I’m not one to bury the lede, so here it is: The Clemence Photic Diver does everything it aims to, and does it well. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you buy it, you’ll be happy with it. This review is basically a showcase for all the great things about it. Now you know.
The eponymous brainchild of Tom Clemence, the brand is the culmination of a lifelong love of watches, born of his grandfather’s Universal Geneve. The brand’s first model, the Photic Diver has some vintage-inspiration and keeps things slim with little fuss but lots of flair. It takes its name from the upper 200m of the ocean–the photic zone. But you’ll find it’s far too versatile to be kept to the deep.
On the Wrist
I told you there wasn’t anything wrong, and look! Clean case, with a stellar sunburst dial, gilt indices and a thin bezel. Everything works together. And those 12 and 6 numerals are just killer.
And never mind this case. Sleek and near true to its 12.5mm (ish–the official spec is a 10.7 case with a 1.5mm crystal, but the lowest i could get with my calipers was 12.5mm). The bracelet fits perfectly and is solid. All the metal sits easily on the wrist, and the gentle curve takes about .3mm off–a negligible effect, but better than nothing.
As you’ll see below, the watch isn’t a one-trick pony. In fact, it’s not a pony at all. And it pairs well with tons of straps. One thing I always look for in a watch is the ability to not just aesthetically pair well with straps, but also to wear comfortably with a strap. The Clemence Photic Diver does both with grace and aplomb.
An absolutely perfect sunburst here. The signature Photic dial bright, oceanic blue into that deep black at the outer edge. The Clemence Photic Diver is also offered in a oddly intriguing matte black dial and a solid blue sunburst, without the gradient to black. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the options.
Some may not be a fan of the bronze gilt accents–available on the Photic and the black dial–but I think they work splendidly here, and were I to buy this watch, this is the version I’d get. The warmth of the surrounds and the hands against the coolness of the blue-to-black dial is a perfect contrast.
One of the real standouts to the dial is the election to just use numerals at 12 and 6, and with a great font. It’s a design choice about which many have commented, with high praise. The other feature that seems to be getting people excited is the thin, domed sapphire bezel, which I think works here, despite the bezel style often not doing much for me.
Its refreshing to see a truly affordable watch that has so perfectly nailed its lume: quick charge, bright, and even. Can’t go wrong.
Case and Bracelet
The screwdown crown could use to be a skosh larger, but is definitely workable (I didn’t say the watch was perfect, I said there’s nothing wrong with it–there’s a difference, though I may be splitting hairs). Note, too, the coin edge bezel. On a watch with a short bezel like this, you want to maximize grip, and a coin edge doesn’t do that unless you get the tension just right. I gave that feedback to The Good Mr. Clemence, and two weeks later he told me he had done just that, and the bezels tension will be improved to allow for easy, secure operation. You’re welcome, watchfam.
The drilled lugs you undoubtedly spotted above make up for the lack of quick-release bars on the bracelet (which is rapidly becoming my preference on bracelets, if not on straps). Display caseback with decorated rotor? Sure. Why not. I guess you either decorate the rotor or decorate the caseback, and lots of people like to see the “spinny part.” In any case, it’s a fine display caseback.
The bracelet is changing: the tolerances will be improved (though they weren’t problematic at all) and the links will be slightly thicker. I can’t say whether the diver extension label will remain, but it did make me chuckle. And while the flexibility of a ratcheting clasp is undeniable, this watch is a sleek diver and as such, I think it will be better off with a sleeker clasp. Okay, so maybe this is one thing the watch didn’t nail. But here’s hoping the production model resolves the disparity.
Boom! Leather/rubber hybrid strap change.
Boom! Suede strap change.
Boom! Leather strap change. Oh, and the watch comes with a black tropic strap–not picture here, but without issue.
One of the greatest puzzles of the Clemence Photic Diver is why it inspired me to do the photos with XBOX 360 games and controllers. Blue goes with green? Maybe that was it.
The Clemence Photic Diver is a great diver that the brand correctly describes as a “go anywhere, do anything diver.” When you specify such things with a diver, the watch doesn’t just have the specs to handle your seaborne adventures, but the class and elegance to accompany you to the theater, a nice dinner, or your next interview. And the Photic Diver does it all with ease.
The watch will be available this summer via Kickstarter. And if getting a great watch weren’t enough, each purchase will see the brand plant a tree to help reforest Scotland.
Check out more dive watch reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Clemence Watches website
Clemence Photic Diver Specs
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal