I reviewed the Deaumar Ensign prototype just before its launch in February. I liked its looks and declared it to be an impressive value, but despite my doubtless invaluable endorsement, it failed to fund on Kickstarter. Fortunately, Deaumar continued pre-sales on its own and secured enough to see it through to production. Now, Ensigns are shipping out to their owners and a new model, the Chronova, is on its way. In anticipation of the launch, Deaumar sent me a new blue Ensign and a prototype Chronova for review.
Like the prototype, the final version is a 200m dress diver with a Seiko 4R36 automatic in a 42mm stainless steel case. Features include a screw down crown, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, and a solid link bracelet with a signed clasp. Short, integrated lugs keep the length to a compact 46mm, which makes for a tidy fit on smaller wrists without sacrificing presence. I was taken with the shimmering blue dial and plodded markers on the prototype and the final is no different. The final watch stays true to the prototype but has been upgraded with solid end links, a solid two-piece clasp, and it trades the printed aluminum bezel insert for glossy, engraved ceramic.
Deaumar had always planned for solid links, but the ceramic was a later addition. It vastly improves the watch. There is nothing inherently bad about aluminum, but I have grown to love the slick look and high scratch resistance of ceramic. My only real criticism of the prototype was the fat font printed in silver on the bezel. The new insert does away with this. The engraved markers are better proportioned than the old ones, and the white color is a better match to the markers on the dial.
Of course, the price has changed as well. You could pre-order the Ensign for £131 GBP, or about $189 USD at the time. The watch is now £249 GBP, which thanks to a favorable exchange rate, is just over $403 USD. Perhaps not the bargain it was before, but still a fair price for a satisfying watch.
Now, let's move on to the new one. Like its stablemate, it uses a Seiko movement, but this time it is the VK63 MechaQuartz, a popular hybrid movement that marries a quartz timekeeper to a mechanical chronograph module. This combination yields a reliable, inexpensive movement with a smooth, 1/5 second sweep and crisp snap back on reset.
The stainless steel case measures 42mm wide and 51mm long. Its upper surface is brushed, the sides and bezel are polished, and a polished chamfer cuts along the the outer edge of the curved lugs. I like a combination of brushed and polished finishes, and this is no exception, but I would have preferred brushed sides to highlight like right chamfer. Long lugs make it wear slightly larger than the Ensign, but one would hardly call it oversized. I found it perfectly comfortable on my 6.5" wrist, and had no difficulty wearing it with a buttoned cuff. The crown is signed, and an engraving of a LeMans racer decorates the case back.
Chronographs are sports watches, so while I do not expect the same degree of toughness found in dive or tool watches, I do appreciate it when they can take some lumps. The Chronova meets the standard with a sapphire crystal and 100m water resistance. The Chronova's H-link bracelet is nearly identical to the Ensign's. Of course, the end links are a different shape, but they share the same finish combination, solid links, and split link pins. It is 22mm wide, tapering to a 20mm signed clasp. Like the Ensign prototype, the preproduction Chronova has folded end links that will be upgraded in production.
Deaumar offers the Chronova in several colors, including a stealthy PVD black, but I requested a gold dial with a red and blue tachymeter index, a color scheme commonly associated with the beloved Seiko 6139-6002 worn by Colonel William Pogue on an 84-day NASA space mission. Not coincidentally, the gold Chronova is called "Pogo." An applied and polished logo and baton markers with beveled ends lend welcome dimension to the face. Deaumar's 1920's style typeface carries this treatment particularly well. Blue index rings surround the three sub dials. Baton hands are polished, and lume filled, while the second hand and sub dial needles are bright red. A framed, black-on-white date window tucks in at 4:30, a placement that does not interfere with an of the other elements. Overall, it is a successful design, effectively marrying the sporty red and blue elements with the fancier metallic gold and bright work.
Pre-orders open on November 3, at 6:00 pm GMT with delivery expected in March. 2017. The pre-order price is £249.99 ($. USD) not including 20% VAT for EU buyers.