Going Upmarket - A Second Comparison You Did Not Know You Want

In a previous post, I discussed the value of a smaller brand vs. a conglomerate brand, with the smaller brand arguably offering a more refined watch for less money. In this post, I hope to detail how two similar looking watches can justifiably be $700 apart.

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A common misconception amongst the community is “Watches are cheap to make.” IE, if X Brand can make a $200 watch, everyone should and luxury watch premiums are all marketing. This notion completely dismisses the idea of literally every single component of a watch can be upgraded, never mind development, design, QC, etc.

IE, I can go to Walmart and buy a full suspension mountain bike for $150, why should one spend $5K for a Santa Cruz when they look the same to the average person? Is a $6 Sunrace rear derailleur as good as a Shimano XTR that costs $550? No. Pick any other hobby that you have components of, and most agree there are tiers to said components. That is not knocking the less expensive components, but it is okay that tiers exist. The existence of various component tiers, doesn’t need to take away from the others. Same applies to watches. 

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When Nodus released their Canyon series, they piqued my curiosity. I am a fan of the brand, particularly the Sector Sport line. Along with the likes of Zelos and Spinnaker, they are usually one of my go-to recommendations for best watches under $500, but I would be lying if I said I liked the enclosed Seiko movement. While a solid movement, it is mostly disposable/swappable when it inevitably fails, which is okay, I do not expect a $25 movement to last a lifetime. What if one wants an upgraded movement? That is where the Canyon provided an answer.

I am not going to rehash a full review of the watch. You can read about it from two of my favorite reviewers here and here. Yes, this is a collaboration watch with a brand/person one may or may not like. As both a car and watch fan, I found this a nice collaboration and have enjoyed all three watches I have seen from the pairing, however the focus of this is not the collaboration, but the watches.  What I hope to address was a common theme when the watch was released; “Why buy that, when I can get the Sport for $475?”

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For many in the hobby, their decision starts and stops with looks. They do not care what is in the case, the specs, etc. I appreciate that take and, in many ways, wish I had that perspective. it would certainly save me a ton chasing after movements. To you, I tip my hat.

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These watches, on the surface look a lot alike. In fact, a couple of you are already queuing up the Pam “They’re the same picture” meme, but like the mountain bike comparison, the difference is in the components.

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To start, a significant portion of the price difference can be attributed to the movement. The Canyon uses the La Joux-Perret caliber LJP-G101 vs. NH-38. Below is a breakdown of the differences based on data from Caliber Corner: 

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As you can see there are some significant differences in materials, dimensions, and accuracy. There are several grades of the LJP and because of its size and quality, it can often be found in watches costing well into the thousands of dollar range like this magnificent work of art.

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Okay, it has a nicer movement, what else? Let’s start with a new case design. The new case has dimensions intentionally set to wear similar to a Rolex case. That is, it is a slightly larger dial (41mm vs. 38mm, but it’s lug to lug is the same as the 38, and because of the new movement, it is 1mm thinner. The case also has a nicely embossed case back. It is something only the wearer knows, but a nice touch over the traditional case back. In addition, this case supports 2x the water resistance of the Sport.

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Then there is the new 5 link bracelet. It tapers from 20mm to 16, vs. the 20 mm to 18mm of the Sector Sport. For comparison, the bracelet feels nicer than a similar Uncle bracelet I use for one of my Alpinists. Unlike Uncle (and even Longines), Nodus uses screws on each bracelet. I have sized dozens of bracelets, but the screws used on the Canyon might be the nicest I have interacted with outside of top Swiss and German brands. It is a little thing, but if you ever worked on a lousy bracelet, you know how big a difference it will make. Kudos for this attention to detail. 

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Each have a similar quick release for their bracelet. It is easy to use, but if I am being honest, they do protrude a little but too far for my liking and can leave nice impressions on the wrist if you wear your bracelet tight. I tend to file these prongs as they also be a little sharp. Again, small criticism to an otherwise very nice bracelet. Note, this is the same criticism I have for the Zelos system which is remarkably similar.

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Both models have the excellent NodeX micro adjust clasp, but the Canyon’s is narrower and has two-tone finishing vs. the traditional brushed finishing of the Sector sport. PS, big conglomerate brands (not that you are reading this), if Nodus and Zelos can offer excellent micro-adjust at this price point, it should be a standard on all your watches too, get with it.

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There are some other differences like the crown and a extra strap from Under the Cuff. Plus several easter eggs.

