Eska isn’t a brand that many are familiar with, but the Swiss watchmaker started production over a century ago. It shut its doors in the late 1980s, like many following the quartz crisis, but has now reemerged with the Amphibian 250, a faithful recreation of the old brand’s rarest diver, the Amphibian 600. Very few examples are known to exist today, so it personifies rarity and desirability among collectors. The new Amphibian 250 is nigh identical at a glance, but look closer and you’ll see both refinement and a few contemporary tweaks to make an attractive retro dive watch.
Eska was founded in 1918 by Silvan Kocher, whose initials (S.K.) inspired the brand name. It was a successful brand with distribution reaching throughout Switzerland, the US, Brazil, Australia and Asia. The Amphibian 600 was a Fifty Fathoms-inspired diver from around 1959/1960, which featured oversized radium numerals and indices, a power reserve indicator above 12 o’clock and a reverse black Bakelite bezel insert under acrylic. These watches are basically unicorns today, but the French Navy had used them for a time and one was even worn by entertainer Roy Rogers in the 1960s. Eska’s doors shut for good in 1987, but a pair of watch collectors have revived the name – Sinicha Knezevic and Christophe Chevreton – with a tribute to the Amphibian 600 and operations now in France. Fittingly, Sinicha’s initials are also S.K. like the original founder. The new Amphibian 250 launches on Kickstarter here and the final assembly will occur in Besançon, France.
The stainless steel case of the Eska Amphibian 250 measures 40mm in diameter and 13.5mm in height (lug-to-lug is 46mm). The first thing you’ll notice is the reverse unidirectional rotating bezel with “coin edge” knurling. The black bezel insert is covered by modern sapphire over the original’s acrylic, but it closely resembles the Amphibian 600 down to the colour-matching old radium lume. A double-domed sapphire crystal protects the dial and has retro distortions at the perimeter, matching acrylic crystals of the past. The screw-down crown is slightly oversized for ease of use and water resistance is rated at 250 metres – hence the name Amphibian 250. The solid caseback will feature individual numbers for the first 300 pieces. There are three strap options including a black tropic rubber, a sand-coloured canvas and a two-piece black NATO.
The black dial is a close recreation of the original, but features modern touches that start with a sandwich design. The oversized Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock are printed directly on the dial, but the hour indices between are cutouts with a matching (old radium) coloured blank underneath and red outer tips. Triangular markers on the seconds track are cutouts as well, all adding visual depth and a bit of sophistication. The old power reserve at 12 o’clock is missing on the new design, but it keeps things clean and purposeful. The hour and large arrowhead minute hands closely resemble the originals, but the lollipop seconds hand is a bit modified/updated. The numerals on the bezel and dial, along with the indices and inserts on the hands are luminescent.
Powering the Amphibian 250 is Seiko’s NH38 automatic. It has 24 jewels, beats at 21,600vph (3Hz) and features a 41-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and hacking seconds (no hidden date). Accuracy is rated at -20/+40 seconds per day, but is usually within those parameters in practice.
The Eska Amphibian 250 is launching on Kickstarter on January 24, 2024, for exactly one month, ending on February 24, 2024. The Kickstarter price is EUR 740 with a final retail price of EUR 1,050. Deliveries are expected to start in mid-June 2024. For more information, please visit the brand’s website and the dedicated page at Kickstarter here.