Fear not—a persnickety critique of the Evant Decodiver is guaranteed to follow, but I first want to applaud this totally fun, funky, and functional watch that has stolen my heart and a majority of my wrist time since it arrived. For $599, this 41-millimeter diver includes an ETA 2824-2 elaboré-grade movement, a super-cool domed ceramic bezel insert, an unabashedly 1970s fumé finish over a sunburst silver dial, and a 300-meter rated case so complexly faceted that I literally giggled the first time I held it. It takes guts to release such a watch so inexpensively—or at all, really—and while the Decodiver is far from perfect, it is an admirably bold move from the Singapore-based startup, Evant.
Hands-On with the Evant Decodiver
It was hard to count all the surfaces on the Decodiver’s 316L stainless steel case, but after a few tries I’ve come up with 27 individual sides, and if we include the surfaces inside the crown guards, we’ll have to bump that up to 30. The designers were careful to emphasize all those facets by bringing polished and brushed surfaces up against each other, and the effect is dazzling—even blingy. The brushing isn’t the best; the edges aren’t the sharpest; but to bring this much case work at this price is something. I swear that when I first shut the Decodiver into my watch box it took a sidelong glance over at my Seiko Samurai and said, “What’s up, dive boy?”
Evant is overt that the Decodiver’s case is inspired by the work of Gérald Genta, who designed Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, IWC’s Ingenieur, Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, among many others. While Genta’s influence on the Decodiver is apparent once I read about it, I don’t think I’d have picked that up on my own, as the Decodiver lacks the sleekness and precision of Genta’s masterpieces. Then again, we’re talking about a modern $600 watch up against what were, during the 1970s, some of the more expensive—and certainly more daring—watches available from three of Switzerland’s most storied watch houses. I choose to consider Evant referencing Genta as an expression of fandom and not a claim to equal standing.
Now let’s get persnickety about this crazy case and offer up some armchair design ideas. Missed opportunity #1: make the front-facing surface adjacent to the bezel polished, rather than brushed, and that surface would have become a reflecting pool for the bezel’s handsome edge; as it is, reflections are present but stifled. Missed opportunity #2: polish the sides of the crown and it would integrate into the polished crown guard; as it is, the crown looks a little unfinished. Missed opportunity #3: do something across the mid-case on the nine o’clock side other than vertical brushing; as it is, it looks like an unpainted plaster wall in an otherwise Baroque room. Admittedly, I have yet to juggle all 27 facets while reclined in my armchair, so let’s add a grain of salt to this critique.
Between the calipers the Decodiver measures 41 millimeters across, and it fits like a 41-millimeter watch. However, it looks like a 43 or 44-millimeter watch on the wrist. I attribute the large appearance to the polished surfaces that flank the lugs at a 45-degree angle. Where most lugs fall vertically into shadow, the Decodiver is reflecting light in all directions, thus drawing the eye to the perimeter of the watch. For anyone who likes the presence of a big watch but can’t practically manage a true behemoth, the Decodiver may do the trick. Lug-to-lug is only 49 millimeters, thickness only 12 millimeters, and the watch sits down like a 41-millimeter watch should.
The domed ceramic bezel is fantastic. On the black-dial version of the Decodiver the bezel insert is maroon, or, to my eye, the color of a Hershey’s chocolate bar. On the blue-dial version, the bezel insert is black. Domed ceramic bezel inserts aren’t entirely novel, but the Decodiver is one of very few dive watches in this price range to have one. The ceramic insert convincingly imitates the vintage vibe of Bakelite, a plastic typically used on watches from the ’50s and ’60s, but also into the 1970s, which is clearly the Decodiver’s decade. The precision engraved bezel markings are filled with slightly-off-white Super-LumiNova. Twisting action is excellent; there’s no drift; and the intermittent coin-edging provides ample grip and another dose of bling.
From what I gather, fumé dials are a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. I happen to love it. The fumé paint job is less than perfect—it could be smoother and rounder—but I admire Evant for just doing it. Any flaws in the fumé treatment disappear at arm’s length, but pulled into time-telling position, I notice the irregularities. The radial dial brushing mingles nicely with the dusting of paint toward the dial’s center, and the combined effect screams disco.
The greatest offenders on the Decodiver dial, however, are the numerical markers at three, six, nine, and the marker at 12. These goobers of Super-LumiNova are misaligned with the painted-on numerals beneath, and all four of those cardinal points are entirely upstaged by the polished steel indices in the other eight positions. Perhaps the slop is unique to my copy, so let’s see what others say as these watches roll out.
A good-looking, modestly decorated screwed-in case back and flat sapphire crystal afford typical dive watch functionality and aesthetics. A 300-meter water resistance rating is nothing to scoff at, of course, though one will need to source a third party rubber strap or something meant for water in order to submerse it. I’d have hoped for one leather and one rubber strap, rather than two leathers.
The included straps are a light tan suede and an aged brown smooth leather, both handmade in Germany. I’ve been wearing the Decodiver on the suede strap, and it is showing oil and dirt blotches after just a week. I imagine that with another month of wear the suede Decodiver strap would begin to look more evenly worn. We shall see. The pin buckle is signed and polished and handsome.
I’ve lodged many a complaint above, but I want to say again that, despite its various imperfections, the Decodiver is delightfully playful, daring, and unique, especially when considered among the multitude of relatively conventional indie dive watches available today. The Decodiver hangs tough with the Seiko Samurai, both watches providing compelling studies in architectural complexity and undeniable presence. I guess one can hope for a Decodiver Deluxe, a slightly more expensive watch with applied numerals, a more elegant fumé treatment, and perhaps sharper case work, but until then it’s best to put down the loupe, step back, and enjoy the Decodiver as a whole. Evant