Posted on May 10 2022
That's a big boast. Depending on your adventure, the wild can throw a lot at your watch. Can your tool watch fulfil its role when put to the test?
You've seen affordable watches that look rugged and tough. But how many of them can excel in the field?
I'm reminded of that popular quote about ships - "A ship in its harbour is safe, but that's not what ships are for".
That applies to watches.
Of course your watch is going to be fine when you're sitting at your desk at work. Answering the phone won't be a challenge. But what about in the dark? In the rain? How good is your watch when you're halfway up a cliff face?
That's when we see which watches can really do the job. It's where we see the difference between good and bad watch design.
Draken - a brand inspired by the mountains of South Africa - take this challenge a step further. They want you to think of your watch as a companion in your adventure. A tool that won't let you down.
Let's take a closer look at their first chronograph model.
Draken Kruger Chronograph Watch Review
Draken watches are all substantial pieces and the Kruger is no exception. It's wide, thick and gives off a tool watch vibe. My first impression is that this is a well-built watch with a clear purpose.
Created in tribute to South African Anti-poaching Tracking Specialists, a portion of the Kruger’s profits will go towards supporting the ATS.
Given the rugged appearance, you might be surprised to hear that the Kruger is reasonably light. It's also comfortable to wear. That's due to two features - the titanium case and a quartz movement. We'll take a closer look at those and the fully lumed dial in a minute.
First, let's look at the design.
Like all Draken watches, the Kruger has its own character. The brand creates original designs with the house style favouring rugged aesthetics.
The Draken is faithful to the company ethos and aims to meet the needs of customers looking for a reliable and practical watch. A watch that can play hard.
In the Kruger - the brand's first chronograph - that vision has given us a contemporary-styled watch with a simple colour palette.
The legibility is achieved through contrasting black against white and by the use of simple numerals. The bezel, crown and pushers are all thick, reinforcing the idea that this watch was designed to take a few bumps.
It has 300M of water resistance and a Seiko mecaquartz chronograph movement. There's a slight aviation aesthetic to the dial and hands, although it's not obvious. But on a versatile watch designed for the outdoors? It works.
As I noted above, looking the part isn't enough.
The specs and build quality need to back up the appearance and marketing. So let's dig deeper and see what the Kruger really has to offer.
The Draken Kruger Mecaquartz Chronograph in Detail
Draken is keen to point out that a watch like the Kruger is built for the outdoors. It takes inspiration from life's adventures.
In practical terms that means the watch should be able to deal with the elements. If the Kruger really is going to be a reliable companion it needs to be able to withstand a few knocks and submersion in water. And of course, it needs to be easy to read and operate in the dark.
Finally, it also has to be comfortable to wear for extended periods.
It's a lot to ask from a watch priced around the £300 mark. Particularly, when you remember that Draken doesn't recycle other brands' designs.
At its most basic, the Kruger will succeed or fail based on its case.
For a reliable tool watch, the case is at the core of the design. The water resistance, toughness and wearability all rely on a well-designed case.
And it's clear that Draken has put a lot of effort into getting this right.
The case is 44mm wide and just over 14mm thick. So this is on the larger side. But that increased width does mean that there's plenty of room on the dial. In turn, meaning more space for the time and chronograph features.
And this is where we find the first slightly uncommon detail.
The case is made from titanium.
If you're unfamiliar with this metal, it's both stronger and lighter than steel. It is also corrosion-resistant. So, ideally suited for a watch that needs to be strong, but not overly heavy.
I like it. It feels practical and well thought out. It's lightweight, but strong. It can get wet, but not corrode. And titanium is extremely biocompatible. It won't irritate your skin.
The case itself is angular, with sloping lugs that help with comfort. It doesn't wear like a large watch. Instead, it wears similar to my 42mm models.
The crown guards - there for protection rather than aesthetics - are quite discreet. The crown is impressive. It's heavily knurled and is signed with an attractive lumed logo. And of course, to help achieve the 300M water resistance rating, it screws down.
The brand's name is also etched into the side of the case.
Again, a nice touch that isn't too common. And the whole package has an attractive bead-blasted finish. The combination of the darker titanium and the bead-blasting reinforces the idea that the Kruger is a tool rather than a piece of jewellery.
