Friday, October 11, 2013

Victorinox Dive Master 500 Black Ice Mechanical - A Well Balanced Dive Watch Design

Victorinox is synonymous with its famous red pocket knife. This is a company over a century old. Not a lot of people know that the company also has a watch division established in 1989. For the last two decades, a number of notable watch designs were introduced. One model that got me interested in this brand is the Dive Master. In 2012, I got myself the 500m Black Ice Mechanical in blue.

This watch has a depth rating of 500 meters and come standard with rubber straps. Powered by a mechanical movement, the casing is made out of 316L stainless steel and with sapphire crystal. The stainless steel casing is covered with gunmetal black PVD.

Built to exceed the ISO 6425 standard for dive watches, this watch has been manufactured to such high tolerances that a helium escape valve is not deemed necessary. To top it all, it comes with a display case-back! Both the front and back glass windows are made out of sapphire crystals.

The Victorinox is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist. The most interesting feature of the watch is the rubber compound used for the strap. Instead of feeling rubber to the skin, it feels smooth unlike other rubber straps that are in the market now. By far, this is the most comfortable rubber strap that I have even tried on. Interestingly, this particular rubber strap is made in Switzerland. On other aspects of the construction, the quality is exceptionally high.

The watch is well balanced on my 7.5 inch wrist. With a 43 mm watch face (excluding crown), it fits just nice. Meanwhile, the crown is a screw-down and protected from knocks by two ridges.

Due to the quality of the manufacture, this Victorinox comes with a display case-back. The logo of the brand is etched and printed on the rotor. Another important feature of this watch is the choice of automatic movement. Instead of using the commonly used ETA Caliber 2824, Victorinox chose the more refined and upscaled ETA Caliber 2892.A2 to power this model.

Although the watch is a dive watch, some elements of an army watch has been added. Apart from the main indexes that are lumed, there is also an inner dial with numbering from 14 to 22 (the numbers 13, 23 and 12/24 were excluded due to lack of space).  The uni-directional bezel has numbers that have been cut into the metal but not enhanced – a form of camouflage perhaps.  

An interesting element about this watch is the standard rubber strap provided. The strap is a 22 mm standard strap but with such thickness that you have to see to believe. What more surprising is the fact that it’s made in Switzerland.

My experience wearing this watch is thoroughly pleasing. Not only is the movement accurate (yet to formally test the accuracy. If you are anal to the last second, a mechanical watch is not for you anyway - get a digital!!), the strap is very comfortable. I wore this watch during a jungle trekking expedition in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Despite the appalling conditions of heat, humidity, mud, water, sweat and the constant bashing into trees etc, this watch came out pretty much unscathed.

The lume is not as good as what you can find on the Seikos though. Nevertheless, it’s adequate for the job at hand.

Overall, I would recommend this watch to anyone who wants a real value-for-money workhorse. Despite the weight balancing issue of a strap based deep diving watch, Victorinox is smart enough to choose a thick strap instead of a thin one. This help alleviate the issue of "flapping" on the wrist if not tightly secured. 

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