Exploring the world of watches on a budget

The Devil’s in the Details

Guest Bum review by Zach Gulsby, an Account Manager by day, and a lifelong wristwatch enthusiast.  His Instagram handle is @zgulsby 

If you’re not familiar with this watch by now, you should be.  With a ranger-style dial, no date, and the ubiquitous 666 depth rating, there’s not much to dislike about this piece – unless you’re paranoid, of course! For those who aren’t as familiar, the Caravelle Sea Hunter was produced in multiple configurations beginning in the mid-60's and running through the mid-80's. As a brand, Caravelle was positioned to be Bulova’s Tudor - a lower priced brand that still met the quality standards consumers expected from Bulova.  The Sea Hunter filled the role of dive watch in the line.  

Throughout the production run, the Sea Hunter was produced in a few different configurations, with the date of production indicated on the case back as a letter and a number. The letter represents the decade, and the number the year of that decade: M6 is 1966, N0 is 1970, and so on. This 1970 example is the earliest style, which is manually wound with dauphine hands, and a dial reading “Waterproof.” I believe that production of this style began around 1965. Around 1970, Caravelle introduced baton hands with a lollipop seconds and a dial that read “Water Resistant.”  Sometime thereafter, the watch was produced with automatic movement and a date window at 3 o’clock.  

My research indicates an overlap of dates and styles up until the switch to automatic – 1969’s with lollipops, and 1970 examples like mine with dauphine hands. Movements are not dated, so it becomes difficult to determine if Caravelle was simply working through a stock of parts before the switch to automatic, or if parts were replaced during regular service. I lean toward the former because when these watches were originally produced, they cost $29.95 – even considering inflation, which puts the cost at $150 in 2017 dollars, I have a hard time believing that someone would send this watch back to Caravelle for service.  

Today, the cost of a Devil Diver is significantly higher than the original price.  If you were lucky enough to get in before the run began, you might have been able to score one for around $250.  Now, prices are near $500 or more, which isn’t surprising to me given how charming these pieces are.  

At 37mm, the case is well sized for modern wear, especially given the 20mm lug width.  I’ve thrown a vintage-style tropic strap on mine, which is how this model was shipped originally.  I love that the crown is large, signed and unprotected, adding to the ‘70s vibe. By far, my favorite attribute of the Devil Diver is its dial.  It’s perfectly balanced, and the tritium lumed explorer style indices are simply awesome. What’s impossible to overlook is the reason this watch got its nickname - the 666ft depth rating. I have to imagine that Bulova (and by extension, Caravelle) chose this rating with cheeky intention - it doesn’t exactly equate to 200m and differed from other standard depth ratings of the time. It’s something I find unique and quirky, but for others, it’s a non-starter - I even have friends who won’t even touch the watch!  

While I do enjoy many aspects of the Devil Diver, I do have a few nits to pick.  For example, the bezel is bi-directional and does not ratchet. I understand that this watch was a budget option at the time, but it’s worth mentioning and certainly takes the level of quality down a notch. My second nit is the non-hacking, calibre 11DP movement. A manual 17 jewel movement produced by Citizen for Bulova, the 11DP fits more into the category of “workhorse” than it does “feature packed.” I equate it somewhat to Seiko’s 7S26 of today.  

Overall, the Caravelle Sea Hunter, aka Devil Diver, is a worthy addition to my collection. It has enough kitschy charm to outweigh any minor qualms and doesn’t break the bank. If you want to pick one up, I’d suggest doing so soon, before prices climb any higher. ⬩

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