We spotted the Draken Kalahari on a Facebook watch group and were over the moon when we got the opportunity to try the watch for ourselves. Does it live up to its promise?
A Week on the Wrist – Draken Kalahari
The Draken Kalahari is a desert-themed tool watch with some unique features. First up, full credit to Draken for creating a watch that is neither a dress watch, racing chronograph nor a diver – there are so few bands exploring territory outside of these staples and it’s great to see something different. The watch is a rugged tool watch that is inspired by aviation but is certainly not your standard aviator’s timepiece!
The case is 44mm but looks even bigger thanks to the large dial. It’s comfortable on the wrist and heavy enough to feel rugged but not off-balance. The watch has two screw in crowns – the top one controls the time and the second rotates an internal bezel to track a second time zone. Everything you touch feels well-finished and smooth to the touch, and it combines a bead blasted finish with knurled edges for an aesthetically pleasing look.
Instead of having the brand name on the dial, it is engraved into the side of the watch case. This is something that divides opinion – when Invicta do it it is ridiculed but it’s considered fine for Blancpain. I found the engraving was okay – it didn’t distract me nor look out of place. The crowns are, unusually, inset with luminescent material. A cool touch which added to the feeling of quality. The case back is, unusually, neither display or steel but instead has an attractive moulded pattern and the Draken logo. A watch that is as well-built in the metal as it looks in photographs. If we had to find a fault it is that something this big and heavy is not a good choice as a daily wearer – but we doubt many buyers would choose the Draken Kalahari as their only watch!
Dial and hands
The dial in the sample we were lent for the review is a multi-layered sand-colour. It’s an unusual choice and one that really makes the watch stand out. Unusually, the entire dial is made of luminescent material and it glows like a torch after exposure to sunlight. The date is taken care of with a little wheel, as is the power reserve indicator which is actually a disc that moves around the dial to show how much energy the watch has left before it needs a wind (or a shake). We’ve never seen a power reserve like this before, which is courtesy of the watch’s Seiko NE57 movement which has a central power reserve needle rather than putting it in the usual sub-dial. It’s a neat touch and we liked the chunky styling.
The hands are of a skeletonised design which would normally cause problems with legibility but in darkness, they are silhouetted against the dial thanks to its lume and it’s easy to read. The only question mark we had was over the date. It’s in a wheel but the dates are so small they are hard to read – maybe a traditional date-wheel would have been better. We always complain when watches don’t have a date so won’t take off too many marks for this! We found the dial a little plain thanks to the large wheel. A traditional “logo” might have looked odd when it rotated around the dial but some kind of visual offset to the power reserve indicator would have balanced things just a little better.
Strap and Buckle
The watch comes on a nice leather-backed canvas strap. By the time the review watch reached us it was broken in nicely and very comfortable to wear. Some watch brands skimp and save on straps, but this one doesn’t need swapping as soon as you take the watch out of its box. Another cool feature is that the OEM straps have a quick release pin, to make swapping straps a cinch!
What We Liked
- It looks like no other watch – and we love its design
- The full-lume dial is really legible and sets it aside from the crowd
- It’s the perfect size and weight for a tool watch, feeling really solid
What We Didn’t Like
- The date printing is tiny and difficult to read – but we’d rather have it than not!
- The dial is a little plain and lacks visual balance thanks to the large power indicator wheel
- It’s a bit too bulky to use as a daily wearer
Draken Kalahari – the WRUK Verdict
For the first time in a WRUK review we struggled to find three things we didn’t like about the watch. It’s big, heavy and functional – and if that’s what you want you won’t find many better choices. We think Draken have knocked it out of the park with the Kalahari and we recommend anyone sitting on the fence to go ahead and take a punt on Kickstarter!
Buy a Draken Kalahari
You can still bid for a Draken Kalahari on Kickstarter, but be quick as there is not long left to get it at the discounted pre-order price of NZ $634 (about £324). There are loads of choices of case, dial and strap so we are sure you’ll find something you like.