I know what you’re thinking. Not another boutique brand. But when the Vice President of the Christie’s New York Watch Department, aka our good friend Eric Wind, emailed saying he’d found a dive watch from the Netherlands worth checking out, we wondered what a newborn watch company had done to land on a vintage expert’s radar. So we got in touch, had a few watches sent over to the office, and, surprise, what arrived was a very vintage-inspired watch built to modern standards.
The story of Eza watches is a winding one, as it often is with boutique brands. Here’s what you should know: In 1921, a german watchmaker named Hermann Becker established a small case manufacturing facility in Pforzheim, Germany. By the late 1950s, the company is also making dials and in-house movements, which led to the launch of the first actual Eza watch collection in the 1960s. But Hermann Becker KG filed for bankruptcy shortly afterwards, after being hit hard by the infamous Quartz Crisis.
Almost half a century later, Eza Watches has been brought back to life by two friends, Diederik van Golen and Adriaan Trampe, who started the new operation up in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The duo assemble their watches from parts sourced abroad – the dials, hands, and indexes are made in Germany, while the cases come from Hong Kong. Right away, it’s clear the company that sent us the Sealander Automatic has very little connection to the original company. In fact, the Sealander is an original design, bearing no resemblance to the funky dress watches the company made during the 60s and 70s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.
Instead, this little diver looks more like an homage to several famous mid-cenutry dive watches, namely the Omega Seamaster 300, theBlancpain Fifty Fathoms, and the Rolex MilSub, taking some of their most iconic features and bringing them together. From the Seamaster’s rectangular indexes to the MilSub’s sword-shaped hands to the large hashes that make the 60-minute bezel of early Fifty Fathoms so distinct, this is a something of a combination homage watch.
The Sealander measures 41mm in diameter and the case is polished on the sides, while the tops of the lugs are brushed. The dial features a subtle cross-hair, a feature more commonly found in dress watches, which draws the eye to the center of and away from the date window that sits between 4 and 5 o’clock. The hour indexes are applied and filled with C3 Super-Luminova, which glows bright and has a faux-aged color in the light.
There’s no doubt this is a good looking vintage-inspired diver, but there are certainly many others like it. The question is, could the Sealander perform where it’s supposed to, i.e under the water? Well, it uses a screw-down crown with triple gaskets to achieve a water resistance rating of 300m, and the oh-so-important rotating bezel, which is often very loose on watches at this price point, snaps into line perfectly with the index markers every time you turn it. So that’s a positive.
The grooves in the crown are rather large, an obvious advantage when it is used under water by a diver wearing neoprene gloves, but perhaps a little too sharp for land-lovers like me. It felt uncomfortable to the touch when handled in dry conditions.
The watch is powered by an automatic ETA 2824, a robust workhorse of an automatic movement, produced en masse in Switzerland. It has been used to power countless inexpensive wristwatches by companies such as Sinn, Hamilton, and Breitling, amongst others. Eza Watches had started offering the Sealander with a Citizen Miyota 9015 movement as well, but ultimately dropped it in favor of the Swiss-made ETA movement after receiving some (fair) criticism for overpricing their product. It’s good to see a brand respond like this rather than by pretending a problem doesn’t exist.
The new ETA 2824 movements, which offer 40 hours of power reserve, are checked by Adriaan himself (the co-founder studied watchmaking at Vakschool Schoonhoven, the same school Bart Grönefeld attended) and adjusted by hand in six positions before assembly. Even better, Eza has decided against increasing the price of the new watch, even though it’s spending more on the movement.
The Sealander Automatic costs €701.65 (approximately $782 at time of publishing) and is available with either a blue or black dial, each with a matching ceramic bezel. Personally, I prefer the black, the blue is a little bright for my taste. The watch is shipped in a very nice presentation box, and comes with a leather carrying roll, a free strap changing tool, and a NATO strap. It’s a nice package to unwrap, for sure.
I love to see watch companies, especially new ones, present fresh ideas, but not all of them can. The Sealander is not the most original watch, but what it borrows are some of the best features from the most recognizable diving watches. Once put together, these very different pieces actually come together in a surprisingly coherent puzzle at an attractive price.