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The Shinola Black Blizzard Review

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Titanium seems to be a popular material for watches these days. At least, that is, for watches that have been crossing my desk. As we saw with the Tempest Commodore, titanium helps cut down the weight of a watch while still offering strength and durability. Today, we’ll take a look at another one that leverages those attributes, the Shinola Black Blizzard.

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First things first – let’s talk about the name of the watch. You might pick up the “Black” from the dial and bezel color, but the “Blizzard” part really does not seem to have an obvious reference. In actuality, Black Blizzard refers to the conditions that would arise in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s . There would be such thick, dark, dust kicked up by the winds that it resembled blizzard conditions – hence, Black Blizzard. It seems an odd thing to commemorate, to my mind, especially after having read The Worst Hard Time, which takes you through that time and what people experienced.

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So, one one hand, it does seem like an odd name.  When talking with Shinola about this, this is what they felt it was a tribute to the homesteaders who weathered those storms, and persevered on.  So, however you look at it, the name is what it is.  While the Black Blizzards of the past were undoubtedly awful, the watch that carries that name is quite the opposite. For our review sample, we had the 42mm come, as that is simply a more reasonable size, in my opinion.  Of note, there was a 48mm version that is in the works, but not currently available.

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When it comes to the Shinola Black Blizzard, this is a good bit that should be familiar to those who have handled Shinola’s watches before – the orange lightning bolt appears in several places and the handset is similar to what we’ve seen before. Mixing things up a bit (at least from the ones I’ve reviewed) is the large, two-digit date display down at 6 o’clock, and of course the chronograph.

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The chronograph is powered by an Argonite 5050 movement, and performs just as you would expect a quartz chrono to. Along with the subregisters to track elapsed time, you also have the titanium bezel surrounding the curved sapphire crystal that you could set as a “count up” sort of a time, even without engaging the chronograph.

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As I mentioned at the outset, titanium is used throughout the watch. As a matter of fact, of all the metal you can see on the watch, only the caseback (which is made of stainless steel) is not made of titanium. Combine that with the inherently lighter quartz movement, and you end up with a weight of 108g.

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This keeps things nice and light on the wrist. Also helping with comfort on the wrist are the curved wire-style lugs. This gives the watch a sort of retro cue, as well as dropping where the bracelet contacts closer to the wrist. While there are no micro-adjustments in the butterfly clasp, I was able to get a pretty good fit to my wrist, and overall felt the bracelet to be comfortable.

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In regular wear, this is a watch that can easily fly under the radar. With the brushed finish covering most of the surfaces, the Shinola Black Blizzard is not a flashy watch. Even when you get into some of the details, they are subtle as well. Take, for instance, the large date display. It is bigger than a normal cutout would be, for sure – but it’s not massive in size, and it manages to blend in to the register quite nicely.

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To me, that is sort of the theme of the watch – some higher quality and unique touches, but done in a way that does not call undue attention to any particular facet of the watch. Coming in at a price of $1500, the Shinola Black Blizzard is by far the priciest I have reviewed from the brand. Does the usage of titanium and inclusion of the chronograph justify the uptick? For me personally, no, but that is up to the individual. Overall style, I am definitely a fan, and I do like to see them branch out into other materials. Fortunately for me, chronographs really are not my thing, so I don’t have a difficult decision to make here. If you are a big fan of chronos, sound off in the comments – I am curious to hear what our readers think of this.  shinola.com

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Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Shinola Black Blizzard 42mm
  • Price: $1500
  • Who’s it for?: You like the made-in-Detroit angle, and are looking for something lightweight
  • Would I wear it?: Probably not – I just do not have utility for chronograph complications
  • What I’d change: If we’re heading for more unique materials, why not go for a ceramic insert in the bezel?
  • The best thing about it: Aside from the lighter weight, this is one of the better big-date displays I have seen in a sub-2k watch

Tech Specs from Shinola

  • Case Back Plate: Stainless Steel
  • Case Size: 42mm
  • Movement Type: 5050, Chronograph
  • Band Type: Metal Bracelet
  • Band Width: 20mm
  • Case Material: Titanium
  • Case Finish: Brushed
  • Depth Rating: 20 ATM
  • Crystal: Double curve sapphire

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6 COMMENTS

    • To your first point…I can understand the muted enthusiasm for a brand whose business model leans toward the assembler/marketer model (despite the fact that the watchmaking enterprise has largely functioned in a similar mode for most of its existence).

      I believe that focusing on the movement/price relationship is not entirely on target as a means to value a watch, however. There are established makers that offer watches with quartz(!) movements at prices near or above this Shinola watch. There are more watches offered at even steeper pricing that feature a competent but cheap and inelegant automatic movement–one that is available in watches at a considerably lower price point. These brands don’t sustain the sort of snubs so smoothly shown to Shinola for violating a specious “value equation”.

  1. Agree with previous post. A battery watch for 1500? Come on now…I would take a vintage 14K solid gold Seamaster any day of the week over that. But, for those who want to pay top dollar for an expensive marketing strategy, it fits…

  2. Nice looking watch, but at $1500, overpriced for a quartz watch in titanium, IMO. it would be a much better value at $750, especially when all-Ti Citizen Skyhawk ATs are selling for around $450 on the street.

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