There are new microbrands every month (though that’s probably slowed a little right now) with ever more impressive specs and idiosyncratic designs across every type of watch you care to name. So without further ado, we present the Oracle time Microbrand Guide 2020, starting with dive watches.
You don’t need to risk diving into the blackest depths of the abyssal ocean to wear a diving watch, but at least with these you know you could. If you wanted to.
The late sixties and early seventies were the heyday of diving timepieces and Aevig’s Huldra recaptures those glory years perfectly. Unashamedly retro with its lozenge-shaped case, notched bezel and fantastic range of vintage-inspired colours, it’s one of the closest things you can get to a true sixties classic without raiding your local vintage store. It’s available with or without date in five dial variations, comes equipped with a Miyota 9015 automatic movement and boasts 200m water resistance, making it more than just good-looking.
€650 EUR, available at AEVIG.
Plenty of watches on this list got their first funding from Kickstarter, but none as quickly as Australian watch brand Second Hour and its Gin Clear Diver, which took 33 minutes to hit its target. It only took 24 hours to hit its stretch goals too. It’s clear as gin why, too: a solid, professional level diver with a number of cool, colourful dials and a price tag that seems almost impossible, especially while using ceramic, enamel and other high-grade watchmaking materials. Just to put some icing on this already delicious horological cake, it comes complete with a handsome leather travel case, too.
$570, available at Second Hour.
William Wood Valiant
As a brand, William Wood is inspired by the unsung heroes of the fire department, and the Valiant is its latest homage to the emergency service. It’s an influence that can be seen most clearly on the straps made from upcycled fire hose, but also in the finer details: the fire-engine cheques of the inner bezel, the fire bell chime of a second hand and the markings of rank that indicate 12 o’clock. Of the five pieces in the collection, our pick is the black dial, red bezel and, as you get to choose between Japanese or Swiss, the classic ETA 2824 automatic movement.
From £499, available at William Wood Watches.
Plenty of watches take inspiration from horological heritage, but Greek brand Ianos has them all beat – chronologically at least. The Avyssos diving watch is based on the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical timekeeper, the shape of which can be seen in the unique second counter at 6 o’clock on the Avyssos. The shape is taken from the stones used by Greek sponge freedivers and the specs match up nicely: the 44mm steel watch has 300m water resistance, plenty of lume around the sandwich dial and is powered by the ever-reliable Sellita SW216-1 manual-wind movement. Finally, a diving watch that doesn’t blend in with the rest!
CHF 1,250, available at Ianos Watches.
Scurfa Bell Diver
This is the quintessential ‘designed by divers, for divers’ watch. Scurfa founder Paul Scurfield is himself a saturation diver and designed the original Diver One to suit a life at depth. The latest model, the Bell Diver 1, takes that further with a Miyota 9015 automatic movement and all the trappings of a professional underwater instrument, right down to 500m. It’s also equipped with a helium escape valve which, for once, makes sense given Scurfield’s own background. Complete with a blacked-out PVD case and plenty of lume, this is a true diver for a great price.
£364, available at Scurfa Watches.
Baltic Aquascaphe Blue Gilt
The first tool watch from Baltic doesn’t disappoint, either on the practical side or on looks, but if the Aquascaphe is missing something it’s bronze. It 39mm case has hints of the iconic divers of the 60s, but the lovely blue dial deserves something to play off. Now, it has it. The new Aquascaphe Bronze has all the Pacific-crossing credentials of the original model, just dressed in a gorgeous new case, one that will patina with age in contrast to the midnight blue. Like anything painfully fashionable, bronze watches tend to come with a price tag to match; not this time.
€625 EUR, available at Baltic Watches.
This might not look like a diver at first glance but trust us, it checks off all the right boxes. It has 200m of water resistance, can survive more than a few submarine knocks and has a rotating inner bezel. It just so happens that the compressor-style watch’s dial is like nothing else out there, not only for the off-centre small seconds and sumptuous colours, but for the fact that it comes alive in low light. Every dive watch uses lume; Feynman makes art with it, creating a stunning wave pattern in the innermost dial that can only be seen with the light out.
S$1,088 SGD, available at Feynman.
Alsta Nautoscaphe Superautomatic
Plenty of watches gain their cult followings from the big screen, but few suited the character quite so well as Alsta on the wrist of Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws. For the Nautoscaphe Automatic, Alsta has gone back to that original 1975 design with a lozenge case and retro bezel, imitating the vintage piece but with modern watchmaking mechanics behind it. The result is a limited edition of 1,975 pieces that any cinephile would fight a giant shark to own. And anyone looking for a well-built, wonderfully charming throwback diver, for that matter.
£795, available at Alsta Watch.
EMG Nemo Diver
It might have a name in common with everyone’s favourite clown fish but the Nemo is no joke. The first diver from enthusiast-focused watch brand EMG is a collaborative project with watch specialist Eddy Tse’s HKED watches and the result is a cool, vintage-style diver in an expansive range of colours. Equipped with a Miyota 90S5 movement, a 200m water resistance and a ‘beads of rice’ bracelet, it’s a great 60s homage. The caseback is finished with the giant squid that the non-fish Nemo had to contend with, a challenge his namesake watch seems up to.
$450, available at EMG Watches.
