Launching Today: The New Vulcain Skindiver
Sometimes watch releases just come out of left field. Truth be told, I hadn’t focused too much on Vulcain since the relaunch of the Cricket last year. But I was expecting many things from the Swiss maison… just not a skin diver. From time to time, I get an email from DHL telling me that I should expect a delivery from Vulcain SA. That’s always exciting news as I usually don’t know what’s in the parcel. That is precisely how these two beautiful Vulcain Skindiver models came to me last week, just in time to check them out before the official launch today.
And while I had them both, the watches took a trip to Frankfurt with me to our latest Fratello On Air recording. Make sure you check out that episode here.
The vintage Vulcain Nautique
Those familiar with the term “skindiver” (or “skin diver,” per your/the brand’s preference) should jump to the next paragraph. For the rest, here’s my article on the Longines Skin Diver from a few years back, in which I explain the term. Basically, skin divers were not the most advanced diving instruments of their time. They were the watches of recreational divers or hobbyists.
If you do an eBay search for the name, you’ll see many results from major brands like Longines, Technos, or Bulova to small, relatively unknown names. Vulcain also introduced a skin diver to its collection back in the ’60s. It was the Nautique reference P4322A, a 36mm hand-wound diver with the caliber 1686 inside. That was a simple timepiece with a black dial, bezel, and a Tropic Star diving strap. Just a heads up: don’t confuse the Nautique with another Vulcain model, the Nautical.
The new Vulcain Skindiver
The watches we have here today take inspiration from the late-’60s vintage model. While the official name is Skindiver, the original name is also visible on the dial, just as it was on the vintage Nautique. However, on Vulcain’s site, you can find a Skindiver Black and a Skindiver Blue. The original Nautique only featured a black dial, but the new model is available in two dial colors.
But let’s not jump the gun here. Let’s start with the basics. The new Vulcain Skindiver is a tad larger than its vintage counterpart at 38mm in diameter. It measures 12.2mm thick and 43.8mm from lug tip to lug tip. Consequently, it is not a small timepiece; I’d call it contemporary. Thank God the days of the 40mm+ re-editions are over. As you know, Mike has a small wrist, and mine is relatively large, but the watch was very comfortable for both of us.
The Vulcain Skindiver case
For a 38mm watch, the Vulcain Skindiver has reasonably short and wide lugs. It takes a 20mm strap, which I love, and thanks to the short lugs, the attention is on the dial. We have a thin bezel (only 3mm wide) with a black ceramic inlay on both the blue and the black models. Most of the case has a brushed finish, and only polished decorative edges on the lugs break this up. Much of the case back is also brushed with the usual info around the Vulcain logo. Due to the overall size and thickness, the Skindiver feels good on the wrist. I love that the strap is thin, which adds a bit more vintage character to the piece. Yet a case by itself is not enough to persuade me that a watch is a fantastic diver. The decision maker for me is always the dial.
Blue or black dials
The dials of skin divers were hardly exquisite. Their designs were simple but functional as these were modest, affordable, mass-produced watches. The same is true for the dial Vulcain Nautique and this new re-edition. You don’t see any numerals, only the Vulcain logo, the name “Nautique” at 12 o’clock, and “Incabloc®” and “25 jewels” at 6 o’clock. The indexes at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock are long, lume-covered rectangles, while almost all of the rest are lume pips. Only the index at 12 o’clock is a lume-covered, upside-down triangle. Yet the most prominent feature of the watch is its dial color. You can choose between black or blue, and the latter has a lighter hue with a vertically brushed finish. I have not seen any vintage Nautique watches with a blue dial, but that does not mean that the color does not work with the overall design. It fits well with the case shape and dial layout.
An automatic movement
The original Vulcain Nautique was a hand-wound timepiece. This new Skindiver, however, is automatic. Inside the watch beats the ETA 2824-2 caliber. Yes, you read it right. It’s not a Sellita movement but an ETA. Its power reserve is about 38 hours, and it ticks at a 28,800vph (4Hz) frequency. More importantly, though, while the original caliber offered a date complication, Vulcain did not opt for that this time. In today’s world, where watch designers want to tell customers what they need and put a date window on vintage-inspired watches, not having one is a delight. I know that “date or no date” is an age-old debate, and in some cases, I don’t mind it either. But on a vintage re-edition like this, it would not work as well.
What’s left to say?
I briefly mentioned the strap at the beginning of the article, but here are the details. The watches I received came on a 20/16mm carbon-pattern leather strap. This would be one of the options out of three, and there is no bracelet this time, only leather straps. Aside from the carbon-pattern leather, Vulcain offers a plain black or brown strap for the Skindiver. At 2.2mm thin, the carbon-pattern strap is my favorite. The others look too thick for my taste.
There are certainly other similar-looking dive watches on the market. We all know that. From Oris to Baltic, many brands offer timepieces in this genre, so, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your preference. The Vulcain Skindiver, however, comes in at CHF 1,490 (about €1,485), which I believe is a fair price for what you are getting.
You can check out the new Vulcain Skindiver on the brand’s official website. Feel free to drop your thoughts on it in the comments below.