Damasko offers only one watch below 40 millimeters, the relatively svelte DS 30. Following the trend toward smaller watches, the DS 30 measures 39 millimeters across and just 9.9 millimeters thick, and Damasko is quick to point out that this watch is suitable for men and women wearing both business and casual attire. This watch is beautifully proportioned, offering tool watch technology and looks, but none of the bulk.
Review: Damasko DS 30—a Tool Watch You Can Slip Under a Cuff
The silky smooth bead blasted case is made from surfaced-hardened sub (a.k.a. submarine) steel—a departure from Damasko’s proprietary ice-hardened steel. Sub steel is quite anti-magnetic, thus eliminating the need for an internal anti-magnetic system and, in turn, allowing for the slimmer profile. Damasko’s patented screw-down crown is also made from hardened steel, and that includes the permanently lubricated “Damasko System” crown mechanism as well as the crown itself. The crown threads and turns smoothly. The solid, threaded case back is sealed with an o-ring Viton gasket, providing what is likely a conservative 100-meter water-resistance rating, as well as resistance to low air pressure at altitude. Damasko claims that the anti-reflective sapphire crystal is “extremely scratch resistant,” and while I didn’t test that, of course, it is one of the most effective AR coatings I’ve come across. All told, the DS 30 is a thoroughbred tool watch, sealed from the elements and highly defended against impact.
The DS 30’s movement is the ETA 2836-2, an automatic mechanical unit offering no surprises as well as future-proofing the watch with easy access to qualified watchmakers and spare parts when the time comes for service. With a sea of third-party mechanisms decorated to appear proprietary, I’ve come to appreciate a simple solid case back, and I certainly don’t miss seeing yet another giant rotor hovering over a relatively generic movement. Save the open backs for the hand wounds.The dial is matte black, and stays matte behind the great anti-reflective crystal coating regardless of viewing angle. This dial is a great match to the bead-blasted case, and the bold rectilinear indices are painted on with C1 Super-LumiNova, which is as white as fresh snow. Hands are similarly decorated, covered in white luminous paint for the hour and minute hand, with the seconds hand painted in perfectly matched non-luminous white. Welcome to Contrast City.
Damasko’s signature cross hairs give the dial a subtle militaristic vibe without bowing to machismo. Day or night, this is one of the most legible watches I’ve ever worn; it was still shining brightly when my cat woke me up at 4:45AM yesterday morning.
The date window doesn’t truncate the three o’clock indicator, a layout I would readily wish onto many of my watches. Unfortunately, however, the date window does truncate the cross-hair marking. There’s almost always a compromise with date windows, and I’d probably prefer a no-date version in order to maintain symmetry. As date indications go, the custom date wheel fits right in, and close examination reveals a nice beveled edge on the window that catches just enough light to add a smidgen of depth.
The DS 30’s lugs are understated, but not boring. These are neither the torqued wonders of an Omega Speedmaster nor the sleep-inducing slabs found on so many tools watches. Rather, these are long, shapely, classic lugs whose top surface surreptitiously slopes downward toward the outer edge. That angle is subtle but highly effective, and it may just be the thing that keeps the DS 30 from appearing cookie-cutter.
Smartly, Damasko has drilled the DS 30’s lugs, which not only makes strap changes a breeze but also compellingly tips the DS 30 toward an old-school field watch aesthetic. When sitting flat on a table, the DS 30’s lugs curve downward to a level position with the case back, a design that will likely fit a diversity of wrist shapes and sizes.
Obviously a monochromatic watch such as this is ideal for strap swapping, though I find the brown leather strap that ships with the DS 30 to be a fine complement. Being a demo, the strap I have in hand is nicely worn in, showing early signs of what will clearly become a lovely patina. The signed pin buckle is in matching bead blasted steel, and the strap tapers down to that buckle just enough to match the vintage aesthetic. I don’t think there’s a 20-millimeter strap in my box that wouldn’t work on the DS 30. With a more playful strap color, it’s not hard to make this watch lean toward the aesthetics of a Mondaine or similarly minimalist watch.
I’ve come to realize that the clothes I’m wearing as well as the setting I’m in when I first try on a watch really impact my first impressions. Given that watches show up whenever the mailman happens to arrive, this is totally a game of wardrobe roulette. As it happens, I was wearing a denim shirt and brown pants while standing under a big maple tree in my yard when I first slipped on the DS 30. My instant reaction was “Wow, that really looks good.” I could have easily thrown on a tweed blazer and rocked a professorial look, or a bomber jacket and work boots for a more rugged vibe. A crisp white shirt picks up the white of the dial, but the watch still feels too pilot-watchy for formal occasions or traditional business wear. Others will disagree.
As mentioned, Damasko believes this watch will sell to women. Typically, and somewhat counterintuitively, the barrier between my partner Shelley and a watch often has more to do with thickness and lug-span than diameter. My Sinn 556 Anniversary is a good example; the 38.5-millimeter diameter is fine, but the stubby lugs and 11-millimeter thickness just don’t allow the 556 to sit down on her flat, 5.75-inch wrist. No matter which strap we try, the 556 just looks like an unmade bed on her wrist. On occasion she’s sported my 42-millimeter Bell & Ross 24hr GMT, which has uber-long lugs, and, though a little rickety, it pretty much works on her. The DS 30, however, at just 9.9 millimeters thick with a lug-span of 46 millimeters is an excellent candidate as a “couple’s watch” for us. However, we’d need a shorter strap to suit both of us. (More generally, companies trying to cater to the gender continuum might consider offering a choice of strap sizes).
In a sentence, the Damasko DS 30 is a highly durable and incredibly versatile pilot’s watch, able to suit a dressy outfit up to a point and easily dressed down as far as you want to go. Anyone who’s ever desired a Damasko but found their other offerings were too big or lacking in subtlety will likely find that the DS 30 offers an easy pathway into this excellent German brand. Damasko