Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Certina DS Action Diver in Black C013.407.11.051.00

Certina is a brand whose name doesn't come up often when discussing Swiss watches, unless you're in South America, Europe, or Asia, and perhaps not even then. It's lack of popularity notwithstanding, the name represents what may be one of the best sleeper watches to come out of Switzerland, with quality at least on par, and in several cases exceeding that of other Swiss brands.

Belonging to the Swatch group, its popularity is eclipsed by it's stablemates Tissot, Hamilton and Mido on the mid-tier segment, and Longines and Rado on the higher-range end. It compares favorably in terms of heritage, being founded in 1888 and its timepieces seeing action in various historical endeavors including mountain climbing, marine research, winter sports, sailing, various motorsports and exploration in general. Despite its storied history, the brand remains relatively obscure affording an atypical level of exclusivity among those who are  aware of the virtues of its watches.

Case in point is the watch featured in this review, the 200m water resistant Certina DS Action Diver. First introduced in Baselworld 2011, it stands toe-to-toe with its Swatch Group stablemates which include the Tissot Seastar 1000, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Sub, the Mido Ocean Star Captain, the Longines HydroConquest (reviewed earlier here) and the Rado D-Star 200. Outside the Swatch Group, it's peers include the Oris Aquis Date (reviewed earlier here) and perhaps the Victorinox Swiss Army Maverick Mechanical (which is only water resistant to 100m).

Despite the somewhat crowded mid-tier Swiss dive watch segment, the Certina DS Action Diver holds it own with notable scratch and water protection via its proprietary Double Security (DS) concept. The DS concept consists of number of technical features, which include a scratch-proof sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, O-ring gasket in the stem, two O-ring gaskets in the crown, a caseback gasket, and reinforced caseback. The DS concept is not limited in application to the Action Diver, but extends throughout Certina's entire watch line.

The DS Action Diver is the only one among it's peers with an ISO 6425 certification for dive watches, a distinction it proudly states on its dial. This means that aside from the aforementioned scratch and water resistance afforded to it by Certina's DS Concept, it also boasts notable condensation, thermal shock, magnetism, corrosion, and shock resistance, along with durable straps and bracelets as well as superior legibility. This watch is clearly a true dive watch, and not intended to be a mere desk diver.

The watch itself features a contemporary-sized 43.2mm brushed stainless steel case with mostly unchamfered edges (except for the top edges of the lugs and the crown guards) giving it a no-nonsense functional appearance, which is balanced out by a relatively slim 12.3mm case thickness allowing it to slip under most shirt cuffs. It possesses perhaps one of the best case finishing seen in a Swiss dive watch worth less than 1,000 USD with consistent brushing all throughout. Lug-to-lug length is a moderate 48mm, making it wear the right size for most wrists except exceedingly small ones. Lug width is 21mm, which is typical for this type of watch, though the odd-sized lug width will probably turn off those with a preference for aftermarket straps. The included Oyster-style double folding clasp with dive extension bracelet which is solid all throughout also features a brushed look, and matches the case perfectly. There are four half-links included, allowing for a more customized fit. In perhaps the only nod to cost-cutting, the links are secured with split pins, instead of pins and collars or screws.

Topping all of these is a rotating, 60-click unidirectional dive bezel with a glossy black insert finished in acrylic, instead of the usual aluminum or ceramic. Some may balk at the use of acrylic as bezel insert material given its lack of scratch resistance, but this is offset somehow by the fact that acrylic can easily be refinished using a scratch remover such as PolyWatch. The bezel edge features rectangular teeth for extra purchase, finished in polished steel. Bezel feel is robust, a bit on the stiff side, with little indication that it can rotate inadvertently.

The dial consists of a matching glossy black dial with applied hour indices with silver surrounds consisting of an inverted triangle at the 12 o'clock position, rectangles at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions and circles everywhere else. Despite the commonality of these dial elements with the Rolex Submariner, the DS Action Diver doesn't really come across as a Sub homage, especially when the rest of the elements of the watch are considered. The hour hand is arrow-shaped, while the minute hand is sword-shaped. The second hand is painted white near the center of dial and red towards the end, with a lume ball ("meatball" to some) a third of the way to the very tip. A date window is situated between the 4 and 5 o'clock indices and the date wheel is in a matching white text on black background. There is a total of six lines of text on the dial in varying font sizes (seven if you include the "SWISS MADE" inscription at 6 o'clock) which some may find distracting, but to me it doesn't really detract much from the overall appearance of the dial.  In low light conditions, the hands and indices emit a cool blue glow courtesy of the generous application of  Super-LumiNova® BW-G9.  Duration and intensity is just average though. The bezel also features lume from the 12 o'clock position up to the 20 minute mark.

Performing timekeeping duties is a Standard grade ETA 2824-2, a hacking/handwinding 25-jewel, 28,800 bph movement with a 38-40 hour power reserve. Screwing and unscrewing the signed crown is buttery smooth with little possibility of crossing or stripping the threads unless one is extremely ham-fisted or insists on using inordinate force. Action when pulling the crown to the first and second position is clean and deliberate, and setting the time and date is pretty much effortless. Handwinding, as with most other 2824-2 movement based watches, can be a bit stiff.

Caseback is solid, with a laser etching of Certina's turtle logo.

The Certina DS Action Diver is available at most authorized dealers here in the Philippines modestly discounted to around 730-750 USD. Online, they can be quite a steal at around 500 USD on either rubber or bracelet.  As far as Swiss divers is concerned, you'd be hard pressed to find something with better bang-for-the-buck.

Some photos:

DS Action Diver.



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