Hands-On: the ARDIO Caribe

ARDIO is an independent U.S. brand based out of Pennsylvania and founded by Ron Oley. The Caribe is the brand’s first watch and is the product of over three years of design effort. ARDIO keeps a fairly quiet online presence, with their main website and an Instagram page being the most accessible sources of information for prospective buyers. According to Oley, each component of the Caribe is designed from scratch and the watches are assembled in small batches. This particular run is capped at 300 pieces per colorway with each watch triple-checked by three separate parties and hand-regulated before shipping. There are five dial colors offered at this time: light blue, gauge brass, isotope green, gilded black, and sunrise orange. I had the opportunity to review the blue and brass options.

My first impressions of the watch were very positive. I had initial concerns about how it would wear on my wrist, since it looked sizable in the travel case it came in and felt fairly hefty before trying it on. Case diameters of 40mm can wear a myriad of ways depending on other factors – it seems to be a size where the number on paper doesn’t give the wearer the full picture of the fit. However, the Caribe really feels like it wears true to size due to its well-proportioned lugs and slim bezel. Part of the illusion of its overall dimensions can likely be attributed to its height: a double domed sapphire crystal adds two millimeters to its vertical presence, but also offers a nice effect with very little distortion. It features a 120-click unidirectional bezel with engraved hour markers and a pip at twelve o’clock. The case has an all-brushed finish, giving the watch a casual vibe and matching the more exotic aesthetic of its bold dial colors.


Hands-On: the ARDIO Caribe

Stainless steel
Miyota 9039
Leather or silicone
Water Resistance
200 meters
40 x 47.9mm
Lug Width
Screw down

ARDIO’s craftsmanship is absolutely apparent with the Caribe. Each part of these watches feels meticulously assembled and executed. I can’t speak to the other colorways, but the dial texture varies between the blue and the brass, with the blue featuring a speckled matte finishing and the gauge brass option with a brushed circular pattern that catches the light beautifully. The Caribe is powered by a Miyota Caliber 9039 which claims an accuracy of -10/+30 seconds a day and a power reserve of 42 hours. Though this is on the lower end of what some enthusiasts prefer, it likely lends a hand in the accessibility of the Caribe’s price point, especially for a young independent brand like ARDIO. What the watch lacks in power it makes up in water resistance. With a sturdy screw-down crown, crown guards, and a depth rating of 200 meters, this is a watch that can be taken almost anywhere without cause for concern.

Though the watch itself is stunning and feels very well crafted, there are two areas where I would have liked more attention to detail or even slight changes. The first area is the straps. Each watch comes with two of them: a brown Italian leather strap, and a black silicone Tropic strap. With 5.75 inch wrists, I’m used to stock straps not fitting me and this criteria doesn’t factor very heavily into my overall impression of a watch. However, it’s a nice surprise when they do. 

In the case of the Caribe, I quickly opted for the black silicone strap in lieu of the Italian leather, as the tightest setting of the leather option still left the watch dangling on my wrist. The silicone strap was soft and fit me well; however, it did not fit the watch. On the blue-dial option, there was a noticeable gap between the strap and the start of the lugs on either side. With a lug width of 20mm, it seemed odd that a strap would be ill-fitting since it’s such a common measurement. This effect was less noticeable on the brass dial but made me wonder about how the tropic strap would wear on the other colorways.

Another issue I had was the difficulty with the bezel action. It’s possible this piece might loosen slightly with daily wear, but it was tough to rotate. I think part of this is because there was very little surface area to grasp the edges of the bezel, which is reflected in pictures of the watch in profile. Though prioritizing thinner watches is common for a lot of brands, this is a circumstance I think it would have been acceptable to make the watch a little thicker for ease of bezel manipulation. There’s hardly anything to grasp, and the 120-click unidirectional nature of the bezel means you’d better be spot on when resetting the pip at twelve, or you’ll need to have another go around. 

I know the bezel was an area that went through more than one round of quality control, with Oley writing on the website that the desired smoothness of the action on some of the watches was cause for delivery delays. I’m not someone who often uses a bezel for its plethora of possible uses, so this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the watch. If someone wants to use the Caribe to track another timezone, I think it would merely be a minor annoyance. However, I could see this posing larger concerns if someone were to consistently rely on this method for any sort of timing function.

Though the straps and the bezel action were points of concern, there were many other aspects of the Caribe that make it a great choice in its price point. I’m a bonafide lume fiend, and this watch ranks highly on my running list of contenders. The Caribe features blue tinted Swiss BGW9 Super-Luminova which is generously applied to the hands, indices, and the bezel pip. One quick flash of my UV keychain flashlight kept it glowing without issue. The lumed bezel pip helped to keep my orientation clear when reading the time at night.

The applied teardrop indices are unique and not something I often see in dial design language. They offer a nice juxtaposition between the sharpness of the polished bezel teeth and the geometric rectangular and diamond-shaped hour markers at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions. Sword hands are one one of my favorite styles and this watch does them justice. They fit in seamlessly with the rest of the dial and don’t hamper legibility, which can sometimes be true for this style. The quality of the dial really was shocking to me at the $500 price point, and it’s something I thought about multiple times in the two weeks I enjoyed these watches on wrist. The level of finishing is astounding.

I was curious about the double domed sapphire crystal, which warped some of the indices in my wrist shots. However, this was not an issue in the slightest when looking down at my wrist for the time. Double domed crystals are common in vintage timepieces, which brings a classic feel to this otherwise modern watch. The double part of the double-dome is a reference to the second dome on the bottom part of the crystal (instead of a single dome, which features just one dome up top). This effect increases water resistance while also shoring up impact resistance. The Caribe feels like it can take a hit and keep on ticking.

Ultimately, I was really pleased with the level of detail that went into this watch, and how beautiful they looked in person. One of the benefits of buying from a boutique brand is that there can be more transparency between the creator and the consumer, and I think ARDIO is an excellent example of this. In addition to their website featuring an “about” section with information about the brand’s name, history and mission, there is also a tab featuring news and updates. Here, owner Ron Oley gives buyers information about the stages of processing, quality controls, and other relevant updates. There is also a place to reach out directly with any questions or concerns in a comment box. Information about warranty and returns is clear, with a contact address listed on the site. 

Each watch comes in a black ARDIO travel case with a mesh pocket, a brown Italian leather strap, a black silicone tropic strap, a spring bar tool, and a 12-month warranty card. Both straps have standard spring bars (not quick release), so the spring bar tool is a handy addition to your purchase and makes strap swapping easy. At $525, the Caribe offers buyers a chance to own a limited numbered piece from ARDIO’s first collection. If you are looking to support an American boutique brand, or you’re in the market for a tough watch that still prioritizes aesthetics, the Caribe could be a great addition to your collection. ARDIO

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Meg is a Colorado-based collector navigating the watch world as a Zillennial twentysomething. Though she appreciates anything quirky or practical, she has a particular love of field watches and chronographs. When she’s not posting #wristchecks you can find her reading about military history, training as a competitive Irish dancer, and exploring the remarkable state she calls home.