Depthmaster By Nivada — Hands-On With The Iconic Pac-Man Watch
The last time we heard about Nivada, everything was about the Chronomaster. It was the first model the resurrected brand released to the market in many iterations. Now, it is not a secret that in the foreseeable future, we’ll see some more renditions of iconic models from Nivada’s past. This week the Depthmaster, a classic diver from Nivada, will hit the shelves.
For most of us, the Depthmaster name is equivalent to Pac-Man, but that model is only one version. Nivada will come out with a few variations of the Depthmaster, just like the brand did with the Chronomaster.
The original Pac-Man
Nivada launched the Depthmaster in 1965 as “probably the world’s most waterproof watch.” Many models proudly displayed the number “1,000” under the model name on the dial, referring to how deep one could have taken the Depthmaster. Indeed, it was rather unusual to have a commercial diver watch on the market with a depth rating of 1,000m. However, this was not the only feature of the Depthmaster worth mentioning. Due to its unusual cushion-shaped case and thick steel bezel, collectors started to nickname it the “Mini or Baby-Panerai.”
Nivada marketed the Depthmaster with two dial variants.
One dial had a conventional design; one had an abstract design. The “traditional” version had large, lume covered even numbers and long thick indices instead of the odd numerals as indexes. The second dial design, however, only had four numerals (3/6/9/12) interspersed with big triangular indexes. Initially, you could get it with or without the date, and the digits had a weird angular shape. Therefore, vintage collectors coined the term Pac-Man for the apparent resemblance to the famous 1980s arcade game.
The Depthmaster returns
Nivada brought back both dial variants, so the Pac-Man made a return too. As we saw already with the Chronomaster, numeric and Pac-Man dials will be available in several alterations. Since I’m a vintage guy, my favorite has to be the one with a black base color, faux sand-color indexes, and only “Nivada-Grenchen” and “Depthmaster” on the dial. That’s the watch I wore for a few weeks. Certainly, this is the closest version to the original you can buy this time around. There will be five dials design altogether — three Pac-Man and two numeric versions.
Furthermore, Nivada offers four bezel styles. While the case body remains the same shape, different colors are available. Lastly, five sets of hands will also be up for grabs. So, technically you could create your very own Depthmaster or stay as close to the original as you want. While I love individuality, I’d go with the latter.
Size does matter
While the OG Depthmaster was 38mm, the new Depthmaster “grew” in size but only by 1mm (46.8mm from lug to lug). I believe that this is a sweet spot for most of us. If you fancy smaller timepieces, 39mm is still an acceptable size. On the other hand, should you be a fan of larger watches, this diameter would not look small on you either. Due to the automatic movement, the case is not the thinnest at 13.3mm. However, it is still not disturbingly large given the nicely balanced diameter. The same goes for the screw-down crown. It is large enough so that you might use it comfortably, but it’s not ominous. For versatility, the Depthmaster’s strap width is 20mm.
Though the top of the steel case and the case back are brushed, the drilled lugs’ sides and underside have polished finishing. The 120-click unidirectional aluminum bezel, just like the case, is polished and has a 60-minute scale. One peculiar element was a 15-minute scale where every minute is marked. Afterward, only every 5-minute has an index.
The most important feature of the original Depthmaster was its water resistance to 1,000m. Consequently, the new Depthmaster has the same rating as its vintage counterpart. One element that you obviously could not find on the old model is the automatic helium escape valve. The current watch will have that at the 9 o’clock position. Although it is there, the valve is a minor deviation from the original look it does not affect wearability or my enjoyment of this reissue.
The original Nivada Depthmaster had an ETA movement beating inside its case. An automatic caliber with 18,000vph, the ref. 2472 was favored by many brands at the time. While I’m sure this is an unintentional similarity, the “new” Depthmaster houses another brand favorite: the Sellita’s SW 200 (both date and no-date versions). The parameters are slightly better here. The SW200 has 28,800vph, 26 jewels, and about 38 hours of power reserve. When we talk about the movement, it’s also worth mentioning that the new Depthmaster, just like its vintage sibling, is Swiss made. There is a tiny Swiss marking on the dial rim under the 6. Nivada wanted to keep the dial’s original design and so decided against adding a larger Swiss-made designation. But the fact remains: these watches hail from Switzerland.
The new Depthmaster has a flat, sapphire crystal and Super-LumiNova coating on the indexes and the hands. You can see both hand designs in my photos. Most Nivada Depthmasters I have seen had a sword minute-hand and a round-tip hour hand. On some vintage models, the minute hand is the same, but the hour has an arrow shape. For the new models, you could pick either variation. When it comes to the seconds hand, there are many versions out there. From red leaf hands to lollipop or stick hands, vintage Depthmasters can be found with all sorts of running indicators. Most of those old school options will be available for these new watches too.
Good to know
Nivada offers the Depthmaster for two different price segments. The price will be €850 (CHF 920, $1,000) on leather or Tropic-style rubber strap. If you opt for the steel Bead of Rice or expendable bracelet (like the one you saw on the Chronomaster), the price is slightly higher. You’d have to pay €1,050 (CHF 1,135/$1,275). I had three watches with me, one on each strap option. My favorite (by far) was the leather. Sure, it adds to the vintage feel, but it was also comfortable and soft. For those who prefer a modern-looking watch, I guess the steel or the rubber might be a better choice.
These are the facts, but is it worth buying the Nivada Depthmaster? Well, there is fierce competition in this price segment (good news for consumers). It all comes down to your preference when it comes to the looks. If you like smaller timepieces with automatic movements that might be quirkier than the average, I’d say the Depthmaster is something to consider. It is not only a conversation starter but a well-built and affordable diver with a crazy depth rating. If you’d like to check out the new Nivada Depthmaster and order one, click here.