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Reef Tiger - The 7 Best Watches From Exciting & Controversial Brand

Posted on March 08 2021

Reef Tiget Watches

I want to believe. I really do.

But was there a Swiss watchmaker called Stephane Reef? And did a British nobleman, with the unlikely name of Leandro Tiger, tour Switzerland in the late Victorian era?

Apparently, there was and he did. These two heroes became best friends and Reef Tiger was born!

Oh, but then the company folded. Or as their website states “It had to shut down all the experience centres”.

But wait! That’s not the end of the story.

Five generations later and the two families meet again. Michaell Reef and Audrey Tiger decide to revive the brand.

Reef Tiger is reborn!

I want to believe. I really do.

The Best Reef Tiger Watches


Ok, this is the part where I tell you a little of the brand’s history.
Well, I would do if I could work it out. They mention Switzerland a lot and occasionally that the watches are French designed. They have a co.uk website.

I don’t know.

The consensus seems to be that they’re a modern Chinese company. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a fan of Chinese watches.

So let’s just work from that assumption. They’re a Chinese brand that makes some interesting watches - quite a few homages to real Swiss watches.

With that in mind, here are the best watches that they currently produce.

Reef Tiger Deep Ocean Watch

This is why I took an interest in Reef Tiger watches.

In my piece about Blancpain Fifty Fathoms homage watches, I included the Deep Ocean. It’s a very affordable clone of the iconic Swiss diver. There’s no innovation or originality.

It’s simply an inexpensive way to get the vintage dive watch experience. That works for me. A couple of hundred pounds for an attractive watch with a reliable Japanese automatic movement.

And it is a legitimate diver. It has 200M of water resistance and a tough sapphire crystal.

Blancpain did the hard work for this design when they debuted the Fifty Fathoms at Basel watch fair in 1953. It’s a beautiful look - the distinctive design being a result of the watches functionality.

Whatever your thoughts about Reef Tiger, and homage watches generally. This does its job well. It’s a chunky piece that faithfully recreates the luxury Swiss model. I particularly like this variant with the mesh bracelet.

If vintage divers are your thing - and they should be. Then this is a great place to start.

Reef Tiger Deep Ocean RGA3035-YLY

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 15.2mm Thick
  • 24mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 


Reef Tiger Bauhaus Watch

This is Reef Tiger’s Bauhaus design. A simple minimalist watch inspired by pre-war German design. It’s a great looking piece that benefits from a domed sapphire crystal and an automatic movement.

Bauhaus watches are a popular style and the Reef Tiger ‘Classic Legend’ is true to the design ethos. There are no unnecessary features - just three hands and a date window.

Even the dial text is kept to a minimum.

If you’re familiar with Bauhaus watch design, you’ll appreciate this model. It’s spartan, understated and works best in plain black. There’s very little to set it apart from the original Juhngan’s Max Bill. When you envision a Bauhaus watch, this is the picture that you see in your head.

At 42mm it’s larger than your average minimalist watch, but that caters to modern tastes and will be a plus for a lot of men. It’s not a cheap watch - but it’s still a quarter of the price of some German brands.

Reef Tiger Bauhaus RGA8215

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Reef Tiger World Time Watch

This World Time watch is also known as the Artist Geographer. That gives some idea of the watches inspiration. It’s a luxurious travel watch, created for ambitious men. This model is particularly good value for money.

Why? Because it’s less than £300 for an automatic watch with several complications. Some you'll use and some you won't.

It is actually up for debate whether the World Time zones actually work. Think of that feature as decoration rather than a useful function.

Where this watch appeals to me is in its design. The overall appearance. It's busier than I'd normally wear, but it works for me.

I suspect it works because it's very close to Jaeger‑LeCoultre's Master Geographic. And the Master Control line is a favourite of mine.

Like the JLC it is has a silver dial and sub-dials with bold blue accents. The Reef Tiger mirrors that restrained design. It allows for a complicated dial layout but it doesn't become cluttered.

The second crown is unusual and gives the watch a distinctive appearance.

If you're not a dive watch fan, this is a cracking alternative Reef Tiger model. It has a sapphire crystal and a Chinese-made SeaGull automatic movement. There's plenty of bang for your buck.

Reef Tiger World Time RGA1951-YWB

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 13.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal


Reef Tiger Respect Watch

Half of the fun with this brand is working out what their watches do. This beauty says on the dial that it's a chronograph. But the movement appears to be a triple-date.

