Baltic

The popular Baltic HMS & Bicompax 003 gets an update

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Elevating the brand’s inaugural models with a refreshed case and dial.
Like many affordable watch brands, Baltic began its journey in 2017 through a Kickstarter campaign. The brand’s initial offerings included the time-only HMS 001 and the hand-wind chronograph Bicompax 001. These models were characterized by their simplicity, affordability, and captivating vintage-inspired design. Baltic provided the community with a taste of the past at a fraction of the cost of typical attractive vintage watches.
Six years later, the brand has revisited its inaugural models, now introducing the HMS 003 and Bicompax 003 as the third generation. These latest models distinguish themselves from the previous 001 and 002 iterations, most notably with their new case size. The updated case now embodies a more authentic retro style, featuring a width of 36.5 mm, which is 1.5 mm smaller than its predecessors. In addition to the refined case size, the 003 series boasts a new “sector” dial with meticulous attention to detail, further exemplifying the brand’s continuous improvement in design.

HMS 003

The simplest and most straightforward offering from Baltic, the HMS 003 is also the most affordable. As a time-only watch with center seconds, there are no distractions, making the case and dial the key highlights that must be well-designed to enhance the watch’s appeal. Fortunately, after years of watchmaking, the brand’s keen eye has only grown sharper, resulting in a refined dial and case for the HMS 003.

The HMS 003 with a blue dial accentuated by gilt details

The HMS 003 retains Baltic’s signature mid-20th century inspired stepped design, with a bezel that showcases multiple levels forming vertical layers of steps. This detailing adds a nuanced look and elevates the presence of the case, leaving a more striking impression. Notably, the HMS 003 has been thoughtfully downsized to 36.5 mm from 38 mm, while maintaining the proportion of the case and bezel. This size reduction enhances the retro flavor while improving wearability for a broader audience. However, for those who prefer a slightly more modern touch, the 38 mm HMS 002 will remain in the collection, providing additional options.

Baltic HMS 003

But the biggest highlight of the HMS 003 lies not in the case, but in the dial. While the case has been downsized, the dial has undergone a thorough redesign. Starting with the markers, the HMS 003 features quarter-hour markers and five-second markings in Arabic numerals, similar to the HMS 001, but with enhanced detailing. It features a new central portion with a sand-blasted finish and a crosshair decoration. Surrounding it is a circular brushed area, adorned with applied hour markers and a railroad minute track. Towards the outer edge, there is a thin sand-blasted ring, leading to the outermost section displaying the railroad seconds track.This contrasts with the original design, which had only two layers or sectors. Importantly, the increase in complexity of the dial has been executed skillfully, striking the right balance and avoiding a cluttered appearance.

The “salmon” variant of the HMS 003 with silver hands and markers

Notably, the HMS 003 offers a variety of options to suit different preferences. The dial is available in three colors: silver, dark blue, and the increasingly fashionable ‘salmon’, each complemented by a unique set of hands and markers. Additionally, the watch is offered with a selection of leather straps and bracelets, providing a range of choices to customize the timepiece to one’s liking.

Tone-on-tone matching: The silver HMS 003 with a beads of rice bracelet

Inside the watch is the reliable and proven Miyota cal. 8315 movement, which encompasses all the essential features of a contemporary time-only wristwatch, including automatic winding, stop seconds, and a comfortable power reserve of 60 hours. This means that the watch not only offers an appealing design but also delivers practical functionality.

Miyota cal. 8315 movement

Bicompax 003

Debuting alongside the HMS 003 is its more complex sibling, the Bicompax 003, a hand-wound chronograph wristwatch. Interestingly, the Bicompax 003 shares the same dimensions as the HMS 003, measuring 36.5 mm in width, making it smaller than its predecessors that were 38 mm wide.

The new Bicompax 003 with a blue-gilt dial

The Bicompax 003 features the same redesigned “sector” dial as the HMS 003, showcasing additional details. However, due to the added chronograph functions, the Bicompax 003 naturally incorporates two sub-dials positioned at three and nine o’clock. In comparison to its earlier models, the Bicompax 003 serves as an enhanced successor, as its dial feels more proportioned and vibrant. Many vintage timepieces often fall short by lacking the intricate details and depth that capture the meticulous design styling of the past, but the Bicompax 003 successfully encapsulates these qualities.

The attractive Bicompax 003 that combines two fashionable elements: “salmon” and “sector”

IMHO

The HMS 003 and Bicompax 003 offer a compelling package that serves as an excellent entry point into watch collecting, particularly for newcomers seeking attractive pieces with strong value for money. Priced at €360 and €540 on a strap, respectively (excluding taxes), they are difficult to surpass if you’re looking for watches with an accurate retro flavor.

Baltic HMS 003

Between the two, the Bicompax 003 naturally provides better value, as for just €180 more, you get a hand-wound chronograph that exposes all the mechanics – an uncommon feature in this price range. However, from a design perspective, the time-only model is more skillfully executed, leaving almost no room for nitpicking. On the other hand, the chronograph version feels like it could benefit from some improvements. For instance, the minute hands and sub-dials appear slightly oversized and less elegant. One possible enhancement could be the addition of a tachymeter or pulsation scale outside the seconds track, which would shrink the central portion, allowing for smaller sub-dials and better proportions overall.

Baltic Bicomplax 003

Another area for potential improvement in both watches is the case construction and finishing, which currently lack the tactile, high-quality feel found in watches of similar price ranges.
That said, these are minor nitpicks, as the watches are undeniably attractive, and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing them in person.

Tech Specs

Baltic HMS 003

Movement: Miyota 8315; automatic; 60 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Case: 36.5 x 13 mm; steel; water resistant to 50 m
Strap: Leather strap or steel bracelet
Price: €360 (excluding taxes)

Baltic Bicompax 003

Movement: Seagull ST1901; hand wind; 42 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and chronograph
Case: 36.5 x 13 mm; steel; water resistant to 50 m
Strap: Leather strap or steel bracelet
Price: €540 (excluding taxes)