Hands-On with the Triton Subphotique

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Bringing back historical watches is a funny thing. Often, brands recreate something famous and iconic that both enthusiasts and non can relate to. After all the goal is typically to generate sales based on familiarity and nostalgia. Well, what if a brand were to recreate a watch that was originally only sold in specialty stores, was expensive at the time and is relatively unknown in the current market? Well, Triton did just that with Subphotique, a close recreation of a strange, but intriguing dive watch from 1963. And their goal? Well, it’s not to create a best seller or a household name, rather they’ve priced it to continue a legacy of exclusivity.

triton_subphotique_dial_4
The original Triton was an oddball of a watch designed by Jean René Parmentier (1921-1998), a former colonel of the French Air Force and watchmaking enthusiast. As you can see in his original patent drawings, he was attempting to figure out better mechanisms for guaranteeing water tightness of the crown, thus developing interesting concepts with protected 12 o’clock crowns. parmentier_patentThese designs became the foundation of the Triton, which certainly stands out from the early divers with its unique case design and gorgeous bezel insert.

The Triton watch itself was made exclusively for La Spirotechnique, which later changed its name to one people are more familiar with, Aqua Lung, and was founded by Jacques Cousteau. It was a watch meant for professional and military divers, not hobbyists or the general public. It was a precision tool, and as such it was priced high at 682.5 francs, which put it above the Rolex Submariner. Because of these factors, the Triton is a watch that’s not on most people’s vintage radars today, mostly being pursued by cult dive and military watch enthusiasts. And because of their scarcity, demand a substantial price, such as one that went last year for $6,950.

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$6200

Hands-On with the Triton Subphotique

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
Soprod A10-2
Dial
matte
Lume
C3
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Gator+Rubber
Water Resistance
500m
Dimensions
40 x variablemm
Thickness
13.2mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
Screwdown
Warranty
Yes
Price
$6200

Flash forward 50+ years, and the Triton name has been revived with the goal of creating a modern day watch that stayed very true to the original design, celebrating its unique attributes, but built to modern spec. Most notably, other than a slight bump in size the case design has remained intact, but now the water resistance has been bolstered to 500m and a helium escape valve has been added at the 3 o’clock position. Powering the watch is a modified Soprod A10-2 that has been fully decorated and features a Parachrom hairspring for additional shock protection and a roulette date wheel.

Getting into the watch itself, the case measures 40mm side-to-side, 41mm at the bezel and 13.2mm thick, though it looks and feels thinner. The lug-to-lug is a bit harder to measure given the articulating lug at twelve, so it ranges from about 55.7mm expanded to 47mm collapsed. In practice, it conforms to your wrist, and is balanced about by the relatively short lugs on the bottom half of the watch.

triton_subphotique_case_7

The case shape is then a lugged-barrel with flat surfaces and faceted lugs. Obviously, the visual centerpiece are the top lugs which enshroud the screwdown crown at 12. Rather than locking in place they hinge, thus allowing the lugs to sit more naturally on the wrist while still protecting the crown. By moving the crown to 12, the design also prevents the crown from digging into the wrist or posing a potential snag threat. It’s actually a very logical place to put the crown, granted one needs special mechanism to get the strap around it.

Though the hinged lugs are exotic, my favorite detail is the bezel, which stays very true to the original. It’s wide bezel with a sapphire insert and a rounded coin edge that looks and feels great. It features a 60-click unidirectional bezel with good resistance that lands on the mark. All great, but it’s the graphics of the insert that I love. The index features a triangle 0/60, white lines for the individual minutes, larger lumed rectangles at intervals of five and large lumed numerals at intervals of 10. The typeface of the numerals exudes a cool vintage vibe that only something genuinely from the time period can pull off. First, the numerals are all rounded, for a soft look, but more interestingly the tens digit is larger than the ones, emphasizing it. This creates a nice visual rhythm to the index, and has a logic to it as well, as the 1, 2… 4, etc is what matters at a glance.

triton_subphotique_bezel_1

Though the overall design is more or less the same, the engineering has changed giving the Subphotique more modern specs. Though relatively svelte, the watch features 500m WR, which is actually hinted in the name. Subphotique means it can descend below the photic zone, which is a cool naming convention Additionally the watch features an HEV at 3 for saturation dive concerns. While it’s not very likely the watch will be taken down to these depths, in the spirit of the original being a true instrument they made the recreation able to hold its own.

