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Michel Herbelin watch review: Cap Camarat Automatic

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I see so many steel sports watches these days that I cannot recall whether I always loved them or the constant stream of images on my Instagram is luring me into a new level of lust.

The genre is now so popular that every watchmaker is rushing into the space and this is creating tiers within tiers encompassing quartz and mechanical pieces; complex chronographs and cleaner three-handers; divers and racier styles.

Prices are just as varied, and competition is increasing at every level.

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A budget of around $1,000 will secure a mechanical steel on steel sport watch from a well known brand these days.

Stretch a little to $1,300 and you can bag a Longines Hydroquest dive watch with ceramic bezel, beautifully engraved case back and a Swiss automatic movement.

That is tough competition for any watch brand with a similar offer.

French watch studio Michel Herbelin is in the mix for a customer with a grand to spend, but is delivering a similar package to Longines at almost half the price with its Cap Camarat Automatic which I have been wearing for the past week.

It is a lot of watch for its ticket price of $932.

You get a highly reliable Swiss made Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement under the hood, which can be admired through a sapphire crystal case back. The Michel Herbelin logo is etched in gold into the rotor.

The steel case is almost hexagonal, but the left and right are more curved, particularly on on the crown guard side, while the top and bottom of the watch have crisp corners and facets.

The steel bezel, with six flush-inset screws, has a lightly brushed effect, as does the case. The brush effect is vertical on the case and circular around the bezel, which makes for a subtle contrast.

Its integrated steel bracelet looks like four rows, but is actually three, with the centre row scored down the middle. It is chunky and sturdy, which gives the watch the weight that some customers look for as a measure of luxury.

It wears a little larger than its advertised case size of 40.5mm suggests, perhaps because of the hefty bracelet, but the dial is compact and clean.

The Cap Camarat dial is where the designers in Michel Herbelin’s tiny home town of Charquemont in Northeast France have excelled.

It is has horizontal grooves like the wooden deck of a yacht, and is framed by the bezel, which has the look of a ship’s porthole.

A minute track is almost concealed under the bezel, but its blue color with white markers is important to the look of the watch because there is a tricolore red, white and blue theme going on as a nod to the French flag under which Michel Herbelin lives.

Red is chosen for the seconds hands and the dial, while silver, looks white when caught by the light.

These are the sort of details that give the sporty chic watch its Gallic flair, and make it look like a watch with a much higher price tag.

If you love the look, but cannot quite stretch to $932, there is a quartz model in exactly the same style for $637.

There is also a quartz chronograph Cap Camarat for $885.

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