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CuleM watch review: Frame GMT

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Fresh faced British watch brand CuleM is aiming to become a new standard bearer for sustainability in the luxury watch industry. It is not a particularly crowded field. Oris has done a fantastic job for many years drawing attention and raising money for clean water and ocean protection projects. Breitling has joined the party more recently with initiatives like recycled and recyclable packaging and watch straps. Chopard is a leader in responsible sourcing or materials and Mondaine has invested heavily in making the whole company carbon neutral.

Thankfully watches are a fundamentally sustainable product, so it is not high on the list of industries that are destroying the planet.

CuleM founder Matthew Cule decided to bang the sustainability drum from the outset when the company launched in 2018. As time has passed, that commitment has only strengthened and is delivering impressive results.

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For example, last year the company promised to plant 100 trees and protect over six acres of threatened rainforest every time a customer bought a CuleM watch. Through partnerships with Rainforest Trust and Ecologi, the business has already protected over 200 acres of tropical rainforest and planted 12,769 trees in Madagascar.

Other initiatives that CuleM is supporting include ActionAid, which aims to “change the world with women and girls” and Plastic Oceans UK, whose goal is to stop plastic reaching the oceans within a generation.

CuleM’s watches are also designed with plastic-free packaging and the company is working to offset its CO2 footprint by investing in international sustainability projects such as wind energy in India and preserving prime Brazilian rainforest.

All that good work gets triggered every time a customer buys a Swiss-made CuleM watch for $1,080 with at least 3% of the price going to conservation and humanitarian causes, and the offer appears to be finding an audience, particularly in the United States, which is currently the biggest market for the brand.

CuleM’s current collection of watches have a global citizen message about them. They are all world timers with a GMT hand circling the dial every 24 hours and a case back showing time zones all over the world; the idea being you work out the time at the destination you are traveling to using the back of the watch then set the second time zone hand on the front.

The face of the Frame GMT watch reinforces the message with a stylized map of the planet etched into each dial.

I’ve been wearing the white faced version, which has the world picked out in geometric silver shapes with a sunray pattern radiating from the centre of the dial.

Hour markers are made from single slithers of polished steel and the 24 hour track of the GMT hand is a pale grey band with tiny white numerals. The numbers are hard to read with my 51-year-old eyes on the white and grey dial, but other models in darker colors solve this issue.

Hours and minutes hands are sword shaped, without any luminous treatment, the seconds hand is more of a slim lance and the GMT hand has a red arrow tip, the only splash of colour on the whole watch.

The date is shown in a mid-sized aperture at 6 o’clock.

The polished steel case, with 50 metre water resistance, sits comfortably and slides easily under a cuff. The Milanese mesh bracelet is supple elegant and the watches come with the option of a leather strap, interchangeable with an exposed bar spring.

I’ve had the watch for a month now and my wife pinched it off me for much of that time. At 40mm across, the watch definitely fits into the current fashion for gender-neutral timepieces, and she liked the easy combination of white and polished steel. It goes with everything.

The flip side of the watch is an education in geography, with 24 world cities divided into six continents and etched into a steel case back with an exhibition window at the centre displaying an ETA 2893-2 automatic movement with 42 hour power reserve.

A month after setting the time, with the watch worn by myself, my wife and spending a short while in a watch winder, it is still spot on, not a surprise given the workhorse reliability of the ETA movement.

CuleM is a brand with a purpose beyond making and selling reliable timekeepers. It is sending a message of hope and care for the planet with every watch it sells. The fact that it makes stylish, accurate and slightly quirky watches to share this message is an added bonus.

The watches are currently only on sale from CuleM’s website.

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