So Hush Puppies Makes Watches? Who Knew?
Sometimes you buy a watch and then ask yourself, What in the name of the Colonel’s secret recipe was I thinking? Maybe you’d had a good experience with the brand in the past, or you just like the size of the doggone things; or maybe you think a watch that sells for that cheap is the perfect beater. It’s a pretty bad place to find yourself, especially if you’ve been teaching your spouse about watches, and she declares your latest score to be a hunk of garbage. In cases such as this, you either take it back or sell it, and quietly bear the burden of being told what a lummox you were for buying such a ghastly timepiece in the first place.
So imagine my surprise when I came across this particular watch, from the good folks at Hush Puppies, and not only does it look cool, but it’s got some amazing engineering behind it, not to mention some pretty cool “little things” that add up to making this a pretty unique, and yes, very desirable watch. That’s right, gang; a Hush Puppies watch that really is worth your time and available treasure.
You don’t believe it, right? That’s okay. I fully understand why you might be a bit skeptical; it is, after all, a watch made by a shoe company, right? Right. And, at best, it’s probably got a “Swiss parts” watch movement from ISA, right? Well, no, that’s not the case at all. Lemme guess, Seagull, right? Um, no, that’s not true, either. In fact, why don’t you just settle in, enjoy a cup or glass of your favorite adult beverage, and have a look at this review with me? I promise I’ll keep the digressions to a bare minimum and use only those adjectives that are absolutely necessary to keep this narrative moving along.
Sound like a plan? Cool. So please, um, if you will, allow me to present to you the Hush Puppies automatic/kinetic date watch with leather strap, Model #8556M.2502. Oh, and the Model #8556M.2503, too. (Yeah, I got two of ‘em; the last four digits indicate dial color, you see. 2502 indicates a black dial, and the 2503 denotes a blue one.) Now, I probably oughtta get going with the review before you roll your eyes and pass on reading it…
Depending on where you’re from, the name “Hush Puppies” is probably going to mean two very different things.
If you’re from the southern United States, you’re going to think of a golf ball-sized clump of rolled up cornmeal, usually mixed with a familial – and almost always proprietary – blend of spices, deep friend and given a lovely crunchy exterior. And are they good? Oh my, laws yes – M-O-O-N, that spells good eatin.’ With a bullet!
(An old friend of mine, a retired USN one-star admiral, originally from South Carolina, told me the origin of the term “hush puppy.” Back in the days of the Genteel South, around 1899, or so, the many local dogs – or, more appropriately, “dawgs” – did a lot of what dawgs do, which is bark. And, of course, when one dawg ‘starts in to barking,’ well, guess what all the other dawgs start to do? Yep, you’re correct; they all bark like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, they do. Well, it’s said that the southern ladies who did the cooking wanted the dawgs to “hush” because, let’s face it, even if you love dawgs with every fiber of your being, no one wants to hear a bunch of dawgs barking it up with no end in sight.
(And, of course, the ladies didn’t want to hurt the dawgs, so they’d grabbed some extra corn meal dough, rolled it up into little balls and deep fried them, almost certainly in animal fat. They’d toss one or two of these tasty treats out into the yard, yelling “Hush, puppies!” as they did. Well, given the fresh, fried-in-fat smell that must’ve clung to those little balls, every dawg within 100 yards or more would come a ’running, trying to get one or more of those tasty morsels. And they were so busy with that that they actually hushed – at least until all of the treats had been devoured.
(Over time, those little balls of fried cornmeal came to be called “hush puppies,” because, well, they worked when it came to getting the pups to hush. And It wasn’t too much longer after that that they discovered the things worked very well on peckish children, and even full-on hungry [and loudly complaining] men, if you can believe that – a remarkable victual indeed. Despite these new and exciting uses, though, they kept their traditional name, “hush puppies,” right up until the present day, when hush puppies are a regular side dish in a variety of meals, usually from ‘Down South.’)
But what about the folks from the North? And the Midwest? And the far West? Well, sadly enough, when you say “Hush Puppies,” these folks – AKA “Yankees” – think of shoes. Very nice, comfortable shoes, originally made of very soft pigskin uppers and soft, quiet gum soles. The “Hush Puppies” shoe company came into existence in 1958, making very comfortable casual shoes for men and boys. They later branched out into ladies shoes and have continued to do quite well ever since. And, because the shoes had done so well in these vast geographic areas of the USA, most non-southerners think of the shoes of the same name (or maybe that adorable basset hound – Jason – the company chose as their trademark/mascot) when they’re asked what “Hush Puppies” are.
Image courtesy of Hush Puppies Corp.
But then the good folks at “Hush Puppies” began manufacturing something in addition to shoes, right around 15 years ago, in 2001; they started making wristwatches. But why? you ask. Well, I don’t know, I answer, but that’s what they did. And most watch collectors didn’t think too much about it; after all, we’d seen other watch companies come and go, so why not a company called “Hush Puppies” that makes watches? If it’s in their business model, then why not? Right? Right.
