Hands-On With The Nodus Sector Deep
The more watches from micro/independent brands I review, the more I ponder the following question: “Do we need more?” While these types of brands do not always innovate, they certainly know how to offer great value. They may not revolutionize the industry in the traditional sense of the word, but they help in popularizing the hobby. I recognize the merits of the hard work that brands such as Nodus put in and how much we can now get for less than €1,000. And it’s not always about money. Rather, it’s more about quality — the quality of the design, fabrication, and wearing experience. Nodus and the recently released Sector Deep perfectly exemplify this idea.
Not to toot my own horn, but it seems I have become Fratello’s expert on Nodus. A while back, I reviewed the Avalon II Bronze and Sector GMT, two quality watches that offer a lot of bang for the buck (especially the GMT). Nodus, a brand based in Los Angeles, California, presents itself as a “watch research and design company.” In other words, the people behind the brand do R&D to bring new technologies to the affordable-watch segment. These include things like toolless micro-adjust clasps and wholesome tool watches in the $500 price region. What do I mean by “wholesome”? Well, I mean watches that look original and come with great specs for the money. I believe the Sector Deep belongs in that category, so let’s take a look!
A little bit of this, a little bit of that
The good thing about micro- and independent brands is that they offer us the opportunity to experience certain types of watches that we may not be able to experience otherwise. These include, for example, a 500m-rated diver or a 36mm everyday watch that retails for less than €1,000 (my ideal limit for a new watch). To offer quality at this price range, it looks like brands have to compromise a little bit, either on the design or the specifications. By the former, I mean borrowing design elements from popular models. By the latter, I mean getting a lower-grade movement instead of a top-shelf one. Nothing is bad in and of itself as long as there is balance. Indeed, I often say that expecting younger brands to create truly original designs is pure insanity.
This brings us back to the Nodus Sector Deep. On one hand, the case is resolutely Nodus (as its name indicates, it belongs to the Sector collection, now six models strong). It has massive and angular lugs, a rounded case profile, and reasonable proportions. On the other hand, the applied hour markers recessed into the sloping chapter ring say, “Hi, we’re from a Tudor Pelagos.” But with all elements combined, the watch becomes a Nodus. And while a three-link bracelet and the idea of a toolless micro-adjust clasp are nothing new, Nodus made them its own. So much so, in fact, that the Californian brand trademarked the quick-adjust clasp and calls it the NodeX.
So, a trademarked clasp mechanism for how much, exactly?
You don’t really need to spend more on a diver
The Sector Deep retails for US$599 (about €555). It’s right around many people’s financial sweet spot. However, is it worth the asking price? To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at what it has to offer. This includes a 500m water resistance rating (hence the model name), a Seiko NH35 movement regulated by Nodus to ±10 seconds per day, a sapphire crystal, a 120-click unidirectional bezel, and generous amounts of BGW9 lume on the hands, applied markers, and bezel markings. The lume is great, although I bet not many of you dive to such depths that you would need so much of it. But hey, it’s there. Remember the bit about making compromises? I would say that opting for the NH35 was a bit of a compromise here to keep the price down.
Given the savings made on the movement, Nodus went all out on the bezel mechanism and the finish. I mentioned the crisp and solid bezel action in my review of the Avalon II Bronze. This was made possible by using ball bearings instead of traditional click springs. This means the bezel is easy to turn and has firm clicks with no back play. This is something that only brands like Nodus can offer at this price. Honestly, I have been hugely disappointed by the bezel action of watches that cost four times as much as the Sector Deep.
Regarding the finish, Nodus did not cut corners in that department either. The hands look clean, and the applied markers — which also double as landing pads for microscopic helicopters — come with thin, white surrounds that define them clearly from a visual standpoint. The bead-blasted case is smooth to the touch and has no sharp edges, and the same thing goes for the bracelet and clasp.
The Nodus Sector Deep on the wrist
For reference, my wrist has a 6.25”/16cm circumference. The Sector Deep has a case diameter of 38mm, a bezel diameter of 42mm, a thickness of 13.6mm, a length of 47mm, and a lug spacing of 20mm. You can judge the fit from the photos, but I feel that it wears pretty well on my wrist. I especially like the way the wider bezel looks in comparison to the case. It’s as if someone customized this watch by adding an oversized bezel to guarantee functionality. The upside of this design is that the bezel is easy to grip and turn. The downside is that the left-hand crown is difficult to grip and turn since it is hidden below the edges of the bezel. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but I thought you should know about it.
Given the quality of the bezel, I’m glad that Nodus matched it with a functional clasp. As mentioned earlier, Nodus developed a micro-adjust mechanism, which it also makes available to other small brands. This clasp allows the wearer to easily adjust the bracelet whenever, wherever. The clasp does come with a caveat, though. When fully extended, the thin piece of metal attached to the last link shows. Honestly, it doesn’t look great given that it is not a diver’s extension. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I see this as another compromise.
They don’t get more legible than this
Lastly, I wanted to talk about the Sector Deep’s legibility. Given its 500m depth rating, the dial was designed with superlative legibility in mind. Reading the time is easy, and so is timing a dive. And why not easily keep track of another time zone when you’re not diving? Thanks to the dual-function bezel, this is possible, so you can know what time it is back home as you’re getting ready for your dive in the tropical waters of Belize (at least, that’s where I’d go). The contrast between the matte black dial and white hands and markers is outstanding. The handset, by the way, looks as if syringe and arrow hands had a baby. I quite like it.
What also makes the Sector Deep legible is the emphasis that was put on the dial layout. Although it’s not the most original, I like how the markers are recessed into the chapter ring and how the minute track is printed at its summit. It makes it possible for the markers to be pushed to the edges of the dial, keeping the latter clean. There are only four words printed on the dial — Nodus, Sector, Deep, and 500. That’s it. Four words that perfectly describe what this watch is. This is perhaps the best marketing copy written about a tool watch. The fully lumed DLC bezel features sharp teeth, and the two scales are cleanly printed and legible. And though designing functional dual-scale bezels doesn’t seem to be everybody’s forte, Nodus does a great job with this one.
I like the Sector Deep. For US$599, you get a well-made watch that encapsulates the essence of a purpose-driven timepiece. It’s both legible and comfortable to wear, and it features greater water resistance than I would know what to do with. It is not perfect, however, as you might have gathered by now. If Nodus could find a way to make the crown easier to grip and fix the issue with the clasp, man, that would be nice. But perhaps that would make the Sector Deep retail for an additional $200. In that case, it would no longer be the great deal that it currently is. Realistically, however, no one watch is perfect, and we should welcome compromises to keep our wallets full.
But these are just my thoughts. What do you think of the Nodus Sector Deep? Would you be bothered by the two issues I mentioned? Please leave your comments below, and perhaps Nodus will listen as the brand works on a restock for the summer.