Hamilton, Ontario has been known by many names: “Steeltown,” “Ambition City,” “The Hammer,” and the Birmingham of Canada. In the mid-1800s, the arrival of the Great Western Railway turned the city into a hub for American immigration and an early industrial centre for the province, producing tobacco, beer, and textiles. But it was the Stelco and Dofasco steel companies that eventually gave the city its rough and tumble reputation. Locke & King is a conjunction of streets at the heart of the city centre on the corner of Victoria Park. It is also the name of Ryan Moran’s watch company, founded in 2020. Moran, himself, is a proud Hamiltonian—a fact you can discover through his timepieces.
The James, featured here, is lovingly named after the city’s north-south thoroughfare which begins at the edge of Lake Ontario and culminates at the Niagara Escarpment. Today it is an avenue of coffee houses, restaurants, pubs, and art galleries, reflecting the ever changing and vibrant city. But a century ago it was the location of the Old Hamilton City Hall and the Birks Building, once referred to by Oscar Wilde “as the most beautiful building in all North America.” Thirty-six James Street is still home to the city’s first skyscraper, the 18-storey Gothic Revival Pigott Building, built just before the Crash.
The confluence of these inspirations can be found in the James. Full of old-world charm, the timepiece is reminiscent of early railroad watches, or even trench watches. Its 42mm 316L stainless steel case has the look of a converted pocket watch, with its oversized, knurled crown and circular shape. Even its 20mm lugs could be mistaken for welded wire lugs at first glance. The intricately fluted bezel also contributes to its heritage appearance. While the bezel is fixed, the case is constructed in two parts and joined by four screws. Four further screws affix the engraved caseback. The mid-case and lugs have been buffed to a mirror polish, but the bezel—while polished—gives off a very different impression. The crown is signed and screw-down, providing the piece with 50m of water resistance.
The James employs a glossy sector dial beneath its domed, sapphire glass with a railway track chapter ring around the outer edge indicating the minutes. Arabic numerals appear at the cardinal points, and there are slender baton indices at the five-minute intervals. The centre of the dial is raised slightly, and the watch uses lozenge hands for the hour and minute. A long, slender, red-tipped hand with a reverse lollipop sweeps off the seconds. The watch is powered by the Miyota 8215, and there is a date window just above the six. I am particularly fond of the creamy hue employed on the dial, as it provides a slightly classier appeal than stark white, but also contributes to an aged appearance.
For a strap, the James uses a vintage-styled tan leather with stainless steel hardware. The buckle is signed with the brand’s logo.
Embossed caseback @calibre321
There are two other references of the James outside the steel version shown here. There is a matte black colourway, and a lovely copper coated model with a deep blue dial (currently sold out).
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
20mm Lug Width
Screwed Caseback & Screw-down Crown
50m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Domed Sapphire Crystal|
Lumed Highlights on Hands
Date at 6 o’clock
42-Hour Power Reserve
/w Stainless Steel Hardware
The James by Locke & King
Locke & King has built a close relationship with the international NGO, Right to Play. Each timepiece created by the brand bears the slogan, “Onward & Upward” as a reminder that we need to make our own time. Part of that ideal is to make time for play. However, founder Ryan Moran, recognizes that there are barriers everywhere to this fundamental right to play. As such, Locke & King have pledged to support Right to Play programming in 15 countries around the world, including 70 Indigenous communities here in Canada—not just to harness the power of play, but to educate and empower youth with knowledge and education.
The James is a lovely watch. And it is tastefully rendered. My only concern is the placement of the “Canada” text in such a prominent area of the dial. In truth, the text is quite small, yet I wonder if it would be better at the base of the dial. I’m not sure if this has an impact on buyers from other nations, but I wouldn’t want to risk limiting the audience.
In some respect, the James defies categorization. If I worked in an office, I could easily see myself using it as everyday timepiece, yet it isn’t strictly a dress watch. In fact, this style of watch would have been yesteryear’s tool watch, whether in the field or on the job. So now, it has the double appeal of a casual sports watch—a kind of vintage Explorer. The build quality is certainly robust, and while it will never be a diver, the James certainly has sufficient water resistance to knock around poolside. In fact, it looks best with a white T and jeans. It’s classy and cool all at once.
The James retails for $500CAD (approx. $370USD). For more information, please contact the brand website.
About the author
Brent Robillard is a writer, educator, craftsman, and watch enthusiast. He is the author of four novels. You can follow him on Instagram.
Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.
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5 thoughts on “Off the Cuff: The James by Locke & King”
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A fluted bezel and an undisrupted dial that speaks for itself!
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This is definitely a sleeper hit
The numerals look too small for me, but I’m guessing its because of the center-elevated bulge on the dial.
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