Benarus stands out from the pack of boutique tool dive watches with designs that tend to be more unique and perhaps divisive. A perfect example of this is the last watch of theirs we reviewed, the Megalodon 500. This dual crown diver has some of the most extreme looks of any watch we’ve looked at. Yet despite the shock value, was an awesome and memorable watch. More recently, we’ve actually reviewed their sister brand, Raven, whose Rolex inspired watches are fun, stylish and tough as nails. For an inside look at the brand, check out our interview with co-owner Steve Laughlin.
Today we’re going to look at a watch they’ve made for sometime, but comes and goes in terms of availability. The Sea Snake is a 500m tool watch with looks that are inspired by a classic, yet somewhat less discussed, dive watch, the Breitling SuperOcean. More known for their racing chronographs and pilot’s watches, Breitling also made one of the most beautiful and unique dive watches in the 60’s. The SuperOcean has striking details and looks that have never been repeated in another mainstream watch. To learn more, I recommend checking out this article.
The Sea Snake takes cues from this design, yet goes its own direction in many other ways. What you end up with is a cool, vintage inspired watch with a modern size and build. It’s a tough and highly functional watch, with 500m water resistance a double domed sapphire crystal, super bright C3 lume and a Miyota 9015 movement, yet it has style to spare. With a price tag of $720 + shipping with a bracelet and strap, the Sea Snake maintains an affordable price point.
Benarus Sea Snake Review
Movement: Miyota 9015
Strap: Steel Bracelet + Rubber
Water Res.: 500m
Dimensions: 44 x 49mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Crown: 7 x 5 mm
Warranty: 1 Year
The Sea Snake case mixes the robustness of a modern 500m tool diver, with curves that speak to vintage pieces. Measuring 44 x 49 x 14mm, it’s a sizable watch, but thanks to a shorter than average lug-to-lug, it wears better than expected. The watch sports 24mm lugs, which allow for the shorter lug-to-lug length. While that’s a big positive, they also make the watch look a bit boxy, perhaps undermining some of the more elegant features.
From above, the Sea Snake is dominated by the beautiful bezel, which unlike most bezels, is actually concave. From an angle you can see it slope in towards the double domed sapphire crystal. This is actually accurate, at least in concept, to the original SuperOceans, which had this unique design. The visual effect is striking, as it adds unexpected geometry.
The other standout detail when viewed from above is are the twisting lugs, which too pay tribute to the early SuperOceans, as well as other watches from the era. The flowing curves add a graceful detail to the watch, as well as an opportunity for some nice finishing. On the inside of the lugs they are satin, while on the outer bevel, which runs along the top surface of the case, is polished.
The case side then has a light brushing, which is appropriately toned down for a dive watch. Playing off of the curved lugs, the case sides too have a gentle curve that flows inward towards the case back, which continues the curve into a near seamless dome. This is genuinely gorgeous detailing that one doesn’t typically find on tool divers in the sub $1,000 category. One detail I am a huge fan of are the drilled lugs. This makes strap changing so much easier.
The back, which is screw down, is decorated with a central etching of a pattern of dolphins swimming. It’s a nice piece of art, which I believe is a logo of theirs, that activates the otherwise empty space. That said, I was surprised to see something so tame on a watch called the Sea Snake. Around the etching are various details.
Off of three is a large screw down which measures about 7 x 5mm. It has a typical coin edging that makes it easy to grasp. On the outside surface the same dolphin motif that is on the back is etched into the crown, which is again, a nice detail. Visually, the crown might be a touch long for the case, especially since it is sans-crown guards. It just seems like it’s a bit precarious, cantilevering off the side.
The dial of Sea Snake is a bit of a departure from the source material, as far as I can tell. Instead of a typical dive style, it shoots for a more classic field look that works very well. The design is simple, the primary index consists of triangles, all pointing towards the center, one for each hour/5 minutes. At 12, 3, 6 and 9 are large numerals which cut into thew triangles beside them. The proportions are very good, creating a very legible index that stands out, but nothing is too big or extreme. It’s a sort of classic layout that works with both the vintage and modern elements of the watch. The lume is also built up nicely, giving the numerals a slightly hand painted look.
Around the outer edge are white marks for the minutes/seconds, dots every five, lines in between. Otherwise, the matte black surface is fairly sparse. There is a date window at 4.5, with a white on black date, which integrates well. At 12 is a Benarus text logo and above 6 it reads, “automatic, 500 meters”. The text is well sized as to not be distracting, yet adds a bit of a technical look.
