Hands-On: the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic Diver

There are plenty of things we can choose to be frustrated by in the watch world. Rising prices, the increased importance of mysterious social media algorithms, outright chicanery, nonsense, and shenanigans in the auction world. Yes, these are forces contributing to making the hobby a little less enjoyable at times. But I like to focus on the bright spots, of which I’d argue there are more than enough to get excited about. One of those bright spots is the reemergence and wide availability of affordably priced, classic designs from thoughtfully resurrected heritage brands. Guillaume Laidet has become something of a specialist in this area, playing an integral role in the return of Vulcain, Excelsior Park, and Nivada Grenchen, the subject of this hands-on. 

For a time, it seemed like a month couldn’t pass without a “new” brand that went dormant during the quartz crisis coming back with an updated version of their most popular model. So many of these attempts to capitalize on the popularity of vintage, neo-vintage, or whatever we’re calling it wound up failing, but the Nivada Grenchen strategy always felt different, and the brand continues to be successful a few years out from the relaunch because of Laidet’s forward thinking. Beyond the overall quality of the watches, which is consistently high, Nivada has always been presented as a real brand, and not simply a vehicle for launching one, or maybe two, watches. The idea of having a real collection for consumers to pick from, with distinct, evergreen product lines, lends a certain amount of legitimacy to the whole operation. Just as there will always be a Submariner and a Day-Date in the Rolex catalog, Nivada will always have a Chronomaster and Antarctic. It seems obvious, but this is something a lot of brands that don’t succeed fail to think about. 

Naturally, the watches have to be good too, or none of that matters. I had a chance to spend some time with Nivada’s new Antarctic Diver recently, and was charmed by its understated, vintage influenced design notes. It reinforced what I’ve thought about Nivada nearly from the beginning of the time since Laidet came on board, which is that this is a rare heritage brand that has a plan to stick around for good, long after interest in the one-to-one replicas of the original watches from a prior generation have faded. 


Hands-On: the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic Diver

Stainless steel
Soprod P0224
Yes, hands and markers
Water Resistance
200 meters
38 x 45mm
Lug Width
Screw Down

Notable Specs and Features 

The Antarctic Diver is, on the one hand, rigorously simple. Based on Nivada divers from the 1950s and 60s, borrowing a bit from multiple references and making certain accommodations for the modern consumer, what we have here is a straightforward skin diver that remains true to original concept behind these watches to begin with. The idea behind a skin diver is effectively a stripped down, non-professional dive watch that would have been appropriate to wear both in and out of the water in a time period before sports watches were just a part of our everyday lives. A skin diver tends to be thinner and smaller than a more serious diving instrument, and would have been a little less water resistant and more affordable than watches built for professionals to a very high spec. 

Accordingly, the Antarctic Diver comes in at a svelte 38mm in diameter and measures 12.9mm thick, with a water resistance rating of 200 meters. The lug to lug distance is a tidy 45mm, with the lugs coming to a sharp downturn at their termination. Original Antarctic divers were sized in the 36mm range, so this small upsize is one of those concessions to modernity. The bezel is another, and one of my favorite features of the piece. It’s ceramic, and has the glossy finish that’s common to the material, adding just a touch of bling, which I have to admit I’m partial to. The bezel is also fully lumed, which I was not expecting but always enjoy.

If the bezel execution approaches the style of a modern watch, the dial is where Nivada is drawing most heavily from designs of the past. Tightly packed hashes mark the minutes, with slightly thicker lumed batons at each hour (with one exception – we’ll get there). The handset nicely complements the general shape of dial markings, and each hand is given a hefty lume treatment and is easily readable in every type of lighting situation I found myself in while testing the watch out. A red crosshair cuts through the dial’s center, adding just a little bit of color that you’ll also find in the tip of the centrally mounted seconds hand. The best bit, though, is the “Antarctic Diver” text near 6:00, printed in white in a very old-fashioned cursive typeface. Recently on the podcast we lamented the scourge of dial text, but looking at the Antarctic Diver (and the words, “Antarctic Diver”) I’m realizing that a case can be made for adding text when the text itself is visually interesting, and says something about the nature of the watch itself. On this watch, plainly speaking, I just like the font, and I like that it successfully communicates a link to design tropes of another era. 

