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Reel Inspiration


Form & Function Cross Channels
Robert Koelewyn may not be a household name – or even a recognized watchmaker among the cognoscenti, but in certain fishing holes around the world, Robert Koelewyn is a known man.  Canny fishermen appreciate his custom-designed reels for all manner of fishing as evoked within the commercial series of Van Staal, Zeebaas and 3-Tand reels. All are designed by his hand.  

As watches once were, fishing reels remain a functional bit of engineering that can also imbue character into their functional facade. Beyond pure purpose, both add an aesthetic designed to make the particular type stand out. Koelewyn’s own style enhances the machined-for-purpose look into an iconic and aggressive series of slots, bevels and drilled patterns. These design elements have converted perfectly to an affordable and immediately recognizable series of mechanical watches that marries reel design into an expressive wristwatch.

Sold under the brand name Visser (Dutch for Fisherman), the watches are made from 316L stainless steel, aerospace aluminum and carbon fiber. The machined aluminum dial emulates the profile of a fly-fishing reel while the nautically-inspired hands reside under a cap inspired by a spinning reel.
Inside beats a standard Japanese Miyota 9015 mechanical movement, which keeps the price at an amazingly affordable level. All current models sell for less than $1,000. Adding another unusual element, the Visser band is designed to be detached from the lug to remove the watch as well as swap out to a different band or strap. Equipped with a discrete sprung button near the lugs, you push firmly down on the plunger and simultaneously pull up and the bracelet releases. Having had a moment with this mechanism I will admit that it takes a bit of practice to make it second nature but I suspect the transfer will get easier as the watch & the owner are both broken in.

From a construction standpoint the watch measures 42mm diameter and stands 14mm tall with a dual-coated sapphire crystal over the dial. As an interesting accent Koelewyn has integrated a hub that actually pierces the sapphire crystal. Few experienced watchmakers would have tried this with a sapphire crystal as it is no easy feat to cost-effectively drill a perfect hole needed to properly mount the center hub. And properly mounted it is with dual gaskets creating a water tight barrier; just another example of outside the (tackle) box thinking that Koelewyn bring to his watches.

Superluminova is used where you would expect over the machined aluminum dial while the case lug bars are coated with titanium nitride for added resistance to salt, chlorine and wear. Bracelet segments are all connected by solid screws as opposed to friction fit pins. Attention to detail and a quality build are all here, but to be honest, one small drawback is that the watch is only rated to 5atm (50 meters), even with a screw-down crown. This is certainly okay for grabbing a trout or striped bass out of the water, but I’d like to see a 10atm rating for a nautically inspired fisherman’s watch built to Koelewyn’s obviously high standards. It may be that they are just being conservative with their claims, which would be a breath of fresh salt air in the watch world. Having said that and in speaking with Robert directly he encouraged me to test his watch in the water and it came through two separate 30 minute swim sessions in salt and fresh water none the worse for wear.

Joined by his younger brother Bob this year, Robert is already expanding Visser into new markets around the world.
“I am very delighted to now offer anglers and outdoorsmen a watch built to the same rigorous standards that Van Staal reels are built to,” he says. “Reels must perform in tough environments, and so will our Visser watches – it shows that we are doing something right.” He continues ““The most important thing in making a great timepiece, is to ensure that it is available.”
Visser watches are sold directly at www.visserwatch.com.