Other Watchy Bits: Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Borealis, those beautiful polar lights visible here in Canada and at other high latitudes, are caused by the “excitation of atmospheric constituents.” That’s a little how I feel when the Borealis Watch Company launches a new timepiece. I bought the Borealis Olisipo around this same time last year. One of few personal highlights in 2020.

Borealis Olisipo @calibre321

A week ago, the brand announced the pre-sale of their latest offering, the Borealis Neptuno, and already the Black Dial Date reference is unavailable. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the most common phrases visible on the Borealis website are “Sold Out” and “Out of Stock.”

Borealis Watch Company Microbrand Review Cascais V2 Olisipo Neptuno
Borealis Neptuno Black Dial Date: Sold Out ©borealiswatch.com

Borealis has adopted a “play-it-safe” business model that does not involve crowdfunding, like many other microbrands. Instead, they produce limited runs of each new model and ask for a non-refundable 50% deposit up front.  This may irk those collectors with little tolerance for delayed gratification, but you can’t argue with success. They have sold out every watch they have ever produced.

Borealis Watch Company Sea Storm Neptuno Watch Review
The “Sold Out” Borealis Sea Storm. Collector photo courtesy of @ckstime.

It’s no wonder. Their timepieces typically retail under $500USD—and sometimes under $200USD—but represent incredible value and workmanship for the price. Though they have produced great field watches (such as the Adraga), the mainstay of the Borealis catalogue has been divers. It seems fitting, in that the watches are designed in Portugal—a nation with a deep maritime history.

Borealis Olisipo Neptuno Microbrand Watch Review
The Borealis Olisipo: Portuguese by Design @calibre321

The Olisipo, for example, is a tribute to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon—Olisipo, being the former Latin name for that city. And from the mouth of the Tagus River, past the Tower of Belem, have sailed some of Europe’s greatest explorers: Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Ferdinand Magellan, and Henry the Navigator, to name a few. Lisbon, which is one of the world’s oldest cities, is also, to this day, one of Europe’s busiest ports.

Borealis Olisipo Neptuno Microbrand Watch Review
The wave-textured dial of the Borealis Olisipo @calibre321

While some of Borealis’ earlier watches have paid homage to various vintage divers from other famous brands, of late their contributions have been wholly original designs. The Olisipo, for example, has an eighties vibe with its angular stainless-steel case but cannot be attributed to any one brand from that era. They have also begun to produce very distinctive dials, like the textured wave pattern of the Olisipo, or the calçada pattern of the Cascais V2—itself a tribute to another Portuguese sea-town.

The distinctive calçada pattern of the Borealis Cascais V2. Collector photo courtesy of @alwaysknownascrow.

They are also known for the quality of their builds—from the high-level of polishing to their use of reliable movements. The President’s bracelet on the Olisipo is an example of the superior detailing available on Borealis models.

Borealis Watch Company Microbrand Review Cascais V2 Olisipo Neptuno
President’s Bracelet, Borealis Olisipo @calibre321

The Neptuno promises to be of equal quality. Like the Olisipo, it harkens back to late century Japanese dive watches (70s and 80s). While the dials of the Neptuno vary greatly in style, each watch will have a PVD-hardened bezel insert, double-domed sapphire crystals, and a stainless-steel bracelet. They will also be driven by the Seiko NH35/NH38, dependent upon the reference, and offer 300m of water resistance with a screwed-down crown.  Dial components will be treated with Super Lume BGW9 by RC Tritec.

Borealis Watch Company Microbrand Review Cascais V2 Olisipo Neptuno
Borealis Neptuno Icy Frost ©borealiswatch.com

Of the ten different dial variants, I find the five sandwich dials most interesting—the Fade to Black No Date reference, in particular.  The lumed, compass-like pattern cut into the top dial also reminds me of the crosshairs in a gun scope or targeting system and adds contemporary flair to the overall vintage aesthetic.

Borealis Watch Company Microbrand Review Cascais V2 Olisipo Neptuno
Borealis Neptuno Fade to Black No Date ©borealiswatch.com

For more information, visit their website. But do it quickly. At only $290USD, once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. I wish I’d bought that Scorpionfish…Regrets? I’ve had a few.

Borealis Watch Company Neptuno Review Microbrand
Borealis Neptuno Red Fade to Black No Date ©borealiswatch.com

Source photography was provided by the brand itself through press packages, websites, and/or upon direct request. Many thanks to our collectors and fans for providing additional images. Please follow them on Instagram.

Other Watchy Bits include op-ed pieces and articles of general interest. We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.


Published by calibre321

I am a writer, an educator, a craftsman, and a watch enthusiast. Follow me on Instagram @calibre321, or read my watch reviews at calibre321.com.

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