This On The Desk review was originally posted at MoT’s Watch Deal Forum on October 13, 2020.
“Release the Draken!”
Recently, Michael Blythe, the founder, and designer of Draken Watches graciously sent one of his Springbrook Green Benguela dive watches across my desk for me to have a look at.
Benguela is available with either the Seiko NH35A, which has become the microbrand workhorse or the ETA 2824-2, a solid choice for those wanting a Swiss movement. The review model I was sent is an NH35A version.
This watch is not for the faint of heart. Opening the attractive two-place zippered travel case you’re greeted by a slab of bead-blasted 316L stainless steel. Also included in the case is a natural rubber dive strap that matches the color of the dial. (Draken also sent the optional leather strap for purposes of this review.) Measuring 43mm wide, 52.3mm lug-to-lug, 22mm lug width, and 15mm thick, Benguela makes its presence known. I love a chunky, heavy tool watch and this one sure satisfies.
On the wrist, Benguela is very comfortable regardless of the strap used. The bracelet is solid throughout, including the end links and the delightfully thick clasp that also has a ratcheting extension. Helpful when securing the watch on your wrist when wearing a wetsuit. The natural rubber strap is long, soft, and very pliable. The leather strap has nice color-keyed stitching and is somewhat stiff. In my opinion, you’re better off with the bracelet or the rubber strap.
Regardless of what you decide to use, bracelet or strap, they are all secured to Benguela via quick-release spring bars. A nice touch that makes changing the look a breeze.
Benguela is rated to 500m of water resistance and that is thanks to the thick case back (with awesome Paper Nautilius design), sapphire crystal, and thick Vitron gaskets that have the added benefit of being more resistant to oils and chemicals. Above the screw-down crown (also lumed!) there is a helium escape valve with just a touch of color to tie into the theme.
The case is slightly tapered, allowing excellent grip on the 120-click bezel. And what a bezel! If you are like me and love a notchy, ratchety bezel with tons of positive feel you are really going to enjoy this one! Tight, accurate, and with no noticeable back play or slop it really is a joy to use.
Sandwiches are pretty great, and sandwich dials might just be even better. Draken has applied bead-blasted indices as the top layer of the sandwich and has coated the inner layer with generous amounts of X1-Old Radium Super-Luminova. The lume is bright and even and lasted from night well into the morning for this review. The result is a dial that looks as deep as any abyss you might find yourself exploring while wearing it.
Summing up, Draken Benguela is a chunky, well-designed watch with unique touches that is a very solid entry into the tool/diver watch microbrand world. Launched on Kickstarter, it quickly met its funding goal and is now available for pre-order direct from the Draken Watches website (linked above) for a reasonable $754NZD (~$500USD) for NH35A models or $1,056NZD (~$700USD) for ETA 2824-2 models.
Thanks for reading, and check back soon for the next watch On The Desk.