Hands-On: The Alcadus Dromo Dive Watch And Opus V2 Dress Watch
One of the fun things about working at Fratello is the number of different watches that come through our doors. You might think we’d get sick and tired of it eventually, but you’d be wrong. Not every watch that passes through my hands is excellent, and indeed, some are downright shoddy, but these examples have never dampened my enthusiasm. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. So, when Malaysian microbrand Alcadus got in touch to see if I’d like to take a closer look at its two current releases, I was more than keen to do so.
Not every brand that drops me an email gets time and space here at Fratello. So any fly-by-night brands reading this, take heed. The watches need to pass a basic sight test to receive a shot. From initial press images, the watch has to look interesting enough that we think you, our loyal readers, might be interested. We’re not going to force a load of tripe in front of you and expect you to like it. Unless you actually like tripe, in which case that’s a poor example. Does anyone actually like tripe? I hope not.
Who is Alcadus?
When brand owner Yook Hong Liew first got in touch, I realized that he and I had chatted about watch design on Instagram many years prior. This was long before I worked at Fratello and before he had begun Alcadus. Why am I telling you this? Because I believe it’s essential to show that Alcadus is not another fly-by-night “brand” trying to make a quick buck. Yook Hong is a watch enthusiast like the rest of us who dreamed of designing his own watches and seeing them come to life.
Undertaking such a vision is not easy. Nor is it cheap. To do the job properly, you can sink thousands into designing and building prototypes, only for the community to reject them and leave you out of pocket, albeit with some cool watches. Indeed, this isn’t Alcadus’s first rodeo. Initially, the brand tried and sadly failed three times with campaigns that didn’t quite meet their funding goals. Since then, the brand saw an upturn in fortune and has successfully launched and delivered two previous models. At the time of writing, the Dromo dive watch and Opus V2 have successfully hit their funding goal and will be going into production when the campaign ends at 1:00 PM CEST this Friday.
The Alcadus Dromo dive watch
So let’s take a look at the watches themselves. First up is the Dromo. The Dromo is a dive watch, but not in the vein of a professional diver with all the bells and whistles. I’d firmly put it in the skin-diver class, despite boasting more than the 100m rating you’d usually expect to find in other skin divers. The prototype I have here has a 300m rating, but the production models are dropping to 200m to help shave a few millimeters off the overall height. Some may not be thrilled by this, but in my opinion, that extra 100m is unnecessary for what this watch is. I’d take a slightly slimmer watch all day long. That said, this is by no means a chunky monkey.
The 39mm stainless steel case is quite lovely and has a subtle vintage vibe going on. While measuring 13.8mm thick, it manages to feel quite slim on the wrist. This is thanks to the mid-case only accounting for 5.3mm of that. The bulk of the height is down to the chunky bezel and oversized domed sapphire crystal. The case sides are vertically brushed, and the lugs are circular brushed. Alcadus added a nice tapered chamfer along the lug shoulder too. The slimline lugs only add to the vintage-esque skin-diver feel. The knurling on the bezel could be slightly better, as it requires a firm grip to operate. I am told that this will be improved for production, but I can only comment on what is in front of me.
Clasping at straws…
Bracelets can be critical on watches at this price point, and a good or bad bracelet can make or break a watch. If a brand cannot be absolutely sure that its bracelet is the best it can be, it’s often my suggestion to go with a regular strap. In the case of a simple dive watch, a rubber strap is a great alternative. And when it comes to the Dromo, the bracelet is not quite perfect. It’s adequate, but not fantastic.
On the wrist, it is comfortable enough with no noticeable hair-pulling, but the clasp is a very basic pressed example. It works just fine, it’s slim, and it suits the aesthetic. Nevertheless, it does feel cheap. The end links suffer from a distinctly lower-quality finish than that of the case. Their shape is also not quite right when compared to the shape of the lugs themselves. This is a situation in which I will be swapping out the bracelet, which is a shame but not the end of the world. By selling the watch on a rubber strap instead, Alcadus could save some costs and pass that on to the customer. The brand has confirmed it is upgrading to a properly milled clasp for the production models. I just hope the final choice doesn’t add any bulk to the bracelet.
A distorted view
Alcadus is offering a choice of five different dial-and-bezel combinations. I won’t list them all, but you can check them out on the Kickstarter page. My favorite is probably the blue sunray dial with the matching blue sapphire bezel insert. It looks like a nice shade of blue with a slightly muted level of saturation. In my hand, I have the glossy white dial with its lumed steel bezel insert. The dial layout is simple and very clean. Aside from the lumed, applied hour markers, the only other decoration is the brand name at 12 o’clock and “DROMO” and the water-resistance rating at 6. The hands are also lumed, as you’d expect on a dive watch, but the homogeneity could be a little better. They emit a much weaker glow compared to the hour markers, and one could even argue it would be better the other way around.
The crystal is a feature that I think people will love or hate. I fall into the former category and think it brings a wonderful level of charm to the watch. In my opinion, it is responsible for a large chunk of the watch’s character. It’s a large box-shaped sapphire crystal, which means it distorts the dial’s edge. It makes the very simple dial look a little more interesting. Thankfully, the distortions occur just at the outer edge of the chapter ring, so legibility isn’t really affected. While wearing the watch, I genuinely enjoyed watching the distortions as I tilted my wrist. Yook Hong has said that he plans to reduce the distortions on the crystal a little bit. Hopefully, they won’t be 100% eliminated, as I’ve grown quite fond of them while wearing the watch!
