Posted on June 07 2023
You'll have heard that saying a million times, usually because it rings true. It's certainly something that resonates with watch enthusiasts.
Why change a successful watch design?
If a watch functions well and buyers love the style, what would be the point of reinventing the wheel?
It's why many brands make a Flieger-style pilot's watch or a Panda-dial chronograph. They're proven designs that will always sell.
It's also why many companies make a Submariner-style dive watch. It's now an established style that transcends individual brands. It is the picture many of us have in our heads when we hear the term 'dive watch'.
So when young British brand Pompeak debuted its first dive watch that's the aesthetic they chose. A popular and recognisable style that has been tried and tested - and arguably, not bettered.
I got my hands on the distinctive waffle dial version - let's see what I thought.
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Pompeak Sub-Aquatic (Waffle Edition)
Pompeak Sub-Aquatic Swiss Automatic Watch Review
It's an exciting time for British watch brands. Over the last year or so I've had an impressive and eclectic bunch of British watches cross my desk. I was more than impressed by Bremont's bronze militaristic Broadsword and had to read the instructions to learn how to tell the time with Mr Jones' quirky Ascendant. I've worn MHD's motoring racing-inspired beauties and got my hands on William Wood's tribute to British Fireman.
From Timor to Shore Projects, we seem to be launching exciting new brands left, right and centre. And one of the young companies that grabbed my attention is Pompeak, a brand founded by two brothers who hit the ground running after their early success on Kickstarter.
Dave and Noah launched the brand in 2017 and gave their debut collection the moniker The Debut Collection. The simple minimalist quartz watch was a satisfactory opener and the brothers were clear that they intended to slowly and carefully grow the brand.
Next came the Gentlemen's Collection, a refined open-heart watch with a Japanese automatic movement. It definitely felt like a step up from the Debut.
And now we have Pompeak's first diver.
I'm pleased to say that, once again, this watch feels like another advancement. It's a legitimate diver's watch, with 200M of water resistance and a rotating ceramic bezel. But the big story for watch geeks is what the brand describes as "British design meets Swiss movement".
Yes, Pompeak's first dive watch is powered by a Swiss automatic movement. It's a bold step by Pompeak - it's an upgrade in both specs and price - but it certainly feels like a natural progression.
Let's take a closer look at the Sub-Aquatic dive watch.
Pompeak Sub-Aquatic (Waffle Edition) Watch in Detail
Despite the familiarity of the design, Pompeak has made an effort to differentiate the Sub-Aquatic from other dive watches. This is evident when unboxing the watch. The glossy black packaging is impressive and suggests that Pompeak are offering more than a tool watch or daily beater.
And my first impression of the watch itself?
It certainly looks the part and a quick inspection confirmed that. It feels substantial and has a pleasing mix of polished and brushed surfaces. The polished areas reflect the light, but the dark dial counteracts this, ensuring the watch retains the functional diver aesthetic.
The 40mm stainless steel case is as anticipated. It's mid-sized and comfortable and benefits from reasonably chunky crown guards. It does exactly what I'd want from a submariner-styled watch at this price point.
So as you'd expect, it's also topped with a utilitarian 120-click bezel. The black bezel is uni-directional, crafted from ceramic and another crucial element of the dive watch DNA. There's also a prominent signed crown that reinforces the impression that the Sub-Aquatic is well-made.
Of course, for a new brand to have success with its interpretation of a classic look, there needs to be a USP. On the Pompeak Sub-Aquatic the distinguishing feature is the dial. It's stunning (but difficult to photograph!).
It features a waffle texture that you'll have seen on luxury watches like Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak - referred to as a tapisserie dial - and Tissot's popular and affordable PRX. It's on-trend and when you have one on your wrist it's obvious why. Pompeak's take on this feature is a gradient deep blue and, for me, is definitely the watch's highlight.
The dial text is kept simple and there's a date window in the traditional 3 o'clock position. The lumed markers are authentic to the submariner vibe, but the hands differ from Rolex's Mercedes style. I like that. Again, it gives the British-designed watch its own character. The dial is protected by a double-domed sapphire crystal.
The rear of the watch boasts an exhibition back and showcases the Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement. If the front of the watch showcases Pompeak's creative flair, then the back represents modern Swiss watchmaking knowledge.
Those two sides of the coin pair up well and make the watch a success.
The Sellita movement has a good reputation and, despite the higher price, offers an upgrade to the popular Japanese movements often used by microbrands. The SW200 has 26 jewels, a 38hr power reserve and is decorated with Pompeak's name.
Finishing off this variant is a robust stainless steel bracelet. It's a handsome addition to the watch and would be my preference over the rubber option - although rubber would probably be the first choice for use in water. Remember, with 200M water resistance and a screw-down crown, this is a legitimate dive watch so it doesn't have to remain a desk diver.
But I'm not a diver.
So for me, the stainless steel bracelet - with its alternate brushed and polished links - would be the go-to. I'd also suggest that it gives the watch a sophisticated edge. Like the crown, it's signed with the brand's distinctive peaked logo and it is equipped with a sliding clasp for rapid micro-adjustments.
It finishes off the watch well.
The Pompeak Sub-Aquatic is available in 4 editions and prices begin at £610.
It's a phrase I use too often, but it applies to the Pompeak Sub-Aquatic - it does the basics well.
I mean that literally.
It's a dive watch that looks like a dive watch, functions like a dive watch and ticks the boxes you'd expect of a dive watch.
Where it differentiates itself is in its branding as a young British company and in the use - on this edition - of an attractive waffle-style dial. The specs make it a good all-rounder. It's a versatile watch that can work just as well in the sea as in an office. And importantly, the design has enough originality to stand out from the crowd.
I'm passionate about British watch brands and I'd expect to see Pompeak grow in the same way that I've watched other young brands develop.