Hands-On with the Nodus Trieste Diver

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Nodus is an up-and-coming, Los Angeles-based brand entering the ever-expanding field of micro-brand divers. Their premiere offering is the Trieste, named after the legendary 1960 Trieste Submersible expedition into the Mariana Trench. While at first glance, the Trieste may not inspire too many oohs and aahs, it is definitely a micro-diver that deserves a second look.

The micro-brand diver market is rife with massive, knuckle-dragger chunks-of-steel with depth ratings that would crush your skull, but the Trieste is a refreshing departure from this trend with its 41mm size and 200-meter depth rating. A few weeks back, Sean Lorentzen wrote an article about lightweight skin divers (if you haven’t done so yet, go check it out). In body and spirit, the Trieste definitely pulls a bit on the heritage of ’60s and ’70s-era skin divers (and it has a bit of the Blancpain Bathyscape in there, too).  But all that aside, it’s also just a solid package of specs being offered at a reasonable and accessible price. Though the watches are assembled in Asia, final QC is done entirely in LA. That is, the Nodus team literally takes the watch apart and inspect all components, regulates the movements, and puts it all back together. For a watch that’s $500 (or less depending on the movement, but more on that later), that’s an exceptional level of care.

Let’s dive right in.

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$350

Hands-On with the Nodus Trieste Diver

Case
316L stainless steel
Movement
Seiko NH35A or STP1-11
Dial
Black
Lume
BGW9 Super-LumiNova
Lens
Double-domed Sapphire (AR underside)
Strap
Stainless steel bracelet
Water Resistance
200 meters
Dimensions
41mm x 50mm
Thickness
13mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Two years
Price
$350

The 316L stainless steel case has a classic round shape with straight lugs that taper in. Measuring 41mm wide and 50mm long, this case sits in a sweet spot for most potential wearers. And at a mere 13mm thick with a more-than-sufficient 200m depth rating, it really is a very comfortable size for everyday desk-diving. The case then features an attractive brushed finish, with a point of contrast being the polished bevels running along the lugs. The overall look is reminiscent of numerous vintage divers. The unidirectional, 120-click, coin-edge bezel is clean and classic, and it’s given a bit of a luxurious upgrade with a really nice sapphire insert that comes in black, burgundy or blue. I only spent some hands-on time with the black variant, but if I were to purchase one I’d go for the blue option over the other two. Another “high-end” feature of the bezel are the luminescent numbers and hash marks, which, aside from increasing the perceived value of the case, have the functional purpose of making the bezel much easier to read in low light. In terms of operation, the  bezel is solid–especially so at this price point–with good action and very little play.

The large, tactile crown is positioned a three o’clock. It screws down and features the brand’s logo. Also note the drilled lugs.
The lugs measure 20mm, making it a snap to find any number of straps that you could install for a change from the stock bracelet.
The coin-edge detailing on the bezel is nicely executed.
The double-domed sapphire crystal is an attractive upgrade from a simpler, flat glass.
The case back features an engraved geometric design, and while not overly exhilarating, it is actually a unique design.

Turning now to the dial, what we have here is a clean and highly legible design. The base of dial itself is a flat, matte black. The markers are applied polished metal with Super-LumiNova fill. At 12, three, six, and nine they’re trapezoids, starting off wider at the edge of the dial and tapering toward the center (it’s somewhat reminiscent of some older Squale designs). Small round plots fill up the remaining hours. As I wrote above, this dial design is very much like the Blancpain Bathyscaphe, but without the brushed finish. The diminutive size of the markers subdues the dial, and they give the whole thing a slightly dressier vibe, albeit the watch is still very casual and sporty.

The dial is signed with a printed Nodus logo and logomark below the 12, and “Trieste” in burnt yellow and “200m/660ft” in white above the six.

Though the unit I reviewed is without a date complication, there is an option for a date window at 4:30. As an avowed date-hater, I’m happy to be able to maintain the symmetry and simplicity of the dial by having no date window at three. That said, at least the date window option, should you want it, is small and without a frame, and with a date wheel that is black with white numerals. So, even though it is placed at my least favorite location at 4:30, it is (largely) unobtrusive.

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The Trieste presents a clean and legible design.
Circles and trapezoids make up the hours index.
The applied indices really pop when the light hits the dial at the right angle.
The BGW9 lume is a bit of sore point here as it does dim quite quickly. This one isn’t for the lume nuts.

