Timing a 15 second manual burn was a matter of life and death for the crew of the Apollo 13. However, getting to your meeting on time is about preparation and hitting basic timing milestones, not watching the clock. Cooking at home, you know the steak is done when it looks and feels right, not when the timer goes off. On vacation, you may prefer to gauge time at the beach by how much fun you’re having or how bad your sunburn is. We complete many tasks at work, home, and play using preparation, intuition, and observation. Yet we watch the clock like we’re hurtling towards Earth in a tin can, about to burn up in the atmosphere.
Founded in Münster, Germany by Manfred Brassler in 2001, Meistersinger endeavored to take a relaxed approach to the measurement of time through the manufacture of high-end single-hand mechanical watches. Guided by the tradition of ancient sundials and single hand clock towers of the Middle Ages, Brassler was not only the brand architect, but the primary designer of Meistersinger’s watches.
The brand has gone on to produce watches with in-house movements and increased complications, winning design awards and experiencing strong sales growth along the way. Despite these achievements, Meistersinger seems to have remained true to its brand philosophy of simple designs that help the wearer feel time is working with them, not against them.
When I discovered Meistersinger, I loved the idea of a casual single-hand watch using an ancient method of telling time to ease the hustle and bustle of modern life. However, I disliked their formal round cases that are often too large, with low water resistance, and dials that are either too plain or complicated for my taste.
The Metris solved these problems. It stood out from the rest of Meistersinger’s collection, bringing fun to the proceedings with lively colorways, offbeat strap selections, and a variety of case materials including stainless steel with DLC coating and bronze. The faceted case and single-hand were enough fun for me, so I settled on the more conventional ivory dial with a stainless steel case.
When I finally let the $1,795USD retail price sink in, I felt discouraged, as I didn’t want to gamble on a niche watch I wasn’t sure about. After scouring the second-hand market for a few months, I found an unworn ivory dial Metris selling well below retail with a 30-day return policy. My concerns vanished. Two days later, the watch was in my hands.
As soon as I opened the box and peeled off the stickers, I had mixed feelings. The dial appeared simple and one-dimensional while the case wowed me with its incredible contours and depth. On the wrist, it wasn’t as odd or challenging as expected. I had anticipated the Metris would be my left-field watch, the odd-ball conversation piece in my collection, but it looked elegant, sporty, and almost… normal. It took me about a week before I accepted that it wasn’t as weird as I wanted it to be, and I decided to keep it in my collection.
One of the main attractions to the Metris are its extremely wearable case dimensions. According to my calipers, the 38mm case is a slim 11.4mm thick, with a reasonable 45mm lug-to-lug length, a strap-friendly 20mm lug width, and a well-sized 6mm crown. Despite these moderate dimensions, the case suits large and small wrists alike (more on this later).
It’s clear the Tonneau cases of the 1970’s are the primary inspiration for the Metris case design, along with a vague whiff of vintage Grand Seiko along the lugs. A mix of brushed and polished surfaces highlight the concentric faceting that starts at the conical bezel and radiates outward to a complete the tonneau shape. Rounded crown guards echo the case shape, prominently extending to the top of the screw-down crown. An arched mid-case with a chamfered undercut compliments the expanding bevel along the top edge of the lugs to visually thin the mid-case. A richly-textured engraved caseback, affixed by six screws, gives the Metris an unexpected 200M of water resistance. Overall, the case feels solid, large, and hefty for it’s size. It is well-finished, appearing simultaneously contoured and sharply-angled for an interesting contrast of styles.
Sitting flush with the top of the bezel, the slightly domed sapphire crystal keeps the overall thickness in-check while offering a subtle contour. Blue AR-coating keeps reflections down somewhat but tends to make the crystal itself more visible due to the blue tint at certain angles. By far the most polarizing feature is the cyclops date magnifier. It is relatively small and unobtrusive (about the size of a small raindrop) yet it adds much-needed depth to the crystal, as the dial is fairly flat.
The first thing you’ll notice is the large dial, which takes up 34mm of the 38mm case diameter. This is typical of Meistersinger, as larger dials solve the inherent legibility challenges of single-hand watches. Utilizing a combination of starkly printed black Arabic numerals and indices of differing lengths, the dial exhibits an intuitive pattern for quickly reading the time in 5-minute increments. This takes some getting used to, as you must learn to accept the approximate time, rather than the exact time.
Given the priority given to legibility, it’s understandable that the dial is devoid of visual ambiguities, glossy surfaces, or polished applied indices. This lack of depth is striking, and further emphasized in darker settings by a complete lack of lume. Fortunately, lume is usually unnecessary, and the minimalist dial is pierced by a steeled blue needle hand and a small circular date window at 6 o’clock. The shadow cast by the single hand, the magnified light projected by the cyclops, and blue AR coating on the crystal add dimension to the flat dial.
Some have criticized the dial and handset layout for having the general appearance of a bathroom scale. As amusing as this comparison is, it’s unavoidable with single-hand watches as they tend to look like various measurement instruments including thermometers, pressure gauges, and ironically, speedometers.
Imagine you’re a watchmaker designing a single-handed watch. What movement would you choose? As there’s no need for the second hand sweep of a mechanical watch, you’d be forgiven for initially considering quartz as the most practical option. With the inability to easily verify the timekeeping of a single-hander, quartz might serve to inspire trust in the accuracy of the piece. In addition, quartz’s affordability could keep costs down, thus convincing on-the-fence consumers to buy an unusual watch. Indeed, many cheaper single-hand watches are quartz-powered. When you consider Meistersinger’s brand inspiration, it makes sense that they’ve gone with mechanical movements from the very beginning.
The Metris is powered by the Automatic ETA 2824-2 or it’s equally ubiquitous clone, the Sellita SW200-1. Without a second hand, one must be content knowing it’s ticking at 28,800bph, as this high beat rate certainly doesn’t help the pedestrian 38hr power reserve. On the plus side, Meistersinger regulates their movements to be extremely accurate. Not only is mine is running well within COSC specs, but it is the most accurate watch in my collection according to my timegrapher. This allows me to trust that the Metris is keeping time when worn for longer periods.
In terms of color, style, and proportion, Meistersinger generally does a nice job with their strap pairings. The navy “denim” strap that came with my Metris is an excellent color compliment to the ivory dial and brings out the blue hand, but I found the white contrast stitching called too much attention to itself. If you are considering this watch, I recommend you consider the other OEM strap options, including a steel Milanaise bracelet and a blue textile NATO.
I tried dozens of 3rd party strap combinations in different materials and colors such as blue, grey, black and brown. Surprisingly, the niche style of the watch and the near-yellow dial color made it tough to find truly outstanding strap combinations. Some black and grey straps looked decent, but I reverted to the blue options, pairing the Metris with a dark navy single-pass leather strap and a navy NATO. However, there may be a Milanaise, Bonklip, or JB Komfit in its future.
At first blush, the Metris might seem quirky, avant-garde, or even pretentious. Instead, I’ve found it to be understated, as the minimalist dial tempers the attention-grabbing neo-vintage case. At a distance, it’s easy to accept as a 70’s vintage piece, and the single hand is subtle rather than obvious. The case lays flat and slim on the wrist and the lugs turn down gently, allowing the watch to slide under most cuffs. That said, this is a fantastic watch for short-sleeve weather and looks at home with casual and smart attire.
The Metris wears large for its 38mm case, giving off the impression of a 40mm case instead. This can be attributed to the large dial and the tendency of square, cushion, and tonneau cases to wear larger than their round counterparts. If you have larger wrists or prefer watches with more wrist presence, you may find this suits you better than expected. Of course, the short lug-to-lug ensures a good fit on smaller wrists as well.
