Some of you might have noticed that my posts have become incresingly infrequent. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly life commitments just didn’t allow enough time. Secondly, the sheer volume of information and news from the the British watch industry was getting a little overwhelming.
Now by happy coincidence there being more news to report comes in a period when I have more time, so I will endeavour to post with a more frequency. My new found enthusiasm has also been fired by this week’s Best of British meet-up organised by Redbar Southeast in Brighton.
As you might imagine this is not the only watch event I have attended recently, but it was one that inspired me. This is largely due to the one panel discussion I attended. The panel consisted of Giles Ellis, of Schofield, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, of Fears and Richard Benc of Studio Underdog. What interested me was their view on the current state of the British watch industry. In particular the view that the sector is now more confident in its offering. When I started this blog it was because I was interested in the the use of heritage in marketing of British watch brands. Some of the companies and many enthusiasts become obsessed how much of the watch is British. The panel agreed that the sector now has the confidence to move away from this narrow vision, the brands own identities being strong enough to be able to present watches as British regardless of the origins of many of the components used. Here there are many similarities to the car industry. Is a Mini a British car ?
This event also gave me the opportunity to re-connect in person with the brands that have been very much part of by British watch journey. Other than Nicholas and Giles I managed to have chats with Jose of Isotope and Andrew of Zero West. All of whom beamed enthusiasm, the future looks bright . Unfortunately, the interesting developments they were very keen to discuss are all under wraps for future posts.
You might remember my review of the Hydrium in which I commented on the collecting opportunity offered by this watch from British based brand Isotope. Well now two more have joined the line-up, the Hydrium Pro Nordblad and the Hydrium Nasa.
Hydrium Pro Nordblad
This is the second watch from Isotope developed as a tribute to the achievements of Johanna Nordblad, a the world-renowned ice diver. LIke the previous “Goutte d’Eau version this watch features a blue second hand. Limited to 100 pieces, it is the first of a series of Hydrium Pro watches, exceeding specifications above ISO 6425, the official divers watch certification . The watch case is made of sandblasted 316L stainless steel. All the crystals, including the bezel, are made of sapphire crystal and the movement is a top-finished and regulated Swiss Landeron. If any of these watches remain unsold they are offered at £900 (ex VAT) on the Isotope website
As well as Hydrium collectors, this second officially NASA approved watch, launched on April 15th, should appeal to the many space fans out there.
Apart from the special NASA nato strap what makes this watch stand out is the polymer-ceramic coating, Cerakota that has been applied to the 316L steel case. This coating replicates the texture of the re-entry capsule’s vitally important heat shield. Then there is the NASA logo above the six o’clock position.
This watch is also available from the Isotope website for £825 (ex VAT) includedin this price is an extra grey quick release FKM strap
This watch is limited to 200 pieces, and available to pre-order through www.isotopewatches.com with expected delivery starting in August 2023. Currently priced at £825 (ex VAT) which includes a second grey quick release FKM strap.
If you have looked back on my previous holiday posts on Instagram you notice my bronze Pinion Axis features heavily, this was for two reasons, firstly the robustness of the watch and the effect of the sea water on the case.
With the arrival of my holidays this year I risked producing similar posts all over again. Luckily, I had noticed several images of the Isotope Hydrium range from my friend Jose and it occurred to me that they would make an ideal alternative for the beach. I dropped a note Jose and a loaner arrived, a limited edition very visible Hydrium Burnt Tangerine. A perfect summer colour. The perfect beach watch.
First impressions straight out of the box was – gosh this feels weighty. The perfect sensation for a serious dive watch, this is a tough watch. It comes with a super comfortable quick release FKM rubber strap, so nice in fact that I was not at all tempted to swap it out to experiment with alternatives. Usually,the first thing I habitually play with on dive watches is the bezel. The Hydrium has a robust uni-directional sapphire crystal/stainless steel bezel with 120 clicks, a feature that came in very handy for timing my daily swim.
The Landeron 24 automatic movement is almost completely silenced by the case, giving you almost the sensation of having a quartz watch on your wrist. Landeron is not a name that we are all familiar, the 24 automatic is designed as a replacement for the increasingly difficult to source ETA 2824-2. Then when you turn the watch over you find this really nicely decorated solid caseback. Personally, I not a great fan of display backs especially on dive watches, as you can see this one is a worth turning the watch over for.
Of course on of the most important design elements of any watch is the dial and this is where this watch distinguishes itself from other dive watches with the now familiar Isoptope details on the two layered dial, in particular the subtle Isoptope lacrime. Over the dial the is a domed sapphire crystal that I personally much prefer to the flat crystals.
Finally, returning to the strap. Isotope have always given particular attention to straps and this one is finished of with a very solid Isotope branded buckle.
Micro-blasted case, 316L stainless steel
Case diameter 40mm X 48mm (with lugs)
Height 12.9mm (14.9mm with double domed Sapphire Crystal)
Hydrium Exclusive Stainless steel screw-down case back
Uni-directional sapphire crystal/Stainless Steel bezel with 120 clicks
Anti-reflective crystal sapphire
Screw-down crown at 3 o’clock
Isotope “i” hands and indexes with Super-LumiNova®
Water-resistance 300m / 30 atm / 1000 ft
22mm Quick-release FKM strap with signed micro-blasted Steel Buckle
Swiss Mechanical Movement
Swiss Landeron 24, self-winding
Power reserve 40 hours
28 Jewels, 28800A/h
Accuracy -12/+12 s/day
Decorated + Customised rotor
Cost – £729 (limited to 100 pieces)
Alongside the Burnt Tangerine Isoptope produced several other versions, the “conventional” Blue Night and two even more individual the Hydrium X “Will Return” and the “The Judge”. Of these only the Judge can be ordered from the website.
