Review: Raven Venture

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While Raven Watches began about ten years ago with several Submariner-type homage watches, the past few years have seen the brand expand and come into their own with models that have broken somewhat with the vintage-inspired conventions of their beginnings. Recently, I had the opportunity to take one of Raven’s relatively new offerings, the Venture, out for a spin. How did it stack up to my expectations? Let’s delve right in.

$650

Review: Raven Venture

Case
Blasted stainless steel; molded matte ceramic bezel insert
Movement
ETA 2824
Dial
Black (matte)
Lume
Super-LumiNova
Lens
Double-domed sapphire
Strap
Stainless steel bracelet
Water Resistance
300 meters
Dimensions
42mm x 50mm
Thickness
12.5mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$650

The Venture is a stainless steel dive watch with a rotating unidirectional bezel and a steel bracelet with a diver’s extension. The anti-allergic, medical-grade 316L stainless steel case is 42 millimeters wide without the crown, a size that Raven refers to as “midsize,” as they have watches in their catalog with larger cases. The watches are available in either brushed or sand-blasted finishes, and though I was only sent the sand-blasted, grey-dialed variant for review, I can say that this finish was skillfully applied and lends the watch a great, matte look. Though the case depth isn’t published on Raven’s website, I measured it to be about 12.5 millimeters tall, which isn’t much taller than that of my Submariner and allows the Venture to slip under the cuff on a jacket, though perhaps not under that of a dress shirt.

The Venture’s bezel insert is a custom-molded, matte ceramic with Super—LumiNova markings—a dot at 12, triangles at 15 and 45, and the number “30” at the 30-minute position, as well as hash marks at 5-minute intervals. Truthfully, the bezel presented one of the few sources of frustration that I had with the Venture, as I found myself missetting it on more than one occasion, confusing the dots and the triangles. Though most divers are likely using dive computers as their primary timing and data recording source underwater, there have been several occasions when I didn’t have a dive computer available to me, and thus used my wristwatch as a timing reference for either bottom time or decompression stops. I probably wouldn’t be inclined to dive with the Raven, in all honesty, simply because of this bezel configuration. When you’re underwater, it’s too easy to confuse the dots and triangles and forget where you set the bezel, even with the 30-minute reference mark. On Submariner-style bezels, with the pip at 12 and numbers at each ten-minute marker, there’s no question underwater where you set your timing reference, and I would’ve preferred such an arrangement here.

The second small issue I have with the bezel concerns a problem common to micro-brand offerings: namely, that the markings don’t align perfectly with the dial indices. This is, however, a bit of a nitpick and I should mention that I wouldn’t decide not to purchase this watch because of it (I own another watch with a similar issue, and I didn’t let it deter me from that purchase). I also love the matte look of the bezel, and the solid, unidirectional ratcheting feels great to the touch.

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The crown is a signed, oversized, 7.5-millimeter screw-down type without crown guards. It is very tactile, even with gloves. The lack of crown guards lends the watch a “Big Crown,” 6538-style look, which is a nice vintage-inspired touch. The sapphire crystal is double-domed and AR-coated. It is the raised type with relatively a slim profile that doesn’t extend far beyond the bezel and very much complements the aesthetic of the dial. The case back is a screw-back type with a rubber gasket for increased water resistance (300 meters).

Speaking of the dial, let’s jump to that. The dial is very well done—highly legible, simple, and well-designed. As of now, there are several different color variations available on the Raven website, but because I’ve seen others that aren’t currently available, I’m led to believe that perhaps some have since sold out. As you can see from the photos, I received the grey-dialed, sand-blasted variant for review with a white second hand, which is wonderfully subdued and classic. Other variants feature an orange second hands, which I am personally not a fan of (if I had my way, the use of the color orange would be relegated exclusively to safety equipment, pumpkins, M&Ms, and maybe one Crayola crayon out of the box to remind future generations of children that it was once a thing). All kidding aside, the dial here is well done. The grey color is dark like slate, and the indices feature an oversized triangle at 12, Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9, and hash marks at the 5-minute intervals, as well as a smaller outer minute ring. While I’m not a “date at 4:30” guy, for some reason this configuration doesn’t bother me here. I find it unobtrusive given the date font’s size relative to the rest of the dial font (the date wheel is also black with white font, which is a nice touch).

The three hands are oversized and highly legible, and both the indices and hands feature Super-LumiNova paint. Other than the Raven logo, the word “Raven,” and “Automatic, 300M,” there is no other writing on the dial, which further increases legibility and gives the whole thing a neat look.

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The movement ticking inside the Venture is the venerable ETA 2824-2, automatic 25-jewel caliber with a 40-hour power reserve and a quick-set date mechanism. According to the Raven website, the 2824-2 movements inside the Venture have  been regulated for even better accuracy, but as no further specifics are given and I was reticent to try opening the case back on a loaner watch with my lousy $3 case back wrench, I can’t say to what extent.

On to the bracelet. After removing some links from the loaner model, I was able to wear the watch and really appreciate the bracelet’s design. It’s essentially an Oyster-type, stainless steel band that comes in the same finishing as the watch head. The links feature single-sided screws for quick sizing. The clasp is a two-sided, button-type release that locked in well and stayed put without any jiggle (one must depress both buttons to release the clasp, so there’s little chance of it coming undone by mistake).

The clasp comes equipped with a dive extension, which features a ratcheting, button-released system that gives the wearer multiple sizing options for fitting over a wetsuit and doesn’t require the watch to be removed for resizing. Given the watch’s price point, there is tremendous value in this thoughtful detail, and I applaud Raven for giving such consideration to those of us who would want to use the Venture for its intended underwater purpose. Nice one!For those who would prefer to wear the watch on a nylon mil-strap or on a rubber strap, the case features 22-millimeter drilled lugs for easy strap changing, and there are several straps available for sale from Raven (editor’s note: for the sake of full disclosure, Raven’s American-made Nylon straps are manufactured for Raven by ADPT/Worn & Wound).

So what are you getting for your $650, you ask? The answer is a lot of watch for the money, in my honest opinion. You get an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, an incredibly robust case, an Oyster-type bracelet designed with the diver in mind—and all of this in an attractive, vintage-inspired package built to modern spec.

On a 7-inch wrist.

Now, as I wrote above, the watch isn’t without faults. And would I love to see the Venture in a smaller 38-millimeter or even a 40-millimeter case? You bet. But do I believe this should stop you, if you’re looking for an incredible value in a casual tool watch that you can take on a long dive, from picking up a Venture (or, for that matter, from beginning a sentence with a conjunction)?

Absolutely not. Raven Watches

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Oren Hartov is a NYC-based musician and writer whose work has appeared in SHIFTed Magazine, Special Operations Report and K-9 Cop Magazine. He enjoys watches, history, archaeology, militaria, SCUBA, and just about anything that goes “BANG.”