Still, over the last fifteen years, Hush Puppies has sold enough watches to make it a profitable business activity for them. Some hard core collectors have bought them, I’m sure, but for this cub reporter, I never gave the brand a second thought – or, to be perfectly honest, I never gave it a first thought until a couple of years ago, when I first discovered that Hush Puppies did in fact make watches. Of course, I was too busy collecting just about everything else, and never gave Hush Puppy watches even cursory attention. And then one day, about a month and-a-half ago, I came across this on feeBay:
And, just as importantly, I took a moment to read the auction title:
HUSH PUPPIES AUTOMATIC/KINETIC DATE BLACK DIAL & LEATHER MEN'S WATCH – NEW!
Automatic? Kinetic? Hush Puppies? Really? It never occurred to me that the good folks at Hush Puppies might make anything beyond, say, a generic and very cheap quartz watch, all cased up in black plastic and perhaps featuring that lovely old bassett hound, Jason, somewhere on the dial. Heck, I thought the most daring thing they’d make would be the same thing in brown plastic. But an automatic/kinetic? Nope, uh-uh. But, there it was. I started looking at them, and then researching them; but why? you ask. Well, doggone it, I’m a collector, and here’s something I’d like to find out about, even if it is “just” a Hush Puppy Product.
Brand, Seller, or Collection Name: Hush Puppies
Model Number: HP-8556M-2502 (Black dial), HP-8556M-2503 (Blue dial)
Dates of Manufacture: 2011 - Present
Case Shape: Cushion
Dial Shape: Round
Dial Window Material: Mineral
Clasp: Buckle & tang
Case Material: Stainless steel
Case diameter: 42 millimeters
Case Thickness: 12 millimeters
Case Back: Exhibition (Mineral glass)
Band Material: Leather (Contrast stitching)
Band Length: 8.5 inches
Band Width: 21 millimeters
Band Thickness: 3 millimeters
Band Color: Black / Dark Brown
Dial Color: Black / Blue
Bezel Material: Stainless steel
Movement Origin: Japan
Movement Design: Seiko of Japan
Movement Builder: S. Epson Corp
Movement Type: Kinetic-generated electric, with storage capacitor
Movement Caliber: YT57B, six (6) jewels
Water Resistance: 30 Meters
Original MSRP: $260 USD
Misc. Notes: Oil press style, highly decorated dial, inside-the-crystal cyclops, signed buckle, dual strap keepers
Anyone can make an attractive watch, but it takes a special kind of skill set to make a beautiful watch. And this truly is a beautiful watch, starting with its balanced appearance and seemingly effortless placement of individual features. Its cushion-shaped case, topped off by a round bezel, crystal and dial, gives you a sense of fullness without seeming overlarge. The dial mineral crystal is slightly domed, giving you still more fullness while at the same time making more than enough room for the inverted cyclops magnifier. The dials feature a guilloche-style pattern that provides a beautiful background texturing that really stands out in the case of the blue dial, while it provides a more subtle shading for the black model, one that still manages to give it an almost sunburst appearance as your wrist goes about its normal range of motion.
The texture of the case is brushed throughout, and this very subtle texture extends out to the lugs and crown, all of which are perfectly sized so as not to overwhelm the case and its leather strap. The black-dialed version features a black strap with white contrast stitching, while the blue dial is contrasted by a dark brown band, which also has white stitching. The buckle and tang fastener is the same brushed-steel shade as the case, and is signed, adding an extra touch of attention to detail that so many other inexpensive watches leave unaddressed. The crown is nice and wide, with large lands and grooves along its sides for easy gripping, but its only about 2MM thick, which means you can bend your wrist back as far as you like without feeling like the crown is jabbing you in the back of your hand and limiting your digital mobility. (That means “finger and hand movement,” for those of you in Rio Lindo and Perth-Fremantle.)
The dial offerings are highly detailed and very attractive. Their white color stands out beautifully from the small-scale chapter ring to the large (but not overly so), diamond style hands, and everything in between. The hands, along with the tip of the sweep-second hand, also serve as the only areas with luminescent coating for nighttime use, but they allow for easy time-telling in that darkened movie theater or unlighted car up at Inspiration Point after the film. The art deco numerals at 12, 9 and 6 are beautifully executed, as are the white ‘pips’ everywhere else, save for 3 o’clock, where the aforementioned cyclops and date wheel do their thing. The Hush Puppies signature just below the 12 is easy to read but does not come across as overwhelming, thus preserving the nice visual balance of the dial; ditto the thinner lettering above the six o’clock position that reads Automatic Generation System, the name chosen by Hush Puppies for their unique automatic/kinetic movement. In fact, the H.P. watch makers are proud enough of this system that AGS appears just below the 6, placed neatly inside the southernmost of the chapter ring’s minute markers.
