Accessible dive watches are a dime a dozen. To put it simply, finding one that you’ll like is an endless quest, with so many good options available (and also very bad ones…) But accessibility often means that some concessions on quality, mechanics or specifications will be made. And then comes the style, with many of these watches built around the same overall design. What if you’re looking for a solid, deep diver’s watch with an original look, reliable mechanics, faithfulness, a name that resonates in the heart of collectors and, to make it even better, a fair price. Well, we have one for you here, in the name of the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster, here presented with a rather striking green dial.
Nivada is typically the kind of brand that will talk mostly to seasoned collectors and vintage watch lovers. Indeed, if the brand has been rather successful during the 1960s, it has always been sort of a niche watchmaker for professional applications. Not a mainstream name. The brand was founded in Grenchen (Granges), Switzerland in 1926 by Otto Wüllimann, Hermann Schindler and Jack Schneider. The company remained under the control of the Schneider family until its 50th anniversary in 1976. From the earliest days, the company focused on instrument watches – for instance, Nivada’s first waterproof automatic watch named the Antarctic in 1950. In addition to the widely known Chronomaster, a chronograph with 200-metre water-resistance, are two other important watches. First is the 1964 Depthomatic, which became the first diver’s watch with a depth indicator or bathymeter. The other is a true diver’s instrument.
In 1965, Nivada Grenchen introduced the Depthmaster, a powerful dive watch that could withstand a pressure of 100 ATM or 1,000 metres. No small feat considering most dive watches at that time offered 150 or 200 metres of water-resistance. In fact, this was a record for the industry until Rolex introduced its Sea-Dweller (launched in 1967). Multiple styles have existed over the years, including the cool Pac-Man model, and another one with a bold combination of Arabic numerals and baton markers. Following the comeback of the brand in 2018, and the resurrection of the Chronomaster, the brand has also brought back to so-called “baby Panerai” or “mini Panerai” (due to the cushion-shaped case), and in multiple editions, including the one we’ll be looking at today.
The Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster Green
Having already re-issued the Chronomaster and the Antarctic – including the very cool Spider edition here – the brand has decided to follow suit with the retro-oriented theme and to launch a third historic model, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster – and maybe we can expect to see a Depthomatic coming soon too…
In the same vein as what has been done with the two previous watches, the Depthmaster is all about faithfulness of the design and proportions, yet with modern (and necessary) technical evolutions. What was the norm in the 1960s isn’t anymore accepted and our standards of quality have drastically changed over the years. The design of yesteryears might be enjoyable, not so much the built quality… So, all in all, this new Depthmaster is all about the look of the past, with the benefits of modern manufacturing.
And while being a relatively accessible watch, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster packs a lot of cool features, starting with a powerful yet compact case. Made of stainless steel with brushed surfaces and polished flanks, the Depthmaster of today is everything the Depthmaster of the 1960s was. And this starts with a diameter of only 39mm, which is only 1mm more than the vintage model. The typical cushion shape has been retained (of course) and the overall design is entirely in line with the past models. It’s also fairly comfortable on the wrist in terms of proportions, with a 13mm height and a compact lug-to-lug measurement of 47mm. The weight, on the other hand, is fairly impressive and leaves no doubt on the diving capacities of this watch – but it also brings a pleasant quality feel.
To be respectful of the original watch, the new Depthmaster retains the 1,000m / 100 ATM / 3,300ft water-resistance of the original 1960s watch. Thanks to the combination of a screw-down crown, a thick screwed caseback and a domed crystal, this retro-styled watch is, just like its ancestor, a very capable dive watch. It is even equipped with a helium escape valve in the caseband at 9 o’clock, meaning it’s good for saturation diving. As all modern dive watches, it now has a unidirectional bezel, with a contrasting and bold 60-minute scale engraved – highly legible in daylight, a bit less in low light, however, as only the small triangle is luminous. The overall execution is of reassuring solidity and everything has a certain stiffness – bezel and crown feel tight and robust.
Despite the seriousness of its case, construction and specifications, the Depthmaster can also be a rather fun watch… especially in this green attire, which certainly isn’t historically relevant, but nevertheless very attractive. The dial has a sunray-brushed pattern and a bright, vivid green colour, paired with tritium-like luminous material on the markers and hands. Not the most discreet combination for sure, but if you want something more conventional, there’s a black dial too – or the oddly cool Pac-Man version. The combination of Arabic numerals and baton markers is classic of the 1960s and was found at multiple brands – Glashütte for instance, but also (and thankfully) at Nivada. Contrary to the Pac-Man edition, this version with Arabic numerals is equipped with a date function, yet another historically relevant detail. This watch is certainly not your classic, Submariner-like diving instrument but this is why it should be considered.
Under the case, no surprises, as we find a solid, reliable and easy-to-service Swiss-made Sellita SW 200-1 (an alternative to ETA movements). beating at 4Hz and with a 38h power reserve, it does its job perfectly and allows for a more accessible price.
For the strap (and all come with quick-release spring bars), you’ll have the choice between the present black tropic rubber or leather straps. Also, the brand has a large range of steel bracelets (bead-of-rice or extensible Oyster) available as accessories.
With the Depthmaster, Nivada Grenchen brings a rather compelling package that merges faithfulness, historical design and cool factor together with modern specifications and serious diving credentials. Knowing that the watch is well below the 1K mark, it feels like a serious alternative to established brands in the category – often offering only 200m of WR, no HEV or simpler outsourced movements. And while the design is something that only you will be able to judge, this green dial version is, to me, the most attractive of the collection… even though, I know, it has never existed during the 1960s. But who cares… It’s fun!
The Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster Green Numerals Date is priced at CHF 920. The collection is now mentioned as sold-out on the brand’s website but should be back in stock late November or early December. More details at nivadagrenchenofficial.com.