Review: TSAO Baltimore dives into naval history with the Torsk

With the Torsk Diver, Alan Tsao of TSAO Baltimore has taken his company to new depths, offering a robust diver to complement his earlier dress watch release. The young microbrand pays tribute to the U.S.S. Torsk, a WWII submarine. A portion of the proceeds from each watch sale will benefit the submarine’s maintenance as a museum docked near Baltimore.

Imparting a sense of place with a timepiece can be a tricky business. The Torsk Diver pays tribute without resorting to any ham-fisted attempt at making the watch “look” like a WWII item. Instead the watch focuses on more modern design cues, with a swooping crown guard protecting the crown at the 2’oclock position. Armed with choices of case materials, bezel options, and unconventional packaging (each watch ships with a watch winder instead of a standard box), the Torsk takes aim at providing a lot of bang for the buck.

The Case:

One thing an astute watch enthusiast may notice at first glance: The Torsk Diver’s case bears resemblance to the Bremont Supermarine. The case definitely borrows design cues from the latter and that will bother some purists. Personally, I feel like influence is harmless, since the dial and other features set this watch apart from the much more expensive Bremont. Also, this watch is aimed at an entirely different market segment and only 423 pieces will ever be produced in each case material.

I chose the bronze case with “harbor grey” dial. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a bronze addict. I’ve owned more than 20 bronze watches. I realize watch collectors have a love/hate relationship with the bronze boom of the last several years. But I enjoy the “living metal” aspect of the alloy mix – patina that slowly creeps in, changing the look of your watch from one week to the next. But bronze haters can take solace as the watch is also offered in stainless steel.

The construction of the case is excellent, with its fancy beveled lugs, the winged crown guard fixed with hex screws and a plate bearing the official name of the submarine: The SS-423. The bezel action is sturdy and pronounced – not exactly a smooth turning experience, but there’s zero back-play, which makes it more useful as a proper tool watch.

A stainless steel caseback protects the user’s arm from direct bronze contact while showing off the Miyota 9015 with custom rotor bearing the likeness of the U.S.S. Torsk.

The Dial:

The Torsk is offered in several dial and bezel combinations. I chose the Bronze with solid bezel and Harbor Grey dial. I find grey to be an often overlooked color choice for bronze and it works really well, especially as the case patinas. The Torsk’s sunburst dial is finely produced, with polished applied numerals and generous C3 Superluminova applied. A sharply cut date cutout showcases the matching date disk.

TSAO made some great choices with dial combinations – emerald green, black, midnight blue and orange are also available in each case material.

Specs:

•   Movement: Miyota 9015 Automatic Movement (Regulated in 4 positions)
•   Water Resistance: 300 Meters / 1,000 Feet
•   Glass: Double Domed Sapphire Crystal Glass with Anti-Reflective Coating
•   Caseback: Exhibition (See-thru) Sapphire Crystal
•   Lume: Swiss Super-Luminova C3-X1 
•   Bezel: 120 Click Uni-directional (Choice of Domed Sapphire or Domed Solid)
•   Straps: Quick Release
•   Watch Winder Included
•   Case Size: 43mm
•   Lug-to-lug: 48mm
•   Thickness (Including Crystal): 13.8mm
•   Strap Lug width: 22mm
Bonus Image: The sold out DLC Torsk with meteorite dial.

Final Thoughts:

I spoke with Alan a few times during the planning of the Torsk Diver. It was delayed a few times as he searched for the right suppliers to achieve consistent quality. That’s a great sign for any microbrand: Rather than rush to launch and production, TSAO chose to get it right. The attention to detail paid off with a big Kickstarter launch in the fall where the project met its goal within minutes and soared to more than $200,000 in orders.

The Bremont comparison is bound to come up and not everyone will take a forgiving stance on the subject. But microbrands are going to borrow influences from one another, just as watch companies have done throughout the history of horology. No one is reinventing the wheel with a watch release. That said, I do think TSAO would do well to inject more originality into its next release. What we have here is an attractive watch made for a noble purpsose: It supports a historic American treasure and should be enjoyed in that spirit.

For a limited time, WATCHA readers can use the code WATCHATORSK at the TSAO Baltimore site for a 5 percent discount.

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