When the name Vulcain comes into the conversation, your brain should (rightfully) have something very special in mind… A watch that has forged the brand’s success since 1947, a watch with a complication that is still a rare gem of the industry. I am, of course, talking about the Cricket alarm watch, the same complication that was relaunched as a flagship model to mark the brand’s recent revival. But there’s always more to a brand’s story than a single watch. Vulcain is a treasure trove of sleeping beauties. Continuing with the nostalgic vibe of the Cricket, the brand revives another vintage watch with the new Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm.
This new dive watch relies on a classic yet effective recipe involving the re-edition of a vintage model with minor updates to enhance use and performance. In short, a design of the past and mechanics and materials of the present. I’m not even going to start naming other brands that have used this recipe in the past ten years; I’d be writing the list for the next week! What matters, however, is that behind the comeback of Vulcain is a man named Guillaume Laidet. And he has proved that he knows how to breathe new life into dormant brands and glorious watches of the past with convincing models presented in the frame of the revival of Nivada Grenchen and Excelsior Park. And the return of the Vulcain Cricket Alarm has been done identically using vintage design and proportions mixed with discreet modern touches.
Now, with the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique, the brand enters a segment that feels less natural at first. Except for hardcore enthusiasts, few know that Vulcain entered the dive market as early as 1960 with a watch that is the mother of the present model. There’s nothing particularly original about this 1960s watch; it was part of the Skindiver segment, meaning more compact, less hardcore models oriented towards recreational dives. And its design, if appealing, feels quite “deja-vu” and shares elements found in other portfolios. That being said, it is a rather lovely watch, with everything vintage dive watch lovers will enjoy.
Fast-forward to 2023, and Vulcain is back with a watch that looks almost identical to its vintage ancestor. As we mentioned, Laidet really knows how to re-edit retro watches. He’s done it successfully with Nivada Grenchen – the re-edition of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is a compelling example of his strategy – and with Excelsior Park. And the return of the Cricket was done in a very pleasant way too. What about this Vulcain Skindiver Nautique? Let’s find out.
The basics first. Visually, the resemblance is undeniable, and the 1960 and 2023 models share a lot of design elements – specifically the black model. The case is a classic of the vintage-inspired dive watch segment, with relatively short lugs, a slim black bezel, a domed crystal mimicking the old plexiglass and an oversized crown without protective guards. Even the proportions have been respected, with a compact 38mm diameter and 12.2mm height.
Specifications… Classic too, yet with modern touches. First, the case is made according to 2020’s quality standards, and the result feels much more solid than a 1960s watch. The lugs are brushed with a slim polished bevel to animate an otherwise pretty generic case. The bezel is unidirectional now, fluted on the flanks and features a black, polished ceramic insert on top with a fully graduated 60-minute scale. The markers are short and slim, and the bezel remains discreet in looks and proportions. A sapphire crystal protects the dial, the crown screws down, the caseback is solid steel with engravings, and the water-resistance is rated at 200m – an appealing, classic and well-executed recipe.
What’s been said about the case can also be said about the dials, specifically the black version. Indeed, two editions of the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique will be offered; the matte black dial and a more modern and bolder vertically brushed blue dial. Apart from the colour, the dials are identical with slim, elongated white minute markers, baton hands and painted luminous markers for the hours, which rely on a combination of dots, rectangles and a triangle at noon. No date has been placed on the dial, sticking to the look of the original model. Even though all the printings are updated to match the modern movement specifications and luminous material specifications, they underscore the vintage look.
Under the caseback of the Skindiver Nautique is a tried-and-tested movement. It’s not an in-house engine, like the Cricket, but a solid ETA2824. This automatic movement needs little introduction and is known for its reliability, its very decent precision and its ability to be serviced by all. Nothing fancy, but it does the job perfectly in this context.
Both examples of the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm are worn on black leather straps with a carbon pattern, closed by a steel pin buckle and equipped with quick-release spring bars. It’s a bit of a surprising choice, visually and in terms of diving capacities… A tropic-like rubber strap, used by many competitors, would surely be more adequate. I’m sure the brand will offer more options in the near future.
The two examples of the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm launched earlier today on the brand’s website are available for orders, with deliveries expected in February 2023. They are priced at CHF 1,490 (or about EUR 1,480 incl. taxes).
Intrinsically, the new Skindiver Nautique is a pleasing watch. Nicely designed, well-proportioned and seriously built, it has many arguments for vintage dive watch lovers. It is, however, entering a highly competitive market and faces watches like the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, the Longines Legend Diver, the Yema Superman or the Seiko 62MAS Interpretations. Not an easy task, to be honest, but this Vulcain Skindiver Nautique has an undeniable charm and a price that feels fair (not particularly cheap, but fair).
For more details, please visit vulcain.ch.