The Nodus x Raven Trailtrekker

What do you know? It’s me, James “GMT” Stacey, back with another solid entry into the value category for travel watches formed in a collaboration between two boutique sports watch brands – Nodus Watches of California and Raven Watches of Kansas. The resulting watch combines elements of each brand’s core lineup, taking specific inspiration from the Nodus Contrail and the Raven Trekker. The two formats come together in a hyper-matte travel watch that forms a nod to the American explorers who pushed west while heading towards California. It’s called the Nodus Trailtrekker. Starting with the broad strokes, the Trailtrekker is a 39.5mm steel watch that is 11.8mm thick and 46.6mm lug to lug. With 200 meters of water resistance, drilled lugs, a sapphire crystal, and a solid steel case back, it’s a straightforward offering that clearly takes some inspiration from the Rolex perspective on an adventurous watch that can manage two time zones.
Where we see a departure from the established proportions –and that bezel design – is in the Trailtrekker’s application of a full treatment of a matte grey-tone DLC finish. The treatment protects and colors both the case and the included steel bracelet, while the fixed 24-hour bezel goes a step further with a Cerakote ceramic coating. The coloring is a deep and very flat grey with just a bit of a sandy brown coloring that Nodus calls “clay”, and the treatment gives the watch a unique experience on wrist, one that looks like an exaggerated form of titanium (the watch has essentially no luster at all) and forms a stage for the highly legible dial design.

I have had a good deal of experience with Raven watches in the past, including lots of hands-on time with the brand’s Trekker series of dive-adjacent sports watches. I remain a fan of the brand and think they continue to offer the sort of product that helped to establish the idea of a “microbrand” over the past decade. I even highlighted the brand a few years ago in a consideration of the changing world of the microbrand (perhaps “boutique” brand is indeed a better description).
For Nodus, I have tracked the brand over the past few years. And though I’ve seen quite a few at meets up and Wind Ups in the past, I have had very little regimented experience with the brand’s products. That said, Nodus has earned a following by making fun watches at fair prices, along with collaborations with other enthusiast elements like The Smoking Tire, Random Rob, and Watch Clicker

Much like Raven, if you enjoy boutique watch product, Nodus sits solidly in the $500-$1000 category and offers a wide variety of designs and colorways. I’d say it’s worth having both on your radar, especially as both brands are open to interesting collaborations and continue to focus on value-driven products.
Back to the Trailtrekker, inside this watch, we find the increasingly popular Miyota 9075. It’s a 4 Hz automatic movement that offers local-jumping dual time functionality in which the user is able to jump-set the local (main) hour hand to update the watch to a new time zone without interfering with the accuracy/timekeeping of the watch. This is a movement made by Miyota, which is part of the Citizen group of brands, and we’ve seen it (or versions of it) used on several recent entries into the value-driven GMT market, including the Citizen Series 8 GMT ($1,695), the Bulova Oceanographer GMT (from $1,295), the value-packed Lorier Hydra SIII ($599), and options from additional brands like Vaer, Lip, Boldr, and Traska (to name only a selection).

Nodus goes a step further with the 9075 by regulating the movement in-house to a stated +/- 8 seconds per day. As I have a timing machine at home, I figured I would test that number on the loaner that I received. I measured the watch, fully wound, in six static positions, and this one averaged out at +7 seconds/day. Not bad at all.
With a fixed bezel layout, the Trailtrekker’s obvious inspiration from the Rolex Explorer II (specifically the 16570, to my eyes) is mirrored in its 9075-derived functionality. So you get a layout that is great for tracking two time zones, with a specific function for changing from one time zone to another. If you want more of a breakdown concerning how a rotating bezel augments how one can use a GMT, please see this guide to using a GMT bezel. Seeing as the Trailtrekker’s bezel doesn’t rotate, the functionality could not be more straightforward, and its travel focus is complemented by a date a six (which adjusts in both directions tied to the local hour hand, thanks again to the 9075).

The case design is smooth, with softly faceted lugs, protruding crown guards, and a black knurled crown. The short, drilled lugs meet the bracelet via solid-fitted endlinks that have tool-less quick-release spring bars. The bracelet’s links are thin, with plenty of articulation for comfort and the added plus of single-sided screws (which make the bracelet very easy to size). Tapering from 20mm at the lugs to 16mm at the clasp, the solid steel clasp also includes a push-button closure and a fully integrated tool-free micro-adjust system called NodeX
The system, which is proprietary to Nodus but is available for licensing by other brands, is entirely built into the clasp and offers a simple button that releases a sliding extension that offers 10mm of adjustability. It’s no harder to use than Tudor’s T-Fit system, and I know I’m not alone in my continued appreciation of brands that add this functionality to their bracelets.

