There was a time a couple years back when the integrated steel sport watch craze had hit peak levels. Seemingly everywhere you looked, each brand had their very own version of an integrated system. For Arken to make their debut in a completely saturated environment with an integrated sports watch of their own was pretty gutsy, but the Instrumentum wasn’t your typical integrated arrangement. On paper, the diver had one welcome surprise after another: a Grade 2 titanium build overlaid with hardness coating, a depth rating of 300 meters, and a startling $500 pre-order price tag. After you account for its strikingly fierce aesthetic on wrist, Arken’s inaugural timepiece offered up an incredible value proposition that was impossible to ignore.
Fast forward to the present day, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of 2023 and yet another industry trend, otherwise known (and self-proclaimed) as the Year of the GMT. Although the industry got off to a scorching hot start with an array of GMT watches released in all sorts of styles, prices, and various movements at the beginning of the year, it has quieted down a bit, even with Watches & Wonders in our rearview mirror. That is until now, because Arken has returned for their second act with a titanium dual-time travel watch they’re throwing into the GMT ring called the Alterum.
At first glance, the Alterum is more refined in nature, but its core design language remains. With the aggressively-styled bezel no longer a part of the picture, the Alterum sports a brushed fixed bezel that accentuates more of the case features we couldn’t see in the Instrumentum, such as the case sides that flare outwards, the crown guards, and the expansive lug face. If the Alterum appears smaller in scale compared to the Instrumentum, that’s because the width measured across the fixed bezel measures 38mm, giving the appearance of a more compact case. Otherwise, the proportions remain largely the same with the titanium case measuring 40mm in width, 46mm lug to lug and 13mm in case thickness, all of which is treated with an anti-scratch coating.
Additional design cues that transfer over to the Alterum include Arken’s unique handset and distinct hour marker layout intertwined by its own solid track line. The hands however are less in-your-face as they’ve shrunk in size and are outlined in gunmetal making them more discreet and cohesive with the dial. Accompanying the handset is a colored lollipop GMT hand and a pair of AM/PM indicators that correspond to each hour hand. The date function gets its own sub-dial display at six o’clock and is managed by the screwdown pusher located directly at four. The main highlight of the Alterum’s dial is its frosted texture, one of which comes in an anthracite gray with an orange “local” hand and another with a black dial and a blue “local” hand, that accurately captures its polished ethos.
The Alterum’s movement is a product of brand founder Kenneth Lam’s foresight to modify a Miyota movement to accommodate a function to track a second time zone before the Miyota 9075 movement (Miyota’s “flyer” or “true GMT” movement) was even a thing. The ARK-9015DT powering the Alterum is a modified Miyota 9015 movement that offers an additional 12-hour hand and two AM/PM indicators that work in tandem with each hour hand.
The ARK-9015DT, a modified version of a Miyota 9015, is a peculiar movement, and not one that you’re probably used to seeing or using with other travel watches. Rotating the hands clockwise moves the entire handset, including the GMT hand, as well as both AM/PM indicator discs. However, moving the handset in the opposite direction will lock the GMT hand and its corresponding AM/PM indicator (left of the dial) allowing you to set the time difference between your local and home times. With the time difference adjusted, you can now adjust the hands moving forward to the correct local time. Does that make sense? It does take a few moments to understand, especially if you’re used to independently adjusting a 24-hour GMT hand or jumping the main hour hand. So I guess the question remains, is this a “caller” or a “flyer”? Honestly, it’s a combination of both. Although the Alterum tracks two time zones with a pair of 12-hour hands, I’d confidently just call it a “dual-time”.
On that note, we can’t overlook the fact that there are a couple of similar design cues as the VC Overseas Dual Time like the four o’clock date pusher, odd-numeral sub-dial date display, and the textured dial that harkens back to the Cory Richards VC Overseas limited edition. That said, Arken does more than enough to keep things fresh and unique to their brand. In addition to that, Arken has dedicated a ton of time and effort for R&D to fine-tune the smallest details like their interchangeable quick release strap system and molding for their distinct titanium bracelet which all totals up to an retail offering that is far more approachable than a VC Overseas. They’ve ironed out some wrinkles, refined a few details, and as a result, the Alterum is a clean and attractive follow up to the Instrumentum.
The Alterum utilizes the same lug design so that if you’re an owner of an Instrumentum, you can plug in that same titanium bracelet or utilize their proprietary strap adapter. Being an Instrumentum owner and a part of the Arken Armoury also has additional perks, as those members will get the option to choose between two more color variations. If you’re new to the Arken ecosystem, then your Alterum will come with a padded textured nylon strap with stitching accents and a quick release system. Both the anthracite gray and black dial variations come with a pre-order price tag of $700 and will increase to $745, 24 hours from the initial announcement. Arken