Hands On: VAER D Series Dive Watches

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Vaer’s lineup of affordable and adventure-ready watches welcomes a new line of vintage-inspired divers. The young brand’s focus is on offering up affordable watches that withstand the rigorous tests that the brand’s founders intended to put the watches through. Surprisingly enough, with one of Vaer’s main focal points being water resistance, they had yet to add a dive watch to their lineup until now. Three years after the brand got their start, we are presented with the D5 Tropic and the D7 Arctic automatic dive watches. The D5 is an American design and assembled watch, while the D7 shares a similar design, yet is assembled in Switzerland with a Swiss ETA movement. Aesthetically, the D5 and D7 draw inspiration from some of the most recognizable dive watches in history. A sort of “greatest hits of vintage dive watches”, if you will. They’re close to homage territory, but the designs don’t focus on any single watch. While the design cues may lean vintage, the construction is thoroughly modern on these 200m-capable dive watches.

We’re going to be looking extra close at the D5 diver in this review. Their approach to different origins of assembly and use of different movements within the same line of watches is an interesting choice. If you’re the type who absolutely needs a Swiss watch, there’s an option for you. If you happen to appreciate a solid workhorse watch with the same design and want to save a few bucks, Vaer’s American assembled watches fit that bill.

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$499

Hands On: VAER D Series Dive Watches

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
Miyota 9015
Dial
Various
Lume
Super LumiNova X1 C1
Lens
Double Domed Sapphire
Strap
Steel bracelet with quick release spring bars
Water Resistance
20ATM
Dimensions
39x48mm
Thickness
13.7mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw In
Warranty
Yes
Price
$499

Case

Sporting a 39mm stainless steel case, the D series divers are on the smaller side of modern dive watches. For a dive watch, 39mm is an excellent size — large enough to show off the features of the watch while remaining small enough to stay comfortable on the wrist. It’s worth noting that the bezel of the watch measures in at 40mm, which makes the watch seem a bit larger than the measurements imply. On the wrist, the same is true. While it’s most definitely a 39mm watch, visually it appears larger. The case features curved lugs. If you’re familiar with a little watch brand called Omega, you’ll recognize the case shape straight away. An all-over brushed finish gives the watch a utilitarian look. It would be great to see some polishing on the case to highlight the curves, as the resulting full brushed effect makes the lines of the case seem soft. Perhaps a polished transition would make the lines appear more crisp and precise. The brushing itself does the trick however, and its execution is on par with other watches in this price range.

The case sits somewhere between shiny and flat, and would benefit from a heavier textured brushing or some polished surfaces to break up the case a bit.  At 13.7mm thick from case back to crystal, the watch is right in the middle ground of where most dive watches fall. Up top, you’ll find a double domed sapphire lens over the dial, surrounded by a 120-click unidirectional dive bezel. The bezels are snappy and turn with light resistance. I don’t think they’ll be accidentally turned during use, but they are definitely on the easier side to manipulate. A scalloped edge runs around the outside of the bezel, making it easy to grip. For the insert, Vaer went for a glossy ceramic with lumed accents. Between the ceramic bezel and sapphire crystal, the front of the watch is quite shiny. 

In profile, the watch is gently curved at the lugs, hugging the wrist. The sides of the case slope down towards the case back. This slope does wonders for how the watch wears, as it remains comfortable with a bent wrist and while moving around. Turning the watch over, you’ll find a sapphire window showing off the movement inside. If you opted for the $499 D5 USA-assembled watch, you’ll see a Miyota 9015. Had you gone the Swiss route, your case back would show off the tried and true ETA 2824-2. The finishing and presentation of the ETA are better than that of the Miyota, helping to justify the several hundred dollar difference in price between the two models.

Dial & Hands

Looking at the dial of the D5 Tropic, you might be reminded of Jaeger LeCoultre’s Deep Sea Alarm. The off-white border running around the dial that contains minute markings is a funky and welcomed design choice, not seen on many other watches. It’s not a direct copy of the JLC, as the Vaer’s minute track is significantly wider, giving the dial a wide open appearance. Moving inwards, you’ll find a series of lumed hash marks. Broader marks denote 5 minute increments, while thinner marks in between are present for each minute. A date display window at 6 blends in nicely with this minute track. The date itself is rendered in white text on a black base dial, with the exception of every fourth day. You’re treated to a nice pop of color on days 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 28 when the date switches to white text on a red base. It’s a fun little detail that adds a little color to an otherwise black and white dial. Moving into the center of the dial, there’s a single applied triangular index resting at 12, just above the brand’s text-based logo. Balancing out these features are the words “Automatic” stacked on top of “20ATM” resting just above six o’clock. 

