Skywatch is a new retail watch brand of Swiss made quartz watches that caught our eye. Their entire watch line is clearly styled after the Blancpain 50 Fathoms, and not the old military models, like my Helson Skindiver, but rather the current models (though those are based on the past, themselves). Now, it isn’t a literal copy or knock-off, there are differences to be found, mostly in terms of colorways, but it is abundantly clear where they got 95% of the look. And, that’s fine; it’s great actually. It’s a style of diver that is retro, fashionable and fun. The fat, rounded bezels and large markings have an almost playful look in the right setting, and the brand took the opportunity to use colors that have never (and I dare say will never) be used on the original. But more importantly, it just grants access to a style of watch that is normally priced in the stratosphere and is a welcome trend in retail quartz watches.
The Skywatch comes in many flavors…tons of flavors. This brand has so many SKUs it is almost unbelievable, especially for such a new company. At the most basic level, they come in chronograph and 3-hand models. The 3-hand models then come in two sizes, a 44mm clunker and a petite 38mm, the chrono only comes in 44mm. And the line seems to grow exponentially from there. There are “neon” models, all black IP models, rose gold models, yellow gold models, stainless models, orange bezels, carbon fiber (print) bezels, white bezels, pink bezels, and…I’m out of breath and I’m just typing. Seriously, I can’t think of another brand, especially in watches, with so many variations on a single idea. I can’t help but wonder if, like a failed retail chain, they might have expanded a little quickly; I guess time will tell.
Now, of the plethora of models, there are 2 that I find to be particularly appealing. First is the “poppy red” chrono. It’s not actually a red watch, rather a stainless model that features a two-tone bezel that is black from 45 – 15 and orange/red from 15 – 45. The poppy on the bezel works really well on this watch, emphasizing the overall vintage styling. The chrono dial is nicely laid out and has a balanced feel, and clearly takes from the fifty fathoms. Due to the Ronda 5030.d quartz movement powering the watch, the dial layout is a little funky, rather than having a small-seconds at 6, it is actually between 2 and 3; a strange, but innocuous detail. At $395 it is expensive for what it is, but the inflated price is to be expected for a brand that sells retail.
The other model that appeals to me is the all black 38mm 3-hander. First, I just think this watch looks gnarly in all black. Blancpain had an all black version that is plainly gorgeous, and the Skywatch looks pretty nice as well. As far as I can tell from the images on their site, the markings are actually a dark grey, giving some necessary contrast for legibility. The other reason is because I think this watch in 38mm must be quite stout and different. I assume they made a 38mm model to be more female, or even child friendly, but it is actually a very interesting move. If you just think about the proportions of these watches, at 38mm the bezel is very large compared to the dial, and the end result is this peculiar compact diver. Honestly, without seeing one in person, I can’t say if it’s gorgeous or ridiculous, but it’s probably not in between. This one runs $295.
There is one other thing about this brand that the design nerd (different than the watch nerd) in me can’t help but comment on: their branding. They might have some of the most ill conceived branding I have ever seen. To start, the name is “skywatch”, which is super generic unto itself (so much so, that they had to get “skywatchsite” as URL), but clearly alludes to pilot watches, aviation, flying…you know, stuff that happens in the sky. Yet, they produce but one style in many variations that is clearly based on one of the most iconic dive watches out there (seawatch?), a watch with its origins in military diving that was worn by the likes of Jacques Cousteau. Next, the logo is a set of wings with a generic “S” in the center, that clearly alludes to pilot wings and yet is slapped on, dead center and impossible to miss, each of their dive watches. Now, though on their site they say nothing about the iconic watch from which they based their aesthetic, or even that their design is based on historical models (or current ones) they do call it a “dive watch for dive bars” and tout the 100m water resistance. So, they are not trying to mislabel the style as a pilot watch (at least that is honest), but that further emphasizes the absurdity of their name and logo. Just to make things more bizarre, when you hover over their logo, in the upper left corner of their site, you get a small slideshow of icons that goes: pilot wings logo, snorkel, fins, oxygen tanks, shark…wait what?
Of course, one might say, this is just their first watch; the next one might be a pilot. And that is true, but other than color-ways, the watch itself has no name beyond “Skywatch” so either they only plan on making this one watch, the next watch will they also have to be “Skywatch”, or they will have to retro actively rename this watch.
Well, that being said, I stick to my original statement, which is that I am glad to see a watch of this aesthetic enter the retail market place. When I go into a department store and look at the bulk of the watches being hoisted onto consumers who don’t know better, I shudder at the thought of the world of better styled and more authentic watches, that often cost less that they are not seeing. Brands like Skywatch and Nixon are doing everyone a favor by selling their wares at large retail outlets. Having not held any, I can’t speak to their build quality, but given that they are Swiss made, have Rondas, mineral crystal lens and sail cloth straps, I’m guessing they are well put together. Lastly, I want give them credit for donating a percentage of their total profits as well as watches themselves to charity. It’s not something you see often enough, so way-to-go.
by Zach Weiss