As a guy who has largely avoided bracelets for years, the ability to finely adjust the fit makes the whole concept much more comfortable on my wrist. As a quick aside, while boutique brands largely made their market by offering genuine enthusiast products at a price and speed that was commonly not possible for larger brands, the whole scope of these brands has continued pushing evolution within the category. One of the core value statements comes from the consideration of many small elements, which are often ignored by larger brands. This could be as simple as drilled lugs or single-sided screws for the bracelet but has grown to include quick-release bracelets, tool-less micro adjust, and special coatings like Cerakote.
While these design elements are not unheard of by many brands, the Trailtrekker checks the boxes while also still costing less than you’d pay for a bracelet for many luxury steel sports watches. Sure, these elements may not matter or even register on the radar for the average watch buyer. But for the qualified enthusiast – i.e., you, me, and our (mostly online) friends – these small elements can have a big effect as we weigh one watch against another. The details matter, and I love that the microbrand/boutique space continues to offer value without nickel-and-diming us out of the features that make the watches easier to live with. Aside over

On-wrist, the Nodus Trailtrekker lives up to its proportions with a relatively lightweight experience that offers a specific, pseudo-tactical experience that contrasts the matte finish with a legible dial set with Nodus text, the Raven logo, and a see-it-from-space oversized orange-yellow GMT hand that reaches all the way to the edge of the dial with a distinctive shape hallmarked by its chopped tip. With large applied markers and matching brushed-finish hands, the lume on the Trailtrekker uses Super-LumiNova BGW9 that glows a strong blueish hue in low light. The framed date at six takes the place of the marker and uses a black-on-white date wheel for an easy-reading effect.

Sized for my 7-inch wrist, the Trailtrekker weighs 140 grams and is quite comfortable, especially thanks to the NodeX micro-adjust system. The flat links and short lugs ensure that the watch maintains an even balance. The contrast between the 12-hour and 24-hour handset aids in further simplicity when it comes to reading either of the displayed time zones. Included with the watch is a second strap option, an olive green NATO-style strap made from a ballistic fabric. I’ve been up and down most of the NATO-like options on the market and haven’t come across something all that similar. It’s soft and pliable while feeling nicely made, casual, and quite comfortable. A nice addition to a complete bit of kit from Nodus and Raven.

Ultimately, and not unlike my experience with the Lorier mentioned above, I have very few complaints when it comes to the Trailtrekker. Yes, I would have personally opted for a less Rolex-inspired bezel design, but I also think the watch eschews that connection with its dial design and the fully grey coloring, which also helps to build a bit of distance from another similar watch – the Tudor Black Bay Pro (which is also a watch inspired by the Explorer II). That said, with a list price of $875, it is really the end of the world if the Trailtrekker bears some bezel-related resemblance to a Rolex? Or a Tudor meant to invoke the same (or at least similar) Rolex? As always, it’s up to you to vote with your wallet, but despite being an owner of a 16570 Explorer II, the similar bezel didn’t manage to bother me all that much, especially in person

Also, let’s not forget that the Nodus offers double the water resistance of the Rolex and matches that of the Tudor while being nearly 3mm thinner – for $875. And that’s not a short-term preorder price, as the Trailtrekker is not a limited edition. It launched today and goes on sale via Nodus on March 15th at 9 AM PST. As is common for boutique watches these days, production is planned in batches, and that’s largely an acceptable way of doing such things as long as the communication is clear with prospective buyers. As a modern interpretation of the boutique watch scene spurred onward by the availability of a novel movement, the Trailtrekker is an effective platform for the talents and perspectives of the teams at Nodus and Raven

As literal enthusiast product – the watch equivalent of preaching to a very specific choir – the Trailtrekker appeals to the type that likes sports watches with good specs, meaningful details, travel-ready functionality, and a price point that hinges on solid value for the asking price. Is it for everyone? No, but that’s the fun of the enthusiast’s choice. In this case, I’m certainly among the choir, and I’m sure many of you are as well.