Once upon a time, hearing or reading the phrase “vintage-inspired dive watch” caused a stir of excitement and anticipation in us watch enthusiasts. The most iconic watches are, after all, mid-century dive watches. But now, we get it. It’s been done by nearly every brand you can imagine, and there is a new one coming out seemingly every other day. This is not to say we don’t still like them, but the novelty is gone. Now, what matters are the details. Being under 40mm and having a domed crystal are no longer enough to justify yet another “vintage-inspired dive watch.” We’re looking for nuance, cleverness, a timeless quality that would hold up to their forefathers, and something surprising wouldn’t hurt.
Enter Serica, a French brand that has gained a solid reputation since first releasing their line of Dirty Dozen-esque field watches, the 4512s, back in 2019. Blake Buettner reviewed the follow-up version, with an unexpected California dial, in 2020, which you can read here. It left an impression on him, and those of us who got to try it out in the office as well. The question remained in my head, however, as to how or what they would follow this watch up with. Was Serica a one-watch-pony that would continue to permutate on a single successful platform (something we’ve seen from other brands)? Luckily, the answer was, no. And their follow-up, an aforementioned “vintage-inspired dive watch,” with a similarly old-school ref-number-name (everything can be a throwback), called the 5303, took us a bit by surprise.
Not that it was vintage-inspired, nor a dive watch, but that it was a move upmarket, to some extent, and far more complex than its predecessor. While the 4512s are very successful in their own right, they are straightforward, which is in keeping with a field watch. Rather than trying to make a similarly stripped-down diver, or even turning the 4512 into a diver, Serica dipped their toes into more complicated waters in terms of everything from the finishing to the bracelet (which is a standout). Yet, what really sets it apart and “justifies” its existence, as per the first paragraph, is that it manages to be sporty and classy, as a mid-century diver should, but also quirky and different. It blends the iconic style of a Seamaster 300 with the function-first attitude of a ZRC. In other words, this doesn’t feel like your everyday “vintage-inspired dive watch.”
Powered by the Soprod Newton, a new 2824 competitor, and with a price tag of $1,200 the Serica 5303 is clearly a compelling sophomore release from the young brand, so let’s take a closer look.