Hands-On: Stella Watch Company Ellis GMT Ice Blue Watch

Stella’s shining star is an affordable GMT watch with ice-cool style.

For me, the world of watches has always been about the thrill of the hunt, the joy of unearthing hidden gems nestled amongst the behemoths of Swiss prestige. Lately, that hunt has led me down a particularly exciting path: the rise of microbrands. To me, they are more than just industry disruptors, these tenacious upstarts are quiet revolutionaries who, with each novel and unusual watch they create, are quietly rewriting the rules of the business.

Just as corporate suits and stuffy boardrooms are not exactly my style; this quiet revolution against stifling norms is exactly what makes microbrands so appealing to me. Their motives are driven by bold ideas and unadulterated passion first and foremost. This may not always be the case, but at the very least, they are free from the constraints of convention, as they can experiment with a carefree abandon, creating watches that are as distinctive as the watchmakers themselves. Furthermore, enthusiastic founders who are actively involved in the creation of their watches tend to be the driving forces behind microbrands, which frequently have a strong sense of community.

Now, there’s an upstart brand known as the Stella Watch Company. I recently had the opportunity to review the Ellis GMT from them, a GMT watch that comes in two variants: ice blue and black dial. In this review, I focus on the ice blue variant because that’s the one I got and frankly, that’s the one I like. I’ve spent the past few weeks with the Ellis GMT on my wrist, exploring its nuances on both the leather strap and steel bracelet, and I think it looks best on the leather strap. The leather adds a bit of warmth to the ice blue dial, and it makes the watch feel more dressy.

First things first, the dial. The dial is textured with a wave pattern that catches the light beautifully, and while it may not be so pronounced in the pictures, the dial’s dynamism demands to be witnessed up close. Along with the kinetic texture, the applied Arabic numerals and indices are crisp and legible. The hands are also well-done, with a polished silver finish and a blue arrow tip on the second hand, resulting in a visually engaging design. Although the kinetic texture of the Ice Blue dial is a standout feature, I couldn’t help but think that larger numerals and markers or an expanded GMT ring would enhance readability. The GMT hand, too, could benefit from a more prominent presence on the dial. In spite of some design elements not aligning perfectly with my taste, the dial’s allure compensates, making the Ellis GMT walk a tightrope between allure and functional clarity, striking a nice balance in the process.

Case of a watch is the first thing your palm meets, in this case the cool steel anchors the symphony of light swirling on the dial. The Ellis GMT is a 41.5mm watch, but it wears a bit larger than that due to the lug-to-lug width of 49.5mm. It’s not a huge watch, but it’s definitely present on the wrist. However, it’s comfortable to wear thanks to the curved lugs and the quick-release spring bars that make it easy to change the strap. It feels just right, not too bulky, not too delicate. It sits on my wrist like a loyal companion, a comfortable weight with a confident stance. From their anchor points at the case, the prominent lugs jut out with purpose, protecting the sapphire dome above like watchful guardians. The edges are sharp enough to catch the light but too subtle to snag on sleeves. The caseback is a whisper of New York grit echoing in its urban minimalism. With the Statue of Liberty etched discreetly on the caseback, you’ll always carry a piece of New York’s spirit, even if it’s mostly out of sight.

There’s a touch of whimsy hidden in the crown, the white enamel star glinting like a secret wink. It screws down with a satisfying click, reassuringly solid against my fingertips. The crown isn’t overly ornate, just right enough not to distract from the splendor of the dial. The star subtly echoes the city’s icon etched on the caseback, a reminder of the dreams born under countless starry skies; the American Dream. Whatsmore, the strategic use of black elements on the case and the crown adds more character to the case, that wouldn’t be possible had they gone full steel. The black aluminum accent ring on the crown stands out, breaking the monotony of an all-steel look and contributes to the watch’s overall visual appeal.

The choice of movement for Ellis GMT is a Sellita SW-330, a workhorse of a movement that keeps time like a Swiss banker (minus the fancy suit and offshore accounts). Reliable, precise, it hums along like a well-oiled Harley. SW-330 boasts 25 jewels, a dedicated 24-hour GMT hand and a 42-hour power reserve promises consistent timekeeping for over a day even when removed from your wrist. The movement certainly aligns well with its intended role and purpose.

Wearing the Ellis GMT is a comfortable experience, thanks to its well-thought-out design. The watch looks particularly fetching on the leather strap, which imparts a warmth that complements the cool demeanor of the Ice Blue dial. While the absence of endlinks on the 316L Stainless Steel bracelet might be considered a drawback for some, which if present, would elevate the overall aesthetics, but would also push the aesthetics towards more contemporary trends, something that I feel the Ellis GMT isn’t going for. In spite of that, the inclusion of quick-release spring bars made swapping between the leather strap and the steel bracelet a breeze.

In conclusion, some design elements, especially concerning the bracelet and dial readability, leave room for refinement. Despite these nitpicks, there are a lot of things to like about the Ellis GMT, the ice blue dial is absolutely gorgeous, it has a very Grand Seiko-like vibe that rescues the watch from the clutches of a few less-than-perfect design elements. The Sellita SW-330 movement is a solid choice, and it has been keeping good time so far. Thanks to its comfortable design, quick-release spring bars and interchangeable straps, the Ellis GMT effortlessly transitions from dressy to casual, perfect as a true partner in everyday adventures. At $1,285, the Ellis GMT offers an interesting value proposition for those seeking an affordable GMT option, the build quality is consistent with what you’d expect at this price point.

My overall impression of the Ellis GMT is that it’s ultimately a compelling companion, one that wears its quirks with confidence and its beauty with grace. While it may not be perfect, it still reminds us that the most interesting journeys often involve a few unexpected detours, and the Ellis GMT takes you on one heck of a ride.

A point to note is that we will be doing an interview with Stella Watch Company co-founder Marcella Dolan soon, where we will get answers to some of the questions you may have after reading this review. So stay tuned!