Gin Clear MkII
Forget About the Submariner. Get this Instead.
Guess what? I’m back with another review of a cracking diver, this time from our friends at Second Hour in faraway Australia. The brand recently opened pre-orders for the Gin Clear MkII, the second iteration of the watch that started it all for them. Honestly, I was impressed by their field watch, the Sattelberg which I reviewed a while back, as well as their everyday sports watch, the Mandala Burst which I also reviewed. By now, I can tell you without an ounce of doubt that the people at the helm of Second Hour know what they’re doing. Each model looks unique, is well-made, and offers something exceptional. The Sattelberg impressed by its thinness and the originality of its design. The Mandala Burst by its mesmerizing dial pattern and outstanding case finish. The Gin Clear MkII also impresses in more than a few ways, as we will see below.
Before we get into the heart of the matter, I would like to put some context around this review. As I’ve said many times before here and elsewhere, there are too many micro and independent brands and even more dive watches to choose from. Underwater exploration timekeeping devices are more popular than ever before—I know, saying this is very cliche—and any brand making a diver must do something exceptionally well in order to grab our attention and justify separating us from our savings. Sometimes, the “exceptional” translates into incredible specs for the money, other times it’s a breathtaking design, and less often, all of the above combined in one watch. Well, at the risk of spoiling this review, let me tell you the Second Hour Gin Clear MkII is quite superb and worthy of the subtitle.
Take another one, Rolex!
To be honest, the Gin Clear MkII did not seem attainable at first glance given its $1,250 price tag. Wait a minute…it’s $1,250 Australian Dollars! So about $800 USD. Phew. Anyway, and even more so, you’ll quickly realize how much watch you can get at this price point. And as I’ve recently elaborated in an article for Fratello, I believe—and this is just my opinion—that the best value micro and independent watches exist within the $1,000-$2,000 price point. Paying more won’t increase the value of your horological experience that much, and paying less won’t give you access to high quality watches. So, the Gin Clear MkII should, as far as my opinion goes, cost more. But what exactly do we have here? First, let’s talk about the movement as the brand managed to get its hands on a batch of the ubiquitous ETA 2824 caliber (4Hz/38 hours of power reserve) many Sellita’s and Soprod’s are based on.
ETA movements aren’t cheap, and the same is true of any quality Swiss made movement. And we now rarely see the 2824 under the hood of watches that are not made by one of the many Swatch brands. So perhaps acquiring this movement is expensive, and the brand went to an additional step by regulating them. So you have a quality movement that ticks superbly inside a compact case: 40mm in diameter, 47mm lug-to-lug, 12.25mm thick, and 20mm lug width. These dimensions work with 99.99% of human wrists out there, especially given the relatively short L2L distance and thin case. And the bonus is that you get 300 meters of water resistance thanks to a screw-down crown and decorated screw-down case-back.
The list of the specifications goes on and on, akin to a wine list at a good French restaurant. The Gin Clear MkII’s great depth rating is matched by a surface hardening on the case and bracelet making them both virtually non-scratchable; a flat sapphire crystal with six layers of anti-reflective coating which gives us a clear and secure view of the glossy dial; diamond-cut hands polished to perfection; applied hour markers; and an insane application of BGW9 lume on the hands, markers, and ceramic bezel insert (note the C3 on the markers at the 12, 4, and 8.) The action of the bezel is solid and secure, so is the crown which is a delight to operate. Second Hour managed to endow the Gin Clear MkII with super manufacturing and finishing, and the bracelet is in itself not short of being an horological wonder. (More on that later.)
But hey, it seems that anyone can make well-spec’d dive watches these days. So what’s so exceptional here? Well, for starters, Second Hour developed its own design language which makes any of their models automatically standout. Although it's not for everyone (neither is a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Ploprof,) the Gin Clear MkII does not look like anything I’ve seen in the past three years. And there are two elements of its design that particularly stand out to me. First, the fact that the hour markers at the 12, 4, and 8 are visually highlighted by the fact that they look different. Indeed, these markers are shaped like triangles and showcase a five-part construction: two sections of lume and three elements of polished metal. There is no hidden meaning behind it, that’s just the way Second Hour layouts out their dials.
Second, it's the ultra legibility of the dial and how the pencil-style hour and minute hands flow so naturally with the full stack of applied hour markers. Given the triangles at the 12, 4, and 8, the brand opted for circular hour markers everywhere else, a shape we are all familiar with and which looks just classic enough to work with the Rolex-like typeface found on the bezel insert. (There is nothing wrong using this typeface!) Color accents of red can be found on the tip of the lollipop seconds hand, the indication of “60” above the 12 o’clock marker, as well as the inverted triangle on the bezel. Second Hour has a unique way of playing with colors and making them populate specific spots on their watches. Ah, I forgot to mention that red can also be found on the crown.
The case, for its part, looks both robust and elegant. The lugs are quite imposing as they seem to directly flow from the mid-case towards the wrist, an effect that is emphasized by the polished chamfers that run alongside the totality of the metal box. Short and stubby crown guards integrate well with the design and add an extra element of visual robustness which I’m a big fan of. The bracelet also flows nicely with the case as the end-links perfectly match the design of the lugs. Note the polished thinner links that match the polished chamfers on the inside of the lugs. As you can tell, a lot of thinking went into designing the Gin Clear MkII.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that, clearly, Second Hour took its time to design this model. Given that the Gin Clear was the brands’ debut collection, redesigning this model was risky as it could have turned out to be something the first supporters of the brand could no longer care for. And I hope they will like the sequel as much as they appreciated the first. Although I have not handled the debut model in the metal, I can say this: the level of finish on this watch is impressive. The glossy dial has a superb mirror-like sheen, the hands and hour markers are crisp, everything aligns perfectly, and best of all, the date aperture at the six o’clock integrates nicely within the dial layout.
I can imagine the brand’s owners obsessing over the tiniest of details for months on end until they reached the perfect combination of looks, specs, and quality. I promised to come back to the bracelet and I will do so now. Not only does it look nice and unusual (as in “I don’t often see this type of bracelet design,”) it also comes with solid screws that are actually easy to remove (not all screws are born equal,) quick-release spring bars to make swapping straps easy, and an one-the-fly micro-adjustment clasp complete with a solid dual-pusher mechanism. For some reason, I often come across this type of clasps that look abnormally massive, but Second Hour got its dimensions right.
So, how do you feel about the $800 USD price tag now? I would be hard-pressed to find a better-spec’d, better-manufactured diver for that price or less, which is why I believe the Gin Clear MkII is a heck of a deal. If you like the way it looks, then you could most likely make it your only diver. Because, honestly, although many watch enthusiasts and collectors own more than one dive watch, in reality I believe they are still secretly looking for “the one” that will rule them all. The Second Hour Gin Clear MkII could be that watch for you. And before you might frown at the price tag, let me tell you this: you won’t be disappointed. In my opinion, this model can rival the best Christopher Ward and MONTA divers. Yup, it’s that good.
In terms of colors, the Gin Clear MkII comes in the following four options: Arctic White, Pastel Blue, Sunburst Black and Ocean Sunset. It is currently under production and the shipping date is estimated to be October 2023. I suggest visiting the brand’s website for more information.
Thanks for reading.