Vertigo Watches, based in Italy, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign last summer to fund the production of its sixth dive watch, the Hippocampus. In addition to its stable of divers, the brand has also launched a meca-quartz chronograph (the Tornante) and, if the website is any indication, plans to make a foray into the world of pilot watches, as well.
The Hippocampus is an attractive compressor-style diver with a 316L stainless steel case. It wears extremely well at 39mm with a tidy lug to lug of only 46mm. For a diver, it is also relatively slender at 12.5mm and has a strap monster lug width of 20mm. The case is entirely polished, with a slim, stationary outer bezel and an otherwise straightforward design: slab sided, with no bevels or chamfers along the case or lugs. The screw-down case back, on the other hand, sports the complex and delicate engraving of a seahorse.
While not a true compressor, the watch makes use of a dual-crown system inspired by the 1960s cases patented and popularized by EPSA. The crown at 2 o’clock—which sets the time and winds the watch—is screw-down and protected by an internal gasket system that provides a solid 300m of water resistance. The second crown, at 4 o’clock, manipulates the internal rotating bezel.
Beneath the gently domed, sapphire crystal, you get a good look at the show-stopping dial, which has the silky smooth gradient of a tobacco burst Les Paul. It is further highlighted by the dark, steeply angled bezel encasing it. I really like the mix of triangular and trapezoidal hour markers—particularly the oversized indices on the cardinal points. Each has been lumed with six layers of C3 Super-LumiNova and offers quite a show in the dark. The pencil-style minute hand and needle seconds are familiar enough for a diver, but the hour hand has been customized to reflect the shape of the indices. The handset, for its part, has been treated with BGW9.
Vertigo have gone with the Miyota 9039 as a power source. It has a smooth 4Hz sweep and 42 hours of power reserve on a full wind. The movement does not have a date funtction, which leaves the dial intact and symmetrical with no ghost position on the crown.
The Hippocampus comes with quite a kit, actually. Delivered in a wooden case, the watch arrives on a Jubilee bracelet, but is accompanied by a leather watch roll, a mesh bracelet with signed clasp, an additional leather band, and a tropic-style strap.
Each piece is individually numbered in a Limited Edition of 100.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
46mm Lug to Lug
20mm Lug Width
Bidirectional Internal Bezel
Screw back and Crown
300m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Domed Sapphire Crystal|
C3 Super-LumiNova (Markers)
BGW9 Super-LumiNova (hands)
42-Hour Power Reserve
|Strap||Stainless Steel Bracelet|
Stainless Steel Mesh
Antiqued Leather Band
In mythology, the seahorse is a symbol of fidelity and luck. In ancient Rome, it was a powerful and popular amulet. Frescoes depicting the animal have been discovered on the outer walls of buildings in Pompeii. Further back, in Greek legends, the gods rode them to cross the sea. And Poseidon’s chariot is often said to have been pulled by them. Vertigo chose the seahorse (or hippocampus) as a modern tribute to the seas.
Despite its robust water resistance and flaming lume, the polished aesthetic and functionality of the Hippocampus lean toward the dress, or “desk,” diver. The bezel crown and, therefore, the bezel itself, rotates a little too loosely to be entirely dependable as a timekeeper, for example. That being said, not many divers use a watch for this purpose anymore.
The Vertigo Hippocampus has a great 60s vibe. It is very reminiscent of those early EPSA-cased divers. The dial and bold markers are a highlight and this caramelized colourway is a definite hit. It certainly leans into its dress diver intentions with its highly polished case and bracelet, but as such it has a lot of wrist presence. It would do really well on an aftermarket suede or even sailcloth if you need to keep it casual. At 300m, the water resistance is impressive, and the watch has great lume and a solid movement to boot.
The Vertigo Hippocampus retails for €620 (approx. $675USD). For more information, please visit the brand website.
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.
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