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Dietrich SD-1 Review

Sublime perfection

It is now commonplace to visibly see shoulders start shrugging whenever someone is told about the struggles of others during the pandemic. The fatigue surrounding the pandemic is real, but this gives us cause to celebrate when good people rise above staggering challenges and bring beauty into this world. Emmanuel Dietrich was ready to put all of his efforts behind a new venture called Atelier Watch. This new venture would have brought creative forces into a focused effort and to made concepts a reality. With bringing Marshall Kai onboard, an idea sprang forth for a new watch that would once again bring a unique timepiece to market under the much-celebrated Dietrich brand.

Known for timepieces that are bold, organic in their designs, and unique, the new Skin Diver 1 would blaze a new trail for the brand. Dietrich’s customer base could comfortably be categorized as watch enthusiasts, and with having a young watch enthusiast in the company, the new SD-1caters to recent tastes that have been maturing within the market for over a decade. The result is an engaging and gorgeous timepiece that has you, the watch enthusiast, to thank for existing.

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A Little History

Emmanuel Dietrich came to design at a very early age. Being raised by a mother who would reply to a request for a new toy by saying he should simply make the toy himself helped. As a result, unlike other children in small rural villages in France, little Emmanuel asked for tools for his birthday and for Christmas, not toys. Pretty soon, Emmanuel had amassed a substantial studio. This would lead him to studying design, first interior design and then cabinetmaking, before landing his first job within the watch industry at Hermès through sheer persistence. In 2010 he established his own brand, and here he was finally able to design and create the watches that he desired. His initial watches, the Snow and the 2014 release of the Organic Time, proved that his ideas and design language needed their own brand. Strikingly organic in every facet, Dietrich expanded his model line towards the very haute horology-esque design of the Perception. 

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In 2017, the brand released a very important watch named the Time Companion. The design had been refined but added the now-identifiable Dietrich hexagonal bracelet. I reviewed the Pure Time Companion series earlier, and those two watches in collaboration with Matt Smith-Johnson further distilled the Time Companion models into future classics that not only look terrific both on a night out and in the boardroom, but they look like they belong in a premier art gallery in Manhattan. In 2019, the DD-1 was introduced, and this timepiece brought back the very bold and biotic design elements such as the leaf-inspired hands. This time, the unique case was the highlight.

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In 2021, after a very difficult time in the industry for everyone, a new employee by the name of Marshall Kai came up presented Emmanuel with a concept briefing for a new watch and a new direction for the brand. Marshall Kai is no stranger to the world of watches. While studying and eventually working as a young lawyer, Marshall he had started The Matick Blog, which is a Malaysia-based community / initiative surrounding not only watches, but all things that deserve your enthusiasm. Last year, Marshall decided to dedicate his efforts towards watches, and thus, his work at Dietrich started.

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On the Wrist

This brings us to the most recent release by Dietrich, the SD-1. Asked to pitch an idea for a new timepiece, Mr. Kai focused on what is important in his life. The calm and collected incidents that bring steadiness and equilibrium are the exact things that most of the world had been robbed of due to the pandemic. With this mindset, he Marshall set forward with a design brief that Dietrich himself took to, and then the magic happened.

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Deciding to turn towards a skin diver allowed Dietrich to make their first dive watch. This also allowed the brand to make arguably their most functional timepiece also their most elegant. Though this watch is very eye-catching and received non-stop compliments when I wore it, it never goes out of its way to get in the way of the user’s experience. With a slender 12mm tall case, and an overall size that is very friendly to all but the largest of wrists at 38.5mm, this Dietrich is a departure from the brand in terms of sheer size. Opting to go the route of a smaller and thinner skin diver, the SD-1’s wearing experience in reality is close to that of a dress watch. This is especially true if you are accustomed to wearing modern professional dive watches and chronographs. Whether on the bracelet or on the supplied rubber straps, this is one exceedingly comfortable watch. 

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While the watch is comfortable at all times, it also exudes a sense of calm that was very intentional. This begins with the dial.

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Dial Details

When deciding between the Tropic Green (a Gnomon exclusive), Suave Black, or the Pacific Blue, I opted personally for the last. This was because the initial design briefing of the dial was that it should replicate the feeling and what one sees as emerging from the surface after a free dive. While on dives, my dive buddy and I are usually the first to take the giant stride off the boat. There, then we wait for the rest of the dive group to make their way into the water so we can help them with any issues they may have with their equipment. These moments before everyone signals that they are ready to descend are typically peaceful. Looking down at the dial of the Pacific Blue SD-1, I am reminded of when the waves impact my goggles, and as I periodically scan the dive site below. Whether starting, or ending your dive, the brief moment where one occupies the space between the underwater world, and that of above, is where the dial of the Dietrich SD-1 perfectly replicates.

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To achieve this, Emmanuel Dietrich went to great lengths. The dial’s base layer has a beautiful fumé effect with a soft white that gives way to the prominent colour of the watch, in my case blue. The next layer of the watch is sapphire, with the printed indices that include lumed hour markers. The viewing experience is prepossessing, and succeeds in its mission to replicate those moments while in the water.