By far the most noticeable aspect of wearing the Metris is reading time. Without the sweep of a second hand or relentless march of a minute hand, the Metris gives a strong sense of time moving slowly. You expect to see movement, but you’re met with near-stasis, like an F-1 car entering the slow pit lane off a fast straight. With five-minute increments, you don’t read the time on a single hand watch, you make an intuitive approximation of the time. As vague as this may sound, it’s surprising how little accuracy is needed to be on time and hit key milestones throughout the day.
Despite excellent printing and typography, the plain flat dial can be underwhelming. This sparseness is compounded by the lack of additional hands, specifically a ticking second hand. If you like the idea of a single-hand watch but prefer more depth and visual interest, there are more colorful versions of the Metris and higher complication models in the Meistersinger catalog for you to choose from.
The absence of lume is going to let a lot of people down. Considering that all other Metris models have at least some lume, the off-white color of this model may represent a missed opportunity for a fully-lumed dial.
Moving between crown positions can feel ambiguous. The crown action is excellent when you are within each position, but finding these detents is a challenge. For example, there have been a few times when I thought I was in the winding position but ended up scrolling through the date wheel instead. This could be an isolated issue, but it’s worth noting as a potential red flag.
If you’re looking for a strap monster, this might not be it. At first glance, the off-white dial with black print seems like it will go with everything, but finding great color pairings is more challenging than expected. Additionally, it’s hard to find a strap style that resonates with the unusual combo of the Metris’s Bauhaus dial and 70’s Tonneau case.
Finally, another potential negative is the price. If a customer loves this watch but is even the least bit price-sensitive, or has a small collection, he will probably regard the nearly $1,795USD retail price as a significant barrier for a niche product.
There is no getting around it: This watch is unique. Not only is a single-hander hard to find in the wild, but this particular design stands out as one of the sportiest in the Meistersinger collection. This odd cross-section of stark minimalism and 70’s sports watch bling – with a cyclops date window and blued steel hand to top it off – have no business together. Yet somehow the execution feels seamless. Once you consider the robust specifications, solid build quality, excellent finishing, attention to detail, high legibility, and movement accuracy, it’s easier to see why the Metris is more than a niche product and worth the near-luxury price.
If the Metris isn’t for you, I strongly suggest browsing the remaining Meistersinger catalog before exploring other brands. Although single hand watches have become better known to enthusiasts of late, most brands in this space are relatively unknown. Many offer inexpensive quartz-driven models with poor specs or suffer from unappealing designs. Other brands such as Schauer offer excellent single-handers, but have highly limited production runs. There are very few readily available high-quality single hand models from well-known brands. Defakto, a decent mid-range German brand, offers a few options: the Meta Automatic, Mono Quartz, and Eins. If you want to spend more, check out at the Grande Heure Onyx from Jaquet Droz. Other brands to research at your own risk: Luch, Botta, and Slow. Ultimately, this is an extremely isolated silo in watchmaking, mostly populated with brands that only make single-handers.
You can’t summarize this watch without asking: Does the Metris fulfill Meistersinger’s aim to change the way we interact with time? For such a heady question, the answer can’t possibly be an unambiguous “yes,” but it’s not a definitive “no” either.
The effect of wearing a single-hand watch is subtle and cumulative. It rewards longer periods of wear, as the user must bend to an unconventional method of telling time. If you are over-scheduled and driven by the clock, 24/7, strapping on this watch won’t magically imbue you with a calm acceptance of passing time. You will likely find this watch frustrating for its lack of specificity. However, if you are oriented towards tasks that require long-term focus instead of tight scheduling, you might find (as I did) that a single-hand watch helps you deal with the task at hand by calming the instinct to rush or panic. No matter who you are, a single-hand watch isn’t going to cure crippling deadline anxiety, and it sure isn’t going to de-stress modern life, but it can help you relax in moments when beating the clock isn’t critical to success or the enjoyment of life.
Don’t buy any of that? Here’s another way of looking at it: The Meistersinger Metris is a cool retro-styled watch with sporty specs and an easy-going attitude towards time. Perfect for open-ended workdays, weekends, or your next vacation.