Competition in the microbrand, or “boutique” brand world is tough. What might have passed for a $1000 dive watch 5-10 years ago won’t make it today. Quality has gone up and so have customers’ expectations of what they should be getting for their money. While the Titanic was nice, it probably wouldn’t pass for what people expect out of a luxury cruiser today. Not enough Disney characters, too many riff-raffs painting portraits of high society nude women. But I digress.
Over the last five years there have been some real standouts in the “less than $1K diver” price range: Lorier, Halios, Farer, and even Christopher Ward, just to name a few. The need to stand out against the competition is a constant reminder breathing its hot breath across your neck. And while the Archon Sealiner tries to do just that, it comes up vastly short.
Archon is a brand owned by Blacklist and essentially only makes dive watches. Their website is quick to point out that divers always want a mechanical backup and that their passion for diving is what led them to create a dive watch brand. Timing is important to them. That’s brave.
Dive watches are heavily scrutinized, and as much as I hate to say it (since I’m not in the business to bash anyone’s hard work) every watch you make can’t be a hit. Archon says that this watch is “built for the sea” and is the ultimate tool of any diver, made of fail-safe materials. And while we’ll find that it’s a robust piece, boarding this Sealiner feels a little more cruise ship than serious diving vessel.
Right out of the box you’ll have to seriously address the elephant in the room. If you thought I was going to talk about the fact that it’s made of enough stainless steel to have been called the “SeaANCHOR,” you would be incorrect. The elephant in the room, after a few days of taking a serious look at the watch and wearing it nearly every day, is that this watch comes in at a serious price tag of $1148! Shew and sock. While I typically don’t mention the price up front, it’s really going to affect how you view this watch and while it’s probably worth that in the weight of stainless steel alone, the Sealiner is going to have a hard time against the competition.
45mm x 52.5mm Cushion Case
When I first saw this watch, what jumped out at me was the cushion case shape. I love those. And while Archon does a nice job of balancing the brushed and polished surfaces, it’s quite the surface. Measuring 45mm across and a whopping 52.5mm lug to lug, this is a sizeable chunk of metal.
If I can say one nice thing about it, the brushing and polishing is done very well and they do a good job balancing the two so that the massive 15mm thickness does not look like a slab sitting on your wrist. The case back is rather thick and the lugs are short and slightly curved, but the watch still sits high on the wrist.
Protruding from the case are two crowns, one at 10 o’clock to operate the bi-direction dive timer ring, and the other at three to operate the date and time. The bezel crown does not screw down but the main crown does. As big as this watch is, and as heavy as it is, neither of these crowns are big enough to operate easily on the wrist.
But if they were any bigger, they would really dig away at your arm and wrist. The last little bit you’ll notice is a small pusher hidden in the side of the case at 2 o’clock. Like an old Orient 46943 caliber, this operates the day of the week. The case back rounds out this massive package with a see-through unit engraved with some standard information and a look at the, seemingly, petite Miyota 9122 decorated in Geneva stripes. While the case is finished nicely, it’s much too heavy for real-world wear.
The gradient blue that represents light permeating the water is this watch’s strength. It’s truly a beautiful color and I found myself looking at it several times throughout the week. It even looks nice surrounded by the matte black dive counter on the edge. The two seem to work together to lessen the perception of size.
However, the blemish on the face of beauty is something I just can’t live with. Superfluous sub-dials.
Archon claims that the month (you read that right, month, in case you forget) and day hands are what sets the watch apart from the competition. Well, they do, but they don’t add anything. In fact, most people will probably give a first glance and think it’s a chronograph, only to find that they are merely the month and date.
I don’t like them for two reasons. One: it’s like discovering that a chronograph is fake and Two: it really takes away from that beautiful gradient.
This dial would have been great with just the date window at 6. You might actually be in shit creek if you’ve been underwater long enough to need to know what day or month it is. Speaking of that creek, Archon claims this is a sandwich dial, with which they were able to pack the “max amount” of Superluminova within. Well, it’s not really a sandwich dial. Nor does it give off enough light after being in the sun to see all that well at dusk. Finally, the hands are simple, flat steel hands and while they are easily read at any time of the day, they are as cheap as they come. While a beautiful color, there are serious chinks in the armor.
The bracelet is also nothing to write home about. It’s large, heavy, cladded in sharp edges and came with a standard push button clasp, with a flip lock that gave me trouble every day I wore it. While it may just be that this model has been passed around a few times, the flip was constantly loose. Several times a day, in fact.
It never came loose, since it has the extra security of the push button, but it isn’t acceptable, in any multiverse, for a watch that costs this much to have this problem. It’s like the bracelet was a bit of an afterthought, but we all know they can be make or break issues. Furthermore, if you want to swap it, it’s 24mm! I would strongly suggest trying to find rubber to fit it, however, I would fear the watch would become unbalanced due to the heft of the case.
Powered by a Miyota 9122
Under the hood is the Miyota 9122, which is one of Miyota’s more potent movements and still affordable. As far as the rundown of stats is concerned, it’s a 26 jewel, 28,800 bph movement that hacks and hand winds. Not too shabby. With a 40-hour power reserve, you’re running up on ETA 2824 and Sellita SW200 territory at and affordable price and a long life. Archon decorates it a bit with Geneva strips on the bridges and a sunburst effect on the rotor. Miyota claims the accuracy will fall between -10 and +30 a day.
Unfortunately, this watch does not equal the sum of its parts.
While it’s a well-built package, none of it seems to equal up to that $1200 price tag. The path to hell is paved in good intentions, and while I’m sure someone set out to make something stellar, this falls oh-so-flat compared to the competition around it. What Archon says is its charm seems to be more of a hindrance. It’s much too big to actually be worn on a daily basis, and its specs aren’t good enough to be a tool watch.
Meanwhile, dive watch competitors are churning out serious pieces for the same price. Check out Christopher Ward’s C60 Trident line or some of the C65 line. They’re better made, they write checks that they can cash with their specifications, and they do it for the same price or less. The Archon Sealiner might work better at a lower price, but then you get into affordable Seiko, Halios, and even Lorier watches. They all do a better job at what they do without trying to justify why they do it.
Basically, the Archon feels more like a “dive inspired” watch you might find at Belk. It feels like something that Fossil would put out. I’m a big guy and I have a big wrist, but this is too much. Personally, there’s not enough here to justify the cost. Not by a long shot. And while competitors will continue to sail out into the sea of notoriety, the Sealiner will struggle to leave the port.
Baird is an avid motoring enthusiast and a self taught hobbyist watchmaker from Bristol, TN. He has a love for all things mechanical and has an affinity for the style late 60s and 70s Chronographs and Dive watches. Baird views watches as engineering marvels and tools for everyday life rather than just jewelry. His writing style is inspired by certain “British automotive journalists” and his own experiences growing up and living in a blue-collar society.