Getting into the dial, it’s a simple, classic dive dial that while similar to the original has been modified, in my opinion, for the better. The primary index consists of C3-lumed rectangles and dots for the hours. The lume is built up nicely, giving the markers some dimensionality. The difference between the original and the recreation is that these markers are placed further away from the center of the dial, which has a more balanced, albeit less quirky, feel. Around the edge of the dial is then an index in white with lines for the individual minutes and numerals at intervals of 5, adding legibility. At 3 there is a date window showing the very cool roulette date wheel. By roulette, I mean a date wheel where the numbers alternate black and red. This is fun detail that certainly wasn’t necessary to recreate, but one I’m very glad they did.

triton_subphotique_dial_3

The hands stay true to the original as well, another smart choice as they have undeniable style. The hour is a short sword with a pronounced tip, while the minute hand is a straight post with a large triangular pointer. Though it became more common with later dive watches, emphasizing the minutes hand over the hour has a logic and speaks to the watch as an instrument. It’s very cool to see this on a watch from 63. Aesthetically, they just look great. The seconds hand is then a straight stick with a lumed circle towards its tip. It’s worth noting the lume overall is exceptional.

The Subphotique comes mounted to a kind of strange hybrid 21mm rubber/gator strap. Basically, the strap consists of a layer of gator that is sewn into a rubber housing. It feels like a rubber strap, a very nice one, but because of the leather, looks like a sporty-gator strap, which wouldn’t be my go to for a diver. I also don’t know how well gator does in water, especially salt water, though the strap certainly implies it’s meant to get wet. The buckle is well designed and executed. It’s a faceted slab of metal with brushing on its top surface and polished sides. It complements the case design nicely.

triton_subphotique_strap_1

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On the wrist, the Subphotique looks and wears wonderfully. It’s a beautiful watch with well considered proportions that come across lithe and elegant despite its overall sporty design. It’s quite comfortable too. The articulating lug sits over the side of the wrist adjusting to each wrist, making it a very ergonomic design in the end, despite looking a bit harsh and geometric. Because it’s hinged, it also flexes during the day while you wear it, which undoubtedly adds to the comfort of the watch. The watch’s 13.2mm height, though it sounds large, is largely in the stepped case back, which rest in the wrist, allowing the watch to sit low.

Aesthetically, the watch goes to show that purpose driven designs often created the most beautiful outcomes. Though designed fully with making a better instrument in mind, the resulting watch is bizarre, fascinating and cool, having a personality that’s unlike anything else. At a glance, the dial says classic diver, pure and handsome. The bezel then takes things in a slightly different direction, still diver, but more exotic and bold. The faceted case and over hanging lugs then adds something industrial to the mix. It almost shouldn’t work, but does and looks great.

triton_subphotique_wrist_1

The Triton Subphotique is, all in all, a beautiful watch and a well-considered recreation of one of the lesser known, but no less fascinating dive watches of the 60’s. They did a great job bringing out the elements that made the original unique, while still modernizing it over all. Build quality, finish are all top notch, and of course it’s powered by a solid engine with the Soprod A10-2. Of course there’s a caveat to the Triton, and that’s the price tag.

With a retail price of $6,200, the Subphotique is very expensive. Frankly, I expected the price to not be above $3k, so I was a bit taken back initially. Then I saw that they wanted the watch to be exclusive, and that price tag will certainly limit the customer pool. It’s an approach I don’t agree with, but their brand, their decision. So, in the end, the Triton might be the perfect watch for the dive enthusiast with $6200 burning a hole in their pocket, and they are out there, but for those of us who don’t, it’s still a gorgeous watch whose design we can admire.

