Serica is a brand that quickly inscribed itself on a short list of independent watchmakers that stand out from the crowd at the sub $2,000 price point. It did so by constantly offering refreshing designs that come with a unique Serica DNA (more on that later)–not to mention outstanding specifications, construction, and dimensions. I own the 4512 which I reviewed for Calibre321 a few months back; a capable everyday watch with strong Dirty Dozen vibes. The 4512 looks like nothing else on the market. And it does remind us of something we may have seen before all the same. It is highly versatile and plain simple at times. It’s hard to shove it into any one particular category.
Serica came back with strength in 2021 when it released the 5303, the brand’s first diver. This model doesn’t look like the 4512 in any way except for the Broad Arrow handset. And while brands normally carry over their unique design language from one model to the other, Serica did not. The 5303 looks like a Serica but it doesn’t look like the 4512. It’s quite strange, to be frank. But in many aspects, the 5303 is to me the better of the two models.
Let’s find out why.
A diver can only be seen as a diver if it comes with a certain set of specifications. First and foremost, the dimensions which are generally commensurate with the watch’s depth rating. In the case of the 5303, we’re looking at a diameter of 39mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 46.5mm, a thickness of 12.20mm, and a lug width of 20mm. The dimensions are reasonable given the 200 meters of water resistance. And if the dimensions sound perfect, that’s because they are. Well, at the very least I can tell you it fits perfectly on my 16cm (6.25”) wrist. The thin case profile and lug-to-lug distance make the watch comfortable to wear, an impression aided by the lugs that dramatically turn down.
Inside this well-dimensioned case beats the time-only, Swiss made SOPROD Newton caliber which runs at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 23 jewels and 44 hours of power reserve. The movement is regulated to run at an impressive -4/+4 seconds per day (better than COSC movements.) To actuate this powerhouse we find an oversized screw-down crown with deep knurling and a polished end. The crown, which is unprotected, is easy to operate and screws down with little effort. From a visual standpoint, it gives the 5303 a vintage Submariner vibe which I’m particularly fond of.
The case has a superb profile and displays fine brushing on the side and the top of the lugs. There is a dramatic polished chamfer that runs alongside the lugs which give the impression that they are much thinner than they actually are. This air of thinness can also be seen in the design of the dual ceramic bezel and the skinny minute track on the dial. The bezel has a double graduation—60 minutes and 12 hours—endowing the watch with added functionality. The bezel sits flat against the mid-case and its action is…how should I say it…buttery like? In the words of Jérôme, founder and designer of the Serica collections, it sounds and feels like a Swiss safe.
It truly is delightful.
The dial itself is made of a deep ink black color and the hour markers are painted and off-center from the periphery of the dial. The hour markers at the cardinal points are of rectangular shape and sit closer to the minute track, while all other markers are circular. The C3 Super-LumiNova glows bright and green. Serica executed the dot at the 12 on the bezel particularly well as it appears to be actually larger than the hour markers on the dial. In other words, you can’t miss it.
Last but not least: the Broad Arrow handset which was already present on the 4512, and the bracelet. While the hands on the 4512 were polished, the ones on the 5303 are painted, but up close they look as if they are sand-blasted the way the hands on an Omega Speedmaster are. This little detail is subtle; however, it gives the 5303 a vibe of utilitarian functionality in an otherwise polished and refined design. The bracelet is perhaps my favorite part of the whole package: it looks like a mesh but can be sized like an old-school Seiko. The clasp is built in a way that one can adjust the length of the bracelet ad infinitum.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
46.5mm Lug to Lug
20mm Lug Width
Screwed Crown & Caseback
300m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Domed Sapphire /w AR|
Broad Arrow Handset
44-Hour Power Reserve
Serica has a knack for surprising us every time it releases a new model. When I first heard that the brand was going to release a diver, looking at my 4512, I had no idea of what they would come up with. I thought maybe they would slap a dive-time rotating bezel and make the case a little bigger. But no. The 5303 looks nothing like the 4512 with the exception of the Broad Arrow handset and the almost total absence of branding on the dial. (The word “Serica” appears on the left of the 6 o’clock marker, opposite the word “Swiss” on both models.) In another words, the two watches do not seem to have been designed by the same person.
But they also kinda do. Hear me out.
The 4512 came with two key elements that made it special: the iconic 1920s Bonklip bracelet which Serica/Joseph Bonnie brought back to life, and the simple yet effective—and for the most part elegant—dial design. I wrote several reviews of the 4512 and mentioned more than once that the dial looked beautifully boring. The same two elements are present in the 5303: a brand new bracelet, which looks like a futuristic version of a mesh bracelet–but not really–and a symmetrical dial that looks, for the most part (wait for the quibble down below) simple, yet effective and elegant.
Another trick Serica always has up its sleeve is the bezel. Thank God a brand was courageous enough to put the full graduation on the last 15 minutes and not on the first 15. As a diver, it is much more useful to know that I have 15 minutes left on my dive than knowing with precision that I’ve already spent 15 minutes under water. Furthermore, the idea of adding a second 12-hour graduation is genius, making it possible to track a second time zone when traveling but not diving. I like that the two sections of the bezel received a different treatment.
Yes, I do have a quibble: the recessed hour markers at the 12, 3, 6 and 9. And especially the one at the 12. There isn’t much text on the dial, as we know the brand name appears in small print on the left of the 6 o’clock marker (instead of appearing above the pinion, below the 12 o’clock marker). So having recessed markers creates negative space on the dial and I wish the brand would have aligned all of the markers. Of course, this is very personal and in no way takes any of the other qualities of the watch.
I first came across Serica on Instagram in late 2020 and was immediately smitten with the 4512. Although I usually don’t care for field watches that have Arabic numerals, it is the fact that the 4512 looked like a modern interpretation of a traditional field watch that got me interested. The combination of the fat Arabic numerals with the Broad Arrow handset, the Bonklip bracelet, and the hand-wound caliber was just too good and unique to resist. What’s more is that the 4512 was very well-spec’ed and beautifully finished.
I was able to borrow a 5303 to write this review and I would have immediately added it to my collection if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m broke. The 5303 strikes the perfect balance between novelty, finish, and proportions. It’s elegant and yet yearns to be banged around and taken on far away adventures. It may not be perfect, but it’s darn near perfection for those looking for a time-only and robust diver.
The Serica 5303 retails for €1075 ($1700USD approx.). For more information, please visit the brand website.
Vincent Deschamps is a museum professional, originally from France, with more than 10 years experience as a researcher, producing visitor experiences for national and international organizations. He is also the founder of mainspring.watch. You can follow Vincent on Instagram.
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