It's intriguing. The Japanese Miyota movement is good. It's a selling point in its own right. A very affordable watch that also notes the day, date and month. You'd think that would be enough.

But no. The text on the dial incorrectly states it's a chronograph.

You know what? Like the fake Swiss history, I don't care. It's an attractive watch that again comes in at less than £300.

£300 for a decent watch with a branded automatic movement? I can live with that despite the fibbing.

And it is a good-looking piece. It has a strong vintage style with plenty of colour. But it's not colourful. The colours feel functional and are saved for the markers, hands and minute track.

There's a nice symmetry to the design and I like the date window tucked away at 6 o'clock. I'm not as keen on the sub-dials cutting into the numbers, but that is a common practice.

At 42mm it's not authentic if judged against vintage models. But it is a very comfortable size for a modern watch.

The mesh bracelet rounds the design off well.

Reef Tiger Respect Ltd Ed RGA9122-YWYO

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Reef Tiger Classic Imperator Watch
Imperator means Commander in Latin. So that’s a pretty cool name for a watch. There might even be some Roman history in the Reef Tiger back story. Who knows?

Regardless, this is an appealing watch.

It's available in a few variations with this white dial version being the best looking. It's an attractive dress watch with a charming dial. Not too flamboyant to wear at work, but not too plain either.

There are straightforward indices rather than numbers and a very simple colour palette. It's uncomplicated and is frugal with the design. We have a touch of blue on the hands and a ring of texture on the dial.

It's enough to catch the eye, but not enough to ruin the simplicity.

And the specs? Again it's a mechanical model powered by a reliable Japanese movement. There is a sapphire crystal and it's all housed in a mid-sized case.

It's a good quality dress watch that you're unlikely to see on anyone else's wrist.


Reef Tiger Classic Imperator RGA8015-YWY1

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Miyota Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



From Rome to contemporary America.

The next model that I want to highlight is a more sporty watch inspired by Seattle's Space Needle. It's less dressy than the Imperator and takes its design cues from the iconic observation tower.

This time the dial is textured throughout, and the indices are bolder. That describes the watch well. It's a bold design, preferable to a lot of the brands more generic skeleton models.

It benefits from this boldness.

The confidence in the design creates a handsome watch. The red contrasts well with the black dial and the quirky date window draws the eye. Between those and the three dial sections, there is plenty to keep you interested.

The case has nice curves. The smooth crown guards protect an ornate crown and the case back has an exhibition window. The movement you can see is a SeaGull automatic with a signed rotor.

Again, it's a size that wears well. 41mm wide and only 10mm thick. Overall, I'm impressed.

Reef Tiger Seattle Space Needle RGA166-YBYR

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • SeaGull Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Reef Tiger Classic Heritage


The final watch I'd like to present from this odd brand is a classically styled model. It's appropriately named the Classic Heritage.

It's a spartan dress watch that is successful because of its understated design. It's plain, black and uncomplicated. Sometimes that's all you need.

It works for the Rolex Explorer and Datejust and it works here.

Black is the most popular colour for men's watches and there is a reason for that. It's conservative and compliments most clothing. There's always going to be a market for an inoffensive watch like the Classic Heritage.

Reef Tiger seems to use a variety of movements and this model has Seiko's NH35A workhorse. It's a strong movement, famed for its durability.

There's no colour here but silver and black are enough. The indices are large and help keep the dial highly legible. The only real flair is the over-sized crown. It's reminiscent of those used on aviation watches.

I'd suggest that this is a good watch for the money.

Reef Tiger RGA823G-YBY

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


It's always fun to discover new brands. Particularly when they produce automatics with interesting designs. And Reef Tiger is a relatively young brand worth exploring.

It can be a little frustrating when you can't find out a great deal about the company. And in this case, the back story I found sounds like nonsense.

But I don't care.

It's an amusing tale that drew me in. Probably for the wrong reasons. But I still ended up digging deeper.

Trust me, this is a Chinese brand in the same vein as Corgeut and Parnis. The mention of Swiss heritage and French designers? Take it with a pinch of salt. It means as much as the two words that they use on the bottom of the dial - Swiss Tech.

But if we judge them on that basis. As an affordable Chinese brand, then I'm quite impressed. They have some great designs, albeit often being homage models.

I've highlighted my favourites, watches I genuinely like. Now I'd love to hear about yours.


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