I first got a look at the Dryden Pathfinder at the Wind Up Watch Fair in 2019. Dryden’s owner, Jerry Wang, pulled one of the prototypes out of his pocket to show me and the first thing I asked was, “When can I buy this?” Everything about the prototype looked good and Jerry assured me there was even more coming that would make it better.
I’m sure you’re thinking Will isn’t going to say anything bad about this watch if he loved it from first sight. This review will certainly highlight why I like this watch, as most of my reviews do, but there is no perfect watch. The Pathfinder has a lot of good things going for it. Let’s take a closer look.
On the Wrist
After a few days of wearing the Pathfinder, I was talking with our Senior Writer, Mike, and we both came to the same conclusion about the Pathfinder. It wears like an Omega Seamaster 2531 or earlier (think Pierce Brosnan Seamasters). It has a thin case profile and the lugs have a gentle turndown that allows it to hug the wrist.
Although the Pathfinder is 41mm, it doesn’t look or wear like it. The case profile is so thin, and the bezel proportions are just right, which help the Pathfinder feel a millimeter or two smaller than it really is. It’s a fantastic case study in making a watch that wears smaller than it is on paper.
Readability is of no concern on the Pathfinder. The markers stand out prominently from the dial and the hands appear almost oversized for the dial. They are wide and long, giving the reader instant feedback to the time. Dryden kept the dial relatively simple, especially on the no-date variants. A few lines of text on the entire dial keep it clutter-free.
I’ve slowly started to realize that thin cases (especially midcases) play a huge role in how a watch wears. This was one of the reasons why the Tudor Pelagos ended up not working for me; the thick slab-sided case was just not right for my wrist. The Pathfinder is the exact opposite. The entire watch is thin (11.8mm) but it looks and feels even thinner because of the properly placed chamfers on the sides of the case. The watch wears much closer to 9.5-10.5mm because of this and the fact that the caseback doesn’t jut out far. Dryden did a bang-up job executing a watch that wears perfectly.
Dryden Pathfinder Video Review
When looking at which Pathfinder to bring in, I had originally selected the black dial. This makes sense because according to our Senior Writer, Mike, I am boring. Jerry made me somewhat less boring and convinced me to bring in the blue dial. Aside from the obvious dial color difference, the blue dial is also a no-date model.
The sunburst blue dial pops in almost any light but especially shines in sunlight. I was happy to see Dryden match the bezel and dial colors. All too often I see blue bezels that don’t match the dial blue and they look off, like something isn’t quite right. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here.
The handset and markers are not anything novel, but they are done well. The hands and markers are filled with plenty of lume and the heavy brushing on the hands adds a nice amount of depth. With that said, I wouldn’t have minded seeing the hands thinned out a little. While they do maintain readability, they look a little oversized.
I also wanted the dial text to be slimmed down a little as well. I don’t mind the Dryden logo at 12 o’clock being a touch larger, but the Automatic text at 6 o’clock stands out a little too much. This effect is mitigated a little because it is light blue and blends in with the dial.
The bezel on the Pathfinder is fantastic. Bezels seem to get overlooked on a lot of modern divers; the tension isn’t quite right, or the edge isn’t grippy enough. Both of those things are non-issues on the Pathfinder. The 120-click bezel has just the right amount of tension and the small serrations on the edge of the bezel provide enough grip. The bezel is also fully lumed so it looks great at night.
Case & Bracelet
I’ve spoken quite a bit about the dimensions of the case so I won’t harp on them here. The finishing on the case is excellent. Dryden have never had an issue with case finishing; the Chrono Diver (review here) was also finished well. Where the Pathfinder excels is where the polished chamfers are placed. A chamfer on the top of the case isn’t uncommon and while a small cut-in on the bottom of the case isn’t either, the Pathfinder’s is just right. It is thin and doesn’t have a huge cut-in like some watches. It is subtle and slims down the case a touch.
Some of the hallmarks of a $500-$1000 dive watch you would expect are present on the Pathfinder like drilled lugs and a signed crown. The signed crown is interesting as it is bead-blasted. This choice in finishing gives the crown a little extra grip, which is needed because it is on the smaller side. The crown would look more proportional to the watch and be easier to grip if it were a millimeter or so larger.
Watch manufacturers seem to have heard the calls of watch enthusiasts around the world as quick release bracelets are starting to pop up on more watches. Dryden have included one on the Pathfinder. The endlinks have a spring bar with two small heads that can be pinched together to release it from the watch (and put it back on). It was a little stiff out of the box, but after swapping the bracelet a few times, it became easier to operate.
The bracelet itself is comfortable and has my favorite taper of 20mm at the watch to 16mm at the clasp. The links articulate well to drape around the wrist easily and it also has female endlinks (a personal favorite of mine as it keeps the lug-to-lug in check). I would have preferred a double push-button clasp as opposed to the flip-lock clasp, but I’m nitpicking a little there.
The Avalon is my favorite dive watch from Nodus. It also seems to be the most obvious choice to go head-to-head with the Pathfinder. They are priced the same, have similar dimensions, and even share a few common traits in their design. The Pathfinder edges out the Avalon slightly when it comes to how it feels on the wrist.
Lorier Neptune Series III
This comparison is specific to the series III of the popular Lorier dive watch. The case profiles of both watches are similar, and both are thin enough to fly under the cuff. The Pathfinder is decidedly more contemporary where the Neptune is seated deeply in the vintage camp.
The Huldra falls somewhere between the Avalon and the Neptune in its styling. The dial is undeniably modern, yet the case feels more classic. It is also like the Avalon in how it feels on the wrist, so the Pathfinder will still feel a little smaller.
For a sophomore release, the Pathfinder is a home run for Dryden. It’s not easy to execute a thin diver and maintain its water resistance and other dimensions. I’ve seen a few brands try and fail. Part of the affinity I have for the Pathfinder is because of its similar feel on the wrist to the Omega Seamaster. The Seamaster is one of my favorite watches of all time and if a watch can offer something similar for a fraction of the price, I’m all ears.
There are a few tweaks I would make to the Pathfinder, all of which I’ve discussed in this review. None of those tweaks affected my enjoyment of the watch. It is well put together and looks great; there isn’t much you can ask for beyond that. Dryden has put out two great dive watches on opposite ends of the size spectrum. Out of those two, the Pathfinder is winner for me. It is refined and well-thought out. Dryden hit out of the park.
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Dryden Pathfinder Specs