Review: Tidewater will cure your blues

McDowell Time is a 5-year-old micro brand that has so far released three watches in various iterations (the Maxton, DelRay and Sonoma) and now offers their first dive watch – the 42mm Tidewater available in blue, black and white dials.

Micro brands in the sub-$600 segment of dive watches have greatly proliferated in recent years with many companies, both established and emerging tugging at our wallets.  The past five years in this segment have seen a great improvement in cases, bezels, bezel action, use of ceramic and sapphire bezel inserts, sapphire watch crystals, sapphire display backs, use of Swiss automatic mechanical movements, and well-engineered bracelets.  And Tidewater scores on all of those.

Specifications:

42mm diameter case x 14.2mm height (including crystal) with lug to lug of 46.3mm

316L Stainless Steel Case 

Ceramic Bezel 

Raised Hour Markers 

C3 Superluminova 

Sellita SW200 Automatic Movement (Swiss) 

200 Meter Water Resistance 

38 hr pwr reserve

First impressions

A pretty watch, mid-sized with some heft.  Feels like a quality piece as soon as I picked it up.  Highly legible dial.  User bezel.  Nice bezel action.  Nice size.  I liked it so much I asked if I could borrow it for a few days and here are my thoughts.

The blue is both striking and handsome, not too weak or feminine and not too dark so you’ll always know its blue.  The watch is particularly legible with good sized sword hands that are a perfect length for the dial and markers.  I like how the hour hand is wider than the minute hand which is a proper tool design.  The applied hour markers give it an upscale touch.  The zero mark on bezel is prominent and enhanced by the first 15 minutes highlighting.  The coin edge is a nice touch that dresses up, provides a good grip, and tones down the toolness.  The case is a soft square.

A Closer Look

Blue watches can be highly idiosyncratic as I have found over several years of collecting blue divers.  Too dark and the color quickly goes black in low light, too light and in broad daylight it can turn to powder blue or otherwise be too bright.  The Tidewater strikes a great balance.  It stays blue in low light, which is no small feat, and avoids the baby or bright blues in broad daylight.  It also avoids purple, the bane of many blue watches depending on lighting.  While the beauty of any blue is subjective, I find the Tidewater’s color to be a winner and would suggest you take a look at it if you have any interest in a blue watch.

The case shape is distinctive, a soft pillow that minimizes its squareness with close tailoring to the bezel.  I’m not a fan of square cases but I enjoyed wearing this.  The crown guards are also cut close to the case and are nicely stepped.  The crown is small for a dive watch but is easily grasped and turned due to its aggressively cut ridges.  The overall size and protrusion of the crown and guards is minimal for a dressier look and reduces the possibility of the crown digging into the back of the hand as I have experienced with numerous divers.  I wore the watch for a week and found very comfortable, so comfortable that at times I checked to see if I was wearing a watch.  The signed crown is a nice touch and I very much like the slightly domed crystal which is more expensive and adds a nice aesthetic.  Overall a competent tool watch, and a pretty every day watch.

I also like bezel on this watch – it’s a great user.  Mainly because the “0” marker (or pip) is prominent against the other hour markers.   Very useful.  The highlighting of the first fifteen minutes is nice and I much prefer 15 over 20 minute highlighting.  The grip is good, and adequate when wet as I use timing bezels in water.  The bezel is solid, no wobble, and the action is a crisp and smooth 120 clicks around.  Nicely done.  My only concern is that the rotational resistance is on the lighter side which reduces my confidence that the bezel will stay put.  I like very much that the bezel insert is ceramic as it resists scratches and will stay looking nice for a long time and has a nice polish on it.

The bracelet here is also very nice – hefty with solid links, solid end-links and close tolerances.  The clasp – while it may look generic but is not – is exceptionally hefty with a positive non generic dual button release – the nicest iteration I’ve seen in this type of clasp.  Icing on the cake was the one-piece screw bars securing the links.  These are expensive to machine and the best way to do it and I generally only see this on watches costing considerably more.  Just be sure to use medium strength thread locker when reattaching them.

The End

I’ve owned numerous watches in this price range, but never found one I kept.  This could be a game-changer.  With its bold color, toolish looks and engineer bracelet – it is a statement piece, one that delivers on the tool side.

The watch sells for $550 but is on sale for $475 through Dec. 3. You can learn more at the McDowell Time website.

My wrist size is just under 7.5 inches.

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