Draken Kalahari

New Zealand’s Draken Watches is returning to Kickstarter July 15 with a new military style tool watch, the Kalahari. They let me have a week with their two prototypes, and I came away mighty impressed. The Kalahari is a sexy beast with an interesting new movement, and an eye-catching design brimming with clever details.

Draken Kalahari

The watch is 44mm wide, 51.3mm long, and just over 15mm thick. Two large knurled crowns, an aggressively textured bezel, and unbowed case sides accentuate its size, while its short, angled lugs allow it to sit more comfortably. It is right at the physical limits of my 6.5” wrist, but bold presence is kind of the point of a watch like this. You are supposed to strap it on along with your combat boots (or more likely for me, a ratty pair of sneakers), not a coat and tie.

Draken Kalahari wrist shot

As you might have gathered from the name, the Kalahari is desert themed, and this is reflected in its black and sand color scheme. There are two variants: a black dial with C3 lume in a blasted case, and a full lume dial in a PVD black case. Both exhibit the kind of rugged good looks one expects from a modern tool watch. The watch features a domed, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, both crowns screw down, and it is rated for 100m water resistance, which is more than adequate for any outdoor adventure and about 99m more than you would likely require in the actual Kalahari.

Draken Kalahari power reserve close up

Draken’s choice of a Seiko NE57 movement dictated the Kalahari’s layout and some of its most interesting design choices. The NE57 is part of Seikos Premium Mechanical range. It is a hacking and hand winding 29 jewel automatic with Diashock protection, a 21.6k bph vibration rate, date complication, and 50-hour power reserve that is measured by a central display. That reserve meter is the key to this dial’s design. The Draken team fitted a large disk with “power bars” cut from it. When fully wound, the bars sit between 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock, showing black. As the watch winds down, it rotates counterclockwise, revealing red that appears to advance up the meter. It is a great look, not unlike an aircraft instrument, and easily read whether day or night. I must award bonus style points for the way the power bars and the bezel share the same repeating parallelogram pattern.

Draken Kalahari black

Of course, this power indicator arrangement presented its own challenges. In its usual orientation, the NE57’s date is at 6 o’clock, right where the last blacks of the meter would be when fully depleted. Rotating the movement for a 5 o’clock date and 2 o’clock crown solved the problem. The second issue is it is impossible to print text or a logo on a rotating disk unless you want them to turn upside down. As a result, the dial is left sterile. Not that you will forget who made this watch. The Draken name is instead debossed on the side of the case, and the logo graces both the primary crown and the case back. I am not usually a fan of writing on a case, but on the Kalahari, it makes perfect sense.

Draken Kalahari side

Beyond the power reserve, the Kalahari’s face has a few more exciting touches. The date wheel is partially exposed, peeking out from under the reserve meter disk, and marked with a red triangle echoing that on the bezel. The primary surface is a sandwich dial with four large printed numbers and equally sized cutaway batons marking the remainder. The hands are oversized, skeletonized swords, complemented by a bright red second hand. The bases of all three hands are color matched to the dial, so they appear to float, that is until the overly long counterweight on the second hand breaks the illusion as it passes over the other hands. Yes, I know I’m nitpicking here, but if I could snip just a couple of millimeters off the end, it would be perfect.

Draken Kalahari full lume dial

At the perimeter is an internal bezel with a 12-hour index. Align the red triangle with the hour hand, and you’ve got a poor man’s dual-time. Some would say that a proper military watch must have a 24-hour index, but in my life, I have never needed one. The 12-hour makes more sense to me.

Now, let's talk about the lume. As we learned from Draken’s last watch, the Peregrine, they are not afraid to spread the stuff around. On this watch, they take it even farther, adding C3 Superluminova to the hands, markers, date wheel, and power reserve on the black dial, and to damn near everything on the full lume dial (with everything else in high contrast black, of course). It is stunning. You may notice some thin application in places, particularly the full lume reserve disk, which betrays some pooling at the edges when the lights go out, but you must remember that these are prototypes. Lume on the final version should be far better.

Draken Kalahari lume shot

We’re not done with lume yet. You’ll find more on both crowns and on the big logo stamped into the diamond textured case back. Why put lume on a part of the watch that almost never sees the light of day? Because it is cool to see things that glow in the dark, that’s why. It makes very little sense otherwise, and I absolutely love the absurdity of it.


Draken Kalahari lume

Both prototypes arrived on 22mm khaki canvas straps with quick release pins, and 20mm signed buckles. The khaki is cool, but it won't be the only option. Expect olive canvas, and black or tan leather to be offered during the pre-order campaign.

Draken Kalahari khaki strap and buckle

The Draken Kalahari launches later in July for a pre-order price of about $450. At that price, it is an easy recommendation. These watches look fantastic and deliver all the right specs with a high-quality movement to boot. For more information and a Kickstarter launch alert, head over to drakenwatches.com. ⬩


Draken Kalahari case back

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