Introducing: The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver
Nivada’s vintage catalog is exquisite, to say the least. From time-only models to chronographs, the brand had much to offer in its heyday. Since the relaunch of Nivada Grenchen, the lovely people behind the brand have concentrated mainly on chronographs, especially the Chronomaster and Datomaster models. Then there was the Antarctic family, a line offering budget time-only watches that are equally popular among the fans. But one thing was still missing — a “recreational” dive watch. While the Depthmaster could be considered a diver, with a 1000m depth rating, it’s more like a professional mini-submarine. Yet the void is now filled with the introduction (or rather reintroduction) of the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver, the brand’s first dive watch from the late 1950s.
The new Antarctic-Diver is available as of today, May 25th, at 4:00 PM CEST for a limited period of only two weeks on Nivada Grenchen’s website. But before you hit the order button, let’s take a closer look at it.
The Antarctic line was easily the most versatile in the Nivada lineup back in the day. It offered simple time-only pieces, such as the Super Antarctic, and watches with funky dial designs, like the Antarctic Spider. Aside from the looks, however, these models were similar to each other. The Antarctic-Diver stood out from this crowd not only for its visual differences but its capabilities too. At the end of the ’50s and early ’60s, dive watches were the next big thing in the watch industry. Big brands like Rolex, Omega, Blancpain, and Longines all released their takes on the genre, and Nivada needed a piece of that pie. It was during this time that the Antarctic-Diver came to the market, boasting a 200m water resistance rating. Diving into the history of the Antarctic-Diver (no pun intended) might take more than a paragraph. Instead, we will check out this re-edition of vintage beauty.
An aesthetically faithful reinterpretation with modern perks
The original watch was around 36mm in diameter, while the new Antarctic-Diver is a comfortable 38.2mm wide and 45mm from lug tip to lug tip. For some strange reason, to me, it feels smaller on the wrist. I have a 19cm (7.5″) wrist, and I am comfortable with wearing vintage watches. Still, the Antarctic-Diver felt small due to its color scheme. But at 13.6mm thick according to my calipers (the listed thickness is 12.9mm), the watch sits nicely on the wrist. While the top and bottom of the lugs are bushed, the side of the case and the back are polished. I love the ceramic bezel insert, especially since it’s lumed, which provides excellent visibility in the dark. This sample’s bezel was bidirectional with no clicks. As a result, it sometimes rotated when I adjusted the watch on my wrist. For me, that was not a big deal, but the purists will be happy to hear that the production models will have a unidirectional bezel.
My favorite feature of the dial has to be the red crosshair. As busy as it may seem at first glance, the watch is easily legible. I do not miss having any numerals on the dial as the minute scale is prevalent enough. The faux patina on the indexes might not be everyone’s favorite, but I am okay with it. At 12 o’clock, we have the brand name and “Automatic” text, and at 6 o’clock, the iconic “Antarctic-Diver” designation in the unmistakable font we all know by now.
For the size of the dial, the hands are relatively large, which not only helps with legibility but is also crucial for a dive watch. At 3 o’clock, you can find the aperture for the date. The double-domed sapphire crystal features a magnifier for this, a design element that I love. Some people I showed the watch to said that the crown is too big, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with that. It has a comfortable size and is easy to use.
The signature emblem of many vintage Antarctic models is the penguin on the case back. You can find the same logo on the Antartic-Diver’s back to stay true to the original. Aside from this nod, you can find the usual information about the watch. What is important to us is the water resistance. At 20 ATM (about 200 meters), I would consider this watch a real diver for the typical, non-professional wearer. Then again, I know this is a never-ending debate among purists, and it’s a dispute that I wish to avoid getting involved in.
Instead, let me tell you what the heart of the Nivada Antarctic-Diver is. Inside the watch beats Soprod’s P024. Based on an ETA 2824, the P024 is a self-winding time-only movement with a date indicator. The caliber offers approximately 38 hours of power reserve and operates at a 28,800vph frequency. While it does not say on the dial, only on the case back, the Antarctic-Diver is Swiss made.
One watch, ten options
If you follow Nivada Grenchen, you probably know that the brand often offers new releases on various straps and bracelets. Likewise, the new Antarctic-Diver also comes with ten options. First, you can choose between five straps —brown or black leather in two styles or a black rubber tropic strap. The last one was my go-to combo, and it was super comfortable. If steel is the way to go, you can choose from five variations. Three Forstner bracelets are available (Klip, Rivet, Bead of Rice), and two from Nivada (Oyster, Beads of Rice). While the Nivada BoR has curved end links, the Forstner end links are straight, and the design of the bracelet differs.
Nivada is not only launching the Antarctic-Diver today but also a book titled Nivada Grenchen Antarctic – The History of a Legend. Written by collector Aashdin K. Billimoria, this 100+ page publication tells you all you need to know about this specific model as well as the history of the Antarctic line and the revived Nivada Grenchen brand. Then it features many Antarctic models, some of which have already been reissued. Among the descriptions, you can find a collection of great vintage ads. After Chronomaster Only, this is the second but not the final book about Nivada. The brand plans to release a collection of several volumes, publishing a book annually on a different collection. You can get this book for €60 / US$65, and it’s a must for true Antarctic fans!
Price and final thoughts
Lastly, we need to talk about money. Nivada has priced the new Antarctic-Diver starting at €815 / US$900, which I think is an excellent deal. The overall feel, the wrist presence, and the usability are great. The watch looks incredible and runs as it should. If you need a diver under €1K that carries the brand’s vintage DNA but is a trusty modern piece, the Antarctic-Diver is one to consider. Now, in the sub-€1K segment, there are many options, so competition is fierce. With its somewhat busy dial and “fauxtina” indexes, the Antarctic-Diver might not be everyone’s cup of tea. On the other hand, if you are not bothered by these characteristics, you have a lovely diver with an awesome on-the-wrist feel. As for me, I’m in the second group for sure.