Hands-On With The Starry Eyed Isotope Hydrium Blue Night

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Recently I’ve been experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon as it exists in our world of watches. Isotope is a brand that I’ve long been aware of, but only recently had the pleasure of seeing first hand. Since then, I feel that I’m seeing their watches more and more on social media and interesting new releases are coming thick and fast. Of course, it’s mostly that I’m just registering seeing them more often, yet the new Isotope Hydrium Blue Night leaves me thinking that my own cognitive bias is also coinciding with a rich vein of form for the brand.

A couple of months back I wrote about a breath of fresh air in the microbrand dive watch scene – the Isotope Hydrium “Will Return” diver. At that time there were two watches forming the new Hydrium series, with a “Burnt Tangerine” accompanying the “Will Return”. That duo becomes a trio with a Limited Edition run of the Hydrium “Blue Night” which is now available for preorder. There’s a lot of similarity to be seen in the case and bezel, but I’m going hands on with what ends up feeling like a very different watch.

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Starting with the recurrent components, the Hydrium series uses a micro-blasted 40mm stainless steel case. Paired with a 48mm lug to lug length would normally make for a compact and easily wearable watch, but the bulky profile and brutishness of the finish challenge that assumption of broad accessibility. The thickness of just under 15 is spread between a heavily domed sapphire crystal, blasted rotating bezel and a midcase which remains a similar thickness from its center through to the rounded lugs. As well as a chunky profile, the Hydrium appears bulky when viewed face on with thick lugs and a 22m width between them. That’s not to say the Hydrium is uncomfortable or unsuitable for a smaller wrist, but the dimensions coupled with the general expanse of dull gray stainless steel give a watch that deliberately leans heavily towards the informal.

The bezel and dial are both stripped back to a simple combination of black and blue. The glossy black enamel dial features Isotope’s emblematic ‘lacrima’ shape projecting from the center, with a crisp white minute track around the perimeter. The second hand also grows out of the same lacrima shape at the top of the hand stack. The other two flame blued hands are fairly simple sticks, but actually take the form of the ‘i’ as it appears in the Isotope logo.

Depending on the direction and strength of the light hitting the watch the hands can shine bright blue above the stepped dial, or just appear as white blocks against a sea of jet black. The 120 click bezel is much the same – the single blue lacrima reference point on the sapphire bezel can assist with the odd timing task, but the stealthiness won’t help the watch to push away from casual and towards being a fully functional tool, despite also boasting 300m of water resistance.

Inside the Hydrium Blue Night will be the Swiss made Landeron 24. This is an automatic caliber I don’t have much experience with, but it offers 40 hours of power reserve, a beat rate of 28,800bph and expected accuracy of +/- 12 seconds per day. The final production run will see customised finishing as well as signed rotor.

In terms of strap choice, the Blue Night watch will be fitted with a black FKM rubber with blasted buckle to match the case. Black is the obvious colour choice for this watch, and my own preference is to go for a rubber strap to help secure a watch which otherwise might feel top heavy on a leather or canvas strap. Although the prototype shown here has screwed lug bars, the final production model will use conventional spring bars and a cleaner surface on the outside of the case with no lug holes visible. The Helium Escape valve is another ‘blemish’ that will be removed on the final version.

The Hydrium Night Blue ends up being an amalgam of serious dive watch traits and an exercise in looking sharp. Overall I think it achieves the latter much more successfully, resulting in a distinctive and visually punchy watch which then inherits the robustness of a dive watch. 100 pieces will be produced with delivery scheduled for April 2022, and preorder is now open with a price of £450 (~$750). Isotope.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
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