Tired of boring-looking watches? Check out Mr. Jones Watches for some of the most unique timepieces out there!
Founded in 2007 by Crispin Jones, Mr. Jones Watches is an independent London-based watch brand that specializes in unconventional designs.
Many MJW pieces are a collaborative effort between Mr. Jones himself and artists, illustrators, and other creative minds. Over the years, they’ve built up a sizable archive of designs.
A Perfectly Useless Afternoon (on the right) currently looks to be one of their most popular models, and it’s easy to see why.
Graphically striking, minimalistic, and playful, it also happens to be a particular shade of blue proven trendy among watches of late.
Ahem, you know the one. Originally released in 2019 as a limited edition of 100, the watch was an overnight success and has since been reissued, ultimately becoming a mainstay of the Mr. Jones catalog.
All Mr. Jones Watches are printed and assembled in their London workshop. Each color is meticulously hand-mixed and printed layer by layer to build up the final image. Some designs also incorporate silver and gold foil gilding.
As I have experience with graphic design and printmaking, I have a personal affinity for A Perfectly Useless Afternoon and The Colour Venn, which I’ll be reviewing today.
Starting with the smaller of the two, A Perfectly Useless Afternoon features distinctly thin lugs which extend across the flanks of the case. The lugs taper and then widen into a rounded cap where they connect with the strap/bracelet.
On the left side of the case is a round MJW emblem that almost looks like a button or a faux crown.
I quite like this detail. It’s a subtle touch that adds symmetry to the case. I also find it interesting that they chose to engrave the emblem here instead of the crown.
At 40mm, The Colour Venn bulks up in diameter, while the lugs remain the same size with the same 18mm lug width.
This larger version looks somewhat bulbous in proportion and loses the lug flanks and faux crown. I’m a little disappointed that these features are missing on this one because it gave the smaller case some character.
Both cases are 50 meters water resistant and constructed from 316L stainless steel with a fully polished finish.
Overall, the finishing is not bad for the price point. No sharp edges or imperfections. My personal gripe with a polished watch is that it’s a natural smudge magnet, and every scratch it picks up will be all the more noticeable.
As a note of interest, both of these watches have symmetrical dials and can be worn upside down with the crown on the left side of the case. It’s a nice plus for those who wear watches on their right arm.
These two cases seem like the standard template across the catalog, with some variations here and there. Though, I wouldn’t focus too much on the case, as the real draw of Mr. Jones Watches is clearly the dials.
Here are the dimensions of both watches:
A Perfectly Useless Afternoon Dimensions
First up, are the dimensions of A Perfectly Useless Afternoon.
- Case size: 37.5mm
- Case size w/crown: 39mm
- Lug width: 18mm
- Lug to lug: 46.8mm
- Case thickness: 10.4mm
- Case weight: 33g
- Weight w/bracelet: 63g
The Colour Venn Dimensions
- Case size: 40mm
- Case size w/crown: 42.3mm
- Lug width: 18mm
- Lug to lug: 49.7mm
- Case thickness: 11mm
- Case weight: 57g
Now to the centerpiece of these watches — the dials:
A Perfectly Useless Afternoon
Created by Belgian illustrator Kristof Devos, the design is as clever as it is charming.
It depicts a pool-bound figure reclining in an inflatable tube. As the hours pass, the figure rotates around in circles as a rubber duck drifts around the edge of the pool. The tiles of the pool below wiggle across the dial as if distorted by water.
Though seemingly chaotic, it’s very simple to read the time once you learn how.
The lines in the water act as leading lines, guiding your eyes to each hour position of the watch, indicated by the edge of the pool.
To read the time, you look to where the figure’s foot is pointing. This shows you the hours, and the rubber duck represents the minutes.
The dial packs a surprising level of depth as well. The outer edge of the pool is printed on the underside of the crystal, and it casts a shadow into the water below. From certain angles, it really does look like a tiny swimming pool on the wrist.
This effect is achieved by printing the images on transparent discs, which replace the hands of the watch. To hide the central post, the figure’s swimming cap is also printed on the underside of the crystal.
MJW has employed this technique of printing illustrations onto transparent surfaces across many watches in their catalog.
The Colour Venn
Mark Champkins, a product designer, conceptualized the watch to demonstrate how the subtractive color model works. In digital printing, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are used to mask the amount of light reflected by the surface below.
