Posted on June 02 2022
This affects dive watches.
They have a tendency to become convoluted. Understandably so. There are a lot of challenges when a watch is designed to go into deep water. And there's always competition to offer higher specs and new features.
But over time one thing has become apparent. Simplicity has its own appeal.
Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest answer is usually the best. And there are watch buyers that prefer a straightforward solution. They don't want colour and flair. Instead, they want an unpretentious tool. They want a simple watch that is waterproof and reliable.
In the 1960s the watch industry offered a solution - the Skin Diver. A plain dive watch with a pared-down design. These watches gave recreational divers their minimum requirements. They were both affordable and practical.
I'm a big fan of this style and Armida does an authentic Skin Diver model. I finally got my hands on one, so let's take a closer look.
Armida A12 Watch Review
The Armida A12 is a recreation of the Skin Diver watches of the 1960s. And that's how I first approached this watch.
How faithful is it to a vintage dive watch?
The answer should be obvious from a quick glance. The Armida A12 looks like an authentic 1960s diver's watch. It's modestly sized, simply laid out and features the angular case style used by watch brands of the day.
If you're after a modern Skin Diver watch or an alternative to Seiko's pricey 62MAS reissue, then the A12 is an obvious choice.
However, there are a couple of things that the Armida needs to do right, and they're worth noting before we get into the details.
First is the size.
It's 38mm wide - a size I'm enjoying more these days. For a vintage-inspired watch to feel authentic the size needs to be in keeping with watches from that era. I'm glad that Armida appreciates this and has opted for a smaller case.
Next is the styling.
Skin Diver watches were a reaction to the colourful and fashionable dive watches of the 1950s. Watches like the Zodiac Seawolf and the Rolex Submariner. Skin Diver's in contrast were spartan and tool like and it's an aesthetic that the A12 has embraced. It acknowledges that this style of tool watch is there to tell the time underwater and nothing more.
And that leads us to the last must-have criteria.
The A12 needs to be able to do that one job. It has to be able to take knocks and go with you into rivers and the sea. With 300M of water resistance and a Japanese-made automatic movement, I'm confident that this is a reliable dive watch.
Now that we know that it ticks the most important boxes, let's take a look at the Armida A12 in more detail.
The Armida A12 Automatic in Detail
At the risk of repeating myself, the Armida A12 is a vintage-styled dive watch in the vein of Seiko's debut diver, the 62MAS. It shows that a tough watch, used for sport and recreational diving, doesn't have to be big, chunky or colourful.
Instead, the A12 and similar models are slim and unobtrusive with a pared-down style. The simple colour palette and uncomplicated dial mean that the A12 is also a versatile watch. As you'll see, it looks very different when the bracelet is changed. You're not limited to wearing this watch with casual clothing.
But like most watches, it's the details that will help you decide if this piece is going to work for you. So let's start with the case.
Skin Diver watches have a recognisable case style. They're angular, with long lugs and strong lines.
In practice this means that the A12 - modestly sized at 38mm wide - actually wears bigger. The lug to lug size is 48mm and slightly offsets the slim width.
The lugs are gently curved making the watch comfortable to wear. The lug width is 20mm, rather than the 18mm I might have expected. It means that the strap or bracelet can be quite substantial and the lugs thinner.
There's a lack of refinement to the case that is authentic to the era and that may take a little getting used to. The slim elongated lugs feel almost sharp around the edges, although this wasn't noticeable once the watch was on my wrist.
But I can't overstate how important getting the case right was for this watch. So much of the charm of a vintage-inspired piece is the authenticity, and the A12 has that in buckets.
It's why I loved this watch the minute that I had it in my hand. It feels like the real thing.
So the case is fully brushed and has drilled lugs. There are no crown guards and the crown is prominent and knurled. As expected, it's also signed and screws down.
The dial is of course in keeping with the Skin Diver ethos. It's a delightful sunburst grey - about as flamboyant as a watch like this is going to get. I found it difficult to do the dial justice in my photographs.
The dial layout feels utilitarian, with large applied markers and a neat date window at 3 o'clock. The hands match this and are accompanied by a basic second hand. All are lumed with C3 and have a very functional appearance.
There's a domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating.
Finally, there's the bezel. Armida offers two options, the sapphire insert of this watch and a version with a grey aluminium insert.
Turning the watch over, there's an attractive case back with the familiar Armida pattern and related text. The screw-down case back does protrude, giving the A12 some additional thickness.
Overall the case, dial and bezel all deliver.
They give me what I want from a Skin Diver watch and it scratches the itch if you're put off by the price of Seiko's alternative. And that is why a lot of people will have this watch on their radar. It's essentially a well-made homage to the Seiko 62MAS.
And that brings us to a notable point.
This watch is powered by a Seiko Automatic movement.
Armida has opted for an NH35A movement. It's the same one that I chose for my Northwind Armstrong model and it's also in the Neminus diver I recently reviewed. It's a very reliable workhorse of a movement that is used in many microbrands around this price point.
As I mentioned, the watch comes on a stainless steel bracelet. It's a good choice and has a distinctive H-style construction. But having sung the praises of the watch for its slim and lightweight design, the bracelet offers a chunky contrast.
It has solid end links and a substantial clasp. The clasp has the Armida logo and a neat little feature. It has a diver's ratchet extension. This allows you to make micro-adjustments on the go. It's great to see a real-world feature, something that divers will actually use.
Overall, the bracelet, end links and clasp feel almost industrial. Certainly, they give the impression that the bracelet is practical rather than cosmetic.
But for me, the rubber strap was my first choice.
The plain black colouring and the mesh design reinforce the vintage aesthetic that I find so satisfying about the A12.
It also reduces the watch's bulk, something that I found beneficial.
The packaging has a similar feel.
The A12 came in a leather watch roll which again enhanced the functional appeal of the watch. With the William Wood Valiant, I wanted the luxury experience - and they delivered with multiple layers of quality packaging.
But with the Armida A12, I wanted functionality with a retro twist.
And they delivered too. The watch roll does feel functional - containing only the watch and the spare strap. And of course, the strap was easy to swap out with the help of the drilled lugs.
And that sums up the A12. It delivers.
I wanted the Skin Diver ethos and a true homage to those 1960s watches. I got that in spades. I also wanted the mid-sized case and Armida came in with the perfect 38mm. And I wanted functionality. The A12 delivered with 300M of water resistance, a screw-down crown, a sapphire crystal and a 120-click bezel.
And of course, it has a Seiko automatic movement.
If you want an affordable retro-styled Skin Diver watch, then the Armida A12 ticks the boxes. It has the charm of a 1960s sports watch but with the build quality of a contemporary microbrand.
It's also very affordable. Much more so than Seiko's take on the Skin Diver aesthetic.
For such a simple-looking watch there are quite a few smaller details that Armida had to get right for it to be a success. I'm pleased to say that they did so.
The smaller case, the spartan layout and the legitimate dive watch specs all combined to make the A12 a winner.
It looks like an iconic retro diver. But it was also built to do the job - it can perform when needed.
And that was the ethos of the original Skin Divers. Simple, lightweight dive watches that didn't cost the earth.