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Nivada Grenchen Antarctic 35mm

The Watch for Romantic Globe Explorers

Whenever I hear someone say “Things were better back in the day,” I’d agree if that person meant from an horological standpoint. And “back then” here would refer to the 1950s when people, pushed by an extra wind of energy and revival following the end of the second World War, decided to go explore the most remote places on earth. It was the time of debonair explorers and adventurers, a time when surpassing our limits was the norm and something that could be done elegantly. Both in terms of how people used to dress as well as the type of watches they would strap to their wrist. While we all know too well about the pre-Explorer Rolex and the Smith that went to Mount Everest, fewer people know about the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic 35mm. 

And today we’re going to focus on the latter. The Antarctic was the brand’s most robust collection of watches and it came in various shapes and sizes over a period spanning the late 1950s through the early 1970s. The model we’re going to take a look at today is an amalgam of all the better, earlier versions of the Antarctic. (At least, that’s my personal opinion.) The one where we find the art déco Arabic numerals at the cardinal points, the modern typeface for the brand and model names, as well as the white dial that most Antarctic’s were equipped with. Size-wise, it’s also the most faithful to the early examples worn by certain navy explorers we’re going to talk about later. 


Appropriately-sized watches are back in style and I’m so glad they are. While I spent the first few years of my watch career only swearing by watches with diameters oscillating between 38 and 40mm, I now find myself a fervent supporter—a champion I should say—of watches that have diameters between 32 and 36mm. (Something you’ve probably realized when I reviewed the Praesidus A-11 Type 44.) On my 6.50”/16.5cm wrist, these are the dimensions which I believe fit me the best. And this Antarctic 35mm hits that new sweet-spot of mine with a diameter of 35mm, a lug-to-lug of 41.9mm, a total thickness of 10.1mm, and a lug width of 18mm. Needless to say, it wears like a dream—or as if it was made for me. 

And for some reason I thought, for a very long time, that smaller watches couldn’t be robust. Don’t ask me why I was under this impression because I wouldn’t be able to explain it—rationally that is. And the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic 35mm proved me wrong. Within this compact case, we find a manual-wind Landeron 21 caliber beating at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and coming with 36 hours of power reserve. In other words, the Antarctic won’t stop ticking if you forget to wind it exactly 24 hours after the last full wind. Equipped with a small push/pull crown and a screw-down case-back, this model is endowed with a reasonable 50 meters of water resistance. 

Furthermore, the top crystal is a piece of double-domed sapphire that looks deliciously vintage in addition to being scratch-resistant. (Being domed means it creates gentle distortions at the edges of the dial when looking at the watch from certain angles.) The lume on this version—there are a total of eight variants with different dial and lume colors—is SuperLuminova 7403C, a blend I was not familiar with until this model and which works well. In terms of finishing, the case comes with horizontally brushed flanks and high-polished surfaces everywhere else. The Antarctic 35mm is a small strap monster and looks equally good on the provided black leather strap or a Bonklip. 


The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic has a look of its own, just like the Rolex Explorer 1 does. While the latter was never discontinued, the former was, although the brand decided to bring back this—the original—version. Over its historical lifespan, the Antarctic came in different dial configurations. In some examples, there was a date aperture at the 3 o’clock, in others Arabic numerals only at the 12 and 6 positions. There were also black dial versions and limited editions for certain branches of the military and for the American market under the brand name Croton. Going back to what we have here, we find ourselves with a perfectly distilled re-interpretation of what made the first Antarctic so darn attractive. 

First, fully polished Dauphine hands that still remain to this day my favorite type of hand design. Multifaceted and fully polished applied hour markers where the ones at the cardinal points are highlighted with art déco looking Arabic numerals. Lume can be seen on the hour and minute hands (the blued seconds hand doesn’t have any) and outside the hour markers in croissant-shaped sections that contrast nicely with the matte, white dial. While other variants have white lume, I like how the creamy tones of this particular blend of SuperLuminova look here. In addition to the domed sapphire crystal, they endow the Antarctic 35mm with an extra layer of vintage charm. 

In addition to the dial, the case of this Nivada Grenchen also comes with a unique profile which I find particularly well executed here. The mid section of the case is thin and elongated, as in it perfectly blends in with the lugs. The latter showcase a twisted design where the inner part, towards the bracelet, has a large, flat, and polished upper section. This makes the lugs look particularly thin and elegant, and they visually—as well as dramatically—aid in making the watch sit very comfortably on the wrist. Seen from the side, the case of the Antarctic 35mm is small and delicate in appearance—although not in construction—and I  particularly appreciate how tall the crystal is. 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Nivada Grenchen, at last, recreated the original Antarctic. Or, as I mentioned in the introduction, the perfect amalgam of what were the best visual attributes of the first generations. In the past two to three years, the brand released more recent designs of the Antarctic, for example the Super Antarctic which is larger in proportions and comes with different dial layouts. When I saw the first Super Antarctic 3.6.9., I immediately formulated the secret wish that Nivada would re-release the Antarctic that we see here and that was made famous by the members of the U.S. Navy Deep Freeze I expedition to the South Pole in 1955-56. (These were the navy explorers I made a reference to at the beginning of this article.) 

What’s particularly interesting here, therefore, is how elegant this tool watch is. Because back in the day, timekeeping devices for debonair explorers were not only robust but also elegant. They were so visually versatile that they could just as easily be worn exploring the icy and snowy landscapes of the South Pole as well as attending a formal dinner to present the results of such expeditions. Yes, the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic 35mm makes me think of James Bond or Ian Fleming—for a lack of other iconic historical references—and that’s what sets this model apart from the competition. In other words, from the Rolex Explorer 1, the Tudor Ranger, and perhaps the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra: it’s robust, elegant, and affordable. 

True, the latest point is debatable. But when you consider that a modern Explorer 1 will set you back $8,000 USD and that the Ranger retails for $3,200 USD on a strap, I would argue that the $850 USD price tag of the Antarctic 35mm is reasonable given its heritage and how nicely it is made. You can of course only take my word on the latter point—and hopefully the pictures in this article will do this watch justice—but the construction and finishing on this model is top-notch and far superior to timekeeping devices that I’ve come across and which retail for the same price—or more. 

Nivada Grenchen is often talked about as being one of the best and most successful examples of a brand revival and I would argue that this particular model explains why. First of all, Nivada has a vast catalog of iconic timepieces that have been slowly brought back to life one after the other. From the Chronomaster, Depthmaster, and Datomaster to the Antarctic. The Chronomaster is the model the brand is the most known for and so it made sense for Nivada to choose this one as the first to revive. Secondly, I feel it was a ballsy decision to bring back this model as it is perhaps the most difficult one to recreate. I say this because of its smaller case diameter of 35mm and the art déco styling of the hour markers. 


If, like me, you’ve come to your senses and appreciate smaller, vintage-inspired, classic exploration watches, then you surely found something here that will entice you to perhaps pull the trigger on a Nivada Grenchen 35mm. The bad news is that many watch enthusiasts have come to their senses already, meaning that all eight versions of the Antarctic 35mm quickly sold out. The good news is that the brand will be restocking in May of 2024. This gives you plenty of time to further explore the collection on the brand’s website.

Thanks for reading. 


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