Every morning, I spend an inordinate amount of time standing in front of my watch collection, trying to decide what to wear. If I owned fewer watches, or just fairly neutral ones (say, stainless steel watches with black dials on bracelets), it would be an easy task, but I have a widely varied collection that includes an array of different color dials, cases, and straps. This complicates things and invites further variety, which leads to absurd observations like, "These blue watches are too blue. I need something in more of an azure or aqua color." Because who doesn't? That's not eccentric at all.
It was this very observation that made me buy an Armida A7. I have had my eye on this watch ever since they launched the brass case model with the green dial. I dragged my feet on that one until it was no longer available but my affinity for the barrel case and ceramic bezel never flagged. When they released the current stainless steel version, I knew it was just a matter of time. Armida offers three A7 variants: black dial with polished hands and applied markers, black dial with white and orange hands and printed markers, and blue dial with black and orange hands and printed markers. All are available with or without a 6 o'clock date. The watch sells for a very reasonable $379, but this past Independence Day, my intense longing for a new summer wardrobe serendipitously coincided with an irresistible 20% off sale. It was too good to be true. I immediately placed my order for a blue one, no date.
The watch made its journey from Hong Kong to Washington, DC in about a week, arrived packed safely in Armida's usual padded tube along with a complementary strap tool. They offer a chiseled bracelet with solid links and a nifty extendable diver's clasp for an extra $70, but I stuck with the standard 22mm Cuda vanilla-scented rubber strap with signed buckle. Yes, I know that I have been telling readers "always buy the bracelet." Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. Despite the fact that I have liked Armida's bracelets in the past, I did not anticipate wearing one on this watch. Well, that and I'm cheap. Mostly the latter.
A Seiko NH35 powers the watch. This reliable, 24-jewel automatic is a common workhorse in the micro brand world. It has a relatively smooth 21.6k bph oscillation rate, 41-hour power reserve, and both hacking and hand winding capabilities. I have also found that the Seiko's bi-directional rotor is a little quieter than the unidirectional rotors on comparable Miyota movements.
This is a sizable piece, measuring 43mm wide, and 13.3mm thick. Short, drilled lugs keep the length to a manageable 49mm, but the barrel shape has only a slight curvature and does not taper in profile. A polished, beveled edge around the upper surface of the case provides an attractive contrast to the otherwise brushed finish but does little to minimize the mass. A signed, 8mm crown at 3 o'clock with an aggressively toothy edge also enhances the perception of size. As a result, it wears large; perhaps a touch larger than I anticipated. It doesn't overwhelm my 6.5" wrist, but it is a sturdy slab of steel, best suited for weekend adventures.
The A7's sporting nature is more than just appearance; that burly crown screws down as does the solid case back. A 2.5mm flat sapphire crystal with internal AR coating protects the dial, and the watch is rated for 300m water resistance. The unidirectional bezel rotates smoothly through its 120 positive clicks without a trace of wobble or back play. The black ceramic insert has an engraved white index and a BGW9 lume pearl. I love ceramic. It is exceptionally hard, and it looks fantastic too. The downside is that it will crack if you strike it hard enough, but that much force will likely damage other materials as well. For the advantages in appearance and scratch resistance, I'll take ceramic every time.
I chose this particular watch because I wanted something special and the azure A7 did not disappoint. It is a bright blue hue with just a hint of green, but not nearly so much as a turquoise. To my eye, it is a dead ringer for Pantone Scuba Blue - a fitting color for a diver's watch. What I did not realize until I had the watch in my hands is that the dial is also metallic, glittering gloriously in sunlight. Seriously folks, this is a magnificent color. The photos on Armida's website don't do it justice. The dial is a traditional diver's layout with printed white baton markers and 12 o'clock triangle, and a black minute index. It is clean, uncluttered, and the handset is damn near perfect too; the black and orange combination is a perfect complement to the blue background. BGW9 lume pops in high contrast white all day, and a healthy blue glow at night. I did not order mine with a date, but this is one those rare dials where the date window adds more to the layout than it detracts.
All of that gushing praise aside, I do have one nit to pick. The A7 has a big dial and everything on it is printed, so it is noticeably flat. Like a pancake, on a board, in Kansas flat. Is it a deal breaker? Certainly not, but I do miss that touch of dimension. Applied white indices similar to the polished ones on the black dial would have made a world of difference. If you chose the back dial, I'd suggest the applied markers version, but to me, that crazy metallic blue would excuse a multitude of sins. I love this watch. The A7 has become my favorite summer companion. Its high water resistance will handle far more aquatic abuse than I am likely to encounter, and the scratch resistant crystal and bezel will keep it looking good for years to come. Best of all, its unabashedly bright color scheme is a perfect pairing with white jeans, an orange polo, and a piña colada.
Pro: Fabulous color
Con: Two-dimensional dial