So in conclusion I have to say the Hydrium Burnt Tangerine fitted the brief of “beach/summer watch” perfectly. So perfectly I kept putting off sending it back to Jose, until I was prompted. These watches are selling out quickly so jump now if you want one for next summer.
I cannot remember when I first started seeing images for the Isotope Goutte d’Eau on Instagram; I do remember despite the great design and superb images dismissing them as being a French kickstarter brand therefore not on my radar.
My impressiion dd turn out to be slightly correct the brand was originally on Kickstarter, however the only link to France was the name of this particular model.The brand is actually the creation of Jose Miranda a Portuguese based in the UK. Having established the brand should definately be on my radar I arranged to meet Jose for a couple of beers. As with so many people in the British watch industry Jose is a super enthusiast, one of those people you can chat to really easily about watches and in particular his watches, they are after all his labour of love.
During our chat Jose let me handle some early examples of the Guotte d’Eau and I was impressed straight away, especially with the remarkably confortable metal bracelet. I left the evening with a promise of the opportunity to review the watches when more example became avalable.
With the New Year a package arrives, not one watch to review but two, both versions of the Goutte d’Eau,the Orange and the Nordblad. The Nordblad with the Sellita movement and solid caseback, the Orange with the Seiko movement and display back. Both watches were on steel bracelets but with them came an alternative rubber strap. The first impression when picking up the watches on their bracelets is weight, these would be useful to divers joked my colleague in the office. I put the watches away until I had a moment to to fit the straps properly. As the cases of both watches are identical I decided to mount the Orange on the rubber strap to enable a comparison.
Once I had managed to size the steel bracelet on the Nordblad and mount the rubber on the Orange I decided the Nordblad should be my “workday” wear leaving the rubber dive strap for the weekends.
As the Nordblad got the most wrist time I will cover this version first. This ia a special edition designed to endure the hardest Finnish winter and to dive under the ice with the Ice Freediving World Champion, Johanna Nordblad. I have put the video of her exploits above.
Brushed case, 316L stainless steel
Case diameter 40mm X 44mm (with lugs)
Stainless steel screw-down case back (Nordblad)
Security inner bezel
Anti-reflective crystal sapphire
One crown with 4 gaskets at 2 o’clock for the inner bezel and one screw-down crown at 4 o’clock to adjust the time
Date window at 4 o’clock
Hands, bezel and sandwich dial with Super-LumiNova® BGW9
22 mm brushed Isotope Tread Bracelet and extension clasp in 316L stainless steel
So, as I mentioned earlier the first impression of this watch is weight. This weight disappears when the watch is on the wrist the sensation for my fairly normal 7 1/2 inch wrist was one of comfort. Not only is the bracelet very comfortable the case design allows the watch to sit very well. This is probably due to the short lugs. For their part the short lugs do result in a snug fit should you want to change straps. Another contributing factor is the twin crown case design, with the upper crown operating the inner rotating bezel, there is no central crown that can dig into your wrist. This bezel is a neat design feature seen on several iconic watches such as the Longines Legend Diver, I personally find the traditional rotating bezel more convenient for timing baked potatoes, but this design does look really nice.
It is dfficult to decide which is the feature that makes these watches so interesting. The watch head it self has its distinctive shape then there is the sandwich dial and the subtle cut out tear drop.Then finally in the case of the Nordblad the blue details, the second hand and countdown indices 0 to 15. Lots going on but in no way overdone.
Then you turn the watch over to find the engraved solid caseback, with the tribute to Johanna Nordblad . Which is as you can see I had a little difficulty photographing.
The Nordblad I had on review was the Sellita powered date edition. It is also available as a “no date” or with the Seiko movement, both date and none. The “Swiss” version on the website for £469, the “Japanese” for an even more reasonable £349.
Now I would like to turn to the”Orange”which as I have already mentoned I straight away on the extra rubber strap. On this strap you instantly notice a difference in weight, which intrigued me so much I had to compare both watches on over kitchen scales. The result of this “scientific” check was 90 grammes on the rubber strap and with the steel almost double that at 175 grammes. Clearly the steel bracelet makes a significant contribution..
The key difference between these two watches is the movement. Both using relaible “work horses”, in the case of this example of the “Orange” it was fitted with the Seiko NH-35A. I expected the automatic rotor in this movement to be noisier than the Sellita but on the wrist you hardly hear it. This then brings me to the display back, Personally I prefer solid case backs especially when the movement being showcased is,sticking to equine terms, a “work horse” rather than a “show pony”.
Then finally there is the most obvious difference, the colour used on the dial and second hand. In this case orange.
Automatic, self-winding Japanese caliber Seiko NH35a
Power reserve 41 hours
Accuracy -20/+40 s/day
Of course I need to make a special mention of the distinctive steel bracelet. When I first tried the watch over a beer i was immediately strick by how comfortable it was. As you would expect on a diver’s watch this bracelet is fitted with a useful extension clasp. A non-extending clasp might make the bracelet a little less hefty and let the clasp lie a little flusher.
So conclusions- very impressive.Distinctive and well made, at a very reasonable price. My personal choice of varient would be no date, solid caseback with Sellita movement. Maybe on the NATO strap which unfortunately only tried in the pub.