Slowly but surely, over the last decade or so, environmental initiatives have started to show up in various parts of our everyday lives. From my local grocery who no longer offers plastic shopping bags, to the worldwide shopping and logistics behemoth who has my eternal gratitude for barely ever sending items in plastic blister packs anymore. The world of luxury goods, which generally subscribes to the ethos of “more is better“, has been one of the latest notable entrants in the race to keep this planet liveable, and you see it nowhere more so than in watches. Some brands form partnerships with charities and donate portions of sales to a good cause. Others take it a step further and start looking for better and less wasteful ways to package these tiny creations that we can’t stop buying. (Mostly) gone are the days of the watch box the size of a suitcase, and the top of my closet is very grateful for this. A handful of brands go further still, and start looking for ways to cut back on material waste or even use recycled or reclaimed materials in the watches themselves. So is the case of the Alpina Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic 2021 Edition 44mm.
GYRE Watches out of the Netherlands was an early participant in that latter category, launching their company to do exactly that. Their first watch, the aptly-named SeaCleaner, features a case made from reclaimed fishing nets rescued from the Indian ocean, and a NATO strap made from recycled ocean plastics, respectably going all-in on the “save the oceans” theme. You can read more about GYRE here.
Alpina Watches liked what they saw in GYRE and decided to team up to create the Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic. The idea being to take GYRE’s environmental, material-forward approach, and use their own 140 years of Swiss watchmaking chops to mold it into a true, 300m mechanical dive watch. Was it a success? We took the watch diving down in the Florida Keys to find out, but first, let’s go over the basics.
At a glance
First released in June of 2020, we are looking at the updated 2021 model. The Alpina Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic, as it is officially named, could be mistaken at first glance for a regular watch from Alpina’s line of Seastrong dive watches. You could even make that mistake looking at it up close, thinking that its matte black case is a DLC coated stainless steel. It’s when you get the watch in your hands that you notice something different is going on. It’s lighter in weight than the average 300m dive watch, leading you to think it could be titanium, but when you feel the texture of the case it’s clear that this is something very different. The closest analog would be the feel of a carbon fiber watch case, it feels somehow light and fragile and dense and rugged all at the same time. The composite is made of 70% Recycled PA, which is those reclaimed fishing nets mentioned earlier, and 30% glass fiber. The glass fiber is necessary in the material as reinforcement, strengthening the watch and allowing it to reach depths of 300 metres and stand the test of time.
The Seastrong Diver Gyre is available in a 36mm “ladies” size (note to Alpina, maybe in 2022 we can just call them small and large) and a larger 44mm, which is a more standard size for a modern diver. The case shape is the same cushion-adjacent shape as the rest of the Seastrong line. You could call it a 21st-century cushion case, the same general oval-esqe cushion shape that we all know and love, but with angles cut out of it, giving it a geometric, almost 3D-printed look. The dial is a nice, even matte black with applied silver markers. A “luminous treatment” is as specific as Alpina’s specs are willing to divulge, but it glows well enough.
The Alpina and GYRE names, as well as the minute indices around the dial, are printed in a turquoise color, keeping with the overall oceanic vibe. The hour and minute hands are half-skeletonized and half-filled with the same luminous treatment, offering ample legibility. Under the dial beats the heart of the watch, the AL-525 movement, which is a Sellita SW200-1, with customised rotor and decorations. One of the most solid “workhorse” movements out there, it’s an automatic movement with 26 jewels, beating at 28,000vph and offering 38 hours of power reserve. The movement is protected with a screw-in, stainless steel caseback, ensuring you get the 300 metres of water resistance advertised on the dial. Completing the water-tight works is a screw-down crown, adorned with the Alpina triangle logo.
Back on the front of the watch, we find the bezel, a feature that must be discussed on any watch suitable for scuba diving. The Seastrong Gyre’s bezel is a 120-click, unidirectional job, fashioned from stainless steel with what the specs call a blue PVD coating, but it looks very black in person. The minute markings are engraved into the bezel to ensure they will never wear off. The whole thing has a glossy finish that looks very nice and reflects surrounding light in fun ways. This was also the one thing about the watch that gave me an “uh oh” moment when imagining taking it underwater, but more on that later.
On the wrist, the whole package wears very well. The 44mm wears smaller than those numbers would have one think; it doesn’t feel any bigger than 42mm and that’s a good thing. This is probably due to its relative thinness at just over 12mm and a short lug-to-lug measurement of 49mm. The composite material offers a great weight reduction from your typical stainless steel sports watch, and the result is a very functional and sturdy tool, but one that you can forget you are wearing if you’re not thinking about it. The best of both worlds.
Under the sea
Although a solid, reliable wristwatch is no longer a requirement for diving in modern times, they are still a lot of fun to wear while under the sea; something to remind you of a simpler (wildly more dangerous) time, before computers aided us in basically everything. And in a sport where any piece of gear failing becomes a potentially life-threatening situation, you can truly never have too many redundancies.
The Alpina Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic, with its lightweight and unobtrusive stature, makes an excellent secondary timing device. The included NATO strap is plenty long to fit comfortably over a wetsuit, or just a rash guard as was the case on our dive into 30°C, crystal blue waters. In my experience there are two types of modern dive watch, the first is a big statement piece, those 50mm chunks of steel that are meant to be another gauge and certainly look the part, sometimes even made of bronze to go full Jules Verne. The second is a smaller, more subtle piece, designed to sink into your kit, disappearing and causing you no concern until you need it and find it dependably right where it belongs. This watch definitely belongs to that latter category. Its matte black finish makes it nearly camouflage over a wetsuit unless you know where to look.
Functionally, the watch performs exactly as you would expect from a rugged, modern diver. I mentioned above a bit of trepidation in regard to the bezel. Topside, the glossy, reflective finish of the bezel makes it a little difficult to quickly make out where you are in the time track, depending on the amount of reflection happening, and I was concerned this would continue underwater. Thankfully this is not at all the case. Some combination of water refraction/reflection science that is over my head makes the bezel perfectly legible underwater. Even better, those elapsed minute engravings that appear to be just black text on the black bezel? Those are actually filled with luminous material. It’s definitely not going to win any lume contests, but it is enough to make it readable in pitch black conditions. In the daylight that lume adds a hint of contrast to help the overall legibility.
As an underwater totem, I usually wax poetic about a watch reminding us of the divers of yore, as that is the feeling one gets with a lot of the vintage-inspired divers going around today. The Alpina Seastrong Gyre takes you in the opposite direction. Instead of glancing at it and daydreaming about the early days of diving and treasure hunts and drinking rum on wooden ships, this watch makes you turn your gaze towards the future, and contemplate the nightmare that the world’s oceans could become if we don’t start paying a little more attention. It might not be quite as romantic a contemplation, but it’s surely more important.
Bernard Werk of GYRE watches said in an interview “You’re not going to solve the plastic (problem) with a watch case weighing 7 grams. But a watch can be a great conversation starter.” And if each one of these watches starts that conversation with a handful of people, or inspires a few divers to pick up the rubbish you always see down below, then that is a step in the right direction.
Availability & Price
The Alpina Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic 44mm is available now from Alpina’s website for EUR 1,395 and is limited to 288 pieces. For more details, please visit alpinawatches.com.