The Echo/Neutra Cristallo Professional Diver Is The Italian Sea-Dweller I Didn’t Know I Needed
I’ve been quite a fan of Echo/Neutra ever since the brand launched on Kickstarter in 2019. It seems a lot longer ago than just three years, given the strides the brand has made since then. The product lineup expanded at a healthy pace, and now we have the option of the original Averau (time and date), the extremely handsome Cortina (time only) and Cortina Chronograph (my favorite), the Averau Moonphase, and the brand-new Cristallo diver, which debuts today at 2:00 PM CET.
The world is full of dive watches. Do we need one more? Yes! We always need more dive watches. What we don’t need, however, is more of the same. The Echo/Neutra Cristallo does a good job of presenting a pretty standard silhouette to the world while cramming in a few interesting details to set it apart from its peers.
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The blue-to-black fade along the horizontal axis is something we’ve seen before. It’s a style made popular by the Rolex Deepsea. I personally love that model in the Rolex catalog, and I love the fade on the Cristallo as well. It’s a weird thing to contemplate, but it’s incredibly rare for colors — or the arrangement of colors alone — to be so identifiable as to make the consideration of a trademark valid. The most famous example of a color being synonymous with a brand is probably “Tiffany blue”. That color itself has sent the watch world into a frenzy of late. Here, though, we see a particular pair of colors, blending into one another in a particular way on a very particular style of watch, and it feels the same. Is it, therefore, a good thing or a bad thing from branding and product perspectives?
Two ways to go
To eliminate any ambiguity here, I like it. I love it, in fact. I love the fade on the Deepsea and I love the fade on the Cristallo. As it turns out, I just love the fade. I wasn’t sure that was the case before I saw this watch because I’d never seen the blue-to-black gradient on any other watch but the Deepsea. And so I must say that I 100% believe that this is a good thing from a product perspective.
Now, from a branding perspective, the question is less clear. “Colors and color combinations can be trademarked as part of a product or service so long as they, like any other trademark, serve a source identification function, and do not serve a purely decorative or utilitarian purpose.” The blue and black here, and on the Deepsea of that matter, are solely there for stylistic purposes. In light of this, assuming Rolex can’t sue your pants off, it’s probably “okay” to just use the same dial colorway because, well, why not? Should we expect brands to just roll over and say, “Oh, well Rolex has used the color green on the most recent Oyster Perpetual release, so that means we’d better not use it”?
…why the heck not, eh?
No. That’d be ridiculous. And the blue-to-black fade is cool. What a shame it would be, then, to reserve it for one watch that most of us a) can’t afford and b) couldn’t buy even if we could. And perhaps most saliently to the question of branding, Rolex and Echo/Neutra aren’t in the same price bracket. Hell, in watchmaking terms, they’re not even in the same stratosphere. They don’t speak to the same consumer. There is no overlap between them. So why the heck not, eh?
Black is always cool
If, however, you think the fade is naff or can’t get the Rolex Deepsea out of your head whenever you look at it, there’s an all-black version that’s just as cool as you’d expect. This Swiss-made timepiece, crafted from 316L hypoallergenic stainless steel, measures 42mm wide. It is 13.9mm thick and has a pleasingly restrained 49mm lug-to-lug length. The star of the show is undoubtedly the polished ceramic bezel insert, engraved with no-decompression times. This is the feature that makes this piece stand out most from its “plongeur” peers.
That no-decompression scale is, along with the dial markings and hands, treated with Super-LumiNova BGW9. This luminescent compound presents as white during the day and glows a bright blue in the darkness. I must say, the bezel scale is very well done, and the watch looks even more special at night than it does during the day.
Furthermore, the 9-o’clock sub-dial marks this piece as cut from something other than your standard, old cloth. Powering this watch and responsible for the sub-dial’s placement is the Sellita SW279 elaboré automatic movement. It has a 28,800vph operating frequency, a 40-hour power reserve, and a power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock.
A pro tool
This is one of the better divers I’ve seen from microbrands in recent years. It’s pleasingly comfortable on the wrist and the eye, but it has some very distinct traits that give it character. Because of the spacing of the bezel engravings, the watch suddenly looks a lot like the MING Abyss diver when the lights get low. In my estimation, this moves it up to something that is more than “just another dive watch”.
…this is a watch that could well appeal to professional divers…
With a recessed helium valve at 9 o’clock and a decent water-resistance rating of 500 meters, I think this is a watch that could well appeal to professional divers as a mechanical backup to their more modern dive computers.
If you’re wondering what looks “weird” about the watch, it’s probably the broad, undecorated rehaut. It slopes down from the underside of the 3mm anti-reflective crystal to meet the dial’s edge. On the Rolex Deepsea, the Cristallo’s closest aesthetic corollary I could find, this space is filled by the “Original Gas Escape Valve” and “Ring Lock System” text. It’s interesting, then, that the Deepsea is often criticized for this component being “crass” and “cluttered”, whereas the rehaut of the Cristallo could be accused of being too bare and imposing.
Echo/Neutra Cristallo — Final thoughts
Overall, I like this diver very much. I like it even more as Echo/Neutra’s first attempt at a typically perilous genre to get right. The price during the pre-order phase will be €890, and that will leap up to €1,190 at retail upon the pre-order’s conclusion. There will only be 100 pieces per color available during the pre-order phase, and given the rate at which Echo/Neutra has seen its following grow over the past three years, I doubt they will hang around long. Shipping is planned for the end of September.
Styling aside (that’s a matter of personal taste, of course), I can say this from experience (and from being a three-time owner of the brand’s wares), the build quality is always on point. I expect this release to dazzle in the metal as those that have gone before have done. Learn more about Echo/Neutra here.