It is entirely possible that you have never heard of Squale watches. Sure, it’s a brand that has been around for over 60 years, but not until very recently have they come back from a sort of brand hibernation. However, back in the 60’s and 70’s, Squale was literally one of the top producers of dive watchcases and dive watches. They produced cases for many brands, from Tag Heuer to Doxa to Blancpain (source). They not only produced robust and well-designed cases, but made genuinely technologically innovative watches. One particularly advanced watch was the 101 Atmos, released in the late 60’s, which claims to be the first 1000m dive watch without a helium escape valve and features a unique bezel design.
In 2010, the brand began to produce watches again, sticking to remaking of their famous watches from the past, many of which fit right in with modern divers in terms of style and features. The 101 Atmos ref 2002A is one such watch, and is a recreation of that famous watch from the late 60’s early 70’s. It’s a big and bold watch with a unique look that definitely speaks to a different generation of watch design. The new version runs $1,229 and stays true to the originals in many ways, most importantly in keeping the helium escape valve free design and using the unique pushdown Bakelite bezel. It also features an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, a 3.5mm thick sapphire crystal and “Swedish” stainless steel. We were lucky enough to get our hands on the black and orange version, thanks to our friends at Long Island Watch, so let’s take a closer look.
Case: Swedish Stainless Steel
Movement: ETA 2824-2
Dial: Matte black
Lens: 3.5mm Sapphire
Strap: Orange and Black “real” rubber
Water Res.: 1000m
Thickness: 14 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 5 x 6 mm screw down
Weight: 145g (our measure)
Warranty: 2 year
The case of the Squale 101 Atmos ref 2002A is quite large, measuring 44 x 51 x 14mm. The design is very 60’s/70’s with a lugless barrel shape and an overall fluid look. There are some very nice sculptural details to the case, namely on the very elegant sides of the watch, which have a slightly arched line running across them. The look is very refined and a nice departure from today’s more standard and geometric tool divers. The whole case is polished “Swedish” stainless steel, which is claimed to have less imperfection than other stainless. The polish also works very nicely with the smooth lines of the case, giving it a somewhat dressier feeling.
A large screw down crown is located between 4 and 5, which is an ideal position on a case this size. The crown is about 5mm long, making it very easy to grasp. It is also signed with the Squale “Von” logo. On the left side of the case, etched in a small script, is a serial number for the watch. Though easy to miss at a glance, it is a nice little detail. The screw down caseback is very simple, featuring an etching with the Squale shark logo and various details about the watch. Housed inside is an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. It’s a standard for reliability and quality, so one can have faith that the watch is keeping accurate time.
Overall, the build quality of the case seems very high. The polish is very even, the lines of the case are clean and everything appears to fit together very well…which one would certainly hope for on a 1000m diver. The crown threads very well and has a generally smooth action. Topping off the case is a 3.5mm thick sapphire crystal, which creates no distortion when looking at the dial and clearly is a high-end feature.
One of the outstanding features of the original Squale 101 Atmos was the unique bezel design, and Squale smartly kept that feature fully intact. Just looking at the design alone, the bezel is very large, running the full 44mm diameter of the case with a fairly wide insert area. The polished steel edge has a wide tooth to it that makes it very easy to manipulate. The actual operation of the bezel is different than most, as it has a built in locking system. In order to turn the bezel, one must push down on it while turning. Then, the bezel can be easily turned in either direction. This allows for very quick setting, as it has less resistance than a typical ratcheting bezel, though it does “click” into place when released. I found this to be a nice alternative to other bezel mechanisms, as it’s fast and seemingly precise, but I did notice that one can still turn the bezel without pushing down… There is more than enough resistance to suggest that the bezel would never turn accidentally, but it is a bit surprising that it does not truly lock in. The bezel is also said to be removable, via unscrewing from above, though I have not tested this function.
The other interesting detail is the black and orange Bakelite insert. Bakelite is a very old form of plastic, invented in the early 1900’s. It’s not something you see on modern objects often, as there are “better” plastics out there for consumer products. I find the color that is present in the Bakelite to be very warm and rich in a way that acrylic or ABS doesn’t seem to have. That’s likely because the “bakelite bezel is colored in a multi-stage process. First the phosphorescent material is applied by hand, followed by coloring with varnishes immune to seawater corrosion”. Needless to say, it makes the black and orange bezel of the Squale 101 Atmos ref. 2002A really gorgeous.
The index on the bezel is broken up into small white dots for individual minutes, numerals for every ten minutes and thick lumed lines that run the full width of the bezel at 5, 15, 25, etc… At 0/60 there is an inward facing triangle that is also lumed. The bi-coloration is very cool and adds a lot of character to the look of the watch. Overall, the look stays true to the 60’s/70’s design.
