The Skin Diver of the 21st Century
Skin divers were the rage a few decades ago, once people who got into divers wanted something less bulky that would look good both in the water and on dry land. I used to read as much as possible about divers and their thinner cousins, the skin divers. I was impressed—if not shocked—by how many brands made these watches. They more or less all looked the same and had similar specifications. (I bet they were all made by the same factories in Switzerland but sold under different names. You know back when brands would buy off-the-shelves watches and just stamp their logo on the dial.)
In 2022 there are only a few skin divers one can buy. I’ve reviewed watches that were marketed as skin divers but that didn’t look like them. (They certainly didn’t feel like one.) If you want to buy a skin diver you must look at Swiss brands’ re-issues like Longines’ Heritage Diver and Omega’s Seamaster 300 Heritage models. Coming from Germany you can buy a Glashütte SeaQ or an Oris Diver 65. All aforementioned models come from established brands and will set you back several thousands of dollars. So you must be wondering what else is available out there that won’t require you to sell a kidney or your entire watch collection?
There’s the new kid on the block: Marin Instruments and its first release, the Skin Diver. In this article, we will look at the incredible specifications this watch comes with and how a modern skin diver should look like in 2022. Although on one hand the Skin Diver doesn’t look like anything special, what might catch your interest is how mature it looks, as if it had been released by an established brand that specializes in professional dive watches. So let’s read on and find out what the Skin Diver is all about.
Marin Instruments is a brand new player in the narrow market of affordable, well-spec'd professional divers. Yes, I’m saying professional even though it’s called the Skin Diver. I call it professional because it comes with 200 meters of water resistance and not 100 like skin divers used to come with. However, looking at its specifications and features, Marin Instruments’ Skin Diver is a watch for professionals. To be real here, 99% of you will never need more than 100 meters of water resistance. And this depth rating is far more than enough especially when it’s coupled with a solid built quality. Nevertheless, the Skin Diver is a watch that comes with plenty of water resistance and that is indeed well-made. I invite you to read on.
The Skin Diver comes in two dial variants: black and white. Although I prefer black dial watches I’ve got to admit the white one is quite exquisite. But beyond being good-looking, the Skin Diver is also endowed with nice dimensions: a case diameter of 39mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 48mm, a case thickness of 11.5mm and a 20mm lug width. Fitting this perfect lug width is a quick-release Maratac Zulu rubber strap….a string of names that describe a uniquely-profiled rubber strap. It extends outward past the lugs to match the width of the latter, before tapering down dramatically at the buckle.
(I don’t know how Marin Instruments is related to Maratac, another independent watchmaker that specializes in professional dive watches.)
The construction, thickness, and hardware on the strap are sturdy and well-made. They give off the impression of being made for Navy Seals units, and although I dive to 40 meters at the deepest, I appreciate purposeful equipment. The strap is attached to the angular stainless steel case that appears to have a mono-bloc construction. Only the bezel and case-back seems to be the other parts that are firmly attached to the case. (I’m no engineer so don’t quote me on the case construction; I’m merely commenting on its visual appearance.) Regardless of how the case is made, it comes with polished sides and a satin finish on the top surfaces.
One of my favorite elements of the Skin Diver is the 60-click unidirectional bezel that has a smooth action and a unique design. (More on that later.) It sits flat on the case and is easy to grip. The screw-down crown is also easy to grab and operate, and it is protected by angular crown guards that prevent any accidental shocks. Inside the case is the robust Sellita SW200-1 movement that beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and that comes with 38 hours of power reserve. As the specifications indicate, so far everything indicates a serious piece of horology that is meant for people who mean business…
…or those like me who simply enjoy well-built and good-looking tool watches.
The Skin Diver is resolutely a modern interpretation of a by-gone type of timepiece. As you already know, I find that creating something new and interesting is difficult, but as someone commented on Instagram (when I posted a photo of the Skin Diver,) this model is refreshing. Yes it is, it is absolutely. It is definitely modern and is surely an homage to the golden age of skin divers of the 1960s-1980s in that the case looks straight and flat and that the bezel sits flush on the mid-case. Visually, it’s a thin watch but if you’re not used to this kind of case design, you might slightly be taken aback by the fact that the watch looks longer on the wrist than its dimensions would indicate.
Looking at the dial up close we see what makes the Skin Diver a professional tool watch: it has legible painted hour markers that come in different shapes—inverted triangle at the 12, rectangular at the 6 and 9 o’clocks, and circular everywhere else; thick surrounds painted on the hour markers and hands; bright lume; a date window discreetly peering at the 3 o’clock position; a fully-graduated minute track on the rehaut; a matte dial that absorbs light. (The matte accents elsewhere on the dial also contribute to preventing light from bouncing off the dial helping in making reading time easy.)
In a sense, there isn’t much to say about the design of the dial. It’s purposeful and legible. The hour markers are easy to see and are well painted. The text on the dial is crisp and unobtrusive (although there are five lines of text.) In a good way, the Skin Diver completely flies under the radar and that is what many of us tool watch aficionados are truly looking for. Marin Instruments put everything that was useful on the dial and removed anything that wasn’t. Although there seems to be a lot going on it’s actually clean and well laid out and I enjoy looking at it.
I told you I would come back to the bezel for a moment. The bezel is indeed great and easy to operate. What makes it stand apart from the millions of dive-time bezel inserts that have been manufactured since the dawn of wristwatches is its design. Like a proper skin diver, the bezel is thin and seems to be made of brushed aluminum. The first 15-minutes are highlighted by a straight line, only interrupted by the 10 minutes marker in Arabic numerals. This makes timing the first 15 minutes on an event easy. And adding this line creates a gentle continuity in the narrow-design of the bezel. Did I mention the bezel is fully lumed?
The Heart of the Matter
Although this might sound contradictory, the Skin Diver is nothing unusual or outlandish if you only look at the specifications. It has 200 meters of water resistance, a 60-click fully-lumed bezel, a contrasting dial layout, a solid movement, and simple case design. Like any modern and proper divers, it has a sapphire crystal, a screw-down crown and case-back, and a rubber strap. So, why am I writing about the Skin Diver then? Well, it’s because it’s a solid tool watch in its own right. Both from technical and visual standpoints, the Skin Diver has a lot to offer. It looks refreshing and offers excellent value, and is a direct competitor to other popular divers in the $1,000-$1,500 price segment.
Speaking of which, the Skin Diver retails for $1,150. Not bad given the specs and its visual DNA.
Marin Instruments may be brand new on the independent watch scene but its first model is a full-fledged, proper diver. It has the right specs and comes with a design that looks both familiar and unique, as if the brand had been around for decades and was just offering its newest release. And if you look at their Fieldmaster (LINK,) perhaps you will better understand what I’m talking about here. The latter is quite unique in that it offers GMT and chronograph complications as well as being a diver. Again, it feels like the type of watch only an experienced brand would release.
I’ve got to be honest here and say that I don’t write about all watches brands send me. Most of the time, I like what I see and I gladly write about it. Sometimes the loaners are terrible. They don’t look like anything special and they don’t feel right on the wrist. Their proportions are off and the construction mediocre at best. And these types of watches are often the ones that a new brand would first come up with. And I think it’s accepted that a brand’s first model won’t be perfect—far from it actually—and that the next one will be better. And that the third one would be even more so.
I don’t remember how I came across Marin Instruments. It was perhaps on Instagram because I have yet to see many written or video reviews about it. I was taken aback by how mature the Skin Diver looked on paper and photos, again as if it was the brand’s 20th model, not the first one. And the Skin Diver is a watch that looks and feels as good in person as I imagined it would in imagination while drooling over the brand’s images. (I sense you can clearly feel my enthusiasm about the Skin Diver!)
Honestly, friends, if you are looking for a solid diver and don’t want to spend too much of your hard-earned cash on a Swiss brand, take a serious look at Marin Instruments. While I can’t speak for its durability over time and long-term accuracy (the fact that it comes with a Sellita doesn’t mean it won’t break,) by all measures it’s a great watch. It does give similar-priced brands some serious competition and the more people talk about the Skin Diver (and the brand’s subsequent releases,) the more the independent market will have to pay attention to Marin.
As mentioned above, the Skin Diver retails for $1,150 and although it’s now too late, the brand was offering an early-bird price of $895. (I kinda beat myself up for not jumping on it earlier!) And even though you now have to pay full retail, it’s really not a lot of money when looking at the Skin Diver’s good looks, solid specifications, and robust constructions. In a sense, Marin Instruments could have been one of these independent Swiss brands that existed within a niche market of professional tool watches that only those that were “in” knew about. After all, the Skin Diver is made in Switzerland.
Thanks for reading.