The “great outdoors” is something I have always enjoyed finding peace in. Since the pandemic, I find myself escaping into nature as often as I can. It is, without a doubt, my happy place where I can truly clear my head. As I find myself hiking/camping more I have discovered exactly how much more purpose driven gear I want/need. One of my new additions was a Zippo arc insert. In case you are unfamiliar with these, the act insert is a rechargeable lighter that creates a wind proof plasma beam that can be used to ignite a fire. I found out from experience that it works in the rain as well as being wind proof. This is an example of new technology added to a known tried and tested classic design. This is also quite applicable to the watch in this review, the Voyageur from Wolf Creek Watches.
“We believe that a focus on the simpler elements of design can lead to a more elegant and practical timepiece.” -Michael Johansen, founder of Wolf Creek watches. It all started for Michael when he was a kid and received a military style/tool watch. He has been hooked ever since. Wolf Creek Watches is located on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota and the watches are made in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
The case on the Voyageur is simple, purpose driven and durable. As you can tell from the pictures, the Voyageur case is constructed of bronze, it’s CuSn8 to be precise. I have said this in the past, “too much emphasis is placed on the size of a case”. Quality design will/should always win over the measurements of a case. What I mean is, if a watch is made with good quality and a good design, then the size of the case doesn’t really matter. (Within reason) In the past the size of the Voyageur wouldn’t be something that I would even consider. I missed out on so many great watches because I thought the size of a watch was what mattered. I understand if you have a size preference and I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with having a certain preference. I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did by missing out on some great watches. Broadening horizons! The Voyageur measures in at 38mm x 11mm (including the domed sapphire crystal, 43 lug to lug, with a lug space of 20mm. I like the shape and design of this case.
Bronze is one of my favorite case materials because of how it is always changing as the natural patina begins to form. Bronze displays scratches and dents better than any other case material. The wear and tear adds to the natural beauty of the watch. The Voyageur case is basically constructed from a single piece of bronze thus creating some nice clean lines of the tonneau style. The simplicity of the Voyageur’s case actually increases the durability of the watch. How? The fewer pieces and components that make up a case, the fewer areas there are for mechanical error/breakdown/dirt build up/seal failure. The Voyageur features a push/pull crown. The Voyageur has very smooth and fluid winding action. It’s important to note that when you feel resistance when you are winding the crown that’s the indication that the watch is fully wound. Over winding will damage the movement.
The crown is signed with the Wolf Creek logo. I am definitely a sucker for a well designed logo. A well designed logo shows the dedication and devotion of a company’s commitment to their vision. That certainly is true with Wolf Creek’s logo, which is a beautiful combination of a wolf and a forest.
Wolf Creek kept it simple on the screw in stainless steel case back. The case back contains information about the watch itself. Shall we flip the watch back over to take a gander at this dial? The Voyageur’s dial is designed like the case. I mean the dial is designed with that same functional and purpose driven design that the case was designed with. The dial is simple and it gets the job done. Not in the lazy sense either. This simplicity is achieved through careful planning that involves a lot of trial & error in order to get it just right! When I was researching about this watch I read that the dial Voyageur’s dial was green. Of course I was pleasantly excited because bronze cases and green dials are a fantastic combination. A combination that is like the Yoda to Luke, the peanut butter to the jelly, Sam Wise to Frodo. The funny thing is when the Voyageur arrived and I unboxed it, I honestly thought the dial was black. It wasn’t until I changed the lighting that I discovered it wasn’t. I can tell you that this dial is in fact green, but it is an extremely dark green. It’s even better than I anticipated. The dark matte green dial doesn’t only look lovely, it serves a function other than looking pretty. The dark green allows the white numerals and the white hands to appear that they are “jumping” right off the dial. This color contrast allows for optimal legibility. I was hoping that the hands, numerals and arrow shaped markers were lume coated. Wolf Creek did in fact treat each of the dial details with a generous amount of BGW9 lume. This allows for that optimal legibility to be carried over into dark/lowlight situations/environments.
I find Wolf Creek’s design choices for the dial to be quite interesting. Interesting is a definitely a good thing here. How it translated into the final execution of the production piece is even a better thing. The logo, dial text and minute/second track are printed in a aged bronze color. The dark color gives the illusion that it vanishes and reappears. This is dependent upon what kind/type of lighting you are in. The color is cohesive with the bronze case which illustrates how carefully thought out the “simplicity” is. It’s that same simplicity that I mentioned earlier. The simple design doesn’t create any overcrowding on the dial. It’s a great example of how well thought out the details are. Details that retain the consistency with that simple, yet purpose driven design. This to me is what defines Michael’s mantra and what he was striving for in the execution of the Voyageur.
I want to also point out how well the second hand matches the hour & minute hand. Wolf Creek did a fantastic job of matching the shape of these three hands. This is my personal favorite example of how committed they were to the overall design cohesiveness of the Voyageur. The Voyageur’s extremely legible dial is set underneath a domed sapphire crystal. Adding to the overall legibility of the Voyageur, is the anti-reflective coating on the inside of the crystal.
I was truly intrigued by the choice of movement that was used for this watch. It is a movement that can be found in some watches from Panerai, Laco, Hamilton, etc… Of course this was more commonly found with movements from ETA before they tightened the belt on their movements. The 2801 movement inside the Voyageur is a 17 jewel movement, with a 42 hour power reserve that beats at 28800 vibrations per hour. I think the hand wound movement was the perfect and ideal choice for this watch and it’s adds to the endearing personality that the Voyageur possesses.
The Voyageur is an endearing watch that checks so many boxes for me. It may have smaller dimensions but it packs one hell of a punch in terms of ruggedness and quality build. Every function delivers exactly how one would expect it to deliver. The movement is accurate, with +5 seconds per day accuracy. This watch handled itself without fail during some cold, wet Midwestern winter conditions during numerous hikes. The bronze case is tough as nails with the protection against corrosion that CuSn8 is known for. A detail that that I want to point out are the beautiful machine strokes on the case. The strokes are becoming more visible as the patina is forming.
I have a few suggestions for Wolf Creek to improve upon an already great design. I would suggest a screw down crown for added protection against dirt, dust, and moisture. A personal preference would be to increase the size of the crown to add ease of gripping and operating it. The last suggestion I would make is to add drilled lugs with screw bars. Screw bars not only add over strength Vs spring bars but are easier to change the strap without unwanted scratches. These aren’t deal breakers, they are intended for furthering the purpose driven design of the Voyageur.
This watch is an excellent option for those looking to get into the bronze watch family. Especially for those who may not like the 42mm-47mm size range. It is also a great option for those who don’t have a under 40mm watch choice in their collection. Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this watch is packed full of purpose driven details. Details that are well thought out that help maintain it’s simplistic charm. The quality found throughout this watch is extremely impressive. It is even more impressive because this is a first release for Wolf Creek Watches. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this young brand.
Thank you for your support and readership. Thank you to Michael and the team at Wolf Creek Watch company.
The Voyageur can be purchased for $725 USD at https://www.wolfcreekwatchco.com
Voyageur Mechanical Specifications
316L Stainless Steel Case Back
CuSn8 Bronze Case
ETA 2801 Movement with 42 Hour Power Reserve
38mm Wide Case
43mm Lug to Lug
20mm Lug Width
11mm Height (Including Crystal)
Domed Sapphire Crystal with Inner AR Coating
Dark Green Matte Dial
BGW9 Number and Arrow Markings
BGW9 Printed Hour, Minute, and Second Hands