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The date is at 6 o’clock, and is brilliantly positioned within the hour marker. This doesn’t break the symmetry of the dial, and further makes the SD-1 a perfect candidate as someone’s only watch. The hands see a return to the leaf-inspired hands of Dietrich’s previous works, and they further differentiate this timepiece from others in the market, which is one of this watch’s strengths; we will return to this in the final section of this review. The hands are finished in the same colour as the blue dial which further makes this timepiece cohesive in its design. It would have been tempting to finish the hands in a polished manner to further aid in legibility, but brute functionality is precisely not what this watch is striving for.

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With all of these elements working together, the net result is a watch that you cannot help but stare at whenever you have a free moment. Like everyone else, currently when I have a moment of downtime, my initial instinct is to reach for my phone. This was not the case whenever I had the SD-1 on my wrist. This is probably the biggest take-away for those reading this article and who may be on the fence about ordering an SD-1. This watch is so darn beautiful that it eradicates one’s smartphone addiction and the horrid social media apps, and replaces it with a watch that only improves as you start to look at it from varying angles. This watch is that beautiful.

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Bezel, Case, and Movement Performance 

The theme of zen by the water is continued with the fully lumed sapphire bezel. The bezel has a slight overhang which helps the user rotate it, and this is needed. The bezel action is very tight, and has no play. The details of this bezel are astounding when you decide to take a closer look. Sure, like other dive watches, the bezel has knurling to aid grip. Here however, the grooves start out thin and expand only to become thin again meeting at flat surfaces which reside at the 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55 minute markers. This is what happens when a storied designer makes a watch. There have been many thin dive watch releases over the last two years at this price point. The very retro-inspired Halios Fairwind and the Nodus Duality, direct competitors to the SD-1, come to mind. Where these two watches have some very fetching and unique design details, the SD-1 is an entirely new design. 

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The case incorporates a closed bonnet design between the lugs that results in a seamless transition from the case to the strap and bracelet. Between those lugs are where the model designation of SD-1 and the water resistance rating of 150m reside. Even though the case comes with a bracelet and rubber strap that both use a quick-change springbar setup, the case still has drilled lug holes. This level of attention is appreciated in a watch whose customer base is as demanding as the enthusiast community. The case primarily has a very soft brushed finish. The polished sections are reserved for the edges of the case, and those are polished rather softly, thus further enforcing the calming personality of the watch. The space between the dial and the bezel and the outer rim of the caseback is also polished.

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This brushed finishing on the top, with polished edges carries over onto the very distinctive and comfortable bracelet. What makes this bracelet incredibly comfortable is that the hexagonal centre links allow for a fair amount of flex as one moves his wrist. The underside is brushed and has small channels that allow for minimal hair-pulling. Where the bracelet truly impresses is in its butterfly clasp. The clasp has a brilliant perlage finishing that is simply breathtaking in person. Within the mid-section, Dietrich and stainless steel can be found printed in a small size. The underside of the clasp is polished. All this detail makes this a watch that constantly gets compliments. A dear friend of mine who really does not like wearing watches fell in love with this bracelet. In the many decades of knowing her, I had never seen her have such a positive reaction to a watch. The operation of the clasp could not be more secure and is just a delight to use.

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The rubber strap provided is either blue for the Pacific Blue model, or black for the green or black offerings. The top of the strap has a fine hexagonal texture while the underside has three deep grooves running along the strap for breathability. The tang is yet another place where the SD-1 owner can enjoy an unrivalled amount of detail. The tang is beautifully shaped. Its base extends outwards in a manner that makes it incredibly easy to grip, and Dietrich is laser-etched on the top. Two keepers are used, and the one closest to the tang is secured with four protruding half triangles. Both the bracelet and the strap taper to 16mm from the 20mm lug width.

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The crown, like the bezel, is lumed, and has a fish as its logo. Operating the crown is comfortable and it has minimal wiggle when fully extended. Manually winding the Sellita SW200 movement is as good as can be expected, and mine has been consistently running at +4 seconds a day.

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Final Thoughts

On the heels of their beautiful Pure Time Companion series, Dietrich has made an even more beautiful watch. The experience of wearing this watch is not to be downplayed. People who opt to wear such timepieces do so because they appreciate design and are not happy with yet another watch which either steals all of its design elements from other watches, or simply adds a twist to an already established design theme for a category of watch.

By instilling new blood, and a potently intelligent person such as Mr. Kai, Emmanuel Dietrich has once again made the world a more beautiful place with his designs and careful quality control. A successor to the SD-1 is in the works, and from conversations with Mr. Kai, the SD-2 will lean toward a functional design that will be appealing to those who want a more bold and athletic design. Watch this space for updates.

Check out more dive watch reviews at The Watch Clicker

Check out the Dietrich website

Dietrich SD-1 Specs

Case Width
38.5mm

Thickness
12mm

Lug-to-Lug
46.2mm

Lug Width
20mm

Crystal
Sapphire

Strap
Bracelet

Water Resistance
150m

Lume
Yes

Movement
Sellita SW-200

Price
$1,050

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