At Last, a Different Kind of Dive Watch
Have you heard music experts say that most music genres popular today come from jazz? Not that they all sound like jazz, but that the core elements of their melodies or ways of writing scores were created by jazz a hell of a long time ago. We can transfer this idea to our beloved hobby: watches. Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with the idea that 95% of watches released each year more or less look like something we’ve seen before. In particular, dive watches. The epitome of a diver has a rotating bezel with markings on it to keep track of our submersion time, an alternation of triangular, circular, and rectangular hour markers, a stainless steel case, bracelet, and beefy cases. Not all divers look like this but most do.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Reinventing the wheel is not fun and doesn’t guarantee commercial success. We don’t see car manufacturers proposing radical concepts of what the cars we drive look like—not concept cars that nobody uses. They are more or less rectangular, come with four wheels, windows, doors, and generally take too much space. So why bother doing the same with watches, objects we don’t even need? There is literally no need to do so which is why the watch we’re taking a look at today is even more meaningful to me, you, and perhaps many other people. Two friends—proper watch nerds—took a leap of faith and decided to reinvent the concept of dive watches and to design one that works with how we realistically live: a desk diver.
So if you are into watches because you appreciate what they mean and how they make you feel, the Desk Diver will undoubtedly be for you. But before we dive into my philosophical meanderings regarding the importance of the Desk Diver, let’s talk specs and design.
Right off the bat I’ll say that the Sphaera Desk Diver is a different animal. It looks different and it is made differently. As it names indicates, it’s a dive watch, however its raison d’être goes beyond being submerged in water. It’s a versatile timepiece meant to be used in a variety of situations and its specs speak to its nature. The case comes with modest proportions, with a diameter clocking in at 40mm, a lug-to-lug of 48.2mm, a thickness of 9.7mm (excluding the crystal,) and a universal 20mm lug width. As you can tell from the photos, the Desk Diver fits my 6.25”/16cm wrist just fine. The watch appears taller than its dimensions might suggest due to the fact that the acrylic crystal showcases a dramatic dome—looking at it from the side, it feels as if I’m looking at the bulging window of a submersible.
The case received a special sandblasting treatment—one I would describe as actually looking like fine particles of gray sand covering the case—which gives it the appearance of being made of titanium although here we are dealing with stainless steel. It’s hard to describe with words so I hope the close-ups will do it justice. This treatment makes the case soft to the touch and comfortable to wear on the skin, and looking at the crown it appears as if everything was 3D printed. Inside the case we find a Swiss made Landeron 24 which beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 40 hours of power reserve. Putting the case treatment against the movement inside, we can already feel Sphaera’s unique take on watchmaking: a novel design doesn’t require a weird caliber.
Lastly you should know the Desk Diver has a depth rating of 100 meters—which they tested—and that the case-back and crown are of the screw-down variety.
There’s a lot to talk about here. And since we were talking about the case just earlier, let’s stay on the topic. Visually, the Desk Diver looks alien given the short and massive drilled lugs—complete with inner sharp angles—and how well they work with the screws adorning the two-part fixed bezel. The lower part of the bezel showcases the same sandblasted finish as the rest of the case, while the top part, thinner and encircling the screws, was given a vertical brushed finish. The alternation of different types of finishes means the bezel creates subtle light plays which appear when moving the watch at different angles. The screw heads were given the same finish and the whole thing looks quite unique. The signed screw-down crown, for its part, comes with deep knurling making it easy to grab and operate.
Moving onto the dial we see something yet again different. The hour markers at the cardinal points are highlighted by massive Arabic numerals, and the two friends behind Sphaera went as far as designing a bespoke typeface. The sword-shaped hour and minute hands are ultra legible, the hour hand reaching the hour markers just the way I like it while the minute hand reaches all the way to the minute track. (Note how the length of the minute hash marks were adapted to contour the Arabic numerals; a very nice touch.) There is no doubt the Desk Diver is a tool watch given how clean and legible the dial is. The hands, I would add, come with a sandblasted finish and the tip of the seconds hand looks like a small arrow head.
Aiding with legibility is the sandwich construction of the dial which guarantees massive amounts of lume to illuminate all hour markers. The lume here is SuperLuminova C3 X1 which displays a subtle yellow/greenish color during the day and glows green at night. The lume is plentiful which makes the Desk Diver again, a true tool watch. I forgot to mention that the rest of the hour markers look like tiny bullets (there is probably a better way to describe them) which makes them easy to see set against the matte black dial. The brand logo and name appear at the 12 o’clock while the words “Desk Diver” and “100m / 330ft” below the pinion—all printed in a light gray color. The latter has the following effect: I rarely pay attention to the text when looking at the watch, which is a good thing to me as it means my eyes are not being distracted from the watch’s intended purpose. It is these subtle design details that show how much work went into creating the Desk Diver.
Now it’s time for my meanderings!
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Sphaera gives us, at last, a new type of dive watch. The Desk Diver is actually not just a dive watch but a strong candidate to be anyone’s GADA watch, as it has the specs of an exploration/field watch and even the iconic ultra legibility of proper pilot watches. The brand presents it as being the type of watch one can take anywhere in any situation, though the sandblasting finish and screws might not make it suitable for, say, a cocktail party. But you know what? Where and when to use a watch is a highly personal decision. One can wear a Cartier Tank to a BBQ on the weekend just like one can wear a 1,000m dive watch to a business meeting. It doesn’t matter how you use it as long as you do whatever you want. But it is clear to me that Sphaera made a watch that is versatile.
More than the specs and design, I would say the Desk Diver is important for two reasons. First, it doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen before and that’s because the two friends behind the brand wanted to create a watch we actually need. The notion of “desk diving” is a fun one because yes, most of us spend more time desk diving than actually diving in the ocean. I laugh whenever I see someone proudly showing a 300-meter dive watch and being “ready for anything” when, in actuality, that person will probably never take his or her watch deep below. (And I’m guilty of doing the same so joke’s on me.) So what we need is reasonable depth rating, a legible dial, and more importantly, a watch we enjoy wearing and looking at.
The second reason why the Desk Diver is important is this: Sphaera is a conscientious brand. From what I could gather, they make and assemble the watches and regulate the movements in their shop in the mountains of Salzburg, Austria. They source as many of the parts making up the watch locally to reduce the environmental impact of the processes of manufacturing watches. Their holistic philosophy to watchmaking extends to the design of the Desk Diver meant to be one watch to do many things (therefore reducing our inherent want to collect too many watches.) They do things so differently that they make their own straps which they call Rip Stop. (I guess this refers to the quality of the manufacturing of the strap and the materials used to make it.)
I have an absolute passion and dedication for those who go out of the beaten path, although this generally means taking great risks. Sphaera, through their initial Kickstarter campaign, raised enough funds to buy machinery so that they could manufacture parts of the watches themselves. In the future, they intend on increasing how much they produce in-house in order to further reduce the waste that is inherent to the processes of manufacturing watches. So Sphaera is not yet another brand that gets watches made to their specs and simply sells on their website, they are involved in the longevity and improvement of the watchmaking industry. And you might be surprised to hear how much the Desk Diver retails for: about $1,300. I know this is a lot of money for many, but it is little given the many hoops the two friends voluntarily put themselves through to create the Desk Diver and what you get for your hard earned cash.
What I’ve come to understand is that putting a price tag on originality and design is impossible. Two years in the making, the Desk Diver is no common piece of horology and I hope you would have become curious about it reading this review. Sphaera will be taking pre-orders starting July 25 with shipping estimated between the end of August and October 2023. I suggest visiting their website to learn more about the Desk Diver and the pre-order campaign.
Thanks for reading.