Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anstead Oceanis

Kickstarter has become my other bad habit where I peruse for campaigns I may want to fund that range from 'yesses! I needz this' to 'dear god what have you done?'. Among the projects I came across is the Anstead Oceanis. The designer Tom Anstead explains on his campaign page that his designs were inspired by his experience while he served in the Navy aboard the USS Independence. My curiosity was peaked for a watch designed around function while keeping aesthetics in mind.

Where many entry dive watches start between 50m to 100m, the Oceanis is designed to withstand a max depth of 990ft/300m which at 33ft per scuba ATM is an impressive 28 atmospheres. Greater depth requirement means a bigger case or a stronger case material along with a screw down crown to withstand the pressure. The brushed surgical steel case measures 44.3mm wide by 6.9mm, but add the case back, bezel, and sapphire crystal and the overall thickness comes out to 14.36mm making for a sizable watch. Anstead watch mitigates the additional material and R&D cost to survive the intended 300m depth and keeps a low retail cost of $399 after the campaign ended. The price point is a huge win for Anstead watches as you will be hard pressed to find a mechanical watch that can withstand 300m in that price range.

The Oceanis continues with the large aesthetics with a 4mm thick brown leather strap attached to 24mm lugs. The strap has the Anstead name impressed on the inside of the strap as well as it etched on the buckle and is a good quality strap but could stand to be manufactured with wearability in mind. Conventional strap making techniques thin the leather as it extends down from the watch that creates a taper. Sometimes this taper is obvious and other times it is hardly noticed. There are straps that do not have this thinning done but those straps typically start with very thin stock and doesn't have much room to thin any further. The Oceanis' strap remains the same thickness across the entire length and as a result creates an uncomfortable 8mm lump of leather where the strap overlay in the stays. If the leather was softer I maybe able to tolerate the thickness but this isn't the case here. The lack of strap color choice is another issue for me as I am personally not a fan of the color and between the two I have ordered a replacement strap. You can see in the following photos the new strap as well a side by side of the old and new. Even with a deployment clasp on the new strap it feels thinner and far more comfortable to wear.

The non reflective flat black surface of the 32mm wide dial is easy to read in daylight and the luminescent hands and markers make it just as easy to read in low to no light. The dial is protected by a thick sapphire crystal seated against an O-ring and is surrounded by a 120 click bezel that only turns counter clock-wise as it should. The bezel requires firm tension to turn which is a relief to find with positive clicks that can be heard and felt. For those wondering why the bezel isn't easier to turn and isn't unidirectional need to consider the application. The bezel gives a diver the oxygen supplies's remaining time by turning the index of the bezel to where the minute hand is from the moment when the oxygen is used. From that point the minute hand travel will indicate elapsed time against the bezel and tells the diver how long they have been under for and how much time they have left. If the bezel were to accidentally move it should only move counterclockwise wise so that you lose dive time versus if it were unidirectional you risk adding time and possibly running out of air. For reasons above the bezel shouldn't move too easily to prevent accidental moves to begin with.

The watch is powered by the Seiko NH36a which improved on it's predecessor the 7S26 through the more jeweled pivots and a hacking lever. A hacking watch means that when the crown is pulled the second hand stops for the purpose of synchronizing watches for accuracy. I like Seiko movements as they are reliable and durable while remaining affordable. It is the use of this movement versus Swiss movements like the ETA 2836 with a stop lever that helps keeps the cost down on the Oceanis. Watches with hacking ETA calibres capable of a 300m depth start at $850 and only go up from there. The only question that remains of a new movement is longevity but considering Seiko's track record I feel confident in it's ability to last.

The packaging leaves something to be desired, but considering the cost of the watch I shouldn't be complaining. If I were to pay $1k or higher I would expect a certain level of sophistication and experience in the packaging but I digress. The packaging is minimal and nothing special to note. It is a black box with a white top with the Anstead logo pressed into the lid which is printed in black. The watch is strapped on a miniature velveteen pillow and the color manual sits below the pillow. I suppose at the very least the minimalist design is tasteful.

I like the overall aesthetic of the watch but there are some flaws along with rooms for improvement, which I have emailed Tom and he was very receptive to. The day/date window of the dial is slightly misaligned to the left and crowds the day/date display. The case back threads aren't indexed so the etched case back will be randomly oriented (as you can see in the photo above, mine points to the right). The aforementioned strap thickness interfering with long term wearability. The bezel's quarter hours should have been lumed to aid in the use of the bezel in low to no light. I personally prefer screw in strap versus the ever so flimsy pins. When I changed out my strap I noticed that the pins were significantly bent and matched the contour of the case indicating that there is insufficient clearance between strap and case (to be fair this is the strap's thickness at fault). I do want to note that none of the above points detracts from the value and construction of the watch and hope to see the above list addressed in future releases from Anstead.

I have been wearing the watch daily since it's arrival and the watch has proven to be accurate and durable. I look forward to see what Anstead watches offer next, I personally would sacrifice submersible depth for a display back and a nice looking movement (maybe some Geneva stripes on the NH36a's rotar? perhaps some jeweling on the bridges? Could be sharp with some blued screws...). If you find your self looking for a well functioning dive watch under $400 or just a good looking reliable watch, you certainly found it in the Anstead Oceanis.

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