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Squaring up with the Shinola Guardian

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Once again, I find that Thanksgiving is coming up on the calendar, and I have a new Shinola on my wrist for review.  This is a happy coincidence, as I’m often headed back home for the holiday, which is just up the road a bit from where Shinola is based (you can check out our visit to their factory right here).  This is the first truly square case for the brand, so let’s see what the Shinola Guardian has in store.

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The Shinola Guardian is actually named for a building that is an icon in Detroit – the Guardian building.  It was built in 1929, and at that time, was the tallest brick building in the world.  These days, it finds itself on the registry of national historic landmarks, and now, inspiring (at least the name) a watch.

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As I mentioned at the outset, the Shinola Guardian is the brand’s first truly square watch.  Yes, the Shinola Brakeman did approach that look, but a cushion case is not a square case.  With the Shinola Guardian, you have the square case with it’s rounded-off corners, complemented by the wire lugs.  The use of those lugs does give the watch more of a vintage feel, which is thematically appropriate for being named after a building of the roaring 20’s, I suppose.

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For our review, we actually spent time with two versions of the Shinola Guardian – the larger 41.5mm one (with it’s 24mm strap) sat on my wrist, while the 36mm version (with a 20/18 strap) hung out with my wife.  Other than the dimensional differences, there are a few other changes between the two watches.  They do use slightly different movements (705.3 Argonite vs 715.3 Argonite; both quartz), and have differences in the sapphire crystal topping the case (single curve on the larger one; double-curved on the smaller model).  Those are relatively minor though, in terms of differences, and of course they work well for a his-n-hers combo.

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For the larger Shinola Guardian, we checked out the white dial, which contrasts nicely against the black numerals, indices, and lume-filled hands.  For the smaller model, we saw the dark blue dial, which was contested with gold-tone elements, and overall was a look that my wife rather liked.  For my time with the watch, I felt that it fit quite well to my wrist (and is not overly tall), and the daytime readability had no issues.  I do wish that the date window was a bit larger, and that the numerals on the dial were actually lumed as well, but that’s the way it goes.

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Overall, I do like how Shinola has kept the branding down on their watches, and the Shinola Guardian is no exception.  Sure, you do have the logo (and lightning bolt) on the upper portion of the dial, but otherwise, you just have the subtle lightning bolt on the screw-down crown, plus another one hiding on the underside of the buckle (see that in the gallery below).  This sort of branding restraint is nice to see, and I think helps with the mission this watch has of being flexible enough for all occasions.

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In the end, the Shinola Guardian, in either size ($750 and $675), makes for an interesting option.  First and foremost, that square case stands out – both within the Shinola catalog, and amongst other watches at similar price points.  Overall, the watch carries a sort of modern vintage vibe that will resonate with people, and by keeping things thin (a major benefit of quartz movements after accuracy) it makes for a lighter (86g for the 41.5mm) and comfortable watch.  While I do not know that the Shinola Guardian would supplant the Brakeman as my favorite from their catalog, it is definitely in my top three from the brand. shinola.com

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Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Shinola Guardian
  • Price: $750 (41.5mm), $675 (36mm)
  • Who’s it for?:  You like the Shinola story, but want something different than the ’same old’ round case
  • Would I wear it?: Sure thing
  • What I’d change: Get those indices and numerals lumed first, and then explore a larger date wheel/window (or remove it)
  • The best thing about it: The modern vintage look and feel that you get from the case, lugs, and dial design

Tech Specs from Shinola

  • Case:  Stainless steel, with single curve sapphire crystal (41.5mm) or double-curve sapphire (36mm)
  • Movement
    • 41.5mm:  Argonite 705.3 quartz movement, hand-assembled from 46 Swiss and other imported components.
    • 36mm:  Argonite 715.3 quartz movement
  • Strap
    • 41.5mm: 24/24
    • 36mm:  20/18
  • WR:  5 ATM

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