For the last eighteen months or so the internet has been saturated with independent, start-up watch companies which for watch enthusiasts is a good – no, great thing. More brands, more choices, more options with most of them at a fairly affordable rate. One thing most of these boutique brands do have in common is they tend to lean towards putting out BCDs. Huh? What? To explain, a BCD is a Big, Chunky Diver. In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with them; divers are popular among watch die hards and casual wearers as well. They are sporty, cool and provide water resistance so they are suitable for play in our pools and oceans. One common theme, however, is the appearance of the same watch case and similar designs across these brands. The same case will show up in a few different places with each brand attempting for their own spin. Often they end up looking more the same than one would hope, however this still leaves one with different options to buy should one be looking to buy. Not all of them are the same or similar, however.
Artego Watches popped up in the first part of 2010 with a new diver on the scene with a cool retro look. Artego Watches owner Robert Lex designed the Diver 300M case to be reminiscent of watch designs from the 1970s. The hooded lugs do give the watch a throwback appearance and the watch, although heavy, wears quite well on the wrist. The company has their offices in Bangkok, Thailand while the watches are assembled and shipped from Hong Kong, so this is an all-Asian piece from top to bottom. Read on to see my full impressions of this new-to-the-market BCD.
Model: Diver 300M
Movement: Miyota 8215 mechanical automatic, 21 jewels, 40 hours power reserve, 21,600 beats per hour
Material: Stainless Steel 316L
Weight: 268 grams
Price: $350 USD (shipping inclusive; PVD models at $400)
Packaging and Presentation
I was quite pleased when the watch arrived on a Wednesday morning after only having been shipped on that Monday; quite speedy coming from Hong Kong. I was not sure what to expect, frankly my expectations were low, so I was quite pleased to find a good sized box (4 5/16″ x 5 1/4″ x 3 1/2″) inside the packaging. The watch box sits inside a cardboard sleeve and once extracted you find a very nice looking (and hefty) leather clad box with orange stitching. Used to keep the box closed and secure is actually a leather strap with a snap and two keepers; a different approach and a nice cosmetic touch. Inside the box is fairly standard with the watch on a pillow and the enclosed warranty card, completed by Artego owner Robert Lex. The watch came wrapped in the standard protective, clear plastic to protect during transit. My impressions based on the packaging alone were very positive – some time and attention to detail were put into the presentation of the Artego box.
Case, Bezel, Crown and Crystal
The case of the Artego is one of the immediate draws, with its large cushion shape and hooded lugs. With the lugs as they are it fits the watch for a straight end link on the bracelet rather than the more traditional curved. The hooded lugs and slight curve to the back of the case make for a nice fit, even on smaller wrists, such as my 6 1/2″ girlie wrists, even with the case at 45mm and the lug-tip to lug-tip distance at 50mm. It fits well and while big, does not look out of place or too over-sized. The overall height of the watch is a good sized 15.5mm from the back of the watch to the top of the crystal, which fits the other dimensions of the watch well. Weight of the whole watch (bracelet with all links) is a hefty 268 grams; it is not for the weak wristed. I opted for the brushed finish on the case; bead-blasted and PVD finishes are also available. Reviewing the case one will also find drilled lugs, which make for a much easier swap from the 24mm bracelet to a rubber strap or a nice custom leather job. Overall finish of the case is clean, no unfinished areas or rough edges; overall very well done.
The Artego uses a screw down case back to preserve its 300M WR rating. Right in the center is the cool Artego logo with “A3″ and “17/50″ below. The A3 is the model number, while the 17/50 shows the number of the watch out of a series of 50. The case back also contains many of the specs of the watch: 300M/1000FT (WR rating), 316L STAINLESS STEEL (material), AUTOMATIC (movement), and SAPPHIRE (crystal type).
The bezel for the Artego, like the case, comes in a couple different flavors: silver finish or black. I opted for the silver as my eye preferred that look. The bezel is a 120 click, unidirectional diver’s bezel with the traditional markings: luminescent mark (inverted triangle) at 12 with numbers on the tens and hashes for the other minutes. The bezel on my model turns a bit tougher than I would like, although that alleviates any fears of it slipping out of place. One flaw with my watch is the point of the triangle lines up just a hair right of center.
The Artego has a nice, beefy crown, measuing 5mm tall (from bottom to the peak of the curved top) and 8mm wide. It is very easy to grasp and turn and screws into the case well. The top of the crown is engraved with the Artego logo.
As one would expect at this price point, the watch does have a sapphire crystal protecting the dial. It has an anti-reflective coating on the inside for improved visibility. The crystal sits just above the bezel by less than 1mm; not so tall that you would worry about knocking it into things.