Printed in tiny dot clusters of varying size and spacing, these four colors can reproduce almost any color and tone.
On this watch, three translucent discs of color overlap, passing through one another and creating new colors in the process. The effect is a perpetually shifting arrangement of colors that is just mesmerizing to look at.
The dial below is a matte silver with a slightly grainy texture to it. This is a subtle touch that I feel classes up the design over a stark white dial.
Telling the time on this piece is also pretty simple, at least in theory. The discs each have a marker that you can read as hands. Cyan for the hours, magenta for the minutes, and yellow for the seconds.
In practice, I settle for a rough approximation of the time. When I’m not just zoning out staring at the pretty colors. The cyan marker also gets lost whenever the magenta disc passes over it. That’s about 20 minutes each hour.
As there’s no other point of reference or orientation, I’m a little bit torn on the design. I love the clean simplicity of it, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be improved with a few markers on the dial.
A slender Bauhaus style minute track? A crosshair dial in the style of a crop mark, even? Then again, I could always just check my phone for the time…
With a very, very slight dome to the sapphire, this watch creates some interesting light play between its crystal refractions and the shadows cast by the discs.
The 40mm size wears right on the border of too big for my 6.5” wrist.
The short lugs help a lot with the wearability, and since this design is so out of the ordinary, I don’t mind the larger overall size.
Each Mr. Jones Watch is given its own unique caseback. In addition to the logo and origin of production, the title, artist’s name, and a small bit of art is usually etched on the caseback.
For an extra $13 (USD), you can opt for a blank caseback with a personalized engraving.
The Colour Venn features a display caseback with all information printed on the inside of the glass. The text is conservative but a little cluttered if you’re trying to peek at the movement. I think there’s some room for creativity here.
The inclusion of some colors to echo the dial would have been nice, or perhaps a halftone dot pattern to reference the printing process.
The Colour Venn is powered by a solid Swiss-made movement, the Sellita SW200. I’m pleasantly surprised to see it used here.
It runs at 28,800 bph (beats per hour) with 38 hours of power reserve. The beat rate helps the yellow disc rotate smoothly. I’m not so sure that movement specs are critical to the appeal of this watch, but I’m here for it.
A Perfectly Useless Afternoon uses a quartz movement, but I couldn’t find any information about the make and model.
I do think quartz is the suitable mechanism for this watch. An automatic version in the 40mm case is available. But unless the smaller case is just too small for you, I’d recommend the original.
This is one of those pieces I wouldn’t wear on the daily, but one I’d grab and go for a nice casual weekend. After all, who would want to waste a moment of their perfectly useless afternoon setting their watch?
The movement choice of each watch feels thoughtfully considered. The sweep of a mechanical seconds hand is reserved for designs that incorporate smooth rotations, like The Colour Venn.
Fantastic Exploits, another mechanically powered watch, presents you with a hypnotic and ever-turning spirograph illusion. Some pieces even use jumping-hour movements to achieve their time-telling effects.
The Milanese mesh strap with a sliding buckle is a common design among affordable bracelets. It only takes a small screwdriver or similar flat tool to flip up and resize. Personally, I think it’s best worn a little bit loose and jangly.
Both the strap and bracelet house quick-release spring bars for an easy change. I wouldn’t say either strap is outstanding.
To be honest, I don’t care for the leather strap much at all. It’s a bit too stiff and plasticky for my liking, but I will give MJW credit for including a signed buckle.
I’m sure you could come up with several fun strap combinations for these designs. A Perfectly Useless Afternoon would look great on a blue rubber strap if the mesh is not your thing.
At the time of writing, A Perfectly Useless Afternoon and other quartz watches are around $225. I would unquestionably recommend buying a Mr. Jones Watch over a fashion watch around the same price point.
The Colour Venn comes in at $550. This price is a little steep for me, but it’s a gorgeous watch for what it is. If you love the design, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Seeing so many quirky fashion watches out there these days, one may be tempted to write off the designs of MJW as “novelty” watches.
You don’t have to look far to see the care and artistry that goes into their watches. Mr. Jones Watches aren’t trying to be prestigious technical developments in watchmaking, just the opposite.
They’re a breath of fresh air from the snobbery that pervades the watch hobby.
They utilize standard movements but do so in an inventive way that no other brand seems to be doing. That’s exactly what makes them so charming to me, and it keeps them at an accessible price point to veteran watch enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!