One of the most common Instagram comment trends over the past few years is the “Oh, but it’s a Miyota movement and $XXX – really wish it was a Sellita or ETA!” Folks, believe me when I tell you, I tend to think this perspective misses the mark in a variety of ways. First and foremost, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Miyota movements. While chronometry out of the box might not be in line with Swiss competitors, they are built plenty tough and tend to be reliable, if not always bang on accurate. What’s more important though is that their lower price allows small brands to make the watches they want without the compromises that might be necessary if shelling out more for a higher end caliber. We see this over and over again, with interesting, stylistically bold watches from microbrands that present something wholly unique for a low price with a Miyota beating away inside. At the entry level, Miyota powered watches are giving consumers a variety of options that can’t be beat by those with Swiss movements inside. Clemence Watches, based in the UK, is out with their first offering later this summer, and it’s a classically styled and handsome dive watch with some surprising features and, yes, it runs on a Miyota 9039. It also retails for about $600, with discounts available through a forthcoming crowdfunding campaign. Let’s take a look.
The Photic Diver, stylistically, doesn’t break a ton of new ground, but it’s undoubtedly nice looking and should appeal to fans of vintage inspired sports watches, divers or otherwise. Aesthetically it sits somewhere between a skin diver and a classic Explorer style watch, with a narrow rotating bezel without any numerals, and a dial with crisp applied rectangular hour markers set off by a large 12 and 6. Multiple colorways will be made available, including a “Photic Dial” in sunburst blue with a black gradient effect, as well as a version in matte black and one in a blue sunburst finish without the gradient effect. Each dial will have an option of silver or bronze gilt hands and hour markers, offering an impressive level of customization. The case is 39mm with a 47mm lug to lug length and a thickness of 10.7mm, not including the crystal, so this should hit the sweet spot for many in terms of sizing. The design here appears to be somewhat safe (it’s a vintage inspired dive watch, after all), but extremely well executed, offering plenty of choice to customers along the way.
The bracelet of the Photic Diver, however, is what really caught my attention. Clemence promises a milled clasp with on-the-fly micro adjust capabilities, something that is quite rare under $1,000 (honestly, it’s fairly rare even at much higher price points). We have yet to see the micro adjustment feature in action, but to have this as an option in a debut watch is noteworthy for a small brand, and if they’re able to deliver something satisfactory at this price, it could be a compelling option for many who are constantly looking for a satisfying, easily adjustable bracelet. And this is where the compromise of the movement choice really kicks in for the Photic Diver. It’s hard to imagine this watch with an ETA or Sellita movement still being priced so aggressively given the six total dial options and a bracelet punching above its weight. But at the end of the day, these things arguably have a much greater impact on one’s enjoyment when it comes to actually wearing the watch. It’s a trade I’d happily make any day of the week.
The Clemence Photic Diver is targeted for a summer launch. More information can be found on the brand’s website here, as well as a signup page for more information on the upcoming Kickstarter campaign.