Damasko DA36 Review

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Value is a big part of the discussion here on worn&wound. Often, it’s enough to say that a reasonably priced watch with decent specs and a pleasing design presents a significant value. But for some companies, value doesn’t mean offering just the bare minimum. For these brands, the desire to go above and beyond the fundamentals is what separates them from the pack, and if it can be done without charging the exorbitant prices one has come to expect from the watch industry, then that’s just icing on the cake. If there is any company that has come to embody this ethos in totality, it’s Damasko.

Damasko-Da36-(8-of-17)

Based out of Regensburg, Germany, Damasko first entered the market in 1994 with a desire to do something new and different. Since its inception, Damasko has set new and exciting standards for both the watch industry and with consumers as to what a small brand could truly accomplish. Led by Konrad Damasko, whose expertise centered on work with fine metal components for the aeronautical industry, Damasko set out on a path to produce watches that were rugged, over-engineered, and simply put, more robust than anything else on the market. Damasko holds numerous patents on everything from their in-house movements and crown design to the very steel used to make their cases.

Today, we’re taking a look at one of Damasko’s entry-level timepieces, the DA36 black. For most companies, an entry-level watch often means making sacrifices for the sake of cost, but such isn’t the case with Damasko. Other than the 3rd party movement, the DA36 boasts most of the revered in-house tech one has come to expect from the brand. As you read the review below, keep in mind that the DA36 black retails for a very reasonable $1,320. What Damasko is able to offer at that price point puts competitors to shame.

(Disclaimer: The watch pictured here is from the writer’s personal collection.)

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$1320

Damasko DA36 Review

Case
Ice-hardened steel
Movement
ETA 2836-2
Dial
Black
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire w/ double AR
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
40 x 48mm
Thickness
12.2mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
6 x 4.5mm
Warranty
2 years
Price
$1320

Case

On the surface, the case on the DA36 black appears relatively straightforward, with no apparent visual frills to draw your eye to the design. It’s a bit stark and utilitarian, but that’s entirely the point. Aesthetically, it’s quite similar to certain models from Sinn, most notably the retired 656. It should be noted that the two companies were in a partnership until 2002, with Damasko manufacturing cases for Sinn before the formation of SUG, so the carry over of certain elements makes sense.

DAMASKO_DA36_CASE1

Coming in at 40mm wide with a thickness of 12.2mm and a lug-to-lug height of approximately 48mm, it’s a great contemporary size that should fit comfortably on most wrists. Adding to the comfortable size are drilled lugs that sweep down and hug the wrist. A prominent fluted crown is protected by crown guards with some of the tightest tolerances I have ever seen on a watch. The bead blasted matte black finish is flawless. The specs of the watch are deeply engraved along the case back, and six notches are fitted along its perimeter to facilitate removal.

Those that know Damasko know that the aesthetic simplicity of the case belies the true technical achievements packed into it. First, let’s discuss the steel. Damasko doesn’t use the industry standard 316L surgical steel for their cases. Instead, they manufacture their own patented steel alloy that’s nickel-free and boats a substantial level of resistance against corrosion. Another benefit of the alloy is that it allows Damasko to “ice-harden” their cases through and through to approximately 760 HV, about four times the industry standard. By comparison, Sinn’s tegimenting process hardens only the surface to 1200 HV, leaving the case underneath relatively soft. As a result, Sinn cases are harder on the surface, but they’re also more vulnerable to indentation after a hard hit. A Damasko case, on the other hand, is technically softer at 760 HV, but because it is hardened throughout it is largely scratch and indentation proof. All parts of the case are ice-hardened, including the crown, the crown tube, and the case back.

DAMASKO_DA36_CASE2

Damasko’s patented crown system is also designed and engineered in-house. While most manufacturers use cost-saving press fit tubes, Damasko’s crown tubes are screwed directly into the case, resulting in a substantially surer fit. As already mentioned, all parts of the crown are hardened to the standards of the case, so stripping the threads isn’t something you need to worry about. Furthermore, the crown has a built-in lubrication system that oils the shaft and the crown gaskets whenever the crown is screwed or unscrewed. The gaskets are made from Viton, a material with high resistance against chemical and mechanical wear. It is, hands down, one of the best crowns on the market.

Operating the crown is a joy. It may seem like I’m overstating it, but it’s absolutely true; the action is incredibly smooth. When you unscrew the crown, you can feel it disengage. When you tighten the crown it decouples–in other words, the movement doesn’t wind as you lock it down. Damasko developed this to make tightening the crown easier, and it’s not something many brands bother even doing. But for Damasko, it’s often the small “invisible” details that make all the difference.

