Heard of Club Gamma? If you haven’t, you may want to crawl out from that rock you’ve been hiding under and join the other 1,200 Gruppo Gamma fanatics who frolic daily on Facebook’s closed Gruppo Gamma group. It’s an enabler group filled with Gruppo Gamma lovers who all display a cult-like following, and for good reason. Gruppo Gamma and its founder, Naoki Tsukumo, have been pumping out some of the sickest classic-inspired designs since 2013. Their newest creation, the Divemaster series, is a mash of some of the best timepieces the world has ever known: Blancpain, Rolex, Panerai, and Zodiac, but with a personality all its own.
Specs: (p) stands for ‘Production Model Specs’
Case Diameter: 44 mm
Case Height: 16 mm (p)
Lug Width: 24 mm
Lug to Lug: 52 mm
Strap: Rubber ‘Gamma-frane’
Movement: Seiko SII NH35 (p)
Crystal: Double domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating on the inside
Water Resistance: 300m (p)
Pre-order Price: $399.00
Retail Price: $499.00Gruppo Gamma introduces new packaging, and it’s packed with new features like better fit for your timepiece and accessories while in transit, better grip when you’re on-the-go and improved aesthetics, which of course is completely subjective. To some, this may mean nothing, but to me, it means that Gruppo Gamma is continuously challenging the status quo, even that of an ordinary travel case.
While some of the models were already sold out during pre-order, the Divemaster D-02 I’ll be reviewing is not (check website for availability). I say ‘reviewing’ lightly, as the prototype I received is significantly different than the production model you’ll be purchasing. Admittedly, I found this to be one of my biggest challenges yet. How could I review a watch that will look significantly different than the one being produced? The answer was simpler than I had imagined. I’ll elaborate more on that later.
The dial is matte black, which is in stark contrast from the Divemaster’s black onyx-like ceramic bezel insert. Big, bold, heavily lumed Arabic numerals glow for hours on end, providing that nuclear C3 lume we’ve all come to crave. The D-02 will be fitted with a brushed handset, which is unlike the supplied prototype where the seconds hand is red. Is the splash of red a must for you? Gruppo Gamma has you covered! Pre-order the D-01R (stainless steel case) or the D-01N (DLC case) instead, both of which will come with a red seconds hand. Minimal printing on the dial gives the Divemaster an uncluttered look. The white date wheel, positioned between the 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock markers, will be replaced by a black one come production time. I felt very middle-of-the-road when it came to this decision, as I think the white one looks great on the proto. If a white date wheel underneath a black dial is a deal breaker for you, then feel free to rejoice.
The Divemaster’s angular case and lug design is chunky to say the least, but it’s been doing some cardio during production. It’s new physique will come in at 2mm less in height than when it was conceptualized, giving the Divemaster a sleeker, sexier fit underneath a dress shirt cuff. The lumed bezel’s ceramic insert is well-executed: an unmistakable nod to a 1950’s Blancpain Aqua Lung. A large screw down crown sits at the 3 o’clock position of the case, absent of any crown guards. Who needs protection when you’re the baddest crown around? Opposite the crown, you’ll find a helium escape valve for those of us (cough, cough) who dabble with saturation diving.
A redesigned stainless steel screw down case back, now adorned with Gruppo Gamma’s name, feels great on the wrist, and I found it to be more pleasing to the eye compared to past case backs. The domed sapphire sits a few millimeters above the bezel, and its edges distort a small portion of the Divemaster’s numerals quite nicely. Unlike domed acrylic crystals, sapphire crystals take much more of an ass whipping, and like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, they come out clean on the other side.
The strap used on the prototype, which I have dubbed the “Gamma-frane,” is light-years away from its inspiration, but I am told the production model will be fitted with their latest rubber blend concoction. Others have gotten quite close, and I’m confident Gruppo Gamma will too. With that said, strap changes were a cinch due to their screw in lug bar system.
Seiko’s SII NH35A (4R35) will power the watch, as the Miyota 9015 price and wait times continue increase.
Early on I mentioned that I would explain a bit more about how easily I was able to overcome the hesitation I felt when reviewing the Divemaster prototype and how the answer to my mental conundrum was simpler than I thought. You see, all too often watch enthusiasts like you and I focus our energy on the watch at hand while losing sight of the big picture. In the case of Gruppo Gamma, the Divemaster is simply a vessel made by a company that has never let me down! No matter what color the seconds hand ends up being or the overall height of the case is, I’m quite certain that the product will be something I’ll be proud to wear. Faith is a beautiful thing! Why not in this case?
© Ariel Javier