Dial, Hands and Lume
Artego uses ceramic for their dial materials, which are available in the orange shown in this review, along with black and sky blue. I don’t know if it is the ceramic or just the shade of the orange, but it really has a visual pop to it. The dial is thankfully uncluttered as far as text goes: it has Artego with Automatic below it at 12, and 300M at 6. The markers for the hours are similar to other dive watches: stick markers at at 3, 6 and 9, double at 12, and dots at the other hours. There is a smallish date window at 3, which while legible could have been perhaps just a tad bigger. The minute markers are not on the dial but moved to the chapter ring, which helps keep the look of the dial clean.
The Artego uses plongeur hands on all of its models, although the color of the outline can vary between models. The hands on the orange model are all outlined in black and they stand out quite well against the orange dial. The seconds hand is black with a lumed box about two-thirds down the hand. As with the minute and hour hands, it is legible and easy to read.
The dial on the Artego (as well as the bezel dot) use Superluminova as their luminous material and it appears it was liberally applied. The markers glow brightly with just a quick bit of sunlight charge and they hold their glow well. I tested the watch by giving it a full charge from an LED flashlight and then placing the watch in a completely dark room (in my sock drawer) for seven and a half hours. After that time I entered the darken room and could still read the time using the faint glow from the watch. I would say that the Artego charges as easily as the Seiko Monster and Omega Seamaster 300M that I have owned. The lume on the Artego Diver gets a big thumbs up.
The bracelet on this watch packs a mighty big punch. It is one of the thickest bracelets I have ever worn and it feels every bit well built for its size. As mentioned above it is 24mm at the lugs and there is no taper, so it remains at 24mm throughout to the clasp. The individual links are 5mm thick which gives the bracelet its beefiness (I’ve used that word a lot this review, I know). The links are held in with screws, not pins, and I had no trouble removing the links I needed. The clasp is a double push-button type with a fold over enclosure. There are four micro-adjustment holes on the clasp for find adjusting of the fit of the bracelet. The Artego logo makes another appearance on the clasp of the watch. One thing missing from the bracelet is a divers extension so that one could wear the watch over a wetsuit, for example. The bracelet is well built and solid and a fine fit for the size of the watch.
Movement and Performance
Inside the Artego Diver is the Japanese made Citizen Miyota 8215 automatic movement. The 8215 is a 21 jewel movement with a 40 hour power reserve and 21,600 bph. The movement has uni-directional winding via the rotor and can be hand wound as well, however it does not hack when the crown is out for setting the time. One can apply a bit of back pressure on the crown to “fake hack” the seconds hand so it can be properly and most accurately set. For those who have owned this movement in the past it will come as no surprise the Artego suffers from the same “stuttering seconds”: with a good, firm shake of the watch the seconds hand will pause for a moment and then resume on its way around the dial. Most often the wearer will not notice this unless your movement of your arm to adjust your wrist to read the watch is very, very snappy. The pause does not seem to have long term adverse affects on overall accuracy.
Speaking of accuracy, the specifications for the Miyota 8215 show an accuracy rate of -20 to +40 seconds a day. Certainly not a certified chronometer by any definition, however not out of the realm of acceptable either. After a couple months of ownership my example of the Diver is holding time pretty well at about -5-7 seconds a day, between normal wear and holding in the watch winder. With my previous misadventures with the 8215 I was hesitant when considering the Artego; I am pleased to say that this watch has changed my mind.
After owning this watch for some time I have concluded that it is an overall well executed entry into the BCD category. I like that it wears well on my puny wrists (meaning it will fit great on you “normal” people) and is comfortable to wear. The orange makes for a great summer watch, but of course so would the blue or black. The choice of dials, bezels, hands and case finishes means there is something for just about everyone at an affordable price point. (Owner Robert Lex told me in an email that he had 50 made of the blue and orange dials, and 200 in the black; my guess is this is not per model but per dial in general.) A Swiss movement option (at an additional charge) would be a nice extra for those who prefer those movements; at the same time the Miyota in my watch has been working just great.
If you are a fan of big dive watches and enjoy something just a little different the Artego Diver 300M is well worth a look.
+ Nice design that wears well on smaller wrists
+ Killer lume and legibility
+ Awesome bracelet
+ Competitively priced against comparable divers
– Some may consider price high for a Miyota movement
– Although it wears well, size may be a turn off for some
– Stiff bezel
– Lack of divers extension (for those who would really need it)
Hope you enjoyed the review as much as I’ve been enjoying the watch. There will be a small gap between this post in the next as I’m off for a family vacation, but I will return!