Up for review today is a truly remarkable watch: the Ocean Diver from Prometheus. It's their first watch, designed by Brian Green, and had quite a saga before it was all done. Let's get started with some specifications:
- Automatic ETA 2836 movement. Day/date, hacking, and handwinding, 40 hour power reserve.
- Internal ratcheting dive bezel (via the 2 o'clock crown).
- Bead-blasted 316L stainless steel case.
- Sapphire crystal.
- Water resistant to 300m (1000ft).
- Screw-down crown for movement, non-screw-down for bezel.
- C3 SuperLuminova on hands, indices, and bezel "V".
- Color-matched day and date wheels.
- Limited production run of 500 watches.
- 44mm by 14.8mm, 125g on the custom-designed strap, 22mm screwed lugs.
Please read on for the full review.
In my opinion, the Internet has been a godsend for the rise of small, independent watchmakers. They can find customers, actually converse about design, and foster a closer connection to far-flung fans. The Ocean Diver takes this collaboration to the next level:
- The design, by Brian Green, is the result of an online contest.
- The company and watch only exist online.
- The watch was originally produced in China, but after the initial version came back, the company decided that the quality wasn't good enough, and they delayed the release while they changed design, movements, manufacturers, and locations to Switzerland — communicating with fans the entire time who supported their decision instead of just complaining about having to wait.
- Most amazingly to me, the watch design itself was blogged by the designer! Complete with pictures of prototypes, CAD drawings, design discussion and more, it's an amazing read and a wonderful resource for watch geeks. I loved learning that the crowns are individually CNC-worked, for example, to get that crosshatch pattern.
I only wish I had learned about Prometheus earlier, as following the design in real time would be fascinating. Even so, it's a testament to a new way of designing and marketing watches, and I hope other companies take note as well.
Let's talk about the watch. Designed to echo the super compressor cases of the 1960s, the Ocean Diver has a porthole-themed bezel with no less than four facets and a slight flare around the rim. The internal dive bezel keeps the sleek profile of the design, and in my opinion, makes the watch more versatile. The caseback has an Oyster-style thread and etched pattern to hold it in place on the wrist. The caseback edges are scalloped and curved, yielding a gorgeous curved shape that's elegant and extremely comfortable.
The case finish is first rate, though I know from sad experience that once you scratch it, there's no buffing out the dings at home. Personally, I lean towards brushed finishes for that reason, but there's no denying that on the Ocean Diver, it looks wonderful.
Prometheus thoughtfully used screwed lugs with a dab of Loctite. The strap — a custom tropic-style polymer — isn't going to work loose on its own. The Loctite does make strap changes tricker, though. Included with the watch are black and red straps — a nice touch.
The ETA 2836 movement is the day & date version of the classic 2824. Reliable, a good timekeeper, and easy to have repaired. Personally, I wish more watches had day as well as date, as I find it quite useful. Their choice of white-on-black printing for day & date keep the dial visually uncluttered; well done!
Timekeeping has been a bit fast, at around +15 seconds/day. It's easy to regulate, though, so if it doesn't settle down in a month or so, I'll tweak it myself.
Lume is good, but not quite Seiko-grade, and only the "V" on the bezel is lumed. The watch is readable for 6-8 hours, but not as bright or as even as the benchmark Seiko.
About the only other thing I'd change is the hour and minute hand; they're lumed with black paint. Against a black dial, that's a little harder to read than necessary. One suggestion would be to lume the entire width of the hands, or to paint them a lighter color. As you can see, it's still quite readable, but lighter edges would help even more.
The Ocean Diver is very comfortable to wear, and the 125g weight is nicely held by the strap. Not too heavy, not too light, and doesn't flop around. The strap is extra long, so you can easily wear it over a wetsuit, too. I've not tried the red strap yet, but it'd certainly change the persona of the watch from understated to "notice me!"
The design and face have excellent proportion — it's a nicely uncluttered and readable look. The internal bezel is quite stealthy; unless you've seen one it's hard to even tell it's moveable. The corresponding crown spins smoothly, making it almost as quick to set as an external bezel, and impossible to jar out of position.
The movement crown is threaded, and I did find that the tolerances are a bit close. More than once, I accidentally changed the date when trying to wind the watch.
This is really a wonderful watch. At $399 Euros, it's a first-rate deal on a limited edition design of outstanding versatility. It's very rare to find a Swiss-made watch for anywhere near that price, much less one with sapphire, real ETA movement, and a spare strap to boot! (Oh yeah: they also included a t-shirt, though I'm not certain that'll be the case for all orders.)
Our thanks to Prometheus for providing a discounted review unit. It's getting a lot of wear!
By Paul Hubbard