Earlier this year, Delma, the independent family-owned Swiss brand renowned for its deep dive watches, introduced the Cayman collection. A vintage-inspired diver, the Delma Cayman Automatic, like the reptile it is named after, is an amphibious watch as happy in the water as out. Water-resistant to 500m, retro 1970s styling, a Swiss automatic movement, three dial and bezel colours and multiple strap choices, all for around EUR 1,000, it’s fair to say that Delma has joined the market of vintage-inspired dive watches with a vengeance.
A saturated dive market
Vintage divers are the ‘it’ watches of the moment and brands like Oris, Longines, Seiko, Tudor, Doxa, Blancpain and even unexpected players like Glashütte Original, which managed to unearth a 1969 diver in its archives, are all in the market for this genre. The phenomenon of vintage divers, like the phenomenon of blue dials shows no signs of abating.
Founded in Lengnau, Switzerland by Adolf and Albert Gilomen in 1924, the original name of the brand, A. & A. Gilomen, was substituted for Delma Watch in 1966 after the company was sold. The 1969 Periscope was Delma’s first diver paving the way for its tradition of robust deep dive watches. The latest professional deep diver is the Blue Shark III capable of fathoming depths of 4,000 metres.
The Delma Cayman Automatic, introduced earlier this year, joins the already saturated market of vintage-inspired dive watches. Picking up on design cues from Delma divers of the 1970s, the Cayman has a more than respectable 500m water-resistance rating. In keeping with the nature of a sports watch, the steel case has a 42mm diameter and a height of 13.3mm. The case design is fairly straightforward with sharp profiles on the lugs and an oversized screw-down crown. The finishes range from brushed surfaces to a polished bevel on the sides of the lugs. The slight curve of the lugs adapts well to most wrist sizes and despite the large crown, it doesn’t dig into your wrist.
The Delma Cayman Automatic is nothing else than a robust, no-nonsense dive watch. And that’s all we ask.
The aluminium bezel, in tune with the 1970s spirit of the watch, is available in black, blue or red. As far as bezels go, this one is pretty Spartan with the markings. Silver numerals at 15, 30 and 45, minute markers and a luminous dot at 12 o’clock complete the picture. Not even the first 15-minutes on the bezel are highlighted, which is usually the case with divers. The scalloped edge of the unidirectional bezel is designed to enhance grip.
Available in three colours – blue, black and silver – the sunray-brushed dial, like the bezel, is almost minimalist. The hour markers are represented by relatively small alternating dots and rectangular markers treated with lume. The hour, minute and central seconds hands, with its arrow-shaped tip, are also treated with lume. A date window at 3 o’clock completes the picture. The rest of the dial, save the Delma logo under the 12 o’clock marker and the inscription Automatic 500m/1650 ft, is empty.
What is unusual though is the presence of an open caseback, a rarity in dive watches. What you are looking at here is a popular ETA 2824-2, a reliable and easy-to-service Swiss movement visible through a sapphire caseback. The watch can be worn on either a leather strap with a steel pin buckle or a Milanese mesh steel bracelet.
There’s no way we can overlook the fact that most dive watches and most sports watches have abandoned their natural milieu in exchange for dry land and even – dare we say it? – more formal engagements. Walking around London last week, I came across a poster in a suit shop of a model in black tie wearing a Milgauss.
The relatively discreet bezel, uncluttered dial and small hour markers of the Delma Cayman Automatic might hark back to vintage design cues but they also allow the watch to cross over into everyday wear. I think the Delma Cayman has pulled off this hybrid amphibious functionality very well. It has all the specs of a dive watch but it looks dressier and less formidable than others in this genre, especially when combined with the Milanese steel bracelet. The fact that it has a date window and an open caseback only compound this impression. Factor in the fair price and you have a solid candidate for a daily beater.
Price & Availability
The Delma Cayman Automatic models on leather straps retail for EUR 990, those on stainless steel Milanese bracelets for EUR 1,150. The watches are now available at official retailers and on the brand’s own webshop.
More information at delma.ch.