Albany Watches Pays Tribute to Japanese Diving Tradition with the Ama Diver

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Albany Watches is a new brand that has just introduced their first watch, the Ama Diver. Now, it will be no surprise to regular readers that here at Worn & Wound we get information on a lot of new watches and sometimes find ourselves asking “Why do you exist?” After all, it’s easy enough in late 2019 to decide you want to be a watchmaker, throw a Kickstarter campaign together, and try your hand with something completely generic. But in a crowded market, in addition to having a good product, you need a story to tell. It remains to be seen if Albany Watches will be a success, and if the Ama will resonate, but the brand sure does tell a story.


Albany Watches Ama Diver

  • Case Material: Stainless steel 
  • Dial: Abyss Black, Black Pearl, Navy Fume 
  • Dimensions: 41.5 x 48 x 12.8,, 
  • Crystal: Sapphire   
  • Water Resistance: 300 meters    
  • Crown: Screw down     
  • Movement: Miyota 9039
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather, stainless steel  
  • Price: $457-$498
  • Reference Number: n/a
  • Expected Release: Available for pre-order

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The Ama Diver is inspired by the historic Japanese ama divers. Japan, being a seafaring island nation, has a long history of diving and underwater exploration, and the ama tradition is said to go back as far as 2,000 years. These female divers descended down to 30 meters deep to retrieve food and pearls, often in icy cold water, wearing nothing but a loin cloth.

Women were trained as ama from pre-adolescence and worked in their trade until old age — it was truly a lifelong commitment. As recently as the 1940s there were as many as 6,000 women practicing the ama tradition, but those numbers have dwindled in recent decades. It’s estimated that only 60-70 ama per generation are currently practicing. 

This historic and highly specific method of skin diving is fascinating in its own right and a worthy starting point for a watch design. Albany’s design here is in many ways very traditional. We have what is essentially a sharp skin diver case with a thin rotating dive bezel — this is a style right out of the 1970s and if you like that kind of thing, you won’t have any problem with the Ama, at least on paper. The dials are where Albany lets their creativity flow a bit. There are three options: Navy Fume, Abyss Black, and Black Pearl. The Abyss Black is fairly standard fare. It’s black, obviously, and allows the turquoise accents on the seconds hand and minutes track to be the star of the show. The other options are more interesting. The Navy Fume is bright blue in the center, and turns darker toward the edges, until it becomes a deep black. The Black Pearl is reminiscent of Mother of Pearl, but darker than what we’d typically see in a MoP dial. At this price point, it’s my guess that this is a synthetic treatment of some kind, but it does have a certain aesthetic appeal.

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Black Pearl
Diver Black
Navy Fume

The Ama Diver is powered by a Miyota 9039 automatic movement, and rated to 300 meters of water resistance. The watch measures 41.5mm, which is a great modern size, but I wonder if Albany missed an opportunity here, given the uniquely female inspiration for this piece, to size the watch at a more unisex friendly diameter. There’s a notable shortage of female friendly tool watches (at least of the mechanical variety) and this could have filled a niche. Albany seems to be committed to producing watches exclusively in limited runs, so perhaps this is something they would consider in the future.

Another aspect of the Ama that’s worth mentioning is that Albany is donating a portion of each sale to marine conservation initiatives, something we’ve seen a number of other brands do over the last year or so, representing a trend that we fully support. Pre-orders for the Ama are live as of December 1. More information can be found on the Albany website. Albany

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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