The dial of the 101 Atmos is matte black with large applied steel markers for the hour index. The markers are multi-faceted and highly polished, making them reflect light in interesting ways. While a bit atypical for a sport watch, they work nicely here, as the somewhat more dress elements works well with the polished case. On the outer edge of the markers are small lumed rectangles. Going around the outer perimeter of the dial is a simple minute index consisting of thin white lines. Though the dial lacks numerals, I do find it quite legible. At 3 there is a standard rectangular date window, which gives view to the black text on white date wheel. While staying true to the legibility of a diver, the white date wheel does break up the overall look.
Written on the black dial are various Squale logos. Under 12, there is a modern styled logo in italic caps, with the “von” logo oddly floating just above it. Above 6 is the Squale shark logo, with “101 ATM 2002A” written above it in small letters. It’s kind of strange, to be honest, that there are essentially 3 logos for the same brand on the dial, but the amount of text does not feel overwhelming. This also keeps true to the original design of the watch.
The minute and hour hands on the watch are simple straight sword shapes. The hour hand is white with lume fill and the minute is hand is fluorescent orange with lume fill. The orange of the minute hand is exceptionally bright and really stands out against the black dial. Not only does this increase legibility, obviously, it also works well aesthetically with the orange bezel (and strap). The seconds hand is a thin white stick with a larger lume filled rectangle close to the end. Overall, the lume on the watch was a bit weaker than expected on a diver. There simply is not very much lume present on the dial, just the small rectangles behind the steel markers, so the lack of glow power is understandable. The lume on the bezel is also sort of dim. There is more present, which can compensate for the lack on the dial, but the power just isn’t there. The hands, however, glow brightly and with decent duration.
Straps and Wearability
Make no mistake about it, this is a large watch. The 44 x 51 x 14mm case has a commanding presence on the wrist, yet it’s not uncomfortable. The watch weighs a tolerable 145g (our measure), which doesn’t act as a ball and chain on your arm. In combination with the off-center crown and smooth lugs, the watch is wearable, if you have a wrist that can handle the diameter. The look of the watch is very cool, mixing elements of dress and sport in a package that has vintage appeal. The black and orange coloration is bold, but not too over the top. The polished steel case and fairly elegant dial temper the orange to make something that is fun rather than obnoxious.
The watch comes with two thick 22mm “real” rubber straps, in orange and black. The straps are 4mm thick and feature a diamond texture on the outer surface as well as signed deployment clasps. These are the kind of rubber strap that you have to cut to size, so unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to wear the strap for a prolonged period. The quality of them is obvious in the look and feel, though the comfort is questionable, as is always the case with thick rubber. One could easily put a nylon strap on for a more breathable option of a steel mesh to dress the watch up a bit.
The watch comes in a series of blue boxes that speak to the aquatic aspirations of the brand. The outer box is a simple slip over style in navy blue with a silver Squale shark logo on top. The inner box is a matching navy blue faux leather presentation also with a silver logo on top. Inside, still all navy blue, the watch is presented in a typical style. The blue box really makes the orange in the watch jump out when the box is first opened, which is a nice touch. The watch cradle area also lifts out to reveal a compartment underneath that houses the warranty card. All in all, it’s a nice box with a retro feel that immediately makes you think of water and diving. The quality is average, perhaps under what one might expect for watch at this price point.
The Squale 101 Atmos ref 2002A is a visually stunning recreation of a classic late 60’s dive watch. They’ve maintained the look, the original 1000m water resistance and some of the cool features of the original as well, such as the Bakelite push-down bezel. At $1,229 this is not an inexpensive watch, but it does offer a lot for that price. It has a thick 3.5mm sapphire crystal, an ETA 2824-2 movement, it’s made of Swedish stainless steel and is a genuine Swiss Made watch. It also has a decent amount of history attached to it, which adds to the overall appeal. I do wish the lume had been brighter on the dial and bezel, but that doesn’t actually effect my typical day-to-day wearing of a watch. Ultimately, it’s the look of this watch that I find so appealing. The barrel case is downright slick, and the use of orange and black is very cool. If you are ok with the 44mm diameter and are looking for something with a 60’s/70’s vibe, yet doesn’t sacrifice build for style, the Squale 101 Atmos ref 2002A might be a great choice.
*If you are interested in what one might wear with such a watch, check out the Pairs Well With we did a few months ago.
review unit supplied by Long Island Watch
by Zach Weiss