To tell the time, a pair of pencil-style hands point to the hours and minutes. Each of the hands are treated with a hit of luminous paint, glowing brightly when the lights go out. The hands feature a brushed finish that stands out nicely from the flat black and white features of the dial. Ticking around the dial, there’s a seconds hand with a lumed, diamond-shaped tip that’s rendered in a stark white. The seconds hand does stand out a fair amount, considering the dial is a creamy off-white. It’s hard to tell if this was an intentional choice to make the seconds hand stick out, or a case of mis-matched paint. Overall, the dial and hands are effectively legible.

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Movement

Depending on which model you opt for, your movement inside may vary greatly. The D5 sports Miyota’s 9015 caliber. This reliable and affordable movement beats at 28,800bph, features a hacking seconds hand, and roulette style date wheel at 6 o’clock. It’ll run for 40 hours on a full wind. Vaer’s D7 stays ticking thanks to the ETA 2824-2. This Swiss movement is one of the most well-known in the watch world, and it’s nice to see it in an affordable watch like the Vaer. Especially with ETAs becoming more and more scarce in the micro brand scene.

Strap & Wearability

To secure the Vaer to your wrist you can choose between a pliable silicone rubber strap, or a tapered quick release stainless steel bracelet. By default, the watch includes the rubber strap plus one additional strap at no additional charge. There’s a $50 up charge for the stainless steel bracelet, making it a pretty solid bargain. The rubber straps are quite nice on the wrist. They’re just the right thickness to give off a sturdy and secure vibe, while remaining thin enough to be pliable. Two thick strap keepers hang onto any extra strap on the opposite end of the signed and brushed stainless steel buckle. Changing straps is a breeze, thanks to the quick release spring bars integrated into both the strap and bracelet. 

The bracelet is a three link design that tapers from 20mm at the lugs to 18mm at the clasp. While it’s an extreme taper like a 20 to 16 vintage watch, the 2mm does make a noticeable difference on the wrist. It keeps the clasp down to a reasonable size, giving the watch a balanced and refined look and feel on the wrist. The clasp itself features a fold over security lock that clicks into place. Four micro-adjust holes help you dial in the perfect fit too. For a $50 premium, the bracelet is worth adding on. It’s well-constructed for the price, the quick release end links are a nice touch, and it makes the watch feel sturdy.

Despite the 39mm case size, the D5 and D7 wear larger than the measurement implies. This phenomenon is more apparent on the D5, as the white outer section of the dial makes the whole watch visually appear larger. That’s not to say that the watches don’t wear well. The case design with the wrist-hugging lugs and sloped sides make for a comfortable watch. Since the creators of the brand designed these watches to be used during activity, they really nailed it with the comfort on the wrist.

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Conclusions

If you’re in the market for a vintage-inspired dive watch, but don’t want to drop the cash or worry about a delicate actual vintage piece, these divers from Vaer might just be for you. Even though the designs are a bit derivative, the variety and paring of elements used do stand on their own. Vaer’s lineup is a mix of American and Swiss-assembled watches, with varying prices to suit the specs. While the cases and dials remain the same, the movement and origin are the only two factors that separate the lines. Options are nice, but looking at the watches side by side, it’s a little hard to justify the big leap in price. If you’re a movement snob (we’re not judging), then perhaps you’d prefer the ETA over the Miyota, finding value in the more expensive option. While the 200m reasonably sized stainless steel case, sapphire crystals in front and back, and heavy hits of lume add value to the watch, there’s some room for improvement in the finishing of the case. There are plenty of $500-ish divers on the scene, and it’s worth looking into some of the offerings from Nodus, Lorier, and Seiko for their case finishing and more unique designs. There aren’t many brands assembling their watches in the USA at this price point, and Vaer’s lineup of adventure-ready watches are certainly worth a closer look.

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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