If there’s one element of the dial that doesn’t quite come together, it’s the cyclops date magnifier at 3:00. I am not anti-cyclops. When done well, they can be genuinely helpful in quickly reading the date. If you don’t agree, please find me on Instagram or in our soon to be here Apple Vision Pro augmented reality ecosystem/hellscape in 20 years, after an eye exam. Unfortunately, there’s something off with the magnification, size, placement, or all of the above when it comes to cyclops used here. At most angles, the date kind of disappears and for me was frequently illegible under the magnifier. You kind of need to pull the watch back to just the right distance from your eyes and look at the dial head-on for the date to show up clearly and magnified fully. I just didn’t find it very functional, and would have preferred the (nearly) grab-and-go convenience of a no-date dial. 


The nice thing about a skin diver is that they’re inherently pretty comfortable, as they tend to be sized down from more rugged dive watches. That’s certainly the case with the Antarctic Diver, which I found to be very easy to wear over the week or so that I had it in for review. During my time with it, I happened to be wearing it while alternating between the Antarctic and a Citizen Promaster Dive, a recent personal acquisition. That Citizen is thoroughly modern in every way (it has a black case and a lumed dial, folks), measuring a hefty 44mm across and feeling pretty bulky, even outside of a direct comparison to the Nivada. It really drives home how sleek and small you can go with a modern dive watch, if you want to. Both the Citizen and Nivada have the same 200 meter water resistance rating, but one appears almost comically overbuilt and tactical (no shade, that’s why I like it) while the other is completely nonchalant about its dive pedigree. It’s just a watch, and sometimes that’s all you want. In the parlance of our recent 4th Watch editorial, the Antarctic Diver would easily fall into slot 1 or 2, for sure. 

The finishing on the case of the Antarctic Diver is nice, if not overly exciting. Satin brushed on the tops of the lugs with a muted polish on the case flanks, it’s serviceable and appropriate for a watch at this price point and style. I don’t think anyone is buying this watch for the intricate case work, and if they do, they will likely be somewhat let down. I like the lack of crown guards, though, another aesthetic nod to classic divers, and I’m also a pretty big fan of the decision to go with a friction fit, bi-directional bezel. I wish more brands, when interpreting an old dive watch design in a modern context, would have the gumption to make a bezel in this style. It would never fly on a new design, of course, but it goes a long way toward turning up the charm factor on a watch like the Antarctic Diver. 


Looking at the watch on paper, it might seem like there are design decisions that are at odds with one another. A lumed bi-directional friction fit ceramic bezel seems like it could make for a strange stew of vintage and modern influences, for example. But I think for the most part Nivada has made the right calls, skewing modern in places where it makes sense from a materials standpoint, for example, and leaning into purely aesthetic vintage style cues. Not everyone will be a fan of every choice Nivada has made (the cyclops is my gripe, it could be perfect for someone else), but to me this feels like a largely coherent watch that makes sense within Nivada’s larger collection as well as on my wrist. 


The Antarctic Diver has a retail price of $900, putting into an ultra competitive sub $1,000 space. There are no shortage of dive and sports watches at this price point – the Citizen I mentioned earlier comes most immediately to mind, because it’s sitting on my desk along with the Nivada as I type this, but we all know the usual suspects in this range: Seiko, Hamilton, Doxa, Mido, and Baltic all make watches that are potentially comps for the Antarctic Diver. As always, a decision comes down to personal taste and preferences. Little things like the typeface, bezel action, and even the movement (a Soprod P0224 automatic with 38 hours of power reserve) can sway the pendulum to one watch over the other. The beauty of these things is the way one of those little things can grab your attention unexpectedly and work its way into your mind. That’s the fun of the hobby, and of collecting. 

In the larger context of Nivada as a whole, this watch has me excited for what might come next in their dive watch range. If past product cycles can tell us anything about what’s to come, it seems likely we’ll get additional variants and hopefully some fun collaborations that make use of the Antarctic Diver platform. This formula has worked well for Nivada so far, and knowing that they have aims of building the brand for the long haul, it’s fair to expect we’ll see that repeated. Nivada Grenchen

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.