Usually, when we talk about what sets a certain brand apart it’s an interesting aesthetic design feature, or better than average finishing for the price. Occasionally, but less often, it pertains to something unique with the movement, like an in-house complication or extended power reserve. Well, what sets Damasko apart is something entirely different, the very materials from which they are made and the engineering behind them.
Located in Regensburg, Germany, Damasko has been going about watch making differently since 1994. Rather than just making quality watches, which is more than enough in most cases, they wanted to set all new standards. So, they’ve re-designed and engineered everything, owning dozens of patents for materials and mechanisms. These include the very steel from which the watches are made to their own silicon hairsprings, all of which they make themselves. In 2010 they also became a genuine manufacture with two in house movements, the A 35-1 and the H 35, both of which feature EPS springs and a patented winding system.
Of course, at this point you are probably imagining prohibitively expensive watches, but that’s not the case. Damasko’s all are under $5k, with entry-level models starting at $1,125, making them an exceptional value. The watches themselves have very to matter of fact designs, drawing largely on military and pilot watches, with an emphasis on legibility and use. No giant signs suggesting they are anything but an average watch, which is part of the appeal.
The model we’re going to review, the Damasko DA44, was released within the last couple of years. It’s a very sporty design that features a bezel and many of Damasko’s amazing technologies. For $1,450 it offers more than most watches 3 or 4 times that price. Though not inexpensive, I am certain you’ll be impressed.
Case: Ice-Hardened Steel
Movement: ETA 2836-2
Lens: Sapphire with AR coating
Water Res.: 100M
Dimensions: 40 x 48mm
Thickness: 12.3 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 6 x 4.5 mm
Though understated and matter-of-fact, the case of DA44 is where most of the watch’s magic happens. Measuring 40 x 48 x 12.3mm, the matte ice-hardened, nickel-free steel case has a dull grey luster, similar to titanium. Aside from the interesting coloration, the ice-hardened nickel free steel is a very unique feature to Damasko, who manufacture their own steel… That’s not something most brands do, so let that sink in for a second. In fact, not only do they make it, they developed it and own the patents on it.
At 710 Vickers, the case is about 4 times harder than standard steel, making it highly resistant to scratches and bumps, keeping a “like-new” look for a longer duration. You might be familiar with Sinn’s Tegiment technology, which touts a hardness of 1200 Vickers. The difference between the two technologies (other than the manufacturing is totally different) is that Damasko’s steel is hardened the entire way through, where as Sinn’s is a surface treatment. In both cases you are getting higher than average performance, but it’s worth knowing the difference.
The design of the case is pretty straightforward with a design that speaks to pilot and military watches. From above, it has a cylindrical central area with long thin lugs that elegantly sweep in. The lugs are drilled for easy access to the spring-bars, which is a design feature I wish every watch had. At 3, two simple and effective crown guards protrude out, encasing the long, but well-proportioned crown.
The crown itself has a simple deign with a fluted edge for easy gripping and a Damasko “D” logo on the end. Not surprisingly, Damasko has a patented crown system. Everything, from the exterior of the crown to the threading is made of ice-hardened steel, which should help with wear and tear as well as limit stripping. The tube the crown threads into, also threads into the case, for a more secure fit than a standard pressure fit. The crown is fitted with a Viton gasket (Viton being a highly chemical resistant material that is “superior to every other gasket material”) and passes through 2 Viton o-rings as well as a patented lubrication cell… Yeah, this is the most serious crown out there, and you’d never know it just from the looks. more details here
The DA44 also sports a remarkable bezel, which is one of the other real strong points of the watch. There are several interesting things to talk about here, beginning with the function and feel of the mechanism. Damasko developed their own patent-pending design that features in-house manufactured ceramic ball bearings and a bi-directional 60-click mechanism. Turning the bezel is literally a joy, in fact, I found my self endlessly turning it back and forth during the day. The bezel snaps with authority from one minute to the next, lining up perfectly every time. Simply put, this is the best bezel I’ve felt.
The fun doesn’t stop there though, the bezel, which has large teeth for easy gripping is also made of ice-hardened steel. The insert is ceramic with Damest coating… It’s another proprietary treatment developed by Damasko that layers materials to create an absurdly hard and scratch resistant surface, that also has enough elasticity to not crack. Once again, it just looks like an even matte black surface, belying the amount of technology present.
The case back has a design that is reminiscent to military watches, with a long list of facts deeply engraved into an otherwise plain surface. As you would expect, the case back is also manufactured of ice-hardened steel. The last bit of tech involved in the case is totally hidden from site being an internal iron casing for the movement, which provides anti-magnetic protection up to 80,000 A/m.
The dial of the DA44 is simple and clean, yet surprisingly aggressive. The surface is matte black and features a single non-numerical index in white. The hours are indicated with long fence-post style markers that double up at 3, 6, 9 and 12. The pointed design gives the dial a very intense and almost mean look. They pull the eyes towards the center of the dial, which in turn has a large cross hair, sending the eyes back out. Between each hour marker is a small white line for the individual minutes/seconds.