Two things will happen this November: this website will celebrate one year of publication and I will celebrate one year with the Retras Dive Watch. The what, you ask? Exactly. It’s not a Speedmaster, nor a is it a Sub. But it is the favourite of my collection.
Why do we like what we like? If you believe in natural selection, then our pleasures lead us gently toward behaviours that are advantageous for our survival. But my watch addiction has made me part with valuable funds which could otherwise be dedicated to sustenance and shelter. So that’s not it. It’s easy to chalk up our desires up to an assemblage of genes and a dash of society’s nurturing, but, while these phenomena–biological and learned–might account for a general appreciation of fine things, or perhaps even a love of watches more specifically (I blame my father), mustn’t there be some more precise force that has me settle on one specific watch? One relatively unknown timepiece among tens of thousands of possibilities?
I choose to believe it’s essentialism–where the essence of the object is internal, part of its history, its story, the intent of its creator, its function. I like the Retras Dive Watch because its essence calls to me.
Consider this. If you are anything like me–and I know you are–you are constantly seeking your next watch. You are combing through magazines, stalking the Internet, reading forums and dedicated watch sites like Fratello, Time & Tide, Hodinkee…and this one! You are making T-charts of pros and cons, compiling lists. Perhaps these lists are even in the chronological order you imagine you will purchase your next three, or five watches. But what you are really doing, if you are honest with yourself, is delaying the inevitable.
One morning you will wake up and you will see it. It won’t be on any of your lists. T-charts be damned. You may not buy it there and then. You may live in denial for a day, a week, a month…or more. But Malcolm Gladwell will tell you that no matter when that purchase is eventually fulfilled, the decision to buy that watch was made long ago in the first moments you saw it. Its essence spoke to you.
Part of what gives the Retras Dive Watch its essence, for me, is the mythology of its creation. Developer, Axel Schijns, was passed along a watch from his father–a Dugena diver from the 1960s. It was a watch that had been found years earlier and subsequently worn for half a lifetime, battered, nicked, faded and patinaed. Despite its condition, coworkers commented on the watch, and Schijns began to wonder if such a thing could be reproduced with modern materials. And so he set out on what would become his watchmaking journey.
I have commented on the anonymity of the Retras Diver before. Its branding is almost non-existent, but for a pale script below the twelve hour marker on the dial. Its case is a common recreation of the classic skin diver–but not exactly like any one particular iconic brand. Its dial colour was created specifically for the Retras in an effort to capture the tropic patina of an actual vintage watch; however, that only serves to render it more like any other diver from the era. I will tell you that more than once, it has been mistaken for a vintage piece in my social media feeds. But it is exactly that which attracts me most. The Retras is an archetypical dive watch. It is what I once referred to as the platonic ideal. And I still feel that way today.
Could I not get that from an actual inexpensive vintage piece? A Caravelle? A Vantage? A Tradition from Sears? Sure. And I’m positive any of those would make me happy. But would they keep proper time? Could I take them swimming? Kayaking? Gasp…diving? Not likely.
The Retras Diver is engineered in Germany and measures 38.5mm in diameter and 47mm lug to lug. Even with its glorious Plexi dome, it remains under 12mm thick. The perfect desk diver. Its bezel is aluminum and bi-directional. Its crown is large, screwed-down, and easy to manipulate. It has an admirable 100m water resistance. The Swiss STP 1-11 (used in the Zodiac Super Seawolf line) has been a dream. Accurate and reliable.
But what I have come to appreciate most about the Retras over the last year is its versatility. To begin, the thing is an absolute strap monster. Sure it’s lug width is 20mm. This helps. But the black bezel and neutral dial work with all kinds of colours. And the fact that it is a diver means waffles, Tropics, sailcloth, and NATOS are all a go. I’ve paired it with NOS bracelets, Milanese bracelets, the Speidel Twist-o-Flex, the Forstner Klip, and the JB Mesh. Brown leather? Yep. Beige canvas? You bet.
It also works in any number of situations. I’ve worn it with a blazer and tie, and I’ve worn it with shorts and and T. It is positively made for a white button down shirt and blue jeans.
Each piece is hand-assembled in the Netherlands and numbered 01 through…50. That’s right. Fifty. Mine is number 09. That’s about as close to unique as you are going to get. Is it cheap? Nope. But it won’t break the bank, either. Besides…the heart wants what it wants. That’s Emily Dickinson, not Selena Gomez.
If the Retras Dive Watch speaks to you the way it does to me, check out my review from November of last year, or go directly to the brand website. I have it on good authority that there is still a very small handful of pieces left.
Don’t need another diver, you say?
Let me leave you with some words of wisdom: “Reason not the need.” Shakespeare. King Lear. The bard cannot be wrong.
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