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recommendations Watches

You should buy a Scurfa dive watch

TL;DR

It’s sold at cost and you literally and actually cannot buy a more legit dive watch. $268 at your door.

Framing the narrative

Back when diving was dangerous and new, companies like Comex and militaries like the French navy commissioned then-new watches to be used for measuring elapsed dive time. Advances in materials and design produced watches durable and legible enough, which combined with the cool factor of diving, led in short order to them being style icons. Back then, a professional diver could and often did buy a Rolex Sea-Dweller and actually use it as intended.

Rolexes and Blancpain and even Seiko have become luxury now, Veblen goods recast in gold and silver as high-status male jewelry. Behold the latest incarnation of the pro-diver Sea-Dweller:

Two-tone rolex sea dweller.

Though diving is now unglamorous blue collar work, there are still divers who need watches and can’t afford sixteen thousand USD. One of them is named Paul Scurfield, and he spends 28 days at a time in a diving vessel, over a hundred meters below the surface of the North Sea:

Having first been made for divers and support staff who were left without a watch when the value of their vintage Rolex diving watches exploded leaving them the option of a large windfall or too self conscious of wearing such a valuable item in a hostile workplace, Paul Scurfield watch enthusiast and saturation diver tried to fill the void with a few affordable watches built to a high standard using the best materials.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/history

Divers working in the North Sea are made up in teams of three and on any working dive you have a diver 1, diver 2 and the bellman, diver 1 controls the dive and this is where the name for the watches come from, diver 2 is there to make his job easier, the bellman tends the divers from the diving bell and the divers work in the water for a maximum six hours, a normal saturation diving system will house four teams of three divers covering the full twenty four hours of the working day stopping only for bad weather or crew changes, the work period for the divers is 28 days including decompression.

So we have a day-job pro diver who designed a watch for himself and his co-workers. This was his first one:

Picture from Scurfa

I learned about the brand from Jason Heaton’s review on Gear Patrol. At the time, I was intrigued but not enough to buy. Of late, however, I’ve rediscovered the virtues of a good quartz watch, so I was open to the idea, and then via WatchUSeek I saw this:

Picture Scurfa via WUS: https://forums.watchuseek.com/f74/diver-one-d1-500-yellow-available-now-4933985.html

That yellow… I like it a lot. My first mechanical watch was a Seiko SKXA035, and I’ve missed the yellow since I sold it.

Specifications

  • Model: Diver One DI-500 Yellow
  • Case 40mm by 47.7mm by 14.4mm, 20mm drilled lugs
  • 7mm threaded crown, 120-click steel bezel with aluminum insert. His earlier models had ceramic bezels, but he found that he, co-workers and customers were breaking them, so he’s gone to more resilient aluminum bezels.
  • Water resistant to 500m
  • Spring-based helium escape valve at nine, tested by Paul Scurfield down to 154m with multiple gases mixes. How’s that for legit? Usually escape valves are poseur…
  • Domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating.
  • Ronda 715 movement, in the Swiss made grade, gold plated, 5 jewels, 60 month battery life with stutter-second end of life indicator. Rated -10/+20s per month. The movement has a cheaper version (non Swiss made), which you can see torn down here.

Normally I talk price at the end of a writeup, but this watch is extraordinary. Talk about burying the lede – in the middle of their history page is this bombshell:

I would like to thank all the customers of Scurfa Watches for helping us grow and be able to invest in new models, We have taken no money for ourselves and we are not looking to sell tens of thousands of watches only as many as Alison and I can handle, we turn down shops and outlets on a daily basis and think it’s too early for magazines so we turn them down as well.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/history

Yeah, these are sold at cost. Buy one while you can, because sooner or later they’ll want or need to turn a profit; until then their prices are astonishingly low. Shipped 2-day DHL prices are:

  • 230UKP in the UK
  • 242UKP in Europe
  • 207.3UKP non-VAT.

So mine in April 2019 was $267.22 delivered. Holy crap that’s a great deal!

It wears quite well; 40mm is a great size and 20mm drilled lugs mean a plethora of strap options. There’s no bracelet yet, but one is promised and until then I’m enjoying trying it on a variety of straps that I’ve already got.

Factory black strap

The yellow makes me smile. If you don’t agree, there are several other dial and hand color combinations for sale at the same price.

