Not too long ago, we had the pleasure of reviewing Héron’s previous model, the Gladiateur and interviewing the brand’s three founders. Through listening to the owners, we got an insight into how the watch came to be and their decisions. Ultimately, they wanted to bring an attractive and well-built watch to the market at a price that most would deem affordable, and they succeeded by those parameters. Their new watch, the Marinor, is a dedicated dive watch which, at first glance, seems to be a collection of the greatest hits of dive watch design. Though it is easy to criticize the Marinor for simply taking design cues from iconic dive watches and leaving it at that, we will elevate the discussion and focus on its execution and the landscape that makes this possible. In their press release, the gentlemen at Héron have clarified that the Marinor is a tribute to their favorite dive watches. Thus, discounting the Marinor on the grounds of familiarity or unoriginality is unfair and misses the watch’s mission.
So, with this in mind, does Héron’s Marinor manage to carve out an identity of its own by augmenting and leveraging what came before, or does it fall into the abyss of forgotten watches that merely strive to replicate the success of the established? Here, we aim to answer this question as we put this watch through its paces on land and while scuba diving, all while considering what it takes to bring such a watch to market in 2023.
On the Wrist
With classic design cues and a bezel measurement coming in a hair under 40mm, the Marinor wears like the ultimate dress diver. This is a subclass of the dive watch, usually smaller, thinner, and more classic and subdued in its design. Our review sample came in a charming and soft brown, which elevated any attire it was paired with. This specific model is named the Pequod. Its 29.5mm dial sits below a beautiful boxed and domed sapphire crystal, which slopes downward to the curved sapphire bezel. This gives Héron’s new dive watch a vintage and classic posture, making it so versatile that it could be the only watch you’d need. The aspirational goal of creating a watch that is good enough to be one’s only companion for years is achieved here. I know several professionals who treated themselves to a dive watch from Omega or Rolex to commemorate their first paycheck who have never bought or worn another watch since. Further adding to this is the overall feeling of quality and assuredness in its cohesive design. This is vital, for the Marinor’s mission would fall apart without this.
Many people, enthusiasts of dive watches, and those who had never given watches a second thought all liked how the watch looked, and many of those in the latter camp said that it looked familiar. This is telling, and it does shine a light on the fact that the Marinor does borrow from many designs. We will return to this in the final section of the review.
Héron Marinor Specs
$620 ($435 Kickstarter)
Dial and Hands
The muted black and grey dial comes off as brown. This optical trick is accomplished by the bezel being brown, and the softness of the dial takes on the colors of its surroundings. This makes it an excellent option for multiple colorways, of which there are many, and this illustrates that the three gentlemen at Héron know what they are doing. This dial welcomes the wearer’s eyes with a fume pattern that darkens toward the edges. Brown dials have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, and for good reason. As auction houses sell vintage watches with beautiful patina brown dials, it is only natural for these traits to trickle down and deeply into all corners of the market. So, if you like brown dials but do not necessarily want to live with one every single day, this is a great option. The gentle grey fused in with the black plays well into the vintage look of the watch, as do the beige-colored luminescent indices. Save for the beautiful star at twelve, the indices are instantly recognizable as those from a Rolex Submariner. This is also true of the lollipop seconds hand and its dimensions.
While on the subject of the hands, the hour hand’s broad arrow recalls the many watches from Omega, which have countless other smaller brands such as Lorier and Serica. Our discussion shall pivot into what makes the Marinor remarkable – its execution.
First, the star at twelve has been described by others unanimously as “gorgeous.” When I first saw photographs of the watch before receiving it, I was unsure about the prominent star. In person, I was convinced, and so were others. To some, it does compete with Héron’s avian logo underneath, which has the brand’s name further underneath it. Even so, to my eye, this does not lead to a cluttered dial, for other smart decisions brought stability and equilibrium to the Marinor.
The proportion and size of the broad arrow hand, like its caseback, which we will visit soon, speak to an intelligent designer at the helm. Nathan Elkaim is noted to guide the company’s design, and the decision to make the arrowhead on the smaller side is brilliant. This further aids the grace and the dress watch functionality of the timepiece. This hour hand is referencing the Omega’s, which is often larger on the Omega’s. The restraint and decision to change the proportions of the arrowhead should be applauded. The minute’s hand reaches past the well-applied indices, making this an extremely legible watch.
The Marinor’s superior legibility was cemented when taken on two dives recently in the gloomy and dreary lakes here in Ontario. The polished and faceted hands clearly tell the time from all angles, and while at depth, the Marinor proved to be a worthy companion for diving.
While diving with 3mm gloves, the bezel of the Marinor performed flawlessly. Dampened to be slightly on the stiffer side, the bezel proved reliable and accurate. The coined edge of the bezel is on the thin side, which may lead some to believe it to be slippery, but this notion dissipates once you apply pressure and start rotating the bezel.
