My Holiday Watch — The Echo/Neutra Cristallo Professional Diver
Autumn is well and truly here. There’s no denying it. We’ve all noticed the nights drawing in and the temperatures dropping (well, all of us in the Northern Hemisphere have, at least). I don’t know about you, but I’ve even started putting the heating on here and there. The days of summer are gone, but that doesn’t stop us from seeking a bit of late-summer sun. Instead of taking a summer holiday in summer and skipping the little good weather that the UK naturally gets, I decided to take my summer holiday in October. As is the age-old dilemma as a holidaying watch fan, which watch gets the nod? Well, I took the new Cristallo dive watch from the Italian microbrand Echo/Neutra.
I got into collecting watches by collecting microbrands. While many of those pieces have now left my collection, microbrands still hold a place close to my heart. It’s increasingly more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, with many fly-by-night “brands” popping up weekly. Thankfully, some microbrands keep producing excellent-quality watches in handsome, eye-catching designs. Echo/Neutra is a perfect example.
The elephant in the room…
I want to get the blindingly obvious point out of the way right away — the dial. Yes, the faded blue-to-black hue is derivative of the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. I’m sure other watches may use this dial color (let me know in the comments!), but the Rolex is the most memorable. Aside from the dial color and the fact it’s a stainless steel dive watch, that’s where the obvious similarities end.
Echo/Neutra markets the Cristallo as a “professional dive watch”. Let me preempt those who would decry that “professional divers wear dive computers”. Well, yes, they do, but there is much to be said for mechanical dive watches too. I have heard stories (non-verifiable, sorry) that some divers prefer their computer backup to be a mechanical watch rather than a second dive computer. In case of electrical failure or a computer error, the mechanical watch is unlikely to be affected by the same forces that might cause a dive computer to fail. Make of that what you will, but if a modern-day dive watch has specific criteria, I think it’s fair to use the “professional” moniker.
What makes it “professional”?
What criteria would I specify? Well, first of all, the watch should be water-resistant to a minimum of 300 meters. Why 300 meters? Well, a 300-meter rating offers enough protection for all regular water-based activities. Still, it is also suitable for the more technical dives that require a diver to go deeper than the typical recreational dive limits. We all know that water resistance ratings are tested in highly controlled environments. In live-use scenarios, there are so many different variables that can amplify the effective pressure on a watch. Even gentle underwater currents or just moving your arms increases the effective pressure that your watch experiences. There’s lots of information on water resistance in watches out there, so I won’t open that discussion here.
The Echo/Neutra Cristallo is water resistant to 500 meters, offering more than enough for any recreational diver and most technical divers. The helium-escape valve makes it suitable for saturation diving too.
So what is the Cristallo all about?
Let’s take a look at the key details here. The Cristallo diver is a 42mm dive watch with a 49mm lug-to-lug. Proportionally, the measurements are excellent and not unwieldy. In terms of thickness, the watch measures 14mm, including a 3mm-thick crystal. Again, that’s well in proportion, although I took the measurements after wearing the watch. On the wrist, I felt that it would be a tad thicker than that, which might have been due to its weight. The Cristallo is one of the heavier watches I’ve worn, but it’s not uncomfortable. Weighing in at 189 grams, including the bracelet, you’ll know this one is on your wrist. Removing the bracelet, the watch head alone weighs 105 grams.
The case is a very classic shape, although rather nicely executed. The tapered, polished chamfer adds a nice visual touch. While the case predominantly features smooth curves, the crown guards are straighter and more angular, although also with a wonderfully polished chamfer. They add a little different character to another simple case shape. I’m not against this.
