With no sign of the vintage reissue trend slowing down anytime soon, it’s getting hard to find watches with modern personality that don’t feel gimmicky or overdone. The safe bet is for brands to dive deep into their back catalogs, refresh an old ’60s design, and profit. Once again, this is where the microbrand space really starts to offer casual buyers something different while remaining affordable and above all, entertaining.
I caught wind of the Traska Freediver by droning away on Instagram—simply feeding my addiction, half asleep, dribbling over lukewarm coffee. But what really caught my eye was the fact that this watch consisted of a very conservative design blended with a vibrant ’60s color tone that has fascinated me since the teenage years. It’s a watch with no ties to James Bond, SEALAB divers, or Hollywood directors piloting deep sea submersibles, which is fine by me. Here’s a closer look at the Traska Freediver.
It takes guts to keep things at 40mm and these days, I’m basking in the glory of brands miniaturizing and cutting the crap when it comes to sizing. The Traska Freediver is also 48mm lug-to-lug, making it more approachable than the average Black Bay and a timepiece that easily pulled double duty between my watch rotation and my wife’s. To my knowledge, Traska opted for an entirely unique case design as opposed to picking from a set of catalog cases. This kind of approach really keeps me hooked as a watch enthusiast and the skin diver style case really makes this feel like a watch that is built for fun and adventure.
The detailing is also quite impressive, with protective proprietary coating (1,500 HV) and a polished texture that transitions throughout the entirety of the lugs and case edges along with a brushed finish on the sides of the case. There are no crown guards and the watch features drilled lugs pictured above for easy strap changes. Although it was tempting to swap out, I kept the Traska on its sturdy oyster-style bracelet, which I’ll get to a bit later. Besides that, the case is a comfy 12.5mm thick, has a snazzy 120-click unidirectional sapphire bezel, 20mm lugs, a screw-down crown, and features 100m of water resistance—more than enough, no matter how much you bitch about it.
While the Traska Freediver is available with a basic black dial, the star of the line-up is what the brand refers to as the “mint dial.” Right away, the color reminds me of the old Fender Stratocasters I used to drool over as a kid, which were finished in what the manufacturer refers to as sea foam green. Anyway, the finish is highly reactive and can appear both pale or vibrant depending on how light hits the dial. In some cases, it’s more of a seasick green. And if that’s hard to imagine, it’s the kind of color tone I picture on the faces of those brave boys puking their brains out just before storming the beaches during Operation Neptune 73 years ago. Either way, it makes for a fun non-derivative dive watch look that’ll happily bring some color to your monochromatic collection.
The time display is also quite simple. Raised, lumed, and applied indices mark the hours and polished diamond-cut hands deliver easy legibility together with appropriate length. BGW9 coats both the hands and the indices and a polespear-like seconds hand hums away without obscuring the readout in any way. There’s complete symmetry and really, I love not worrying about a date when picking up a dive watch for a weekend getaway.
It’s hard to beat a good oyster-style bracelet and this is one of the best executions I’ve seen from a smaller brand. Every link is completely solid, the clasp is entirely milled, screw adjustments are provided for the links, and there’s even a bit of perlage finishing on the milled portion of the clasp. If I had to complain at all about the bracelet, it would be because the flip portion can be a little hard to press down and lock at times. However, this might be an issue with a prototype unit and I’ve seen this problem on watches that cost ten times what the Traska does. Otherwise, it features the same proprietary coating as the case and delivers a durable, masculine look with the performance to back it up.
Much like the rest of the watch, Traska kept it simple here without seeming lazy. Inside is a Seiko NH38, a dateless version of the popular NH35A movement. This means that you won’t feel the “phantom date” click when operating the crown to set the time and the experience is actually more pleasant because of this. Besides that, there isn’t much to be said here and I found the movement to perform favorably each and every time. It operates at 21,800 bph, allows for hacking and hand-winding, and this particular sample didn’t deviate more than +3 seconds per day. However, these results can vary greatly with watches featuring these NH movements but I’ve never had a bad experience with one.
Overall the Traska Freediver serves as an immensely pleasant watch. The color tone combined with the classic size, organic dial layout, and ease of use makes for a piece that’s just flat-out fun. It’s as if the Traska could serve as a perfect vacation watch or even just a nice accessory if you’re the kind of person that wears a lot of pastel colors. Currently, the watch sells for $400 in this configuration and you can learn more by visiting Traska’s official site. Hey Jon! Do I really have to give this back?!
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.