Magrette Moana Pacific Waterman GMT
Bronze case? Check. Pepsi Cola rotating bezel? Check. Serious diving credentials? Check again. Magrette’s latest addition to the Waterman collection has every cool, zeitgeisty element going and we love it. Powered by an ETA Caliber 2893-2 automatic GMT movement and protected down to 500m, this isn’t just one of the most handsome divers in its price range, it’s one of the highest-spec too. With the bronze left to patina, this could well become your favourite daily diver, whether you’re in the water or out.
More at Magrette.
Farr + Swit Seaplane Automatic Midnight Landing
It might house a Swiss movement (namely a Sellita SW-200), but this blacked out version of Farr + Swit’s flagship Seaplane is entirely assembled in the USA, making it a rarity in and of itself. If you prefer substance over provenance though, this diving watch for pilots also offers a huge amount for the money. A chunky, 42mm piece of stainless steel and sapphire crystal, its under-the-radar style is alleviated by flashes of bright blue for a brilliant, contemporary air-to-ocean piece with the specs sheet to survive a crash landing in style.
$649, available at Farr + Swit.
Draken Tugela Super Blue
The bright blue of this limited edition take on Draken’s Tugela dive watch isn’t the only thing to help it stand out from the tide. Its tapering case is reminiscent of the South African protea flower, while the indexes use shapes found in Zulu beadwork. It makes for a unique-looking timepiece with all the practical functionality of a serious diver. That includes a 120-click unidirectional bezel, ten layers of high-end lume and 300m water resistance. It comes with a cool Zulu nylon strap, though actual divers will want the bracelet version. Either way, this is a diver that’ll get noticed – and appreciated – from a mile off.
$349, available at Draken Watches.
Unimatic X Massena Lab Modello Uno Ref. U1-ML6
A triple threat of painfully cool Italian watch brand, industry icon William Massena and retro diving watch, this is contemporary Italian flair backdated to the 50s. The basic silhouette is pure UNIMATIC, but complemented by a brown tropical dial and a 15-minute diving bezel. It’s water resistant to 300m, but you can be damn sure most owners won’t be taking it under water. Ever since this baby came out there’s been a waiting list and nobody would want to risk a future collector’s classic – which this most undoubtedly will be. Definitely worth the wait.
$850, available at Unimatic.
Audric Seaborne 500M
Other than the occasional notable exception, diving watches tend to come in two colours: black or blue. Well, try telling that to Audric, whose SeaBorne has all the colours. We don’t just mean a wide selection of bright dial and bezel combos, but around the inner bezel as well, which uses the same colours as an oxygen gauge. It’s also more than just aesthetically striking; with 500m depth resistance and a case built to sink the Titanic, this is a serious deep-dweller brighter than any angler fish. The price has yet to be announced, but Audric is promising great things on that front, too…
Price TBC, available at Audric Watches.
Adding to the international mix of microbrands is Croatian watch designer Marnaut and its twin-crowned, compressor-style Seascape. Yet that 200m water resistant case isn’t the only thing that’s classic about the watch; rather than the usual numerals or indexes, the dial is defined by a series of lume-filled dots that clearly pick out the lines of the hour markers. It’s a novel display and one that makes sense in low light conditions where you need to be sure you’re not a minute or two out. Our favourite version? The Reverse, with a black dial and white inner bezel. We want it.
$449, available at Marnaut.
Andersmann Bronze 1,000M
The three words that define Hong Kong based micro Andersmann are Quality, Classic and Minimalism, three tenets it holds to dearly, especially in its latest bronze-clad release. A 44mm weight of metal, the asymmetrical tool watch is as serious as divers come, water resistant to 1,000m. The off-centre crown and unidirectional rotating bezel are knurled to ensure easy grip and the whole thing is powered by the ever-reliable ETA2892-A2, with a power reserve of 42 hours. If you’re a fan of bronze but find the mainstream offerings lacking, Andersmann has you covered.
$1,888, available at Andersmann.
About Vintage 1926 At’Sea
Scandinavian chic meets nautical inspirations in this collaborative timepiece from About Vintage and Danish actor Jonathan Harboe. That means a 1920s-style diver – none of this retro 60s stuff – meaning an uncharacteristically svelte case, lovely fluted crown and the marine necessities of a unidirectional diving bezel and plenty of lume. If that weren’t enough of a reason to give the At’sea a go, a portion of the proceeds will go to The Ocean Cleanup, an organization that does exactly what it says in the name. A good cause and a classic diver for a great price.
€599 EUR, available at About Vintage.
Oceaneva GMT Deep Marine Explorer 1250M
Any decent diver has respectable depth resistance; Oceaneva’s GMT Deep Marine Explorer blows them out of the water. The handsome, quartz-equipped number can survive in the dark abyss of 1,250m down, up there with some of the deepest diving watches in the world. The rugged case, helium escape valve and rotating bezel all hammer home its tool nature, though that latter’s also the Deep Marine’s stylistic flair. Sure, you could opt for the classic Pepsi Cola blue and red or the high-contrast yellow and black, but we’d take a bit of both and opt for the cool black and red edition.
$890, available at Oceaneva.
Ornate guilloche isn’t really what you expect to find on a tool watch, yet it’s what defines Reverie’s upcoming Atlantis diver. At the centre of each svelte 40mm case is a beautiful dial in grey, olive or navy blue, using a double layer construction to play with light across the different finishes. The result is a more sophisticated diver than most, but one that can stand up to the rigours of underwater exploration, with 200m water resistance, a unidirectional bezel and plenty of lume, all powered by a Miyota 9039 with a beautifully engraved rotor. Tool watch specs; dress watch finishing.
$500 (US$325 for backers), available at Reverie Watches.