The Cool And Accessible Delma Cayman Bronze Field Watch
A bronze suit and colourful textured dials crank the character-meter up to eleven without sacrificing affordability
Delma‘s Cayman dive watches were introduced in 2019 as a reflection of the brand’s 1970s skin divers. They’re stylish and more compact than professional counterparts, although a bit larger than the usual skin diver at 42mm (traditional skin divers are under 40mm in diameter). The collection finds a nice balance between pro and recreational wrist companions, although, with an impressive depth rating, the watches can moonlight as saturation divers. The field-focused Cayman Bronze introduced a bronze case and a handful of dial colours a few months ago, bringing a warmer vibe and popular trend to Delma’s timeless collection.
Bronze Is Better
It’d be great if we could all afford solid gold watches. The warmth and prestige of gold really elevate the character of a watch, unless it’s a Royal Oak (but I digress). Bronze is a worthy substitute, however, providing a comparable warmth and very different vibe than steel. Unlike gold, it’ll form a patina over time that adds even more character and serves as a reminder that it doesn’t need to be babied. After all, bronze field and dive watches have a robust aesthetic that only improves with age (and use). The Cayman Bronze series is unique as it’s field-focused and ready for outdoor action, but also capable of deep-sea exploration. It’s the perfect combination for a bronze case.
Bronze is an alloy of copper (88%) and tin (12%), but variants abound that add aluminium, nickel, zinc and more. The metal is both antimagnetic and robust, and particularly corrosion resistant in saltwater. It was a standard metal for diving helmets back in the day, along with copper and brass, but a relatively new material for watch cases. It debuted sometime in the 1980s with a prime example being the Gefica from Gerald Genta in 1988. Bronze was used to reduce outdoor reflections. The Chronoswiss Régulateur was also released that year with a bronze option. Panerai dabbled with bronze a few years earlier in 1985 with four bronze prototypes from a series of eight (the other four were titanium). These are likely among the earliest bronze watch cases from a major brand. The bronze trend didn’t really take off until 2011, however, with the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 (ref. PAM382) and subsequent models. As a submersible specialist with a cult following, Panerai is most responsible for popularizing bronze watches.
A golden Cayman
It’s common today for popular watch collections to have bronze options. Look no further than Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze, Oris’ Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date or Tudor’s Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze. It usually just offers something aesthetically interesting, but in Delma’s case, it serves a dual purpose. As mentioned, bronze is very resistant to salt water and the Cayman can descend to 500 metres. That said, its bronze outfit looks very cool and as a field-focused watch, the majority of wearers will likely remain landside. The case isn’t exactly compact at 42mm in diameter and 13.3mm in height, but this particular model isn’t a skin diver per se, so I’ll let it slide. It wears well on the wrist and the size is ideal for both field and underwater work. The bronze used is CUSN6, which has less tin than standard bronze (6% tin vs 12%) and is ideal for high corrosive environments. Of course, the stainless steel models are fine in seawater, but do they look as cool? I don’t think so (your mileage may vary).
Bronze really complements the Cayman aesthetic. The surface will oxidize over time and patinate, so no two watches will look exactly alike. That gives the piece a unique character that you won’t get with gold or stainless steel. The unidirectional rotating bezel has a detailed 60-minute diver’s scale that’s fully coated with Super-LumiNova C3. It’s great at night, but otherwise lacks contrast against the bronze. The same markings as the dive-focused models are there, so underwater enthusiasts aren’t hampered. Despite a 500-metre water resistance rating, there’s a steel exhibition case back, so you’re not deprived of that extra horological interest. The main crystal is a retro domed AR sapphire and, as expected, both the bronze crown and caseback screw down.
A new texture
The Cayman collection as a whole features multiple dial colours including black, blue and silver, but until the new bronze series, the field watches only had black dials. There’s a matte black finish on those, but the new Delma Cayman Bronze dials have a sand-textured finish. Like the warm bronze, the texture resists reflections and look cool to boot. In addition to black, there are now blue, green and brown options, and the hybrid Cordura rubber straps with bronze pin buckles come in matching hues. If you want to swap one out, they also have quick-release levers. In my humble opinion, all straps should have this.
Other than the new colours and texture, the dials haven’t changed and feature oversized Arabic numerals at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock. A framed date window sits at 3 o’clock and is black on the black dial, but white on the other three. The numerals and indices all have Super-LumiNova C3, along with the hour, minute and seconds hands. A requisite 24-hour scale is printed in red inside the main indices, which helps differentiate these from the diver counterparts. I like that it’s more universal than the dedicated divers without sacrificing water resistance.
A Sellita SW200 runs the show, which is refined, reliable and accurate. Some comparable watches are moving to in-house automatics like the Oris Divers Sixty-Five 12H Calibre 400, but the Sellita helps keep the price attainable. It’s an alternative to ETA’s 2824 that actually powered the original Cayman in 2019. It has 26 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 38-hour power reserve, which won’t set the world on fire, but is more than adequate for most. It’s relatively simple with central hours, minutes, hacking seconds and date. There’s a custom gold rotor, but it’s otherwise undecorated. That keeps with the toolish vibe in my opinion and Côtes de Genève or perlage would look out of place.
I’m a big fan of skin divers and even those that break the rules a bit (size, generally). The latter is what we have here with the narrow bezel and slick design, but a sizable 42mm diameter. It visually compares well to the aforementioned Oris Divers Sixty-Five, which comes with a 40mm option. That series only has a 100-metre water resistance rating, so I’ll live with the 2mm size increase. The textured dials make a big difference, giving off a more sporty and rugged look, although the bronze case is the star of the show. The patina is just skin deep, not affecting the underlying metal, so you’re getting a bit of personalization built in. That might turn off some, but I truly appreciate it. The new dial colours are also very cool, adding style to the traditionally serious tool watches. They’re also not too bright or in your face, so nothing becomes too cartoonish, so to speak. If you’re looking for a very capable Swiss skin diver-ish piece that won’t break the bank, you can’t do much better than this.
The Delma Cayman Bronze retails for CHF 1,390, EUR 1,490 or USD 1,650, which is well priced for a saturation diver that doubles as a field watch, not to mention the upgraded bronze suit. Each piece is limited to 999 pieces. For more information and to make a purchase, please visit Delma’s website.