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Mid-Dive Table Mediocrity, Part 2

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. 

RiL Concept SCUBA Watch

“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.”

While  I  applaud  the  concept  (and  Ril  is  very much a “concept”, with clothes, homeware and  a club coming in 2011), I can’t help thinking that there’s not much separating the Ril from the $1000 herd. Nor indeed from a handful of  similar  designs in far lower price brackets. The hands look relatively  normal,  the dial pedestrian. The lume appears to offer nothing over the  now-standard SuperLuminova®. In short, I find the launch of Ril a little underwhelming.

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.

the #watchnerd

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