Is one better than the other? Is it $700 better? Objectively, to go back to the original analogy, the Canyon has several upgraded and new components over the Sector Sport, but that comes at a premium. To me that premium is worth it. I like both of these watches for different reasons. I appreciate that the Canyon truly challenges many watches costing two to three times more. I own several I would comfortably put this up against and honestly, it would win. I also love the Sector Sport, in fact I may but another since they released the new bracelet. At $475, it remains a steal in this hobby. 

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It takes a lot for a small brand to go up market. People like me are constantly asking brands to do so, especially when it comes to movement, but just like the enthusiast crowd screaming for small cars with manual transmissions, few actually show up at the dealers when they are made, and look how many small, relatively affordable, sports cars with manual transmissions exist today. Very few. 

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I hope brands like Nodus, Jack Mason, Baltic, and others continue to take these educated risks, even on a small batch cycle. I know there is capital risk and there will always be those that will say, “Why would I buy small brand X, when I can buy big brand Y for the same money?” Not sure we can ever win that mentality over, but let them enjoy their watch, while those looking for something with arguably better specs enjoy something a little more unique.

Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts about small brands going up market. Who would you like to see do so?

Note, these are all my personal watches. I have no issue pointing out both strengths and opportunities. I have been lucky to meet many brand owners and I know how much work and love goes into what they do, so naturally I tend to focus on brands I have an affinity for based on my personal ownership experiences.

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Reply
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Nodus is doing great pieces! Fun story of how they started by literally getting the band back together!

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An interesting and informative read. I have my eye on that very Sector Sport.

The main reason I am hesitating is due to the dial colour - at first glance I really like it but I have had a few watches recently where the dial in person is subtly but significantly different in the hand compared to the pics. So trying to look around and read as many reviews as I can.

The other hesitation is that after shipping and taxes the price of these watches is pumped up a bit so they are bumping up and competing with some possibly heavier hitters.

Been pretty impressed though with most of what Nodus has been doing.

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This is a great write up and comparison breakdown. Nodus does do great stuff and I’m glad they have the will and resources to do collabs like this to push their own design. Maybe in the future, these improvements can trickle down to the rest of the lineup. It’s like a car brand having a limited run halo car as a test bed for new design and technology which then has those features brought to their mainstream cars.

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This is very educational post, thanks for taking the time to write it and point out the differences so clearly

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Fantastic read. Appreciate the work you put into these. 🫡

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I think the upgrades are nice and I have no issue with the price hike. That said, a watch to me is as good as the weakest link in the whole experience which is to say that I not only expect upgrades in line with the price on a product level but also a different level of after sales support.

For example, if a watch is equipped with a movement that one would want to service (instead of tossing the watch) then I also expect the manufacturer/brand to supply proprietary parts such as gaskets, crystals, crowns, etc. In the future.

I'm not saying Nodus does or doesn't do that, just something that I'm not sure is being talked about enough and I'm equally not sure how microbrands in general stack up against similarly priced major brands like Tissot in that regard.

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Thanks for the write-up, I think it should foster a good discussion. I personally sway the other way when it comes to movements. A non-standard movement is something I would accept in a true artisan luxury watch, but anything other than that better have a standard movement. In contrast to cars or bicycle components, most watch movements do exactly the same thing, as far as outcome is concerned. (As long as we are talking about single-digit spd variations, I don't care that much about accuracy, either.) While the LJP-G101 seems to be based on the Miyota 9039, it has been obviously been modified. The accuracy of the LJP-G101 appears to be excellent, but it also seems to have inherited the noisy rotor of the Miyota.

So no, I wouldn't touch the Canyon.

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Great post!

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UnsignedCrown

I think the upgrades are nice and I have no issue with the price hike. That said, a watch to me is as good as the weakest link in the whole experience which is to say that I not only expect upgrades in line with the price on a product level but also a different level of after sales support.

For example, if a watch is equipped with a movement that one would want to service (instead of tossing the watch) then I also expect the manufacturer/brand to supply proprietary parts such as gaskets, crystals, crowns, etc. In the future.

I'm not saying Nodus does or doesn't do that, just something that I'm not sure is being talked about enough and I'm equally not sure how microbrands in general stack up against similarly priced major brands like Tissot in that regard.

You raise a number of good questions. This movement is pretty standard as far as movements go and was meant to act as an alternative to the ETA 2824, in fact it can drop into an ETA 2824 case, making it quite easy to service.

@hbein2022 I too am sensitive to wobble. I literally just traded in most of my 7750s for that very reason. I have a handful of G100s/G101s and I cannot say I notice wobble. As I mentioned above, it is a fairly standard movement in comparison to the 2824.

A nice write up on the G100/G101 can be here.

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UnholiestJedi

Great post!

Thanks Todd!