But what about the comfort? you ask, and rightly so – after all, I’ve been rambling on for three paragraphs about how beautiful this watch is, right? Well, yeah, I have been. So let me tell you that this is indeed one very comfortable watch. The thick-but-soft leather strap just plain feels good on the wrist; it didn’t have to needlessly suffer through a “break-in” period. And despite the fact that the case is manufactured from steel, it feels incredibly light on the wrist. It’s just a perfect match for comfort and looks.
I have, over the years, been subjected to a little bit of kidding for my views on watch making as just another form of Electrical and/or Mechanical Engineering. As we have gotten better and better at designing and building these new machines, accuracy has gone steadily upward, though not to the level we have consistently experienced with quartz construction. There is that ever-present gap between the “pureness” of quartz engineering and our inability to bridge that gap with anything mechanical. So, in the end, why do we continue to try and build that “perfect mechanical watch” when we know that we can never reach the level of perfection that even the cheapest of quartz pieces reach on a day-to-day basis?
And then we come to an area of horological engineering that has repeatedly left me scratching my head over the years, the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), or the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, which is the institute responsible for certifying the accuracy and precision of wristwatches in Switzerland. Back before the days of quartz, when every watch was hand-built, such a certification really meant something. But now, when even quartz watches are being subjected to COSC Certification, does it really mean anything?
[End of Engineering Editorial Section]
Take a look at this diagram of the Hush Puppies automatic/kinetic watch system as presented in this review.
Diagram courtesy of seikowatches.com
This is ultimately the same very simple system that (I) takes kinetic energy from the movement of our arm and, by way of a generating block or coil, (II) converts kinetic energy into electrical energy, which it then (III) stores in a capacitor, and then, when needed, (IV) draws that electrical energy from the capacitor, sends it into a drive coil, which then operates the very accurate machinery that expresses the time for us by way of an electrically-driven repeater.
A battery-driven quartz unit is based on much the same concept, except that it uses energy from a battery to cause a quartz crystal to vibrate at a specific frequency, which then causes a drive coil to input that specific electrical frequency into the drive motor that then operates the hands to reflect the local time. (Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, right? Well? Aw, c’mon, man!)
Ultimately, it is this second type of engineering that provides the more accurate of the two types, because it does not rely on a less-accurate form of engineering – i.e., mechanical – which uses mechanical inputs in lieu of electrical.
In the end, it’s going to be tomorrow’s engineers who ultimately decide which is the better – or, put another way – more accurate means of driving the machinery which provides us with our personal means of telling the time. Still, when you’re talking about accuracy that is within 1/10,000 of a second versus 1/100 of a second, the answer seems rather obvious to us non-Physics majors: why, your cell-phone, of course.
All kidding aside, though, there were a few things I found to be the most interesting about this Hush Pup’s movement. The first is its country of origin; it’s right there, on the rotor, just below the "gull-wing" cut: Japan. Secondly, take a good look at the way the rotor is cut, especially that "gull wing." It should look familiar to you if you have any watches with the Seiko NH-35 movement (or one of its close cousins) onboard. Thirdly, it’s a hacking movement, a nice little feature that I associate with higher-end engineering. Bottom line, this is a Seiko product that goes back a few years, and its early origins were originally kept exclusively within the Seiko family, but it’s now available to a number of select watch companies who recognize that it’s a very capable and well-built piece of horological equipment. And, as someone who keeps (and continuously wears) all the watches I review, I guess I’ll see how it performs over the long haul.
A couple of years back, I caught a bit of flak for expressing the opinion that the then-new Apple watches were already on their way out because people have a need to look down at their wrist and (1) see something beautiful there that (2) provides them with a very accurate measurement of the time, irrespective of the area or zone they happen to be occupying. It also helps if that particular timepiece is isn’t so expensive that you’re having to think about a second or third student loan or mortgage. And that’s really where all the pieces come together with this lovely Hush Puppies watch. While its original MSRP was indeed $260 USD, it has experienced a steady decline in pricing, from $260 to $75 just 18 months ago, to the genuinely unreal price of $34.95 (each) I paid for it just one month ago. (Yep, I bought two of them at $34.95 each, one black and one blue. And, yes, I was tempted to get the third one, with tan dial and dark brown strap, but I managed to be “a good guy” and kept the temptation from running away with me.
But think about it, for just a second. You have a very attractive watch that has a truly classic look to it, is very inexpensive, and has a final cost that is low enough to allow you to buy more than one of them without all that classic horological guilt. It really does fulfill all those needs associated with looking down at your wrist, seeing a genuinely attractive, high quality watch, and knowing you didn’t spend all of this month’s frills budget on it. In the end, I like it…a lot.
As always, many thanks for stopping by to have a look, and sticking around to finish the read.
©2016 Mortuus Aviation, LLC.
Rancho Santa Fe, CA.