The numerals and five-minute markers are pleasantly luminescent underneath the domed sapphire bezel. The strength of the luminescent paint used throughout the watch is adequate and well-balanced. The typeface used for the numerals in the bezel was wonderfully chosen. The overall aesthetic of the Marinor as a luxury dive watch is truly brought together with this bezel. The bezel’s color leaned towards a dark burgundy on this specific pre-production model. This added to the watch’s character, and if the production version shares this trait, you should be pleased.
The Marinor uses a 1200HV hardened coating for its 316L stainless steel case. This results in a slight grey finish, highlighting the gradient finishing on top of the lugs. This was more apparent while underwater due to the aforementioned murky conditions. My time underwater proved to be the highlight of my time with the Marinor, for its beauty was amplified when viewed through my dive mask.
The case survived the day’s dives without a blemish, and the crown guards did their job as advertised as the Héron was occasionally pressed up against the cuff of my dry suit. The crown features a graphic of a wheel one would see at the helm of an old ship. The crown operates precisely as it should for this price point compared to its competition. It is slightly wobbly when fully extended but is secure and offers a pleasant winding experience. The Miyota 9039 performed well and is again a solid and reliable choice.
Covering the movement is one of the most striking casebacks I have ever seen. Like their previous model, the design of a seaman smoking a pipe is incredibly well designed. The attention to detail that Héron has shown here is impressive, for it speaks to this team’s level of talent. Each time I saw this expertly crafted and designed caseback, I kept thinking of the possibilities if the trio put their heads together and created a truly original timepiece.
The bracelet follows in the footsteps of the brand’s previous watch in that it is simple and straightforward. It is fully brushed and articulates well in this case, making the watch extremely comfortable.
Aiding in its comfort is its clasp, which features an extension. While giving you an extra 5mm of adjustability, this type of extension clasp is primarily meant to be adjusted as one’s wrist swells and not for use over an exposure suit while diving. The clasp itself is handsome, but the extension mechanism seems to be either the same one used by Christopher Ward or one that is almost identical in design. The strength of this design is in how sturdy it feels when fully extended. The extension uses a notched railing system, activated by pulling a button down and pulling the bracelet in the opposite direction. Since the extension mechanism covers the bracelet’s entire width inside the clasp, slight side-to-side motion makes it feel secure. The drawback to this design is that when looked at directly, it looks unsightly. It flexes separately from the clasp and the bracelet, which only draws attention to itself if you are looking for it. In practice, it is secure, discreet, and a welcomed addition.
When speaking to others, I was in the extreme minority regarding extension clasps on watches. Though they offer greater comfort when one’s wrist swells throughout the day, they add complexity, an extra point of failure, thickness, and, ultimately, not much more comfort than a quality clap with many micro-adjustment holes. From a diving perspective, I have never found dive extension clasps useful, especially in polluted or salt waters. After each day of diving, I disassemble the watch I dove with on that day. I inspect and clean the spring bars and every pin possible so the watch is ready for the next day. These complicated clasps add several potential failure points that are next to impossible to service and clean quickly.
Héron’s new timepiece, the Marinor, is a beautiful piece of jewelry that can do some duty underwater if needed. Where the Marinor shines is in its execution. You are getting your money’s worth at the full asking price of $620 USD, but there is a lot of competition within the industry at or near the $700 price range. The watch will be available on Kickstarter on October 24th at $435; at this price, it is harder to find arguments against such a purchase.
We rarely see original designs within this price range from smaller watch brands. The only exception to this is Vero, who employs one of the most talented watch designers currently working, Matthew Smith-Johnson. With this in mind, I have complete confidence in recommending this watch to anyone who finds its design appealing and one that they would wear. Furthermore, Héron will release up to twenty-one dial and model variants of the Marinor, so you will have plenty to choose from. You may want to note that 19 of those will be Kickstarter exclusives. From looking at the press release, the Caribbean Blue, reference 3002-A, looks gorgeous and would most likely be my choice.
The biggest strength of the Marinor, and why the $700 price range at the end of the day makes sense, is its choice of materials, movement, and highly cohesive design. This results in a perfect daily companion regardless of one’s wardrobe choice on any particular day. Héron continues to succeed in its goal of bringing beautifully designed watches, with designs typically reserved for much more expensive watches. They also manage this at a price and a build quality that makes wearing them a joy, with little thought about damaging the watch.
Héron’s three founders should be proud of their achievements with the Marinor. Suppose only they would apply their design know-how, capacity, and love for watches toward an entirely original watch design. In that case, we may have a Canadian brand that stands out and will be remembered well into the future.
Check out more Héron reviews at The Watch Clicker here