Hands-On with the Nezumi Baleine

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In 2015, Nezumi hit the market running with the impressive Voiture. If you’re a long-time reader of worn&wound, or if you follow us on Instagram, then you’ve surely seen this vintage-inspired beauty (and if you haven’t, then catch our extensive review here). Inspired by a number of classic designs—among them the Omega Speedmaster and the Universal Genève Compax—it came as no surprise that the Voiture appealed to many vintage-watch enthusiasts. And with prices for vintage watches steadily creeping up, the accessible pricing of the Seiko Mecha-Quartz-powered Voiture made it a bit of a no-brainer for people who can appreciate the aesthetics of aforementioned classic watches, but not their current price tags.

Nezumi is back with its second effort, this time dubbed the Baleine. The Baleine is the brand’s first mechanical watch and its first diver. From a design standpoint, the Baleine is a certainly more contemporary looking watch than the Voiture was. It also takes the case from the Voiture and adapts it to the needs of a dive watch. More on this later, but this approach is a resounding success in my book. And at 295 Euro (roughly $330) for the early-bird pre-order price (it will gradually increase throughout the campaign to about 550-600 Euro),  it’s sure to be a hit.

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Before going forward, I should note that the watch shown here is a prototype. The final production model will feature some noteworthy changes:

  • The bezel will be refined, and it will have the correct number of clicks (60).
  • The luminous paint will be a darker, burnt color.
  • The case back design may change.
$330

Hands-On with the Nezumi Baleine

Case
Stainless steel PVD
Movement
Seiko NH35
Dial
Matte Black
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Double-domed sapphire
Strap
Nylon with rubber backing; veg-tanned leather
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
40mm x 47mm
Thickness
14.4mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
screw down; 6 x 3.2mm
Warranty
Yes
Price
$330

The case of the Baleine measures 40mm across, 14.4mm thick, with a lug-to-lug height of 47mm. Thickness aside, the case is largely identical to that of the Voiture. For the size-conscious, these proportions are great for a sporty dive watch (rated here to 200 meters), and it’s a sort of sweet spot, if you will, for a range of wrist sizes. The sub-50mm lug-to-lug dimension is also a welcome touch, as that dimension is equally as important, if not more so, as the diameter of the case.

The new Nezumi Baleine next to the Voiture.

From the top down, the thing that you notice immediately are the twisted/bombé lugs. This is a classic design detail, perhaps most famously used on the Omega Speedmaster. It’s a fantastic look, and it makes the case appear much more dynamic in person. Before I saw this watch in the metal, I had assumed that some of that would be lost due to the case being black. Fortunately, that isn’t so. Because of the way the lugs play with the light, the twisting sections pick up some highlights, while the inner portion remains a shadowy black. The contrast is quite striking.

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The crown is signed with Nezumi’s logomark.
The case back is really well-done with deep etching. The final production design is subject to change.

From the side, the intricacy of the case really shines. The case is broken up in several parts, and like Zach noted in his review of the Voiture, the breaks and undercuts where the different case parts meet make the whole thing seem thinner than it really is. The bezel, and the way it comes together with the double-domed sapphire crystal and the mid-case, may be my favorite part of the design. The bezel hangs past the mid-case ever so slightly, and it is almost saucer-like in its design. In profile, it looks as though the mid-case, with its gorgeous swooping lugs, cradles the bezel.

The bezel then is very tactile and has a sure click with very little play. The sample here, as I noted above, has the wrong number of clicks, with the final production model expected to feature a traditional 60-click construction.

The bezel is one solid piece (no insert), so the classic dive markings are etched into the metal and painted white. The paint application at the etched markers could be neater, and I hope to see an improvement on this in the final production run. At 12, there’s a raised luminous pip.

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The double-domed sapphire, which does have AR on the underside of the crystal, is still a bit of a reflection magnet as you can tell from the photos. That said, it is exaggerated in the photography. When you’re actually wearing the watch, you don’t notice the reflections nearly as much, nor do they look as dramatic.

The dial itself is a twist on the classic Explorer template. Large Arabic numerals flank the 12, three, six, and nine spots, with tapering trapezoids at all other positions. Right above the main hours index is a 60-minutes/seconds track interspersed with a 24-hour track at every hour position. Between four and five is a date window with a date wheel that matches the black dial.

The logo, logomark and “STOCKHOLM SWEDEN” are below 12, and the model name and depth rating are right above six.

The hands then are a classic syringe design for the hours and minutes. The seconds hands is a an arrow with an elongated tip and Nezumi logomark counterbalance—something we saw before on the Voiture. The hands are an off-white, parchment tone and look good paired with the vintage luminous paint. Speaking of the paint, the final production model will feature a more burnt color as opposed to the lighter, peachy tone hue we have here. I think a more intense burnt paint should look good against the black, though I concede it might change the look of the watch. It’s hard to say without seeing the final iteration in person, so I’ll reserve judgement.

The application of the luminous paint is really well done. As you can see here, the dial has a slightly weaker glow than the hands.

Overall, I quite like the dial. There are some familiar cues here, no doubt, but the way the whole thing comes together doesn’t feel derivative to me. I also like that it doesn’t really look like a typical diver dial one might see from a micro-brand.

Powering the Baleine is Seiko’s NH35A caliber, otherwise known as the 4r35 commonly found in mid-tier Seiko watches. It hacks and hand-winds, has 24 jewels, and features bi-directional winding.  It’s a relatively solid movement built a good pedigree, and it should stand the test of time.

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On the wrist, the watch wears exceptionally well. Because the dimensions are already restrained, and coupled with the fact that this is a black-cased watch with a robust bezel, the Baleine wears a bit smaller than the numbers might suggest. The black coating especially pulls the whole thing in quite a bit. Overall, it’s a very comfortable watch, and if you’ve ever worn the Voiture, the fit is not all that different here.

On a 7-inch wrist here. Boots by Grant Stone.

The watch comes on a matching black nylon two-piece backed in rubber or on a vegetable-tanned two-piece leather. Both come with matching branded hardware. The strap supplied with the sample was very comfortable on the wrist, and it gave the whole package a dark, tactical look. For a bit of contrast, another way to go is with something in wheat or tan–which would look great against the black case and would play off the toned lume.

All in all, this is a solid sophomore effort from the brand. While I appreciate the general aesthetics of the dial, the real standout for me is the exceptional case. The way its sculpted, the way it plays with the light, and the way it wears just works. If black watches aren’t your thing, the Baleine will be offered in two other variants, both in stainless steel cases.

The pre-order is currently under way (in fact, it just launched yesterday), so this is quite a deal at the current early-bird pricing. Nezumi

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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.
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