A Supercharged Skin Diver
Delma is a brand we don’t hear about quite often although it has been around since 1924. That’s almost a century! The Cayman Bronze we are taking a look here heralds from a new collection Delma released in 2019 and which pays tributes to the brand’s own contributions to dive watches of the 1970s. Delma had released its first professional divers, the Shell Star and Quattro, in 1975. By “professional” it is implied that the watches were on the larger and thicker side, as was the case with the Fifthy Fathoms. In a way, the Cayman checks two interesting boxes for those who are into this genre of watches: it has a bronze case and more modest proportions, while offering a decidedly Delma design in the use of thin dive-time bezels and legible dials, all of this combined with incredible specs.
It would be difficult to talk about any watch without taking a detour by its specifications, especially a tool watch. So here it is: the Cayman bronze comes in a 42mm diameter case, 48mm lug-to-lug, and a thickness of 13.3mm, an impressive fact given that the watch boasts 500 meters of water resistance. The case, crown, and bezel are made of CUSN6 bronze, a nomenclature that means, to keep it simple, that this bronze is particularly good at resisting corrosion and magnetism. The watch head is adorned with a sapphire crystal underneath of which we can see thickly painted numerals and a somewhat intense sand textured dial. Further below one can see the Sellita SW200 thanks to a see-through caseback.
As mentioned earlier, Delma presents the Cayman as a skin-diver-type-watch in that it will sit flat on the wrist despite its 42mm-case diameter. In the good old days, skin divers were smaller and thinner and could only go as deep as 100 meters. So this Cayman is interesting in two distinct ways: it has common features of skin divers in having a slim profile, using a fully-graduated dive-time bezel (which has always been a hallmark of skin divers) and presenting a legible dial; conversely, the Cayman is made of bronze and has 500 meters of water resistance. An interesting contradiction that makes the Cayman even more unique.
At first glance, the Cayman Bronze is more flashy than most divers I’ve seen in the metal. The bronze on the case and bezel reflects light quite powerfully, so do the hands that have a bronze-tint and are highly polished. The hands actually look like they are made of rose gold, and even though I know it is not the case (since the watch would cost much more than it does,) it adds an air of elegance that is quite pleasing. This is the very first bronze watch I get to handle and although I know that over time it will patina and get darker, I was taken aback by how colorful the watch is. This visual dynamism is echoed by the color plays on the dial in that the painted hour markers have a subtle yellow tint (thanks to the C3 Super-Luminova) and the 24-hour military scale is painted red, so is the frame around the date window.
The bezel is fully graduated (a big plus for me) and is fully lumed, with a diamond-shaped marker at the 12 and indications of the 15, 30, and 45 minutes marks in Arabic numerals. The bezel has deep notches that makes it easy to grab and operate. The crown is on the larger size and is adorned with the brand’s crown-shaped logo. Going back to the dial, we see a sandy texture, as mentioned above, and a legible minute track and baton-styles hour markers with the exception of the 12, 6, and 9 markers with are displayed with Arabic numerals. Although it seems there is a lot going on on the dial, it is well-balanced. The dial, after all, is one of a utilitarian watch and has therefore a lot of information to display in a coherent way.
The Heart of the Matter
What we have here today is Delma’s own take on bronze divers in a limited edition (to 999 units) Cayman diver, a sort of beefed up skin diver that takes historical cues—if not design ones—from the brand contributions to the 1960s boom of skin divers. A lot has been said about the history of dive watches since the 1950s. Plenty of articles and videos can be found to get a perfect chronology of this popular style of watches. And although one could always argue who was first in the game—was it Rolex with the Submariner or Blancpain with the Fifthy Fathoms?—what we do know is that dive watches were popular in the 1960s and that they are even more so today. One key element that contributed to this genre’s success was the development of skin divers as soon as the first commercial dive watches came out (referring back to the aforementioned watches that were made for professional divers.)
What skin divers were meant to do was to give any person with a sense of curiosity for the underwater world and a sense of adventure, a taste of what the Jacques Cousteau’s of the worlds had access to. Skin divers, as their name indicates, were mean to be worn on the skin and not over a wetsuit, meaning that they were mostly made for those who wanted to swim. (This article is not an argument that yes, we can go do some recreational diving with a skin diver.) This is an important point to make because the Cayman Bronze is presented as being a skin diver although it has the specifications of professional diving timepieces.
To be a little subjective here, I like my dive watches to look plain: black dial, white indices. That’s it. That’s the epitome of a tool watch for me and that is the type of watch that I gravitate the most towards. However, I can push my own boundaries by taking a deep look at divers that offer something different. For example, using bronze as the material choice instead of the typical stainless steel, adding texture to the dial instead of sticking to plain matte or glossy, and being over-built for a skin diver instead of “only” offering 100 meters of water resistance. Delma, then, offers a fresh take on the skin diver by making it resolutely Delma and modern.
What’s more is that I find the Cayman Bronze to be quite accessible despite having so much specs that I would want to write home about. The Cayman retails for $1,650, not bad for a bronze watch with solid tech, that heralds from the Swiss watchmaking tradition. Definitely worth taking a deeper look into the brand and its offering, although I would bet—as mentioned in the introduction—that you may not have heard of Delma before. This shows that there are many things we don’t know about horology, certain brands we are not familiar with and that deserve our attention. Even if the design is not your thing, at least now you know about Delma.
Skin divers hold a special place in my horological heart as they offer a nice balance between functionality, style, and reliability. The Cayman Bronze offers 500 meters of water resistance, which is much more than any one of needs, although it means that the Cayman Bronze is up for any task. Looking at the brand’s website, one can see that Delma has a fairly large catalogue of divers, ranging in sizes, prices, and specifications. The Cayman line comes with a stainless steel case for $1,170, a quartz version presented as a “field” watch for $630, and a world traveler for $2,400.
So there is a Cayman for any budget and needs. I would leave you with this final thought: Delma has been around for nearly a century and has made significant contributions to the world of divers. Now you have more options to choose from when shopping for your next underwater adventure timepiece.
Thanks for reading.