The world of dive watches is immense… so much so that we sometimes forget that during the 1960s there were hundreds of brands and watches available. Some, of course, acquired cult status; some fell into oblivion. Others, however, are still known and collected by a niche group of enthusiasts. We’ve seen this recently with Aquastar, for instance. Another brand that was recently revived is Nivada Grenchen. Following the launch of the Chronomaster, the brand revives the Depthmaster “Pac-Man” along with a second version of the watch with Arabic numerals.
Nivada was founded in 1926 by Jacob Schneider in Granges (Grenchen). In 1930 Nivada was one of the first companies to manufacture automatic watches. This led to the creation of Nivada’s first waterproof automatic watch called the Antarctic in 1950. The watch was worn by members of the American Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 during their expedition to the South Pole from 1955 to 1956. Among numerous models, the most widely known is the Chronomaster, a chronograph with 200-metre water-resistance. It came in three distinct formats: Chronomaster, Aviator and Sea Diver. In 1964 the Depthomatic became the first diver’s watch with a depth indicator or bathymeter.
But today is all about a quirky diving instrument. In 1965, Nivada Grenchen introduced the Depthmaster, a powerful dive watch that could withstand pressure of 100 ATM or 1,000 metres. No small feat considering most dive watches at that time offered 150 – 200 metres of water-resistance. In fact, this was a record for the industry until Rolex introduced its Sea-Dweller. The Depthmaster received several nicknames. First, “baby Panerai” or “mini Panerai” due to its cushion-shaped case, although it was far smaller than the Florentine model. A second name, and the one that feels most accurate to us, was “Pac-Man” and you can see why by looking at the indexes. Although two versions were available, the one with Arabic numerals was less “iconic” than the one we are looking at today with its combination of a numeral 12, triangular indexes and odd-looking markers at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock… Created to quickly identify the time in low-light conditions, they also looked pretty cool.
The Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster “Pac-Man” Rebirth
Nivada Grenchen, like many brands of the 1970s, didn’t survive the quartz crisis. But two watch entrepreneurs decided to bring the name back. The story started in Paris in 2018 during a discussion between Guillaume Laidet, a French entrepreneur in the watch industry (former Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zenith, and founder of William L.1985), and Remi Chabrat, owner of the Montrichard Group (a private label watchmaker). The latter was in business with the Mexican group (Grupo Industrial Omega SA de CV) owner of the name Nivada, and in 2019 they obtained the license to use the Nivada Grenchen copyright. The adventure started with the successful relaunch of the Chronomaster and the Antarctic.
Following these two initial collections, the brand is also reviving the Depthmaster, the brand’s most emblematic diver’s watch in two variations: the so-called Pac-Man and the one with Arabic numerals. In addition to the different elements on the dials, note that the model with Arabic numerals is also equipped with a date.
Just like the Chronomaster, the idea with this Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster was to create a faithful and accessible re-edition of the past model, as close as possible visually but with modern execution. As such, the design of the new Depthmaster remains almost identical, with a stainless steel cushion-shaped case, straight lugs and a brushed steel diving bezel. The case retains the same combination of brushed and polished surfaces as the original, and proportions are also restrained with a 39mm diameter (vs. 38mm in the past), a 13mm height and a 47mm lug-to-lug measurement. And because the original was a powerful diving instrument, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster respects its spirit with 1,000m water-resistance, a screw-down crown and caseback and a helium escape valve at 9 o’clock.
Some elements have been updated, though. For instance, the Plexiglas has been replaced by a modern sapphire crystal. The unidirectional bezel, engraved with a 60-minute scale, retains its engravings and the combination of red and black. Inside the case is a tried-and-tested movement, an automatic Sellita SW 200-1 (with or without date), with 4Hz frequency and 38h power reserve.
The distinguishing element of the vintage watch was its dial. First, we have the appealing so-called “Pac-Man” model, which brings back the quirky combination of triangular indexes, a 12 Arabic numeral and shaped markers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. These are painted on the dial with Super-LumiNova and combined with bold luminous hands in polished metal. Note that the watch will be available with white or cream-coloured luminous paint – for a more technical or more vintage look. Depending on the edition, the seconds hand is filled with SLN or painted red.
In addition, Nivada also releases a second version, this time with a dial featuring a combination of baton markers and Arabic numerals. Also available with white or cream-coloured luminescent material, this version features a date window at 3 o’clock framed by a white printed line. The logo is different too and a red depth rating inscription is placed at 6 o’clock.
The Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster Rebirth will be offered on a leather strap (brown or black), a rubber tropic-like strap or a stainless “bead of rice” or “extensible Oyster” stainless steel bracelet.
Availability & price
The watch will be available for pre-order from February 2021 at nivadagrenchenofficial.com. Deliveries are expected in June 2021. It will be priced at EUR 850 or USD 1,000 on leather or tropic straps, and EUR 1,050 or USD 1,275 on steel bracelets.