The Watchuseek internet forum is one of the most vibrant horological communities on the web. The contributors to the various sub-fora regularly collaborate to produce small runs of unique custom edition watches. We tried the new Emperor Diver for a week to see how it compares to the big brands.
A Week on the Wrist – Watchuseek Emperor Diver
The latest product of the Watchuseek F71 affordable watch forum is the Emperor Diver. The project been coordinated by none other than Ed “HKED” Tse, who produces a popular version of the Seagull 1963 which we reviewed back in the early days of WRUK. The watch is named after the Emperor penguin, which is also the subject of the laser etching on the watch’s case back.
The Watchuseek Emperor Diver has a strong set of specifications. The design elements were all voted on by members of the Watchuseek community as it was developed. It is powered by a Seiko NH35 movement with (blue dial models) or without (brown and black dial models) a 6 O’clock date function. The watch is housed in a 40mm 316L stainless steel case with a domed sapphire crystal. The Emperor Diver is water resistant to 200 metres and features a full-lumed diver’s bezel. The bezel has a nice positive action, and the green lume looks amazing in the dark (and in low-light too). The screw-down crown (which will be etched with a penguin logo in the production run) has no crown guards, for an authentic vintage look, and the drilled lug holes make strap changes simple.
It’s a really nicely built watch: everything is finished well with no sharp edges. There are no chamfered edges between the brushed top and polished sides, but the lines between the two finishes are still very crisp. I particularly liked the way the case is designed to give the illusion that the watch is far thinner than it is. It’s a similar technique to that of most dive watches, many of which base their looks on the Rolex submariner’s thick case back and relatively thin sides.
The Emperor diver watch case actually narrows a couple of millimetres before the case back starts. Together with the 40mm case diameter it makes the watch feel really slim and very comfortable to wear. It’s a nice change from the modern tendency of ever-bigger tool dive watches. They all say it, but this watch would genuinely work under a shirt-sleeve as well as under the sea.
Dial and Hands
The Emperor Diver has understated hands, which will please those for whom Mercedes hands are too fussy, and want something that is legible underwater. The simple pointed hands are lumed in a lovely vintage cream to match the large indices, which take the form of truncated triangles.
Black, blue and brown dials have been produced, with this brown model probably being my least favourite. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with it, but I think that it falls somewhere between the ultra-clarity of white hands on a black dial and the “pop” of blue. On the other hand, this model is the only one with the vintage lume, which I think looks amazing. If I had to pick a fault, it would be the fact that the bezel is lumed in white and glows green. In both light and dark it it does not match the colour of the indices.
Bracelet and Clasp
The bracelet is a real stand-out feature of the Emperor Diver. It was the first thing I noticed about the watch. Most dive watches in this price range have something like the Rolex jubilee bracelet or a simple rubber strap. Each link is a seven-piece “beads of rice” design. The removable links are properly screwed, not fitted with split pins, which is unusual for an affordable watch. Needless to say, the whole thing looks and feels amazing.
The only bad point for me about the Watchuseek Emperor Diver bracelet was the clasp. It’s perfectly functional but is a design I have seen in many other microbrand watches. It only has three micro-adjustments and so I found it hard to get a perfect fit. My wrist size hovers right between one size at maximum extension and the minimum setting with a link added! Something like the Rolex glide lock would have been fantastic, or even a diver’s extension to make it easier to adjust in daily use. The sample watch had a plain clasp but the finished model will be engraved with a penguin logo.
What I Liked
- The case is brilliant – just the right size and height, and the design makes it feel even slimmer
- The bracelet is really comfortable and well-built – and it matches the watch perfectly
- The lumed bezel looks great in low-light, the whole watch glows beautifully
What I didn’t Like
- The lume on the hands is vintage, but the bezel lume is white – it would have been nice for both to match (which they do on the other colours)
- It is on the small side for a dive watch, and those who prefer “tool watches” will be a little underwhelmed
- The clasp is functional but not quite adjustable enough for me
Watchuseek Emperor Diver – the WRUK verdict
Overall this is a really nice watch. I love the styling, and I would be tempted by the blue model. For the money ($350), you are getting a lot of watch – and a unique one at that. It gets the thumbs up from me. In fact, it gets more than a thumbs up, as I put my money where my mouth is and ordered one in blue!
Buy a Watchuseek Emperor Diver
If you’re a Watchuseek member you can keep track of the progress of the watch and order one through the Affordable Watches sub-forum. That’s if there are any left, as these projects sell out really quickly.
If you like the case and bracelet there is good news: The chassis of this watch is also going to be used in an upcoming model called the Nemo from EMG watches, which will have even more choices of dial colour, so keep an eye on their website.