Hands-On: The New Delma Shell Star Titanium Dive Watch — A Lean, Mean, Orange Diving Machine
The Delma Shell Star lineup is made up of 27 references. These include quartz models with steel cases, automatic models (also in steel), and a trio of automatic divers in titanium. Of the first two denominations, many variations exist. Some models come on a bracelet, others on rubber or leather straps. Some have a bare-metal steel case, while others have a black DLC finish. There are also three primary colorways — blue, black, and orange. Then there are the lovely Decompression Timer models, which, as the name indicates, feature a decompression table on the dial. However, in my eyes, none of these models shine as brightly as the orange-dialed Delma Shell Star Titanium. I knew I had to get my hands on it for a review as soon as it was announced.
I won’t get into the details of Delma’s past in this article. If you want to learn more about that, you can check out an overview here. It does make sense to mention that the Shell Star model has been around since the mid-’70s. It, alongside the Quattro, was the brand’s flagship diver. After several decades in the archives, it returned in 2016. The tonneau shape of its generously proportioned 44mm stainless steel case made it a watch for only a brave few. But now, the latest incarnation has been eating clean and doing its daily cardio. Thanks to that, it has reduced both its size and weight. I doubt I’ll be alone thinking this newfound healthy lifestyle suits the Delma Shell Star.
The Delma Shell Star Titanium
The new Delma Shell Star Titanium has undoubtedly achieved the ultimate “beach bod” on paper, but how did it fare on my wrist? Rather well, as it turns out! The 41mm titanium case wears large (due to the 47.6mm lug-to-lug) but only as large as you’d likely expect for a proper 500m-rated dive watch. A lot of credit for the perceived size must be given to the large, sweeping crown guards. Those and the crown aside, the watch is only as large in diameter as the bezel. The thickness has been trimmed down to 13.6mm, making it a fraction slimmer than the steel counterpart. After a quick sizing (removing three and a half links and pins) to my 17.5cm wrist, the watch comes in at a comfortable 125g. Speaking of comfort, the chunky bracelet has a solid clasp with three micro-adjustment points. Sadly, it doesn’t feature a dive extension or a quick-adjust system.
Doing away with the helium escape valve makes sense, but adding one of those handy features in exchange would have been a nice touch. Regardless, the bracelet is comfortable and suits the style of the watch. The end links have incredibly tight tolerances. This is a great thing since titanium tends to use any wiggle room it can get to rattle away. Most of the watch’s surfaces have a satin-brushed finish except for two polished chamfers down the length of the case. These are matched by the clasp and the watch’s case back. The crown and bezel have a dual brushed/polished finish. Unlike previous models, the bezel is perfectly grippy and has a ceramic insert with Super-LumiNova BGW9-filled numerals and markings. The titanium and mineral glass case back is held in place by just four screws but is enough to uphold the 500m water resistance rating.
The not so good
In the following sections, I’ll quickly run through some things I liked about the Delma Shell Star titanium diver and some I didn’t like. We’ll start with the negative points, which aren’t too many.
The first and most significant was the bezel action. It was oddly inconsistent, or so I thought. As it turns out, when applying downward pressure (into the wrist) and turning the bezel, which seems quite natural, it was not easy to get the bezel to turn smoothly. It would catch and only turn with some difficulty. I soon realized I had to reverse that motion; using a multi-finger pinch-like grip, applying some pull away from the watch, the 120-click bezel turned nicely. Perhaps there’s a break-in period or an issue exclusive to this unit. Either way, it’s certainly not ideal.
One niggle is the 3 o’clock date window. In the original 1975 model, this was placed at 6 o’clock. In the modern watch, however, it sits at 3 o’clock. It’s not a dealbreaker for me, but I’d have rather seen it stay in its original position, and I don’t see why it was changed in the first place. Plenty of watches use the Sellita SW200 and feature a date window at 6 o’clock. The final negative is that the clearance of the spring bars makes it hard to fit the watch with a NATO strap. Perhaps it would be easier with a thinner NATO, but the one I had on hand was impossible to pass through the available space.
Finally, the orange seconds hand does a bit too good a job blending into the dial behind it.
The rather good
Now moving on to the positives. The first thing is the new case size. I have not tested the 44mm Shell Star, but I can’t imagine it being better than the 41mm version. It’s a sporty tool diver with a rugged aesthetic, so size-wise, it hits the nail right on the head. The fact that it’s titanium is also a purposeful plus. It saves you some weight on the wrist while still not feeling insignificant. Coupled with the brilliant matte orange dial and very ’70s handset, the dark gray tone of the metal is incredibly cool. Speaking of its dial, the applied black markers are large and generously filled with lume. I also enjoy the inclusion of the signature intermittent outline just outside the minute track. The watch has a Doxa-like charm that’s hard to beat, especially in this orange-dialed iteration.
Another detail that I enjoy is the distinct lack of unnecessary polished surfaces or an overly shiny look. This is, in my eyes, a sin all too often committed by modern dive watches. Especially on the luxury side, watches quickly get a little too shiny. But the Delma Shell Star Titanium maintains a matte look (other than for the chamfers). Even the ceramic bezel insert is nicely brushed. As far as my taste is concerned, this is the way to go for a tool watch.
Finally, let’s talk about price. The original 44mm Shell Star will set you back €1,300, but if you want titanium and the reduced case size, you’ll pay €1,790. In my mind, this is a reasonable price increase for features that take this watch to the next level. There’s still stiff competition from the likes of Certina, Baltic, and Citizen, who offer excellent titanium divers at around €1,000 or less. However, the Delma Shell Star certainly holds up and still offers something different.
Rugged, lightweight, charming, and reasonably priced, the Delma Shell Star Titanium certainly lived up to my expectations. Sure, it’s not the most obvious option out there, but between the design, price, size, and referencing of a vintage model, it’s a watch that deserves some credit. I think the only possibility that might outshine its titanium take on ’70s dive-watch styling and bright colorway would be a Doxa in the same material. But until that day comes — and only assuming your personal preference aligns with my own — the Delma reigns supreme.
What do you think of the Delma Shell Star Titanium? Does it also win you over, or are you immune to its charms? Let me know in the comments section below.