Lume is, of course, excellent, in BGW9 white/blue.

DI-500 movement, picture Scurfa

Timekeeping is well within spec, though mine doesn’t hit all of the seconds marks between about 35 to 50 seconds. Ahh well. It’s a solid movement, and I like the 5 year battery and that the EOL feature will stutter the second hand a few months before it dies, so that I’m not left with a surprise dead watch.

And for the price I’m fine thrashing it hard – that’s less than my recent Seiko diver cost. I love my OWC but this is so much cheaper I’ll keep both. If you want mechanical, he makes the Bell Diver with a Miyota 9015 for a bit more, see a review on ABtW here.

So there you are. This is a watch with a best-ever story, a non-profit price and superb functionality. You’ll probably never see anyone else wearing one either, so it’s super hipster in that sense and the antithesis of a luxury good too.

https://www.scurfawatches.com/diver-one-d1-500-yellow

Update 2-Sep-2019: The long-awaited Scurfa bracelets are now available, as I explained here you should go buy one; they’re about 60 bucks which is a typically excellent value.

The URL is https://www.scurfawatches.com/product/diver-one-20mm-bracelet-in-stainless-steel/

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Here’s a beach volleyball game, middling effort:

Life goes on!

Lastly a two part scale for bad watches, from the WPAC 2019 thread.

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Took the SBGN001 for a weekend jaunt. Hiking, snow, desert. It did great. The wear comfort on this 39mm size is fantastic.

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19mm lugs… bad. Really limits strap choices. Some of my 20s can be fitted as shown.

More as I wear it!

And yeah, I shot it next to the Bolt, both are personal milestones.

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Graduation watch

I chose this at Costco, and my then-girlfriend and mother both contributed to it.

Basic Seiko, 7T32 quartz with chronograph, alarm and lume dial. Served me all through grad school and Fermilab, only to be replaced by a Blue Angels Citizen when I started flying. I recently sent it to Seiko in NJ for a battery, gaskets and crystal and am rediscovering why I loved it. It’s just a wonderful, versatile, easy to wear thing that disappears on the wrist.

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Grand Seiko 9F GMTs are out!

I had written before about these with great anticipation, and ended up getting my first takedown request over it. Heh. Well, the embargo is gone and there are posts on multiple sites complete with nice press images, yay!

Briefly, the first three are out with more to come. One 800-piece limited edition, where the yellow-detail version has improved accuracy to the tune of 5 seconds per year. List price $3,500 for that, $3,200 for the regular editions.

SBGN001:

Grand-Seiko-9F86-GMT-Sport-Collection-Watches-02

Man I love that one. Subtle dial texture, should be stunning in person. Having had my Seiko with gold accents for a while I think that the yellow would rock.

SBGN003:

Grand-Seiko-9F86-GMT-Sport-Collection-Watches-04

Basic black. Safe color choice. I wish the others had the white-on-black date wheel that this one has.

SBGN005:

Grand-Seiko-9F86-GMT-Sport-Collection-Watches-06

That will, I predict, sell quite well. Right between too bold and too boring, and of course blue is super trendy.

All of these are super, versatile watches with features that make a huge difference in utility:

  • Lumed hands and dial. While I love GS hands, I want to be able to read the time at night.
  • Jump-set hour hand, aka travel GMT. Perfect for travel and also great for the idiocy that is daylight savings time.
  • 39mm by 12mm. Should wear like a dream.
  • Drilled 19mm lugs. Workable for strapaholics like me; 20mm straps will sometimes fit.
  • 100m water resistant. (Same as the Rolex of similar design).

These are the closest thing I’ve ever seen for a ‘one watch’. (Assuming, of course, you are OK with quartz). I’m in love.

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Basic Seiko

A seiko quartz isn’t going to impress anyone; it’s not a luxury item. More a superb functional with a design that takes time to appreciate.

SNE498. Good indeed.

And I can’t wait for my OWC to get back.

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Next level color coordination

Spiffy, isn’t it? BluShark “AlphaShark Slim” 22mm camel NATO with PVD black hardware. As usual, I trimmed off the extra layer and shortened it to declutter.

I like it. Black on gold paired with the converse is pretty darn spiffy.