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Draken Tugela Review

Bringing back the affordable dive watch

We first covered Draken watches last year when we took a look at their pilot/field watch, the Aoraki. Draken fits into the microbrand world of unapologetic adventure watches that are overbuilt and aggressively styled yet affordable. Think Boldr or Gavox. Their latest watch, the Tugela, is a dive watch that somehow feels familiar yet has enough originality not to feel derivative. Let’s jump in.

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On the Wrist

The Tugela comes in at 42mm wide, 48mm lug-to-lug, and 14mm thick. While these dimensions aren’t trending with the slew of 36mm sports watches we have seen over the past couple of years, they are on brand for a purpose-built dive watch. The Tugela wears its 42mm case width well and is thinned out on the wrist because of a wide bezel that brings down the dial size, which makes the watch look a touch smaller.

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Featuring angles upon angles, the Tugela is strictly contemporary in its design. From angular lugs to the handset and markets, this watch isn’t trying to win over watch people looking for soft curves and rounded case sides. The Tugela has all the right design choices to make these angles work, especially the bead-blasted case. It helps it fit into the tool watch aesthetic with ease. 

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One could say the Tugela almost fits into the tacticool realm in some ways. Aside from the olive drab color scheme, the Tugela comes packed in a nylon case designed to attach to a MOLLE (a modular cargo system used by many militaries) system and features hook and loop closure. While this is part of the branding of the Tugela , it helps define its identity, and the rest of the features I will outline below further reinforce that point.

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Draken Tugela Specs

Case Width




Case Thickness


Lug Width


Water Resistance



Bracelet and Nylon Strap






Seiko NH35



Dial Details

I had two Tugela in for review. They had the same dial layout but different bezels, steel, and color-matched. Working out from the middle of the dial, we are first greeted with a large sword handset. Reading the time on the Tugela is nothing short of easy peasy, considering the size of the hands, and the minute hand features an orange surround. This aids in reading the time and easily distinguishing it from the hour hand if you were to take it diving (because we all wear our divers to go diving, right?).

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The luminous markers are an array of geometric shapes which provide easy orientation. I don’t often stand around in the dark trying to read the time on my watches, but I will admit having a 12-hour marker that is slightly different from the rest does make the nighttime reading task a little bit faster. 

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The markers are flanked by minute hash marks and a date aperture at 6 o’clock. An orange ring to accent the minute hand surrounds the aperture. Draken kept the dial clean with only their logo at 12 o’clock and branding text at 6 o’clock. I’d be even happier if they dropped the Automatic text. 

The bezel is wide and bold. The numerals and hash marks are legible, and the color-matched versions are filled with lume. The bezel teeth are effortless to grip, and the 120 clicks are torqued just right. It is easy to set the timing bezel, but it won’t move if it gets caught on your shirt sleeve. 

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Case and Straps

As mentioned above, Tugela’s case is bead-blasted, so we won’t discuss finishing to any degree. However, that doesn’t make the case lacks character. The lugs feature a chamfer, which adds another angle to the case and takes away from any sharpness that would exist if it wasn’t there.

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The sides of the case slope inward, creating a visually attractive profile. My one complaint about the case is the Draken branding text on the left side of the case. While everyone has their preferences, case branding has never buttered my bread. I didn’t like it when Norqain did it, I didn’t like it when Invicta did it, and I don’t like this one. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone ask me what brand of watch I was wearing, and I responded by showing them the side of the case. Smooth it out and spend the machining cost on something else. 

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The large crown guards protect the equally large crown (which has a lumed logo). The crown is 7mm in diameter and has superb knurling, which aids in operation. 

Draken includes a passthrough strap with the Tugela and is color-coordinated to match the watch. While I certainly appreciate the extra strap offered, I’m starting to wonder if extra straps should be elevated. Imagine if your favorite dive watch came with a bracelet and a fitted rubber strap. Now, that would butter my bread. Granted, I don’t think the price point of the Tugela supports that extra cost (but maybe it would if they dropped the branding on the side of the case). I’m nitpicking here, and it isn’t entirely fair to the Tugela, as the nylon strap is of fantastic quality with excellent hardware. If nylon straps are your jam, you’ll like this one.

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The bracelet is equally well-manufactured. The links articulate well and are small enough to get a solid fit when sizing the bracelet. The clasp is your standard dive clasp with a foldover closure and plenty of micro-adjustment holes. 

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Final Thoughts

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The Tugela packs a lot of great stuff into the MOLLE pouch it comes in, and if this isn’t a brand that has been on your radar, it is time to get with the program. I’ve been impressed with the watches Draken puts out. While they won’t be gracing the covers of GQ anytime soon, they certainly deserve a place on your wrist, especially if you fashion yourself the outdoor adventurer type. 

When I sat down to write this review, I forgot what the watch cost. Looking back at some of my photos and remembering the time I had it on my wrist, I was placing it in the $750 range and was shocked to see that it was $450 when I checked Draken’s website. I won’t sit here and say that the Tugela “punches well above its weight,” but instead, it represents a value that is disappearing from the microbrand watch world. It wasn’t long ago that $450 dive watches were the norm, and now it seems they are the exception. 

Check out more Draken reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Draken website here

More Images of the Draken Tugela

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