On The Wrist: The Datomaster Mechanical By Nivada Grenchen
Many years ago, when the vintage market was not what it is today, a watch came to my attention. A friend of mine offered it to me for a fair price. It had a smaller case, two sub-dials, and a strange date-window placement at 12 o’clock. The watch was a vintage Nivada Datomaster, a small hand-wound chronograph with a light gray dial, white sub-dials, and pump pushers. These days, Nivada is not what it used to be. Neither is the new Datomaster Mechanical. Yet, it is still a lovely timepiece that we’ll take a closer look at now.
You are right if you think you have already seen a new Datomaster. The brand has another one in the collection. However, that one has a meca-quartz movement, a date window at 6 o’clock, and a white dial. It looks more like the vintage Nivada Dato. I reviewed that budget-friendly re-edition a little while ago.
Vintage is gold
But let’s get back to the story from my intro. So, I bought the vintage Datomaster, and as luck would have it, Mike also snagged one around the same time. Between the two, mine had more wabi-sabi, but I didn’t mind it. As always, Mike featured his watch in one of the early #TBT articles, by which time, we both owned the piece. We soon found out that our friend (and all-around nice guy) Chase from Oak & Oscar had a Datomaster in his possession, which was a bit of a surprise. No, we did not question Chase’s otherwise impeccable taste in watches. It just seemed that the Datomaster (in such an execution) was not an ordinary watch.
And by that, I mean that we have only seen a dozen or so examples throughout the years. The following year, during Baselworld, we managed to meet up. We all brought our Datomasters and took a quick and dirty photo during one of the evening soirées. We just talked about that evening in one of our recent podcasts, and I was wearing the new Datomaster watch while recording it. I’ve told you this story to help you see that Nivada listens to its fans. The Datomaster is not the most popular or standard model, and Nivada could’ve resurrected any other vintage fan favorite. Still, the brand chose this one, so kudos for that. Now, onto the new Datomaster Mechanical.
Datomaster / Mechanical
As there is the meca-quartz version, allow me to distinguish this model by calling it the Datomaster Mechanical. Let’s begin this hands-on by addressing the elephant in the room. Although the new Datomaster took inspiration from the vintage piece, it is a very different watch. Well, one variant is, at least. See, the new Nivada Datomaster Mechanical will come in three dial colors. You will be able to choose between dark gray, light gray, or white dials. This must be a first for Nivada. For its past reissues, the brand was more or less stuck to the sizes and looks of the original watches. While the dark gray and the white are nice, these are watches that Nivada never made in the past. Consider these pieces homages to the original but not carbon copies.
Another difference, regardless of dial color, is the size. The original Datomaster was a 36mm timepiece, but the new Datomaster Mechanical comes in a 39mm steel case. We have a 45mm lug-to-lug length and a 14mm thickness. Yes, the watch is relatively tall on the wrist, but due to its size, this is (at least to me) not a troubling feature. It has a sapphire crystal on the front and back with a manual-wind movement inside. Needless to say, I’m a fan of the original, so my pick would be the light gray version. But the dark gray Datomaster is a thing to behold too.
On the wrist
All right, all right, enough about the specs. I imagine you’re asking, “How does it feel on the wrist?” Well, it feels great. The watch is more prominent than anything else from Nivada but not extremely large. At 39mm, it still hits the sweet spot for many, including myself. Yes, the thickness might be troubling, but sadly, it is a must when using the Sellita SW510 caliber inside. Still, the Datomaster Mechanical looks and feels incredible. As the date window is at 12, you might always need to keep the chronograph running. Otherwise, it’s a bit tricky to see the date. This is also an issue with the vintage Datomaster, but after all, I reckon you’re buying it partly for the complication.
Mine came on the black vintage-style leather strap with a Nivada buckle. It’s not the most beautiful strap, but it gets the job done. Don’t get me wrong; it is not a lousy strap, and it does have convenient quick-release spring bars. Thanks to the Datomaster’s color combination, it will also be easy to dress it up or down. However, you can get the watch on a Tropic strap or a bracelet, as you can do with most Nivada models. The Datomaster Mechanical will cost you CHF 1,795 (around €1,720) on leather. If you want it on the bracelet, though, the price is CHF 1,995 (€2,020). That is not a bad price for what you are getting.
Gray, gray, or white?
One thing I need to highlight is the dial. The original vintage Datomaster has a dove-gray base color with white sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock. The new Datomaster Mechanical comes in three dial variants. One is the exact copy of the vintage model, one is dark gray, and the third is somewhat confusing. See, it is white, like the Datomaster Mecaquartz, but this time, in a more significant case with the date window at 12 and “Datomaster” text at 6 o’clock (which is the case in all three executions, mind you). I also need to highlight that the 36mm Datomaster Mecaquartz comes in a limited run of 500 pieces.
This is because Nivada wanted to bring back the Datomaster in its original 36mm size. Unfortunately, due to modern mechanical movements, it was impossible, so the brand upgraded the size to 39mm. Nevertheless, Nivada still wanted to offer a timepiece for the fans in the original case size — enter the 36mm Datomaster Mecaquartz. So, to sum it up: you can get a Datomaster in 36mm with the date at 6 o’clock and a meca-quartz movement. Alternatively, you can grab one with a manual-wind mechanical caliber in a 39mm case and choose between three dial colors. The only thing you need to do now is to pick one.
For more information, check out the Nivada Grenchen website, and let us know your favorite variant in the comments below.