For more on the Subphotique, visit Tritonwatch.ch

Images from this post:
Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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  • Hi there,

    The Triton Subphotique is an interesting piece. It is quite reminiscent of the Hublot, sharing a design cue in the case shape. Very nice.

    Thanks for the review

    Carl

  • GhostlyProduct

    I nearly spit out my coffee when the price was mentioned. $6200 for a Soprod movement, regardless of the other qualities of the watch, is asinine. This is priced $400 less than an Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial. Let that sink in.

  • error406

    Lovely watch. Insulting price tag.

  • Dave Ryan

    That price is laughable. Absolutely ridiculous.

  • Svetoslav Popov

    I am just curious how many will be sold at that price point 🙂

  • Isaac Marx

    I guess it’s “exclusive” if nobody buys it? If you’re approaching the cost of a Rolex Submariner you’d better have a pretty compelling reason for it. Pity, as I really like the design (and dimensions, not too many attractive 40 mm divers out there anymore).

  • Stanley K

    I thought there is an extra ‘0’ at the end by mistake.
    It is a nice piece, with a good 40mm sized case but I can think of 10 alternatives instantly for that price.
    And those texts on the dial… especially the logo just don’t match up to the price tag.

  • Joel Schumann

    I would think “gators” does fine in the water?

    Crepas has made some watches with roughly the same (but better IMO) aesthetics and a better price/value. They tend to sell out fast. I don’t see this sell out fast…

  • Astronuts

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a6cc767c7501ac139b741eda28ac849d01e5a2ab82fa7384cf27140fdbbfb435.jpg

    The ZRC is a far superior watch in all aspects, even vintage history. Even a lowly Borealis version is a better value than the Triton.

    • David Majorel

      i m found of dive watches, i use the two : ZRC an Triton, in my opinion no contest between the two the Triton is highly superior in terms of quality, comfort and style. ZRC is a beautiful watch but one level lower i think.

  • Donald Ford

    I use this exercise to call shenanigans on this “branding” culture we’re in now.. Go back in your mind to when you got your first great dive watch.. Whether it was a new Seamaster or Submariner or maybe you wanted something different and you decided on a pre owned Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (All of those are available in the $6 to $7k range btw).. Remember how you felt holding that little status symbol/piece of history? Now picture yourself using those same hard earned funds to purchase your very own…. Titan Subphotique with it’s dial, text and lume application looking like it came straight off of an $800 boutique diver.. Btw it also has the same non COSC non modified A10 movement as that $800 boutique diver..

    You’d feel like someone just punched you in the crotch.

    So yes the price of watches can be about more than the cost of their parts… But you’re going to need to do a better job of showing people what that is and convincing them it’s valuable.

    This is the EXACT same thing as the $15,000 Apple Watch that was expensive simply because it was expensive. Louis Vuitton earned the ability to sell things that are expensive because they’re expensive… Triton has not.

  • Donald Ford

    My first thought when I saw banner photo for this article?? Is that some sort of bullhead style seiko?

  • chenpofu

    Really cool watch. Movement issue aside, can Mr. Weiss comment on whether the build quality and fit and finish are comparable to similarly priced divers such as a Submariner or a GS diver? Thanks.

  • Astronuts

    I don’t care if the Triton has blah, blah this or blah blah that, the
    ZRC is just a better watch VALUE. Wear the Triton if you want to feel
    special…I’ll take the Grand Fonds and buy a new guitar. Oh and I
    haven’t used a dive watch for diving since my Citizen Auqaland died in
    the 90’s.

  • Astronuts

    Strangely I broke a Soprod A10 – thank god it was in a beater Steinhart.

  • Elijs Dima

    That’s an odd pricepoint. The overall look this watch gives off is that of a micro-brand diver in the sub-1000 range.

  • Yojimbo

    the price is a total asshole move, fuck them, fuck their mothers and fuck their dogs