First Look: Ianos Avyssos

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The Greek poet Homer wrote about sponges, which tells us that retrieving sponges from the seafloor has been going on in Greece for as long as 3,000 years. Cultivating sponges requires diving as deep as 100 meters for as long as five minutes on a single breath. To get to the bottom quickly with minimal effort, Greek sponge divers tied themselves to rounded stones called skandalopetra, which would drag them to the bottom where soft sponges grow.

In 1900, sponge divers discovered an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island Antikythera. Resting 148 feet below the surface (deep even for modern SCUBA divers), this wreck is believed to have gone down around 70BC. Among the artifacts these sponge divers raised was the Antikythera mechanism, a clock-like movement with over 30 interlocking gears. The Antikythera mechanism is thought to be the first mechanical computer, and theories of what it computed abound. Most researchers agree, however, that the mechanism kept track of time, including the passage of the 12-month calendar, the passage of multiple years, and likely the movement of heavenly bodies. Though ancient Greek astronomical calculations were a bit out of whack, it appears that the mechanism tracked those calculations with incredible accuracy.

Introducing the Ianos Avyssos.

A brand new Greek watch company called Ianos will soon be issuing a dive watch dedicated to the legacy of those intrepid sponge divers who discovered the Antikythera mechanism. They’re calling the watch the Avyssos, which is Greek for “abyss.” Add it all up, and we’re looking at a very watery Greek theme that Ianos has managed to realize, quite cleverly, with nearly every detail of the Avyssos.

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I’ve never put on a 44-millimeter watch that wears so small. It’s really something to behold. I’ve argued elsewhere that fit has less to do with diameter and much to do with vertical lug-to-lug and the shape of the back of the watch. The way Ianos has accomplished such a great fit is two fold: the case back slopes steeply upward toward the sides of the case, and a channel runs down the middle of the case back through which the included pass-thru strap runs without adding bulk. The result is one of the more comfortable large watches I’ve ever worn.

The strap is a curious one. Suede backed with PVC, it is—despite my initial hesitations—meant to get wet. Apparently the suede will age all the better if soaked regularly; in fact, the copies that have been circulating lately here in the USA include the same strap used during filming of sponge divers wearing the Avyssos, and those straps look great. Unable to dive with the sample I have, I instead dropped it into my fish tank, and the suede handled the soaking just fine.

Note the way the slip-through strap passes between the lugs and the channel in the case back.

A small rear aperture allows a partial view of the ETA 7001 hand-wound movement. It’s rare to see a hand-wound unit inside a dive watch, but Ianos argues that the act of winding it, as well as its relative simplicity, make the 7001 an ideal tribute to the Antikythera mechanism. I buy that.

The case back aperture is pretty tiny. The downside is that this watch foregoes the wide open view afforded by the lack of a rotor; the upside is that the movement looks like a funky old maritime mechanism carrying on behind a primitive submarine’s porthole (think Steve Zissou’s sub in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic). Since this watch prioritizes watery themes over horological awe, the small rear window totally works. And, of course, it allows for that strap-hugging channel in the case back.

Around front is a compelling sandwich dial—a bit reminiscent of that other Mediterranean-oriented brand Panerai—and the numerical font manages to look original without succumbing to oddness. The dial’s surface is granulated like medium-weight sandpaper, and Ianos claims this is to replicate the rust that encased the Antikythera mechanism. Once again, I totally buy it.

What I think everyone will buy into—and I think this is going to be the big selling point for the Avyssos—is the sub-dial. A lumed pinwheel rotates every 60 seconds beneath the 4-part aperture, creating an interesting alternative to a seconds hand. The shape of the sub-dial aperture is taken from one of the Antikythera mechanism’s two faces. The idea here isn’t accurate counting of seconds but a bold and quick assurance that the watch is running (this is the purpose of a seconds hand according to the ISO 6425 dive watch standard). It’s hard to imagine a sponge diver tied to a sinking stone plunging into total darkness being able to make out the motion of a tiny pip on a seconds hand, so the Avyssos’ sub-dial turns out to be a rather ingenious marriage of form and function. On dry land, the rotating disc isn’t distracting like, say, an exposed tourbillon. In the dark, however, that rotating disc is like a slow-moving disco light.

The bezel and the screw-down crown have a bolt-head shape to them—another nod to the Antikythera mechanism—and both operate easily between finger and thumb (not always true with crowns and bezels that lack knurling).

Water resistance is full-on at 300 meters/1,000 feet; crystal is a sapphire dome; stainless steel is 316L—standard stuff for an indie dive watch. A number of compelling colorways will be available, though I really enjoy the Greekness of the blue and white version I have in hand.

Leather straps that you’ll want to get wet.
The Avyssos wear surprisingly well on the wrist despite being a rather large watch on paper. The channel along the case back contributes to the comfortable fit.

With the proliferation of smaller watch brands these days, it seems increasingly unlikely that any one of them will create a truly unique watch without resorting to overt weirdness and easy novelty. None of that ever ages well. Ianos has managed to deliver an original, coherent, and exciting dive watch with multiple features you won’t find elsewhere, and for that I’m giving the Avyssos my highest marks by predicting it will be quite a hit.

The Avyssos will be available for pre-order starting in March, with an expected ship date during the summer. Pricing is expected to be around 650 Euros. The Ianos website is currently under construction and due to launch next week. In the meantime, you can subscribe to their e-mail list to stay in the loop. Ianos

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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