The one part of the Trieste design that truly stands out to me as unique is the handset. The hour and minute hands start out narrow by the pinion, and get wider towards the hour markers, with an angle that is designed to match the angle of the markers at 12, three, six and nine. At the ends are blocky, syringe-like tips. The second hand is a long needle with a rectangular lume segment near the tip. The hands are definitely different, and I applaud Nodus for breaking the mold here. That said, I’m somewhat ambivalent on the look. I think the hands are something people will either really like, or they won’t, and it will make or break whether or not someone buys the watch.

The Trieste comes with two movement options. The first is the Swiss-made STP1-11, which is largely an ETA 2824-2 clone produced in Switzerland (STP is owned by Fossil, and we’ve been seeing an uptick of micro-brands using movements from the maker). This one is a 26-jewel automatic and hand-wind caliber, with hacking seconds and quick-set date (if you choose the date option). The beat rate is 28,800 bph and the power reserve is 44 hours. The second option is the Japanese-made, Seiko NH35A. This one is a 24-jewel automatic and hand-wind movement, with hacking seconds and quick-set date. The frequency is slightly lower at 21,600 bph, and the power reserve is 42 hours.

Other than the beat rates, there are some other differences in the movements. The STP1-11 has been nicely finished, and the NH35A is plain-Jane. Of course, you can’t see the finishing through the solid case back, but some people like to know it’s there regardless. As I briefly noted above, the Nodus team regulates all their movements in four positions in their Los Angeles workshop to give them better timing than they have straight from their respective factories. The STP1-11 has a timing tolerance of -5 to +5 seconds per day at the time of shipping, and the NH35A has a tolerance of -10 to +10 seconds per day.

The biggest difference in these two options from a real practical perspective is the price. The Trieste is $500 with the STP1-11, and a mere $350 with the NH35A. Both movements are robust and reliable, and easy to service with parts readily available to watchmakers.

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The Trieste comes supplied with a screwed, solid-link, oyster-style bracelet with a flip-lock deployant clasp. The bracelet is for the most part well-made and comfortable for what it is, but really it’s a relatively standard part. The clasp (which is signed) feels a bit flimsy to me. I think to keep the price on this model down to the very reasonable MSRP being offered here, Nodus did not invest too much in the bracelet. Given the choice, I would rather pay a little more and have a more solid-feeling clasp, but that’s just me. When ordering the watch from Nodus’ website, there is an option to purchase canvas straps in different colors for a small surcharge.

Shown here on a 7-inch wrist.

Overall, I found this to be a very comfortable watch to use and wear. At 41mm wide, it’s smack dab in the middle of the “sweet spot” for divers, in my opinion, and at a modest 13mm thick, it sits very well on the wrist. The more than ample 200-meter depth rating enables it to be lighter weight (86 grams for the head alone; 165 grams on the bracelet), which just adds to its wearability. The screwed links on the bracelet are a cinch to add or remove, and there are micro-adjust holes in the clasp for fine-tuning for a perfect fit to any wrist.

As the first offering from Nodus, the Trieste is an attractive, entry-level, micro-brand diver. The size and depth rating along with the sapphire crystal and bezel insert give this watch a great value and make it easy to wear. The case size, shape and finishing, along with the applied markers give it a vintage vibe as well. While it may not be earth-shattering in its overall design, it doesn’t feel overly derivative and the unique hour and minute hands give it a little something different.

I especially like that there are a lot of choices on offer here, but that they’re subtle and really tuned into what people may or may not want (rather than just release dozens of dial colors). You can order it with your choice of three colored sapphire bezel inserts, date or no date, and you have the choice of two excellent quality movements. There’s also a PVD version of the watch. With the Swiss movement for $500, or the Japanese movement for $350, you get a lot of bang-for-your-buck either way, and even the more expensive choice is still very reasonably priced. Nodus

 

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.

vintagediver
  • egznyc

    There’s a lot to like here: overall size/dimensions are great, nice bezel and good color options, interesting hands. I just wish the lume were better. What’s the point of a dive watch you cannot read in the dark? If the markers are too small, that’s not helping here either. It’d still be a fine “dressy” diver (oxymoron?) with more lume on he dial.

  • Mikita

    Has some Blancpain Bathyscaphe appeal in it. Don’t like the hands.

  • Radar1

    This is an excellent watch. I was unsure of the hands as well, but when it landed that all went away. They fit the design perfectly. Really an outstanding first effort by Nodus. Very much looking forward to future releases. Great watch.

  • Cepillin1183

    A beautiful and well executed tribute watch. And a more wearable 41mm. Glad to see they changed the hands, did different style dial, different bracelet, and specially the size for their offering