DAMASKO_DA36_CROWN4

Since black watches tend to be scratch magnets, you know Damasko didn’t settle for a straightforward DLC coating. Instead, Damasko utilizes a proprietary multi-layer composition called Damest. The process begins with the hardened case, which acts as the foundation for the Damest coating, supporting the upper layers against abrasion. The intermediate layer, approximately 1.5 microns thick, is created via ion implantation on the surface of the case, resulting in a hardness of about 1500 HV. This layer is also the bonding agent between the case and the upper Damest coating. Approximately 7 microns thick, the final top layer Damest coating reaches a hardness of approximately 2500 HV. Using this combination of layers allows for a substantial resistance against surface abrasions, and only the hardest of impacts will eat away at the coating. I’ve smacked my watch against a number of different surfaces in the two years I’ve owned it, and only one instance lead to any surface marks. Had it been any other watch from any other brand, the damage would have been far greater.

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Dial

When I think “Damasko,” I immediately imagine the dial of the DA36. In my mind, it is the iconic Damasko look. The general aesthetic pulls from the classic flieger with a few updates to the formula. The Arabic numerals are highly legible, a bright and vibrant white against a matte black base. In place of the 12 is the classic flieger triangle. The pilot hands are equally as bold, with the hours hand hovering right above the hour markers and the minutes hand hitting the minutes track. The divisive seconds hand is bright neon yellow, the only pop of color on the watch. The dial is broken up into quadrants via cross hairs, which push the Damasko logo off to the right side of the dial above the day/date window. The day and date wheels are custom, matching the dial in both typeface and color. They are also modified to sit slightly below the traditional 3 o’clock position, which balances out the placement of the logo.Damasko-Da36-(2-of-17)

Resting on top of the dial is a flat sapphire crystal with AR coating on both sides. The crystal is impeccable and utilizes some of the best AR I have ever seen on a watch. It is highly resistant against scratches, and believe me, there have been many opportunities for me to put some on. It is also exceptionally clear; at times it looks like there is no crystal at all. The crystal in conjunction with the readable design of the dial results in a watch that is the most legible–under any light–of my entire collection.

The lume is perhaps the only major low point on the DA36. The C1 is known to be a bit underwhelming in terms of luminosity, but the lume on the DA36 is some of the weakest I’ve encountered. The physical application of the lume on the hands is also quite blotchy, which is a bit unexpected from a company so obsessed with details. Furthermore, the Arabic hour markers aren’t lumed at all; instead, the accompanying square notches are, a curious choice that degrades nighttime visibility. It would benefit Damasko to make the switch to BGW9, ensuring a similar aesthetic while appeasing lume fanatics.

Movement

At the heart of the DA36 is an ETA 2836-2, the day/date version of the ubiquitous 2824. It’s a workhorse movement with 25 jewels and a frequency of 28,000 bph. It hacks and can be wound manually, and it has a power reserve of approximately 41 hours. Damasko regulates their movements, and my piece runs within 2 seconds a day.

The movement is protected from magnetism by an integrated anti-magnetic inner cage made up of the dial, the movement retaining ring, and a second case back. This shield provides anti-magnetic protection up to 80,000 A/m.

Straps and Wearability

The DA36 comes paired with a branded Di-Modell Pilot strap, a match made in German heaven. Di-Modell makes some of the most over-built watchstraps on the market, with an aesthetic that complements the DA36 quite well. The buckle is signed and features the same hardened steel and Damest coating.

DAMASKO_DA36_STRAP1

One would think that a black case would limit strap choices, but I find the opposite to be true. The DA36 looks great on a number of different options, from nylon one-piece straps to leather two-piece bands. I especially like the way the DA36 looks paired with lighter colored options like the tan suede featured in the gallery. The contrast allows the watch head to pop. For a slightly dressier combination, try something a bit unorthodox like a dark brown shell cordovan strap.

DAMASKO_DA36_WRIST2

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Conclusion

A Damasko isn’t just a watch, it’s an engineering marvel. It’s a symbol of invention, epitomizing the best of intelligent engineering and design. It shows a brand at its best, pushing beyond the status quo and setting standards in an industry that is often comfortable with more of the same.

damasko-(3-of-10)

The DA36 black, at $1,320, presents an exceptional value, one that is truly unrivaled in the market. And it’s not even the most affordable in Damasko’s lineup; the DA36 sans Damest coating is $120 cheaper. If the design speaks to you, there is no better option. And if it doesn’t, Damasko has a number of other similarly priced models to choose from, all packed with the same awesome Damasko tech.

