Distinct Diver: Visitor redefines tool watch look with Duneshore Shallows
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love reissues and tributes — especially when it comes to dive watches. They probably account for 90 percent of my collection. But I also have a soft spot for the eccentric, unique… and well, maybe a little weird. The Visitor Duneshore Shallows swims beautifully into the depths of the latter categories of watch design. Sure it has all the details necessary for a deep plunge – but it’s probably unlike any dive watch you’ve ever seen.
Founder Phil Rodenbeck has a great eye for the unconventional – similar creativity could be found on his previous releases, including the original Duneshore, the Vale Park Officer and the Linden. It’s very hard to pin down the influences on these watches – even for Rodenbeck. First we have several salutes to calligraphy, including ink drop indices and pen nib hands. Then there’s the other-worldly case shape that was inspired by sand dunes. But one possibility I explored with Rodenbeck was a similarity to the work of the Alien movie franchise artist HR Giger. While Rodenbeck wouldn’t consider the watches inspired by Giger, he has an affinity for science fiction works and loves the Aliens/Predator universe.
The look has intrigued me very much since the launch of the original Duneshore back in 2014. With its high polished case, innovative details and just flat out design audacity, I thought it was one of the coolest designs I’d seen. And a lot of budding microbrand enthusiasts and future watch brand founders agreed with me. In the past three years, I’ve interviewed several watch brand owners who cited Visitor as one of their inspirations. With that said, the designs are also quite polarizing. Take a gander at any of the comments sections from previous reviews of the brand and you’ll see what I mean. (Even though, generally speaking, I would advise to NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!)
The main point of contention with many enthusiasts is the look of the pen nib hands. Even with unique designs, you can usually count on some variation of the many accepted historical forms of hands in horology. The Visitor hands sort of split the difference between a wink and a giant middle finger aimed at these conventional designs. With the Duneshore Shallows, the unconventional hands take a big turn. The minute hand, while still pen nib- influenced, takes on the massive footprint of a plonguer hand – think of a very strange variant of an Omega Ploprof hand set.
There’s no escaping the fact that the Duneshore Shallows is a mighty big watch. It’s supremely wearable for most people, I think, despite its 44mm diameter. The curved caseback and angled lugs help achieve a surprisingly comfortable fit. Asthetically, there’s really not much to compare the case shape to. It’s technically a cushion case but carries over the sweeping angles found on the original Duneshore. This time around the midcase is treated with a brushed finish. The main circular body of the case is polished. Where the Duneshore Shallows starts to stand out from its predecessors is with the introduction of a 120-click bezel, and of course Rodenbeck has added his unique vision to the utilitarian feature. Three ink drop shaped lume pips mark the 30, 45 and 60 minute positions. The rest of the indices are enamel filled, providing daytime contrast. The 60-minute marker also protrudes from the case to be easily distinguishable as a minute marker. Sharp bezel teeth ensure an easy grip even when wet and the bezel action is tight with zero back play.
The impressive oil-pressed caseback is solid and curves to provide a nice wrist feel.
Dial and Handset
The Dunesore Shallows’s dial starts with some familiar features found on other Visitor watches. Long ink drop-shaped applied indices are generously filled with Superluminova, contrasting with the sandwich dots of the smaller minute indices. The dial is sectioned by the familiar cross hairs set up from previous releases and may remind some of a Doxa dial, particularly with the teal and oranges variants. A semi-gloss finish meant to invoke wet ink adds some glamour to this tool watch. The usual feature of the unusual right-justified logo finishes off the dial experience.
For the hands, Rodenbeck has reimagined his original pen nib style to meet the legibility standards of dive watch enthusiasts. The minute hand is big and bold yet maintains the quirky Visitor design language. Honestly, it was a look that took some time to get used to — but I think it’s perfectly fitting for this timepiece and consistent with Rodenbeck’s overall design vision for Visitor.
Duneshore Shallows comes with a choice of rubber strap or a polished mesh bracelet with Visitor’s signature large locking butterfly clasp with logo. I think it looks best on bracelet, but the added accessory will set you back another $100.
Specs and Pricing:
Width | 44mm
Thickness | ~15.6mm
Lug-to-lug | 51mm
Lug width | 22mm
Case material | 316L stainless steel
Crystal | Sapphire w/ underside AR
Movement | Miyota 9039
Water resistance | 200M
Bezel | 120 click uni-directional
Price: $750 w/ rubber strap, $850 w/ mesh stainless steel bracelet
To me, the genius of the Visitor design language is that it evokes a myriad of influences that really spark the imagination. These designs are meant for a thinking person. And in a world where we’re invited to do the least amount of thinking possible, that can be a challenging proposition. It took me a while to sit with the watch and contemplate all of the elements – the sum of which not only grew on me, but became a joy to ponder. Let’s face it, there is comfort in familiarity. For a lot of watch enthusiasts, there’s a fair bit of group think when it comes to size, design and details. This will be a tough sell for those collectors – but I would encourage them to think beyond the first glance here, as this is a timepiece worth pondering.
The Duneshore Shallows is in stock and available at the Visitor website.