There are too many microbrands out there, as I’ve said before and which makes me feel like an old person ranting about the same problem over and over again. To be franc, there’s a lot of bad watches being released each day and it feels that less and less often do I come across a brand that does something original and at a good price. So when I scroll through my Instagram feed I sometimes come across a nugget; I instantly know it’s going to be good and I want to get my hands on it.
This is the feeling I had when I first saw a photo fo the Namica Shirahama Classic in all of its glorious colors and specifications. I had to get in touch with them and know more about the brand. It’s not everyday that we hear of a Japanese microbrand, except that since I’ve come across Namica, I’ve heard of four more Japanese brands that seem to have magically appeared. So today I’m happy to present the Namica Shirahama Classic.
The Shirahama is a diver and to be a good representation of this genre it has to meet certain subjective—yet globally agreed upon—set of criteria. Starting with its dimensions: a case that comes in at 40mm in diameter, 47mm lug-to-lug, 12.7mm in thickness and 20mm lug width. Perfect set of dimensions for an everyday diver—as opposed to a professional diver that tend to be larger and heavier. Within these ideal dimensions one will find the Seiko SII NH38A movement, the no-date cousin of the popular NH35 movement, another powerhouse movement that beats at 21,600 BPH (3Hz) and that has a power reserve of approximately 41 hours.
Like modern divers, the Shirahama is equipped with a domed sapphire crystal, a screw-down caseback and crown making the watch water resistance to 200 meters. From a finish perspective, the entire watch and bracelet are sandblasted which means they are not polished or brushed surfaces, just a clean rugged look all around the timepiece. Speaking of the bracelet, it is made of short and beveled links that articulate quite beautifully and feel comfortable on the wrist. The clasp is longer than perhaps it should be given the fact that it only has three holes of micro-adjustments.
The design of the Shirahama is quite unique and not much so in a way as well. There are elements of Seiko divers that are unmistakable like the crown at the 4 o’clock position and the overall case dimensions—more specially, the ratio between the case diameter/thickness to the lug-to-lug distance that are reminiscent of the SKX series. There is also a hint of Squale in the use of the baton-style hands and the pop of orange color on the minute hand. Nothing wrong here as these design elements obviously work well since they’ve been used for a long time by many brands over the past few decades. And Namica was honest about which historic models they have been inspired by—a bonus point for them.
Setting aside the above, the Shirahama is a beauty to look at. Visually, it is endowed with many contrasting elements that work well together, for example the colorful and bright dials versus the sandblasted case and bracelet. Not finishing the watch this way would have reduced the “pop” effect of the entire dial which would have been a shame. As a proper diver, the Shirahama is highly legible, regardless of which dial color you go for. The hands are visible from a distance and match the triangular and circular hour markers on the dial. To make reading the time easier—and declutter the dial—Namica moved the minute track to the rehaut.
The bezel, just like the dial, is colorful and playful. It is made of sapphire and is filled to the brim with BGW9 lume. (By the way, the hands and markers have been given a generous lume treatment as well.) The bezel, furthermore, is rather thin compared to the dial opening which is something I absolutely adore. I have a thing for thin bezels (very vintage in a way) and this one does not disappoint. What’s more is that it’s fully graduated between the 0 and 15 minute mark, and every 5 minutes after that.
The Hearth of The Matter
As we’ve seen, Namica came up with an incredible first model. Ah yes, I forgot to mention that this is the brand’s very first model—or should I say collection. Namica offers the Shirahama Classic in three dial colors—Super White, Ultra Blue, and Cherry Blossom—and its sister model, the Neo Tokyo, comes in four variants. It is common for a new brand to enter the world of microbrands with one model, but it is uncommon for a brand to offer several variations of it and to allow customers to customize the watch by choosing a different color bezel—which you can do with the Classic. The Neo Tokyo, actually, could be seen as a second collection entirely.
So at the heart of the matter here is the fact that we not only have a brand new microbrand heralding from Japan, but also a brand that took a gamble by releasing two collections at once and making it possible for the customers to customize their watches. This is important because it shows how much Namica believes in what they do. If they didn’t they would have debuted with a smaller catalogue to keep things safe and wait until the first model would sell out to release a second model, then a third. I like when microbrands take calculated risks as what comes out of this type of strategy is better watches overall. You cannot be bold if you don’t believe you are doing something right.
Furthermore, the Shirahama Classic, whether you are looking at the blue, white, or cherry pink variant, constitute a refreshing take on the genre of dive watches. Coming in at $425 on the bracelet (direct from their website,) you get a lof of watch for your money. The microbrand market being as it is—saturated and therefore ultra-competitive—it is imperative for a new brand coming on the scene to do things slightly different and well. Getting to the lengths of offering unique dial colors and solid construction for less than $500, with a good movement and great proportions, is smart and necessary nowadays.
Maybe what is truly at the heart of the matter after all, now that we’ve spoken about the watches’ great specifications and attractive price, is the fact that it’s fun and easy to wear. For someone who normally sticks to black and white divers I wasn’t sure I would like the Shirahama Classic this much. But I do. Wearing so much color on the wrist puts a big smile on my face, and knowing that it comes on a robust watch makes me confident wearing it many situations. It may not be the best watch for a fancy dinner in a three-star restaurant, but it can handle most of anything else.
In short, Namica hit it out of the park with their very first model. Yes, there are inspirations from previous models from popular brands—as we’ve seen from Seiko and Squale—which means the brand owners know their references well. What sets the Shirahama Classic apart from the many divers we see these days is its boldness. Boldness in colors, shape, the alternative knurling on the bezel (a detail I kept specifically for this conclusion) and the almost obscene amounts of lume on the dial, hands, and bezel. It is the first time that I’ve seen a watch shine so brightly at night, and I only feel sorry to Namica that I don’t know how to take better lume shots.