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.
ryvini
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20 thoughts on “Damasko DA36 Review”

  1. I review in another industry and the cardinal rule there is never review something you already own. By all means buy a review product you love, but the review comes first.

    1. Thanks for commenting Colin, that certainly might be true in other industries, but I think with watches, ownership sheds a different and important light on the object. Watches, especially mechanical ones, are not like consumer electronics and other commodities, they are very personal and idiosyncratic. They all essentially do the same thing, save a complication here and there, but range widely in style, price and feel. When one first gets a watch, and many other items, there is a honeymoon period of enjoying all the little details and finding out all the little issues. But where some items will be the same in a year or two or ten (if they haven’t been made obsolete), watches age, and you form a relationship with them… and when we review something positively, as is the case with the Damasko, we’re not recommending it for a month’s ownership, but for potentially permanent ownership. So, the value of an honest opinion formed over years is greater than that of a few days or weeks. Of course it is less likely to be outright negative, though that’s not our style regardless, but so long as the review is marked as is this one, I see no issue with it what so ever.

      With that said, most of our reviews are of new watches lent to us from brands that we don’t own, as it simply would not be possible to review our own watches every week ad infinitum, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to review watches one can recommend from long term experience more often. In fact, wouldn’t it be great to read reviews of watches bought new, that have broken after years of wear, and that have gone through service, in order to review not just the watch, but its life cycle and the company’s customer service?

      -Zach

      1. I concur, I actually really appreciate the “test of time” remarks that can only be made credibly after a significant period of ownership.

        Post more reviews of stuff you own! 🙂

      2. I agree, Zack. While all of my reviews have been about watches that I had just purchased, it makes more sense to write a review based on ownership after the ‘honeymoon’ period has ended.
        Very nice Damasko, I must say. While I am more of a Sinner, I may have to take a closer look at Damasko.
        Great review!

      3. Points taken. Still, it might be a better editorial practice to have another reviewer look at the watch, informed by your experience with it and the manufacturer. But let’s be honest, the treatment we reviewers receive from manufacturers isn’t necessarily what the average customer is going to experience.

        All this said, I am grateful for one thing: you can write. So many watch reviewers don’t seem to bother with spell check, let alone a third party proof read. It’s hard to take a writer’s comments on product quality seriously when their own product is so flawed!

    2. I’d say that as long as the disclaimer is there, it’s no problem. Are you by any chance mixing up “reviewer owns the product” vs “reviewer was given the product as payment for review”? Because one of those is, afaik, fine, and the other isn’t (and not what happened here).

      1. Definitely not. Reviewers with an ounce of integrity can’t be bought. That’s not to some are not, they just lack integrity, as do the companies who bribe them. To Somethingnottaken’s point, reviewers who review something they own have an inherent bias toward it because they spent money on it. It’s basic psychology. Most people won’t or don’t want to admit that they shelled out their cash on something subpar. Reviews that end with “I liked it so much I bought it” are different animals.

        While I concede the author makes some points I still think owner-reviews in this sort of venue are inappropriate. Just my two cents.

    3. I think there’s value in a review based on several years of experience with a product. And a reviewer who bought the product themselves is arguably less biased than a reviewer who depends on free review samples.

  2. I stumbled upon one of these on Instagram recently, sans Damest coating, and what really caught my eye was the finish of the steel. It just looks so smooth, almost ceramic. I appreciate the Rolex-esque attitude on their case steel. Very informative review!

  3. It is quite impressive how the black Damest coating has held up over two years of use. I would like to add a black watch to my collection, but the OCD in me wouldn’t be able to live with the scratches that normal DLC pieces attract. Perhaps I’ll need to add the DA46 to my collection – the addition of a bezel makes it look quite cool imo.

  4. The DA47 Black is on my wish list. Since the black dialled Damaskos have weak lume, I prefer the fully lumed white dials (except for the black markings, the entire dial is covered with lume).

  5. I do like the materials and technologies Damasko use, they seem to be the most rugged watches about… I think some of their styling could do with a bit of updating but most importantly for me until they make a sub 40mm watch (and the same goes for a few other brands) I simply will not give them a look-in.

  6. Ilya, what are the straps in the pictures above? Several of them look awesome on this watch, and I’m just trying to find them online to purchase. Thanks man!

  7. From a typography geek: the Damasko logo on the dial would drive me nuts. Serif typeface—no. Small caps (larger “D”)—ugh. Crunched-up letter spacing—no!

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