The Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military review I wrote a month or so ago has received a lot of attention. People just love that watch. From its price to its dead-on mil-sub looks, it’s simply a winner. But it’s not the only mil-sub styled watch on the market, and I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at how the OVM compares to another option, the Armida A2. On paper they are quite similar, they are 42mm watches with ETA 2824-2 movements (the A2 is also available with a Miyota 8215) and sapphire crystals that are inspired to varying extents by the famous 5517 Submariner. But when looked at side-by-side, one can quickly see that they are by no means the same watch, in fact, almost every detail has been interpreted differently. As one goes through these details the biggest difference between the watches becomes apparent, which is in the intention behind the designs. One is a true homage watch and the other is a dive watch with referential looks.
Note: this isn’t a “which is better” comparison, as I think both watches have a lot to offer, this is just a look at how one iconic watch can be interpreted in different ways. For full in-depth reviews of the two watches, check my review of the OVM here and Paul Hubbard’s review of the Armida A2 here.
Both the OVM and A2 have 42mm cases, which are oversized from the original 5517. Though they appear similar at a glance, the details of the cases are fairly different. The profile of case body of the OVM is thinner, and has a fairly straight line from lug-to-lug. The A2 has a thicker body, and actually is more faithful in shape to the 5517. That being said, the overall thickness OVM is greater at 14.5mm compared to 13mm, due to the domed sapphire. The A2 has very crisp edges, bordering on sharp, around every surface of the case, giving it a slightly more aggressive look than the OVM. Both watches have brushed top surfaces, but while the OVM’s is lightly brushed in one direction, giving it a satin finish, the A2’s brushing is radial, making the grain more noticeable. Both have 22mm lugs that are fitted with spring bars, the only difference here is that the A2 has very convenient holes drilled through the lugs, allowing for spring bar release by pushing a poker through.
Bezels & Crystals
One of the defining visual features of the 5517 is the bezel insert, which has individual minute markers going all around the bezel. Both the OVM and A2 feature inserts like this, but done in very different ways. The OVM has an aluminum insert with an applied plastic-lume marker at 12, staying very faithful to the original design. The index is left as aluminum. The A2 has an aluminum insert with a milled index that is fully lumed with C3 lume, making this bezel a contemporary update to the style. The outer edge of the A2 is fully polished and slightly thinner than that of the OVM. This slight proportional difference actually has a large visual effect, as edge of the insert is closer to the edge of the watch, making the whole watch seem larger.
Another visual difference between the two watches is in the sapphire crystals they have installed. Steinhart went with a thick domed sapphire crystal, in order to maintain some visual similarity to acrylic crystals on the originals. Armida has chosen a flat sapphire for the A2.
Dial & Hands
Both watches clearly have Submariner styled dials, if they didn’t they wouldn’t be in this article, but despite the general similarities they, once again, are quite different. The OVM’s dial is based on the “maxi-dial” of the 5517, which is apparent in the chunky circular and rectangular markings. The A2’s dial is more reminiscent of the 5513, where the markings are substantially smaller. The overall effect is that there is much more negative space, or more black area, on the A2. Combine that with the slightly larger diameter of the dial, 32.3mm vs 30.6mm, and you have a dial that feels much larger by comparison. One important functional difference between the watches is that the A2 has a date window between 4 and 5.
Perhaps the first, and most apparent difference is in the choice of lume. The OVM has old radium lume, which is know for its faux-patina orange, and the A2 has C3, to match the bezel. The orange color of the old radium lume does a lot for the looks of the OVM, giving it a warmer feeling that refers to the vintage of the 5517. While the fake aging is neither here nor there, the color makes the watch very unique and very versatile. The cool green of the C3 lume on the A2, conversely, feels very new and crisp. In terms of strength, C3 lume is much brighter than old radium.
Both watches have the tell-tale sword hands of the mil-sub, but they are not the same in terms of execution. The hour hand on the A2 appears longer and the vertices that create the sword shape are close to the front of the hand. The minute hands are very similar, but the A2’s is slightly thicker. Likewise, the seconds hands are at a glance the same, but the A2’s has a slightly tapered design.
Straps & Wearability
Both watches come with Oyster styled steel bracelets of good quality. The biggest differences between the two bracelets is that the A2’s tapers from 22mm to 18mm and contains a diving extension. The A2 also comes with an Isofrane style rubber strap. It is pretty clear that the bracelet and strap combo that comes with the A2 suggests that the watch is for actual diving, which stays true to Armida’s branding.
Both watches are comfortable and wear well, but do to their different dial and bezel proportions, the A2 feels and looks larger. In terms of looks, the OVM comes off more fashionable and perhaps a bit more formal due to the old radium lume and aluminum bezel. Also, the domed sapphire is more stylized than the flat variety. Both look great on NATO straps.
It’s pretty clear that the intentions behind these watches are fairly different. The Steinhart OVM is going for the mil-sub look at full speed. From the proportions to the lume, it really captures that look and is meant for people who are seeking a watch in that style. If you are like me, it’s the looks of the watch that drew you to it, not the features. The A2 is a dive watch. It has a 500m water resistance, powerful C3 lume, and dive-oriented straps. While it is clearly based on the mil-sub look, the differences in the bezel, hands and proportions make it “inspired by” rather than a homage. If you are diver who likes these looks, this is more likely your choice. That being said any of the little details could swing you from one to the other: the lume color, the date, the bezel insert, etc…
In terms of value it’s not really fair to look at any watch up against a Steinhart, as they are magically well priced, but the OVM comes in at $250 less than the A2 for the 2824-2 steel version. Once again, the A2 does have 500m water resistance, a date window, C3, and two straps, making it a good deal regardless. The A2 is also available with a Miyota 8215 for less money, and can be had with a PVD finish. To my knowledge, it is the only mil-sub inspired watch on the market available in a PVD.
There is another mil-sub homage out there made by the Orange Watch Company of Australia. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one for this article, but from the looks of it and the feature set it’s more like the A2, or a contemporary take on the mil-sub that they call an “in the spirit of” or ISO watch. Some of the interesting features are a ceramic bezel and your choice of Seagull or Soprod movements. They also make a neat Tudor ISO…but that’s a different article.
by Zach Weiss