The bezel insert adds another level to the dial, which speaks very much to vintage dive watches and SuperOceans. The insert, which is matte black, has a large triangle at the origin, lines at intervals of five and a right-side up 30. The markers at 15 and 45 are also much heavier, distinguishing them from the rest, and creating a strong horizontal line across the watch. The insert itself is also made in a way that feels vintage, with the lume being painted directly into pockets in the insert. As such, one can actually touch the lume. This might make it more susceptible to harm, but it looks great.
The Sea Snake has a great handset, which once again speaks to the source material. The hour hand is a large lume filled triangle in polished steel. This is a unique design you don’t see often that adds a lot of character. The minute hand is a wide, straight-sword, which comes in either polished steel or bright orange. We went with orange as the pop of color is a nice touch. The second hand is then a thin polished steel stick with a counter weight on one side and a lumed triangle on the other.
The lume on the Sea Snake is fantastic. It’s C3 SuperLuminova, applied very thickly so it charges fast and glows bright. The pale green color when not glowing is also the right choice for this watch. It’s a bit vintage, without seeming like a forced patina.
Movement: Miyota 9015
The current build of the Sea Snake features the Miyota 9015 movement, where as earlier versions sported ETA movements. This is quickly becoming the staple Swiss alternative for watches under $1K and we’re always happy to see it in use. The 9015 is a 24-jewel automatic with hand winding, hacking, date, 42hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. We’ve tried many watches with these inside, and they have always been reliable and accurate.
Straps and Wearability
The Sea Snake comes with a “beads of rice” bracelet and your choice of either a rubber or leather strap. The bracelet is an interesting style you don’t see very often. The “beads of rice” are polished middle links, with a soft, rounded form. They are surrounded by thicker, brushed pieces, creating an interesting play. The bracelet is very nicely made and finished, with solid end links and a great, heavy duty clasp with push-button extension. Because of the very small links, the bracelet moves nicely, conforming to your wrist for a comfortable fit. My only issue was that some of the screw-bars used for sizing were very difficult to remove.
Aesthetically, it’s definitely different. It adds a dressier, vintage dive look to the watch (I think of Doxas when I see a bracelet like this) that will work for some, not others. I think of the watch as being a bit more rugged, do to its size, so the bracelet was not my preferred choice. I’m also not sure if the end links work with the turned lugs as well as a no-end link style would have, though that would have also made the bracelet look more like a third-party accessory.
We also had Benarus’ isofrane style rubber strap in black. This is a cool and very aggressive looking strap that adds a level of pure sport to the watch. It’s definitely the way to go if you are wearing the watch in an active environment with plans on getting wet. That said, it’s perhaps too casual for office wear. I would likely go for the leather option when ordering. I tried the watch on a thick 24mm Panatime strap with a dark brown color and black stitching. This clicked for me as it worked with the larger size of the watch, and added some style and warmth to it.
One of the best things about the Sea Snake is how well it wears for a large watch. The shorter lug-to-lug width makes it fit my 7″ wrist nicely, while the larger diameter give the dial and bezel a lot of presence. The height is substantial at 14mm, but feels in proportion. This is a 500m dive watch after all, so it should feel like a tough watch, which it certainly does.
Aesthetically, it’s also on point. It’s a masculine tool watch with more style than a lot of its competitors. It’s speaks to vintage, while feeling modern and manly. Cool details like the broad dish-shaped bezel, domed sapphire and twisted lugs give it enough visual appeal to keep you interested and garner a few glances. And while many details are taken from a historical watch, it’s not one that is as well known, so you are less likely to get asked if this is something it’s not.
For my tastes, on a leather strap, this watch had a nice casual look that could be paired with boots, jeans, etc. Not likely a suit watch, unless you have very large wrists and are wearing it on the bracelet, it’s nevertheless fairly versatile. It’s subtle enough not to shout sports, yet is anything but delicate.
The Benarus Sea Snake is a very nice tool dive watch with vintage looks. While it pays tribute to SuperOceans, it also feels like enough of a departure to not be an homage watch. What you get is a modern, big diver, with a lot more finesse than some of the very chunky, hard angled pieces you find in this price range. This in turn makes it very wearable and a bit more fashionable. At $720 + shipping with a bracelet and strap, it’s also a very solid deal.
Depending on availability, there are also color options to consider. Black is simple and classic, but there is a very attractive blue dial/bezel version as well as a green dial/black bezel, which has an even more military feel.
by Zach Weiss