Hands-On: The New Super-Squale — A Capable Dive Watch In A Charming, Old-School Skin Diver Style
Squale, the Swiss-Italian specialist in dive watches, has a reputation for keeping its historic heroes alive. Now the brand brings back another chapter from its illustrious past — the skin diver. It is styled after the Squale skin divers from the 1960s and named after a 1959 trademark name, Super-Squale. Recently, I spent some time with this new model on the wrist to see if it is indeed a super Squale.
I am quite familiar with Squale, with a limited-edition 1521 and a Subino in my collection. The latter is a special Squale — of which only 60 were made — housed in a NOS Blancpain case from the 1950s. I was involved in the development and marketing of that watch back in my days working for Amsterdam Watch Company. I have a huge soft spot for this charming brand. But I am also most critical of the brands I love the most. So let’s see whether the new Super-Squale lives up to my fairly high expectations.
Squale History 101
Squale is a niche brand, producing only dive watches. It was founded as a case maker by the aristocrat Charles von Büren shortly after WWII. Squale cases were used by many manufacturers, chief among which was Blancpain. You will find vintage dive watches from several brands with the Squale shark logo (“Squale” means shark) on the lower half of the dial. When the brand started producing complete dive watches of its own, it maintained the double signature as an ode to its past as a case maker.
From the get-go, Squale was right in the heart of the popularization of professional and recreational diving. Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, for example, famously wore Squale watches while breaking records for free diving. The brand now continues on this road, partnering with Vincenzo Ferri. This Italian free diver is working toward the 2028 Olympics when free diving will be part of the Olympic roster.
Squale also supplies the Italian State Police Diving Unit with watches. Last year, a special edition was produced for Italian submarine manufacturer Drass. It is safe to say that the brand still has its roots firmly planted in the modern subaquatic market.
The Super-Squale skin diver
On to the actual new Super-Squale. This is a rather faithful reissue of a model from the 1960s. Squale was one of a handful of case makers who produced the original skin diver cases during the 1960s and ’70s. These casual dive watches were assembled and marketed by a host of brands. A quick online search will land you dozens of examples on the vintage market today. Some, you will find, were double-signed with the Squale logo at 6 o’clock.
Skin divers were positioned as slightly more “everyday” alternatives to hardcore dive watches. Remember that a “normal” watch back in those days was usually between 32mm and 36mm. Sports watches measuring 40mm and up were considered very large. Thus, some water resistance and ruggedness were sacrificed for a smaller and more slender case. A typical skin diver measured 38mm across and had a water-resistance rating of 100–200 meters. It would feature a recognizable case shape with squared-off lugs and often a full-steel bezel.
The new Super-Squale is made to that exact template. Squale stuck to the original dimensions and styling. Rather, I should say that two of the four variants stick to the vintage styling. Squale also offers two more modern versions in black and blue.
Modern Super-Squale specs
The new Super-Squale measures 38 × 45 × 12mm while maintaining a water-resistance rating of 200 meters. It is fitted with a unidirectional 120-click bezel with either a steel or lacquered aluminum inlay. A screw-down crown and screw-in solid case back provide the required water resistance. While the 1960s originals featured acrylic crystals, the modern reinterpretation comes with a double-domed sapphire.
Inside ticks the Sellita SW200-1 in élaboré guise. This is a well-known ébauche automatic caliber with a power reserve of 38 hours and a beat rate of 4Hz. In the élaboré execution, adjusted in three positions, this caliber should run within ±7–20 seconds per day. Those specs might not be impressive in today’s market, but you do get a movement with proven reliability and easy serviceability. In a dive watch in this segment, that is great in my eyes.
The Super-Squale comes on your choice of a dial-matching leather strap or a beads-of-rice bracelet. My advice? Go with the bracelet. It is extremely comfortable and surprisingly well made. I am rarely impressed by bracelets in this segment, but this one is great. The end links integrate with the case beautifully. There is no on-the-fly adjustment, but the five microadjustment positions ensure a great fit for anyone. It is jingly and jangly, as you might expect, but it looks awesome and wears great.
As mentioned, you can opt for one of the vintage-inspired versions or two more contemporary variants. The vintage ones come with sunburst dials, vintage-style applied indices, and aged tritium-look lume. There is a black and a fumé silver dial to choose from. Both come with steel bezel inlays.
The contemporary versions still have a classical aesthetic but go easier on the vintage vibes. They have flat black or blue dials and painted indices. The white Super-LumiNova foregoes the faux patina. Dial-matched aluminum bezel inlays complete a clean look.
There is another version, but it is exclusively available in the UK until March 2023. This is another vintage-inspired model with a very cool brown sunburst dial. It reminds me of dials that have been completely toasted by radioactive radium, just sans the radioactivity. I am usually not a fan of faux patina, but this brown one is my favorite of the bunch. I do not know why, but somehow I am fine with the aged look of the vintage-inspired Super-Squale. For some inexplicable reason, it feels genuine and at home on this watch. Let me know in the comments if that is just personal preference on my end or if you agree.
Wearing the Super-Squale
So what is it like to live with the new Super-Squale? Well, I am happy to report that it is pretty neat. This is one little charmer of a watch. The Super-Squale is super comfortable. The modest size and supple bracelet make for a great fit on the wrist. And then it lures you in with its ’60s vibes. Pictures do not really do it justice, as is often the case. The Super-Squale is better in real life.
I had the silver model, which was my least favorite judging from the press materials I received earlier. However, next to the UK-exclusive brown version, this silver one might actually be my favorite now that I have worn it for a while. It certainly sacrifices some legibility compared to the other versions, but I love the look. Combined with the steel bracelet, case, and bezel, this is a whole lot of gray. That can turn out a bit clinical, but then there is that cream-colored lume. It brings the whole thing to life in a very attractive manner.
It really does feel like a vintage watch. I have handled many original skin divers from the ’60s, and this is just so close in look and feel. If Squale had put it on a dried-out Tropic strap and told me it was a NOS original, it would have probably fooled me for a few seconds.
So, is this Super-Squale really a super Squale?
If you ask me, yes. I can only say that I have really fallen for this watch. It is supremely charming and — thanks to its proportions and styling — extremely versatile. I am a bit of a Squale fanboy, sure. But rest assured that I would explicitly express my disappointment if I felt any. I was scared that the Super-Squale might have turned out a bit gimmicky with its faux patina. I am happy to report that it has not. It feels like an ode to the brand’s rich history. In fact, I have ordered one for myself. It will sit just perfectly between my Subino and 1521 “50 Atmos”. I know, I know, I was on a self-imposed watch-fast. I took a little pause for this one.
Is this the Squale for you? It depends. If you love the styling and the size, then there really is no alternative. And since I think it is great value to boot, I would say go for it! If, however, you want something less vintage-looking, I would recommend the 1521 instead. Either way, you cannot really go wrong.
The Super-Squale is available now. The contemporary versions are priced at CHF 975 on leather and CHF 1,070 on the bracelet. The vintage-inspired versions come in at CHF 1,010 on leather and CHF 1,105 on the bracelet. Some versions are sold out and will be available again in early December 2022. For more information, visit the official Squale website.
You can also find and follow me on Instagram: @time_travelers_journal