Off the Cuff: Marathon GSAR 41mm Arctic Edition

The SAR collection of Marathon watches represents some of the brand’s most rugged and capable lines. Among enthusiasts, their design is legendary and highly recognizable. That’s because they have remained largely unchanged in modern times. Iterating on these references isn’t easy—particularly the GSAR Collection, which adheres to strict US military specs. So, when Marathon introduced their Arctic Edition, it was not a simple matter of changing the dial colour.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition @calibre321

The GSAR is a quintessential tool watch. In hand, and on wrist, it looks and feels like an instrument first and a watch second. Its MIL-spec heritage has been woven into its genetic code. So, the Arctic Edition needed to be more than a simple colourway. It had to be purpose driven.


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Like the original GSAR (Government Search & Rescue), the Arctic Edition has a deeply set dial that is practically a cliff dive off the bezel. Its polished rehaut and stark Arabics each contribute to a carefully crafted design which increases legibility and should be familiar to military watch buffs, as it observes the Military Standard W-46374G. The watch, which is officially known as the Marathon Arctic Edition Large Diver’s Automatic, was an idea first floated two years earlier in the 36mm MSAR (Medium Search and Rescue). This quartz version was later issued as an ETA-based automatic a year later.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Purpose-built, MIL-spec design @calibre321

It wasn’t until 2021 that the design was considered for the brand’s GSAR line of 41mm timepieces. While the watch is necessarily thick, at 14mm, it does not wear large at all. Much of the watch is dedicated to a broad bezel, and the aforementioned rehaut, leaving the actual dial space quite restrained. Much of the timepiece’s thickness also comes by way of its tall bezel, which is constructed for easy manipulation through diver’s gloves or mittens in the far north.  On wrist, however, it feels quite comfortable in the 41mm brushed stainless steel case, due in large part to the relatively conservative 48mm lug to lug.

Highly legible dial @calibre321
Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Overengineered uni-directional dive bezel @calibre321

The characteristic, uni-directional countdown bezel is identical to the original GSAR, as well. Being black, the contrast with the dial is striking. However, the hue of white that Marathon have chosen is very particular and meant to reduce glare in cold, snow-covered landscapes. It has a silvery shimmer that is visible at certain angles and is perhaps most noticeable in the half-light just before the tritium tubes spark on. Those tubes emit a consistent green glow on the hours, except for the 12 o’clock indicator, which is orange. The attractive syringe handset is also fitted with tritium, and the bezel pip is painted with a proprietary MaraGlo.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
ISO certified everyday carry @calibre321

The Arctic Edition GSAR surpasses ISO6425 diving standards and is rated to depth of 300m. This is achieved through is knurled, screw down crown and O-ring system. But reinforced by its solid screw down case back and 2.8mm sapphire crystal.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Tritium lume with Maraglo pip @calibre321

The movement powering the GSAR is a robust Swiss calibre sometimes referred to as the M2. The M2 is essentially a Sellita SW200 with a few notable differences. For one, it has been given an upgraded Incabloc Shock Absorption System and a customized steel suspension. But the watch has also been fitted with high-torque pinions which connect the movement to the hands. In addition, the quick set date feature has been simplified. Like the base Sellita, the M2 is a 4Hz movement with 42 hours of power reserve.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
NATO-spec rubber strap @calibre321

The GSAR is available on a brushed three-link, oyster-style bracelet, but is featured here on the NATO-spec rubber strap with stainless steel hardware.


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SPECS

Case316L Stainless Steel (Super Hard Coating)
41mm Diameter
48mm Lug to Lug
14mm Thick
Unidirectional Bezel
Screw back and Crown
300m Water Resistance
Dial & CrystalFlat Sapphire Crystal
Printed Numerals
/w 12 & 24-Hour Scales
H3 Tritium Gas Tube Hour Markers
& in Syringe Hands
MovementM2 (SW200)
Incabloc Shock Absorber
High Torque Pinions
Steel Suspension
26 Jewels
28 800bph
Date Complication at 4:30
42-Hour Power Reserve
StrapRubber Strap
/w Bracelet Option

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm


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Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
For military enthusiasts and collectors alike @calibre321

Of Interest

Some may find Marathon’s nomenclature a little opaque and difficult to navigate. The SAR models, for example, are visually very similar. In brief, the GSAR references all 41mm case designs which meet US contract procurement specifications. The TSAR refers to a quartz variant of the same watch, and the MSAR is a smaller 36mm reference, with both automatic and quartz versions. There are also two much larger variants in the JSAR (Jumbo Search and Rescue)—which is a 46mm, non-tritium quartz option developed for Canada’s Provincial Police Forces—and the CSAR which is a 46mm automatic chronograph line.

Marathon, founded in 1939, has been making watches for military and tactical police forces since 1941. They are designed in Canada and made in Switzerland.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Few enthusiasts will ever push the GSAR to its limits @calibre321

Quibbles

Depending upon your wrist size, you might find the GSAR top heavy. But if you’re anything like me (my wrist is 6 ¾”) you’ll revel in the rugged weight of it.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Wears comfortably on my 6 3/4” wrist @calibre321

Final Thoughts

Lots of watchmakers bill their timepieces as “military-inspired,” but far fewer can claim true military provenance, as can Marathon’s GSAR line. The average consumer will never push the GSAR to its limits. In that respect it is overengineered; however, given the build quality and specifications, the GSAR offers incredible value over competitors in the same price category. The advantage the Arctic Edition has over its earlier brethren is that its white dial is, if anything, less toolish and therefore more polyvalent. It’s never going to be your dress watch but throw it on a bracelet or a NATO—easy with its 20mm lugs—and your options become wide and varied. And, well, if you lead an active outdoor lifestyle, you can wear your GSAR just about anywhere with confidence.

The Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition retails for $1350USD on rubber. For more information, please visit the brand website.

Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition 41mm Watch Review
Marathon GSAR Arctic Edition @calibre321

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About the author

Brent Robillard is a writer, educator, craftsman, and watch enthusiast. He is the author of four novels. You can follow him on Instagram.


Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.

Please understand that using any links to products on this site might result in us making money.

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