Tool watches, especially divers, have a diverse and loyal following. Some models have become absolute legends of the watchworld, such as the Rolex Submariner or the Omega Seamaster. The small Swiss brand Squale may not ring as many bells as these two, but they can be considered an important historical innovator in their field of expertise. Monochrome has covered the brand before but now we’ve worn the Squale 2002 quite extensively and we deliver the thorough review of this historically inspired diver’s watch.
As most watch aficionados know, people rarely take dive watches to the limits that they were built to withstand. Apart from professional divers, whose very lives can depend upon the functions of their dive watches (and whose photos are often featured in Squale advertisements), it would be hard to think of anyone who has taken a diver’s watch beyond the aquatic depths of their local (or private!) swimming pool or nearby beach.
In 1948, Squale was originally founded by Von Buren S.A. to act as a supplier to various watch brands before producing their own timepieces in the late Fifties. The name Squale, pronounced as “Squa-luh” originates from the Italian word “Squalo” (Shark). Cases, dials and hands were all supplied to some iconic brands and resulted in some now famous watches, such as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. The curved shark trademark of the Squale brand appears as the subsidiary logo upon faces and cases belonging to a wide range of brands and models.
Nowadays brands shy away from displaying logos from subcontractors and suppliers, but during Squale’s heyday it was considered a testament of quality. The brand gained fame due to the proliferation of prize-watches at diving competitions, and by outfitting divers such as Jacques Mayol with their tool watches. Legendary freediver Jacques Mayol, something of a brand ambassador before that became common practice, wore a Squale while setting a no-limits world diving record at 76 meters in 1970. You can see the corresponding tag of the assisting diveline in the picture. The scribbling depicts “Merci….. Montre Squale!! Jacques Mayol, Japan – 8 sept. 1970”.
While Mayol ultimately reach a record depth of 105 meters during his active career, the current record stands at 214 meters and is set by freediver Herbert Nitsch.
As a brand, Squale has always focused on one thing, and one thing only: dive watches. From the get-go, they have dedicated everything to developing the best dive watch they could. Among their many successes, Squale introduced the very first wristwatch capable of going down to 1000m without a helium escape valve. This bypassed the debate about the functionality of an escape valve (some people believe that the requisite extra hole in the case might affect the watch’s water resistance, but it also releases built-up gases inside the watch due to rapidly changing pressure levels.)
From the start, Squale actively supported other brands by selling cases and movements to third parties wanting to jump on the diving bandwagon just after the Second World War.
The Squale 2002 wears smaller than you might expect when handling it for the first time. The 43mm x 53mm case has a smooth, curved profile which hugs the wrist.
The color and size of the Squale 2002 give it a great deal of wrist-presence. During the course of the review, it got a lot of attention from other watch enthusiasts. Anyone wearing this piece will get a lot of “Well, that looks like this or that” type reactions. True, there is something familiar about the look of the Squale, especially in details like the dial and hands. But if you consider, and share with onlookers, that the design and features are decades old already, it might shine another light onto the origins and design of the Squale 2002.
The 2002’s main feature is its 1000m water resistance. It is achieved without a helium escape valve, and with a sapphire crystal. Back in the 70’s, when the 2002’s ancestor was introduced, this bit of technical innovation was a big accomplishment and a major step forward in the construction and capabilities of dive watches. The assumption that a helium escape valve is necessary to achieve optimum water resistance is, as we’ve already mentioned, debatable, since it requires an extra opening in the case.
The most noticeable feature from any distance, though, is the bakelite bi-color bezel (solid colors are also available). Bakelite is still used today, even though it has been virtually replaced by newer, less brittle materials. The complexity and cost of production, combined with the brittleness of the material, are reasons why we hardly see it being used anymore. The bakelite is very ‘rich’ to the touch, feeling smooth and warm. The wide insert ensures a good legibility of the bezel, which covers the entire width of the 43mm wide case.
