The past ten years have seen a steady increasing number of companies that have released dive watches into the same pool. Many have sunk. Some still swim, buoyed on by the membership of various watch fora. The history of these watches goes back almost a decade to the first of the “microbrew” dive watches – the English-designed, German-built Dreadnought from Precista. Whilst oft-imitated, this watch has rarely been bettered, certainly in terms of value for money. It offered 2000m WR, excellent time-keeping (a regulated ETA 2892), rugged good looks and a little bit of scarcity value (it was a Limited Edition of 200). Mint copies now trade hands for four-to-five times their original value.
Since then, literally dozens of such watches have sprung up, form the similarly-cased Kenzo Nautilus, to the rash of Submariner-a-likes produced in 2009. These latter watches all appear to utilise the same Chinese-milled case, and are WR to 2000m. Now, into this relatively deep pool of watch-sellers, plunges a newcomer – Ril watches.
Designed in London and manufactured in China, Ril Concept’s new “Scuba” model is powered by a Japanese automatic movement (no word yet on whether this is a Miyota). The watch will be presented in a luxurious case, and all watches are supplied with both a regimental G10 NATO strap and a solid stainless-steel adjustable bracelet. Ril’s creators (Nathan Halfon and Robert Gilbert) appear to have built a 38mm, unisex, Rolex Submariner-style watch, with a sterile dial. But with a water resistance of only 30m (100ft). Hey ho. One the plus side, the crown is unusually large, and echoes the vintage models from which this design has been borrowed.
“Its dial is unadorned, showing no brand, for Ril Concept believes that the Ril Watch Scuba should say but one thing: “It belongs to you.” Only a Ril Watch Scuba’s owner will know the brand, its name relegated to the case-back.”
This feeling is exacerbated by the rather strange one year warranty offered with each watch: “During this period, any errors due to manufacturing defects or the bad phenomenon made by non-artificial factors will be repaired free of charge. This will make you feel more satisfaction with our service. Special instruction: case, band and dial are not included in the warranty.” I told you it was odd…
Perhaps I have missed the point; this is a watch “concept” after all. And any newcomer who positions itself in direct opposition to Patek Philippe (however playfully) must have a plan: “You actually own a Ril Watch. You do not need to wait for the next generation.” But I remain unsure as to what, exactly, that plan is. Perhaps this watch will be the key to Ril’s next venture? A secret sign to the cognoscenti? Who knows?
As an aside – I actually do rather like the “de-badged” offering: one of the first watches ever given to me was a small, plain, off-white quartz watch from GRUS – another brand that feels that a logo on the dial detracts from the design aesthetic.
One final point. I note that Ril are giving $6 per watch sold to Shelter, the bad housing and homeless charity. This is surely to be praised.
Ril Watches are available on-line now, at £599 or $999.