The chunky bezel is in keeping with the case style and uses 120 clicks. Great lume is also crucial to the success of the Kruger so the ceramic bezel has lumed numerals. The bezel itself is easy to turn, even with gloves, again adding to the practicality.
Overall, the Kruger's case looks industrial. It's clean, angular and has a plain finish.
That darker look is paired with a contrasting white dial. And this is again where you'll appreciate the thought that has gone into the Kruger's design.
The white dial is very easy to read, despite being quite busy. The larger case means that the dial isn't too compressed - so it avoids one of my least favourite compromises. Sub-dials cutting into the numbers.
The Draken mostly avoids this and the two symmetrical and textured sub-dials fit nicely into the layout. Remember, the whole dial is lumed too, making this a highly legible watch. It's a feature that I recently saw on the Momentum Wayfinder - another titanium tool watch.
Again, Draken has utilised something a little unusual here. The domed sapphire crystal has ten layers of anti-reflective coating.
Yes, ten layers. That's why it photographs so well.
And what are you reading on the Kruger's dial?
The outer track has the standard 12hr scale, with a neat date window tucked away at 6 o'clock. The subdials include a 60-minute chronograph counter and a 24hr scale. At 6 o'clock, above the date, is a basic sub-second hand.
It all works for me. It's symmetrical, logical and legible.
The dial layout is completed with bold aviation-style hands and a blue chronograph second hand.
Turning the watch over reveals a stunning case back. Whist the industrial feel is still evident - perhaps more so than from the front - the titanium screw-down case back displays an artistic flair.
On the rear is a moulded white Rhino, a reference to the ATS rangers of the Kruger region in Southern Africa.
This is a good place to mention the bracelet.
It's full titanium and wears really well. There's an industrial edge, with a continuation of the clean angles of the case. It works here too and adds to the cohesion of the design.
I'm a big fan of quick release pins on straps and was pleasantly surprised to see that feature on the Kruger. I was also happy to see that the end links are female styled, once more helping to keep the overall size down.
The Kruger is a tough watch. It's also light and comfortable. Those two features mean that it's definitely worth a closer look. Then you have the fully lumed dial and lumed bezel. Both are practical features.
Finally, there's the chronograph complication provided by a reliable Seiko movement.
Taken all together, I'm confident that the Kruger would make a great adventure companion.
Who are Draken Watches?
Draken is a young microbrand that burst on the scene with a debut crowdfunded model in 2017. That watch, the Tugela, summed up the brand's vision.
It's a rugged watch designed for the outdoors and inspired by South Africa's landscape. It has a distinctive appearance that references traditional Zulu art. It is named after the river that flows through the Drakensberg mountains, the region from where the Draken name is derived.
And that's because this New Zealand based brand has its roots in Africa. Founder Michael Blythe, a well-known figure in the microbrand watch community, is South African born.
His intent was to create a brand that built tough and rugged tool watches. Importantly, he wanted to combine unique designs and high specs while still remaining affordable.
Judging the company from my experience with the Kruger, he seems to be achieving his goals.
Following the Tugela came the Peregrine - a pilots watch that features a power reserve indicator hidden in the logo.
Since then, Michael has released a number of similarly themed watches. Each is built with the same goal in mind - to be unique, reliable and affordable. In 2019 he also tweaked the Tugela design.
Like many smaller watch brands, Draken is one man's vision. That laser-like focus has created a house style that is cohesive and has been well received by watch fans.
Draken watches are available from the brand directly and from several specialist dealers.
The Draken Kruger lives up to the brand's boasts.
The company's founder is clear that he wants to create unique watches that are "inspired by nature, built for the outdoors". And he wants them to be affordable and accessible too.
The Kruger ticks those boxes.
It has a distinctive design that is in keeping with Draken's other models. And it has features that make it a great bang-for-buck. The lightweight titanium case, the fully lumed dial and the ten layers of AR coating - they all make this watch stand out from the crowd.
Crucially, they're all practical considerations. They're each utilised to make the Kruger resilient whilst also being comfortable to wear.
And of course, there's the White Rhino on the back.
Draken watches reference - in design and marketing - the founder's African roots. The Kruger raises funds for the Rangers on the frontline. Purchasing the Kruger helps those working to preserve the landscape and wildlife that inspired the watch.