So, is it any good?
The Dromo is not a perfect watch, but then again, what is a perfect watch anyway? I like that it has a few quirks as they give it some personality, which does help it stand out a little compared to similar-level microbrand dive watches. There’s plenty to like at the Kickstarter Super Early Bird price of $318 USD. Compared to other watches at this price point, it depends on whether you like the aesthetic. I’d advise jumping on board now and grabbing those discounts if you do. The future retail price will jump up to $449 USD. There is more competition at that price point, which might make it harder to justify.
The Alcadus Opus V2
The second watch that Alcadus has available to back on its Kickstarter campaign is the Opus V2. Yook Hong referred to the Opus V2 as “a tool watch, albeit a dressy one” in our correspondence. I can’t say I totally agree, as it screams “dress watch!” first and foremost, albeit with some pilot-watch influences. Either way, it’s my favorite of the two watches Alcadus is offering. As a guy who usually likes modern, bold watches, I find the Opus V2 pretty straightforward, but it remains classy thanks to its somewhat refined and stripped-back dial. Add a nice leather strap into the equation, and this is a fantastic everyday watch.
Strap it on leather, thank me later
The case is very similar to the Dromo. It is also 39mm in diameter, but it is slightly slimmer at 12.8mm in thickness. This is essentially thanks to the lack of a thick dive bezel. Interestingly, the lugs don’t have the same tapered chamfers along their shoulders as the lugs on the Dromo do. I guess that enhances the “tool watch” part of the brand’s claim. Still, the chamfers would have been nice, but I think I only say that because I saw them on the Dromo first. Were the Opus V2 being reviewed by itself, I don’t think I’d have missed the chamfers as much.
I’m not going to go into any detail about the bracelet. I’ve taken two photographs of the watch on the bracelet for reference, but it’s essentially the same bracelet and end links as those found on the Dromo. I will, however, mention the leather straps that Alcadus offers as add-on purchases. I don’t usually take much stock of the add-on leather straps that brands like to offer on Kickstarter. From my previous experience, they’re usually cheap upselling tools and little else.
Thankfully, Alcadus included a couple of those straps in the box for me to check out. I’m rather pleased to say that the quality is quite impressive. The brown nubuck leather and the brown grained leather straps were perfect complements for the Opus V2. The watch sings on these straps, and they’re a positive change. Even if you don’t decide to buy one of Alcadus’s leather straps, I recommend switching to one of your own. Thank me later!
Clean and clear
The lack of a rotating dive bezel means the dial aperture is more prominent on the Opus V2. This allows the sunray blue dial to shine on the example I have here. Of the five color options available, I find the blue one the most attractive. The sunray finish is rather nicely executed, with the sunray itself being quite subtle. The dial is clean and clear from clutter, and having seen Alcadus’s previous launches, this seems to be somewhat of a calling card. I applaud the brand for having the confidence not to overcrowd the dial, which is a fatal mistake that many microbrands make. Less is more! A date window pokes out above the 6-o’clock marker, but it’s unobtrusive and tidy thanks to the color-matched date wheel. A silver minute track around the dial’s periphery adds a little contrast and complements the pad-printed and lumed hour markers.
The crystal is similar in shape to that of the Dromo but a little larger in diameter. Once again, it offers some lovely distortion to the edge of the dial, and it’s positioned in such a way that legibility is unaffected. Given the clean and simple dial layout, I think it helps round out the watch by offering some subtle character. I liked it on the Dromo, but it’s even nicer on the Opus V2. Again, Alcadus intends to tweak the crystal for production, but I hope that the brand sees fit to leave it as is on the Opus V2.
So, is it any good?
Of the two watches, the Opus V2 is the clear winner. I think the clue there is the “V2” part. The Opus has had the time to exist and establish its place in Alcadus’s collection. The brand has had time to gather feedback and approach the second version with the aim to improve it. This shows, and the Opus V2 is a well-executed watch. As I said, I’m not a fan of the bracelet, but on a leather strap, the watch is a real winner.
The Kickstarter Super Early Bird price is also just $318. At that price, it’s a classy little dress watch that would likely find a home in any modest collection. As ever with Kickstarter, prices will rise at the end of the campaign. The future retail price will jump up to $449, which isn’t unfair, but the competition also begins ramping up at that price point. That makes the decision a little more complicated.
Alcadus Dromo and Opus V2 price and availability
You can find both the Dromo and Opus V2 on the Kickstarter page. The campaign ends at 1:00 PM CEST this Friday, April 15th, 2022. So if you’re thinking about backing, don’t dawdle. As this is a Kickstarter campaign, I do have to warn you that delivery is not guaranteed. That said, having seen Alcadus successfully fund and deliver two previous campaigns, I would have no qualms in backing this project myself. Once again, prices start at $318 USD, with delivery estimated for December 2022. You can find out more info on the Alcadus website.