrist shot of his P-40M in a group chat. A quick online search informed me that this Ohio-based American microbrand has been in existence since 2018 and had somehow missed my radar, with the P-40M being one of their inaugural models. I was immediately captivated by the way the rose gold hands contrasted beautifully against the brown dial. I appreciated how the hour hand meticulously aligned with the inner 24-hour track, and I admired the brand's confident placement of its name just above the hands stack, rather than the more conventional choice of cramming it near the dial's periphery.
Typically, after discovering a new watch, even one I like, I eventually find aspects I would tweak if I possessed a magic wand—a slight adjustment to the date window, a swap for hands that better complement the dial, or perhaps some design changes to enhance legibility. Turning off this critical inner monologue would certainly make it easier to simply enjoy a watch, but I haven't quite figured out how to do that. Therefore, it's a real treat when a watch arrives and this fault-finding voice falls silent.
The more I examined the P-40M, rather than finding things to change, I only discovered more pleasantly surprising details: the polish-to-brush-to-polish finishing that extends from the bezel, how segments of lume on each hand line up perfectly with elements of the dial, and its superior legibility compared to even a Timex Easy Reader, all while exuding an incredibly stylish appearance. Although aviation is not my area of expertise, the design looked like something suited for an aircraft instrument panel. After more reading, I wasn't surprised to learn its design was in fact inspired by the eight-day mechanical clock found in an actual P-40 Warhawk.
Upon seeing the $649 price tag of the P-40M, I assumed the watch would be powered by a Seiko NH35— a perfectly reliable albeit wallet-friendly movement. However, I was again pleasantly surprised to learn that it runs on a Swiss Sellita SW200-1 movement, a notable step up that is often accompanied by an equally notable jump in price.
Intrigued to learn more about a brand that can offer a Swiss-powered pilot watch assembled in-house at such a competitive price point, I dove deeper into their history and product lineup. I discovered that the brand began by selling build-your-own watch kits and later evolved into the Cincinnati Watch Company in 2018. Shortly after, they recruited a skilled in-house watchmaker who assembles, tests, and regulates each watch on-site. In fact, they even offer repair services at their Ohio location. Because when you’ve got a WOSTEP certified watchmaker on staff, why not? This unique business model for a microbrand highlights their dedication to perfection. As I explored their catalog, I found each offering in Cincinnati Watch Company's small yet diverse collection to be just as impressive as the P-40M. Let’s check them out!
My Top 5 Picks:
The P-40M is an ideal choice for anyone seeking a thoughtfully designed, high-value pilot watch assembled in the USA. It has the classic legibility associated with this style of watch, but with Cincinnati Watch Company’s unique flair and attention to detail incorporated throughout. With a water resistance rating of 50 meters (standard for a pilot watch), it may not be the best choice for extreme adventures, but will feel at home and capable in most settings.
- Wearable midsize case measuring 40.5 x 47.5 x 11.3mm
- Water-resistant up to 50 meters
- Aviation-inspired design
- Regulated in house to 5 positions, with a timing report included
Ladies Union Terminal
Ladies Union Terminal Black - Credit Cincinnati
Along with the P-40M, the Union Terminal was half of the brand’s initial lineup. Five years later, the watch inspired by the iconic clock outside Cincinnati's Union Terminal is now available in a ladies case (26.5mm) with an unexpected vintage twist. As part of the Cincinnati Recycled collection, each watch is housed in a new old stock (never used) watch case made in Switzerland circa 1960. All other components of the Union Terminal are new, including the two available dial options (black and silver). Due to the nature of building a watch with a vintage case, these watches are not water resistant, but they are awesome.
- Inspired by an iconic Cincinnati landmark
- Housed in a vintage new old stock case
- Powered by a Swiss-made Ronda 502 Top Grade movement
- Assembled in-house in Cincinnati
Limited Edition Time Hill Automatic - Credit Cincinnati
Union Terminal - Limited Edition
You’ve no doubt noticed that Cincinnati Watch Company doesn't cut corners. And so, it should come as no surprise that the 36mm version of the Union Terminal is made in collaboration with the oldest most trusted watch jeweler in Cincinnati- Richter & Phillips. Featuring a blue sunburst dial with gilt indices and hands, this watch is limited to 100 pieces and available exclusively in store. Powered by an automatic Sellita SW300 and retailing for $895, please excuse me while I catch the next plane to Ohio.
- Made in collaboration with a historic jeweler
- Compact case measuring 36 x 44.8 x 10.2mm
- High-quality stainless-steel bracelet with three positions for micro-adjustment on the clasp
- Assembled and regulated in Cincinnati
Prior to 1972, a clock hung above the grand Concourse at the Cincinnati Union Terminal. While the landmark has since been removed, its image lives on in The Concourse: a two-hander in an angular cushion case. With a BGW9 layered dial that evokes the charm of the original clock, the Concourse features a captivating glow. Boasting an impressive 100 meters of water resistance, the Concourse offers a unique take on a historically influenced GADA timepiece.
- Inspired by a local former landmark
- Powered by Swiss Made Sellita SW300-1a, regulated to 5 positions
- Featuring a layered, luminescent dial
- Water-resistant up to 100 meters
Rounding out my top picks for the brand’s versatile collection is the Centurion, Cincinnati Watch Company’s take on the field watch. With a legible textured dial, crowd-pleasing dimensions and no shortage of personality, the Centurion is a culmination of everything that distinguishes the brand from the rest. Available in black and burgundy colorways and paired with a nylon strap, the Centurion is a great choice for anyone looking for a classic field that is as capable as it looks.
- Water resistant up to 100 meters enabled by a screw down crown
- Midsize case measuring 40 x 48 x 11.9mm
- Classic field watch look with a unique textured dial
- Assembled and regulated in house in Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Watch Company has quietly established itself as a brand that combines thoughtful design with exceptional value. Their dedication to quality and unique business model sets them apart in the world of American microbrands. Whether you're a seasoned watch collector or simply looking for a historically inspired one-watch collection, Cincinnati Watch Company's offerings are worth exploring.
In February this year, we first looked at Ligure Watches and hands-on with the Tartaruga Black. It's almost the end of the year and we are lucky to have not another one, but three, Ligure...
Like so many wristwatches, the Pilots watch, as we know it today, originates in warfare. Since the days of the first aircraft, which were a challenge to fly, it was widely accepted that fumbling for...