Dial / Hands
The dial of the Squale 2002 is highly legible, which is essential to a serious diver for obvious reasons. Free of unnecessary clutter, the large hour markers and hands are easily read against the lacquered, deep-black dial. The multi-faceted and highly polished markers surrounding the dial sparkle in direct sunlight, something normally reserved for far dressier watches.
Surrounding the dial are white, non-luminous minute markers, with a luminous cross-marker at every hour. The small date window at three o’clock gives access to the white date ring with black numerals, found on countless ETA 2824-2 driven watches.
The simple, straight sword hands used for the hour (white) and minute (orange) are coated with super-luminous material, and remain visible long after you’ve abandoned sunlight, or in shallow waters. The orange minute hand matches the bright orange half of the bezel. It is a bit of a downer that the secondary markings (i.e., all BUT the hands) seem to lack a bit of luminescent strength. The glow of both the hour markers and the bezel seems a little weak. The hands, however, do glow strong after even the slightest charge of sunlight, so it isn’t really a big problem.
Case / Strap
The Squale 2002 is a reissue of their 1970’s diver and features the same lugless barrel design for the case. The middle part of the case is slightly curved to better fit the wrist, just like the original. The polished finish combined with the soft edges of the case give the watch a very approachable look.
The case is fitted with a 3,5mm thick sapphire crystal and secured with a double gasket in order to achieve maximum water resistance. The inside of the crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating. A sturdy-feeling screw-down crown, featuring the “VON” logo, is positioned at 4 o’clock.
The bezel is operated by pressing down on it, and then rotating it left and right – it is bi-directional. The clicks feel crisp and solid, and the alignment at 12 o’clock is spot-on. The knurling on the edge of the bezel feels very comfortable when operating it.
Though it may possess only a niche appeal, the Squale 2002 comes on a milanaise mesh bracelet. This added significantly to the total weight of the watch, making it overall a bulky piece. Mesh bracelets are also notorious for catching the wearer’s armhair in the links, but this was hardly the case with the Squale bracelet. Being bulky and heavy, the curved lugs with the articulating bracelet ensure a pretty good “fit” to the wrist. Squale also makes rubber straps for all their models, and these 2002’s can be fitted to NATO-straps as well.
The movement inside the 2002 is the well-known ETA 2824-2 featuring hours, minutes, seconds and a date functionality. A date is not essential on a diving watch but it does make the Squale 2002 a little bit more suited for everyday use. Setting the time and date after unscrewing the crown is easy and intuitive, as you’d expect it to be, with an ETA 2824 inside.
The regular specifications apply to the Squale 2002: 38 hours of power, 28,800 beats per hour, 25 jewels – a solid and reliable movement totally suitable for a tool watch. No need of haute-Horlogery features here, we are talking about a professional instrument.
We all know the fact that Swatch is ending the supply of ETA movements to third party brands, which seems very contradictive considering the fact that Squale started out as such a supplier. There are however suitable alternatives available, such as the Sellita SW200 or the Soprod A10. Counterparts for the ETA 2824, and the ETA 2892 for that matter, are surfacing in increasing numbers, even in high-end brands as IWC
Verdict – Pros / Cons
- A lot of bang for your buck: you get a very good diver with some very interesting features for barely more than € 1,000 EUR
- Heritage: Historically inspired design and a significant brand and model
- A feel of very sturdy build-quality and refined finishing
- Wide range of colors to choose from for dial and bezel, with full or half designs for the bakelite insert
- Reliable movement
- Not as known as other legendary divewatches
- Quite large and heavy at 43mm x 53mm and roughly 150 grams, even on a rubber strap
- Lack of lume strength in secondary markings
The Squale 2002 is available at a price of € 1.189 EUR, making it an excellent value for the money. For this price you get a lot of watch with some very nice features. History, usability, presence; it’s basically the total package. For more information about the brand and about the Squale 2002 in particular, head over to their website.