In the world of automatic watches, there are a number of established players. Brands like Omega, Rolex, and Patek Philippe are familiar to any watch enthusiast. But one of the fun things about mechanical watches is that there are so many microbrands and small startups. For every marquee release, there’s a smaller company putting out a new watch of their own.
One of these small companies is Heron, which first launched in Montreal in the fall of 2020. Their goal was straightforward: use high-quality Swiss parts to craft modern watches with a New World aesthetic. The brand name “Heron” is inspired by one of Canada’s most beautiful birds. It’s also pronounced similarly in English and French, which is important for a brand based in a bilingual city. Their first watch, the Sturgeon, was an homage to the famous attack submarine. It was funded via Kickstarter, and the Sturgeon first started shipping in January of 2021.
This year, Heron is putting out another Kickstarter-funded watch, called the Gladiateur. Scheduled to launch on February 28th, the Gladiateur has a Roman theme. If that’s not obvious enough from the name, they’ve named their Kickstarter tiers “Eagle,” “Legionary,” “Centurion,” and “Emperor.” I was lucky enough to get an early look at the Gladiateur, and I have to say, I’m excited for the launch. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s what I found.
Four Dial Options
The Gladiateur comes in four different dial options: black, blue, white, and black with rose gold. All of these have a matte backing, which makes the hands and markings very easy to read. Despite the Roman theme, the word “Spartan” is a good description. There’s no date window, nor are there any other complications. There’s just a small Heron logo on the top half, with the word “Heron,” stamped in white. The word “Automatic” is printed in smaller letters on the bottom half of the dial.
The outer index consists of 60 small hashes at the individual minute marks. The hashes at the five minute marks are a bit fatter, but the difference is very minor. Thankfully, there are applied markings at the five minute positions, located just inside of the outer index. These applied markers are rectangular in shape, with a triangular marker at the 12 o’clock position. They have fine silver borders, except for the rose gold version, which has rose gold borders.
The hour and minute hands are straight and plain, with broadsword-style tips. They have lume striping down the center, with a border that matches the markings on the dial. The second hand is extremely fine, but there’s a lume dot about two thirds of the way along its length, it’s a lollypop style seconds hand just like the Rolex Submariner.
A Durable Case and Crystal
The Heron Gladiateur has a case diameter of 41mm, which makes it a good fit for most wrist sizes. The total lug to lug length is 48mm, nearly two inches, while the gap between the lugs is a standard 20mm. The case is constructed from 316L stainless steel, one of the most durable and corrosion-resistant steels that money can buy. Its silver in color on the blue and white dial versions of the watch, black for the plain black version, and rose gold for the rose gold version. The only difference is cosmetic – all are produced from the same quality steel.
The back of the case has a heron marking embossed on it, with a ring placed around the heron to form an attractive stamp. The crown has a screw-down design, which prevents it from accidentally getting pulled open, and helps support a water-resistance rating of 100 meters. That’s enough to safely swim with the watch on, or even to take it snorkeling. The sapphire crystal is nice and flat, and doesn’t distort the dial from any angle. It’s also scratch-resistant, with an anti-reflective coating to prevent glare.
Around the crystal, you’ll find a large raised bezel, with the hours embossed in Roman numerals around the top. This is a high-quality unidirectional bezel, with 120 clicks. Because of the way it’s printed, it’s not going to get you down-to-the-minute accuracy. But you still get a quick-and-dirty dive timer function that can get the job done.
Movement and Strap
As with most small watchmakers, Heron uses third-party movements. But just because they’re third-party doesn’t mean they’re low quality. This watch is powered by the Miyota 9039, one of the most widely-used automatic movements on today’s market. It has a smooth, sweeping second hand motion, and a reliable 42-hour power reserve. Accuracy is acceptable, but not chronometer-grade, at between -10 and +30 seconds per day.
The Gladiateur comes with a flexible silicone strap that’s comfortable to wear and easy to close. It comes in blue for the blue and white dial versions, and black for the black dial variants.
To sign up for more information on the new Gladiateur visit the official Heron website here.
Nice write up Matt. Liked that playful line about it being Spartan a clever word usage for an “adjacent” culture coming from the Greeks of course.
Anyway, it looks good, actually reminds me slightly of my Glycine DC-4 with those long beefy down sloped lugs and even the bezel that moderately thin bezel and bezel knurling is similar.
Matthew Catellier says
Thanks Caleb! It’s a pretty nice watch at the price point for sure.