‘Gilt’y pleasures: Going deep with the H-word and NTH Watches

There are few things that inspire division among watch enthusiasts more than the dreaded H-word conversation. Homage watches stir up emotions in the same profound way religion and politics have led to family members storming away from the dinner table mid-sentence. For the most part, H-word arguments are just better left unsaid so Grandpa can just finish his damned turkey leg for once.

But Chris Vail, owner of microbrand stalwart NTH Watches, has never been one to hold his tongue – leading to some pretty hilarious clashes with unruly clients and forum personalities. And NTH (an acronym for “nod to history”) has never been bashful about borrowing heavily from historic design cues. Those cues are front and center with the Oberon II and the Amphion, two submariner-styled timepieces that swim deeply into mid-century Rolex details.

First, let’s take a look at the Oberon II. This charming throwback features a black matte waffle dial providing some detail and depth. The thin pencil hands are a sleek choice for timekeeping and really allow the waffle texture to stand out. Generous amounts of Superluminova are applied with precision and blaze in the dark.

While classic submariners used aluminum or bakelite bezels, the Oberon uses a thick, DLC coated stainless steel bezel insert with deep engraved markers filled with lume. The engravings provide another level of depth that works well with the watch. We’ll save the case features and style for further along in the review, as the Oberon and Amphion cases and bracelets are identical.

The Amphion:

There’s really only one word that pops into your head when examining the Amphion: Gilt. For the uninitiated, gilt is a style of dial printing that highlights gold details. NTH uses a method that involves gold plating the dial’s base metal and printing directly on the surface, creating a beautiful satin finish with exposed golden markers and logo. It’s truly a delight to play with the dial in direct light. This method of dial construction is expensive – as the precise printing required leads to many throw-away dials. Gilt dials are coveted by vintage Rolex collectors for a reason.

The Amphion uses the same style of sword hands as the legendary Rolex “Milsub” reference 5517. They carry on with the gilt dial golden accents. As far as I know, the 5517 was never offered with a gilt dial layout. And therein lies the fun of a homage piece – you get some quirky mashups and fun takes on classics with modern conveniences of a new watch.

The Case:

Both the Amphion and Oberon II share a slim sub-style case housing a Miyota 9015. This was a great choice for reliability and to keep the case nice and slim. The case edges are beveled and swoop down into curved lugs. One quick way to gauge quality of case finish is to close your eyes and feel the back edges. I’ve felt unfinished edges that could easily draw blood. I’m happy to report that these cases are excellently finished with no sharp edges and contrasting polished and finely brushed finishes. The crown is large, grippy and perfectly finished.

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The bracelet carries on the sleek finishing with a tapered oyster-style and flip lock clasp. Six micro-adjustments and a few half-links ensure a perfect fit. If I had one complaint, and it’s really more of a personal preference, I’d prefer a female solid end link setup. Male solid end links essentially increase the length of the watch and are prone to scuffing against the other links. I haven’t experienced that problem with this watch.

Specs:

Oberon:
316L Stainless Steel with Double-Domed Anti-Reflective Sapphire
40mm diameter (without crown) x 48mm lug-to-lug x 11.5mm thick
Miyota auto cal. 9015 (with date) or 90S5 (no date).
Tritec Swiss Superluminova
120-Click Uni-Directional Bezel with Top-Grade PVD/DLC Stainless Steel Insert
20mm lugs with tapering bracelet & 18mm double-locking diver’s clasp
28,800 BPH with 42+ hour power reserve
Dial & Hands: C3
30 ATM / 300m / 984ft WR with Screw-Down Crown
Weight with Bracelet: 4.9 oz / 140g
Average daily rate of -10/+30 secs/day with max 40 secs/day positional variance
Bezel: C3

Amphion:
Gilt dial
See above for remaining specs

The Verdict:

Without wading into the great H-word debate, I have to say I love these watches. The finish is excellent and you simply can’t find these details and styling without dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a vintage Rolex. So, to the homage haters out there, chill out and let us finish our dinner in peace. You can learn more about the Amphion and Oberon II at www.nthwatches.com.

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