The bezel and bracelet
The bezel is a 120-click, uni-directional affair with a ceramic insert and lumed markings. Operation is smooth and easy, as one would hope and expect. The bezel markings are no-decompression times for divers — another nod to the watch’s “professional” qualities. However, no-deco timings are a little less helpful in the grand scheme. I would prefer to tweak this one element of the watch. I wouldn’t entirely remove the no-deco scale, as it can be a handy reference tool for all divers. However, I’d prefer a dual scale, incorporating one for elapsed time. Think Doxa’s SUB 300, for example. You get the best of both worlds and increase the overall functionality. That’s just my two cents; let me know what you think in the comments!
The bracelet is no slouch, either. The H-shape links offer plenty of articulation on the wrist. Perhaps the most important thing for any bracelet is that it doesn’t pull wrist hair. I’m happy to report that I never experienced that with this watch because it’s never a pleasant sensation. The clasp is well-made, and the extension mechanism works perfectly. This is practical when wearing a wetsuit but equally valuable for hot weather to counteract one’s swelling wrist! The only minor niggle with the clasp is that the inner folding part is possibly a little longer than it needs to be. I’d have preferred a slightly shorter inner section that didn’t protrude past the first attached link. As I said, there are minor niggles.
A Sellita SW279 powers the Cristallo dive watch
Echo/Neutra chose the elaboré-grade Sellita SW279 to power its Cristallo. Part of the movement manufacturer’s famous SW200 family, the SW279 features two key differences. Firstly, the central seconds hand is moved to a small seconds indicator at 9 o’clock. This is no big deal, as the seconds on a dive watch are more critical for use as an operation indicator. The small dual-ended seconds hand is lumed, so all good there. Additionally, the watch features a power-reserve indicator at 6 o’clock. This is perhaps not necessary on an automatic watch. Still, I like the interactive element of a dial-side power reserve, which makes the Cristallo stand out a little more from the plethora of dive watches available on the market.
As mentioned, the Sellita SW279 is an automatic caliber, giving the wearer a 41-hour power reserve. With an operating frequency of 4Hz and hacking, the SW279 usually features a date function, but Echo/Neutra removed the date-setting position. I like the date on my watches, but seeing as the dial has enough going on with the PR indicator and small seconds, it might have been a little too much here. No date works for me.
Live testing experiences with the Cristallo
Where better to test out a dive watch than in Cyprus, right? OK, granted, I did not take the watch scuba diving. That would have been awesome, but I need to do a refresher course before diving again. Instead, the Cristallo saw time by the pool (where I took all the photos for this article), snorkeling, and paddleboarding. That means I could not test the watch out underwater to any significant depth. I could stand up in the deepest section of the pool, and while snorkeling, I didn’t go deeper than about two or three meters while diving to peer more closely at some hungry wrasse. Paddleboarding saw more immersion, as I wasn’t the most stable on my feet. That said, I blame the waves, Your Honor. While falling off, the watch took more than a couple of whacks off of the board.
I’m pleased that the Cristallo passed this light testing with flying colors. But that’s pretty much as one would expect, given the high specifications of the watch! While the Echo/Neutra only uses regular 316L stainless steel, I had expected a few scratch-based mementos on the case. Interestingly, there was nothing of note despite plenty of contact with abrasive sand and the aforementioned paddleboard contact. That was a nice bonus! I’ve had other similar watches that have not been so lucky in similar environments!
Final thoughts and opinions
The Echo/Neutra Cristallo is a solid watch. There’s no denying that the Italian brand has always impressed its customers with the build quality of its pieces. From my experience, you can rest assured you’ll get an excellent product whenever you buy one of the brand’s watches. The Cristallo is no exception to the rule. For some, it may be a little bigger and thicker than they prefer, but that’s fine. It’s not a skin-diver type watch. This is a serious dive watch and makes no pretense of being anything less.
Thanks to the beautiful blue-to-black degradé dial, this watch will certainly suit anyone looking for a more affordable option to the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. That said, don’t let that visual comparison limit your opinion of the watch. The Cristallo offers enough personality to make it stand out and make a splash of its own. The Echo/Neutra Cristallo costs €1,190 including VAT. You can learn more about the Cristallo on Echo/Neutra’s official website.
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