When Ariel Javier asked me if I wanted to review the Borealis Porto Santo Automatic Diver Watch, I thought to myself, “Do bears defecate in the woods?” Oh yea! Hey, I’m a watch nut. I like taking pictures of watches and I like writing stuff about watches. So I jumped at the chance. The fact that I used to own a Borealis Estoril 300 and thought it was incredibly well made also meant it really was a no brainer decision. A week later Ariel handed me a nice leather case and said, “Here you go”.
I have relatively small wrists at 6.75 inches and a lug to lug length of about 50mm is as large as I feel comfortable wearing, so you can imagine my reaction on opening the case and seeing the Porto Santo for the first time. “Wow, that’s big!” was my first thought. “It will probably overhang the ends of my wrist and look silly”, was my second. Nevertheless, undaunted, I pulled it out of the case recess and looked it over.
First impressions: this is a nice watch. The fit and finish are excellent and exactly what I expected after owning the Estoril 300. The machining of the case, the brushing, the polished areas of the case and caseback are first class and the recessed Allen screws holding in the wire strap bars are all exemplary. The more I looked at the watch, the more I realized that there was care in the design that some of the manufacturers who are charging over 10 or 15 times the price of the Porto Santo could learn from.
For example, all the edges on the case are chamfered. There are no sharp edges or points. I am very picky about that because I’ve owned a number of relatively expensive watches where there have been sharp edges and it resulted in me selling the watch. The Porto Santo is a great example of how to do it right.
Other things about the watch caught my eye. The blued B on the crown is a nice touch. It is in fact a plastic cover for protection of the crown and can be removed, but I liked the look of it and left it on. Also something I didn’t notice at first but thought was very neat when I discovered it was the recessed circular ‘hole’ in the side of the case which allowed the bottom of the crown to sit down into the case. Another subtle touch is the way that BOREALIS is engraved into the rehaut (chapter ring) of the watch.
Moving on to the strap, which is substantial at 24mm wide and around 3mm thick, it is supple and well made. The black stitching sets it off and matches the black dial version of the watch I have. The signed buckle is brushed to match the case finish and the fact that it is held together with Allen screws means that transplanting it to another strap is relatively easy. Another thing I liked about the strap is the number of holes in it. This strap would fit people with much smaller wrists than me. No looking for a hole punch with this one.
So what is it like to wear. First off, let’s look at the specifications because, as you all know, many times the numbers just don’t tell the real story.
Case Size: 44.00mm x 53.00mm
Lug Width: 24.00 mm
Case height: 14.40 mm
Sapphire Crystal with A/R coating inside
Miyota 8218 Automatic Movement
Water Resistance: 300 meters
Swiss Made C3 or Superluminous BGW9 Superluminova applied to dial, watch hands
You see there is that 53mm lug to lug measurement. That’s what scared me….. Well, guess what? I shouldn’t have worried. The watch wears incredibly well. Anyone who knows me, knows I am very vocal about watches needing to have flat casebacks. It’s the whole surface area contact with the dorsal part of the wrist thing, for me. The flatter the caseback, the better the watch wears in my opinion and in the case of the Porto Santo there is a lovely big flat caseback. Also because of the thin wire strap bars the body of the watch case is actually only 44mm in length, which is actually shorter than a Rolex Submariner. Given the above, why am I not surprised that the watch wears so well. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, Yes, it really wears so well.
Then there is the dial. Like the rest of the watch, it is big, around 34mm diameter big, but talk about easy to read. It is a simple layout with large well lumed hands that I had no difficulty telling the time with a quick glance. The large amount of lume also meant the watch was very easy to read at night.
The dial is also unusual in that it has a smaller offset seconds hand and indicator. The seconds dial is a slightly lighter color to the main dial and the same color as the BOREALIS lettering at the top of the dial. The color allows the lettering and seconds dial to almost disappear in low light and is much more subtle than that on the blue dial version. If you like subtle then the black dial version of the watch is for you.
The watch has a Sapphire crystal which has an Anti reflection coating on the inside and depending how the light catches the crystal there is a really neat effect where the light causes a blue ring to appear around the edge of the crystal. I found myself making subtle wrist movement just to catch the effect. Huh, boys and their toys…..ha, ha, ha.
The Porto Santo is powered by the Miyota 8218 movement. I don’t know much about it other than it has 21 jewels, is non hacking and automatic but Miyota are known for making robust, long lasting movements so it should give sterling service. Over a 24 hour period the watch gained 9 seconds. That’s not bad at all. The movement incorporates a date function in it but on the Porto Santo there is no date indicator. On setting the time, the first pull of the crown activates the date change mechanism, but obviously, this has no function here so one more pull engages the hand setting.
Ultimately, the Borealis Porto Santo was a watch of suprises and every one of them was good. From the quality of manufacture to the comfort and feel good factor wearing it, the watch really delivers. I have a bunch of watches to choose from every morning and I am also someone who prefers bracelets to straps. I obviously had to wear the Borealis as part of the review but I actually found myself wanting to wear it over my favorite DOXAs or other rotational watches. It has a really great wrist presence.
So is there anything I don’t like about it. Well yes. I’m not sure why it is referred to as a ‘Diver Watch’. Yes, it is water resistant to 300 meters and that alone makes it more water resistant than a number of well known dive watches, but for me, the shape just does not cry out ‘Diver watch’. I feel it is more of a ‘dress watch’. I just don’t picture it strapped to the outside of a wet suit, although it is certainly capable of it.
Of all the surprises, the biggest of them all was the price. Having bought the Estoril 300 previously, I expected it to be in the $500 range but honestly didn’t know when Ariel handed it to me. For this review I went to www.borealiswatch.com to check out the specifications of the watch and the price. I was absolutely gobsmacked to find that it is only $299. I am staggered that Borealis can produce as good a watch as this for only $299. I mean, let’s be honest here, $299 wouldn’t buy you an ice cream for a Rolex or Omega never mind a darned good watch.
The Borealis Porto Santo is expected to be ready in June 2017. It can be pre-ordered with a $149 deposit, the balance payable when the watch ships.
I’ve been tracking what Borealis has been doing for a while now. They aren’t just producing great “standard” watches, they are also taking risks by making watches that are a little bit off the beaten track. I’ve liked what they have done based on the Estoril 300, but the Porto Santo really blew me away. I used to think that the Seiko Orange Monster was the best bang for the buck around, but now I’m not so sure. The Porto Santo has to be a contender.
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar