Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Phoibos Sea Nymph

It is not often that I get the opportunity to review a women’s watch on The Time Bum. Part of this can be chalked up to the obvious fact that I’m a man, but even if I were not, the micro and independent brands I normally cover just don’t offer nearly as many watches for women as they do for men, which is why I was so interested when the folks from Phoibos asked me to review their Sea Nymph quartz diving watch. 

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange
Now, because I am not the target market for women's watches, I enlisted the aid of three women. The first is Mrs. Time Bum, of course. She is the least watch nerdy of the group but has a growing collection of dress watches from Cyma and Baume & Mercier, as well as an offbeat white ceramic Movado Cerena. The second is Weng, a regular in my informal DC Watch Nerd Dinner Club. She owns some lovely vintage pieces and shares my affinity for slim 40mm divers like the NTH Subs and the Emperor Penguin Watchuseek Forum Watch. Rachel is the third. She is another enthusiast whom I met at the Microbrand Meetup and District Time events. Her collection is a mix of dress and casual with pieces from Nomos, Jaeger LeCoulture, as well as a Stowa Fleiger and most relevant to this review, a 36mm Oris 65. All of us have bemoaned the relative scarcity of interesting, smaller size watches. I've tried to incorporate everyone's observations in this review.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange

So, yes, it is a quartz, a Swiss Ronda 705. I know that a battery-driven movement will put off many a watch nerd; however, there is much to be to be said for its accuracy, durability, shock resistance, and invulnerabilty to magnatism, all of which are desirable attributes for a tool watch. It's small size also goes a long way to keeping the Sea Nymph's case slim. That said, watch collecting is driven more by emotion than logic, and we all missed the smooth sweep and mechnical soul of an automatic.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange

The stainless steel case is listed as measuring 36mm wide and 42mm long. When I put the calipers on it, I discovered that it is 36mm across the bezel, but the case itself is only 35mm, allowing a bit of overhang. It is a scant 11mm thick from the case back to the top of its double-domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. There is no break between the lugs and the barrel, resulting in one continuous, gradual arc. 

Phoibos Sea Nymph side profile

The crown guards are small blocks with smooth edges and rounded corners. All surfaces are brushed north-south except for the polished and signed crown and the wave pattern bezel that is the watch's most prominent feature. You can order the Sea Nymph with a flat sapphire insert, or a brushed and engraved one as shown here. 

Phoibos Sea Nymph lume

All of us liked the Sea Nymph's dial. It is sun-brushed and embellished with curving lines like those on an iris aperture, providing a  dazzling effect when the light plays across it. Its long sword hands, lollipop second hand, and dart-shaped markers are applied and polished. A date window replaces the 6 o'clock marker. Phoibos's intricate and delightfully sinister crowned octopus logo is printed at the top. Whatever you do, don't imagine that it looks like a Mardi Gras mask or you'll never see it any other way (sorry). Down below, it simply says "Professional 300M" in an unobtrusive all-caps typeface. We all liked the intense orange color. Other options include blue, red, or black with a matching sapphire bezel, or white with the brushed bezel.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange macro

You shouldn't let the Sea Nymph's diminutive size fool you; the Phoibos is a legitimate diving tool rated for 300m with a 120-click bezel, screw-down crown, and bright blue SuperLuminova on the dial and BGW9 on the bezel. Around back, a very 1960's looking illustration of a scuba diver proclaims the Sea Nymph's tool watch intentions. I find it odd that the diver on a a woman's watch has no obvious female attributes, but at least it wasn't a mermaid.

Phoibos Sea Nymph case back

We all appreciated the Sea Nymph's compact proportions but split on the bezel. I liked the look and its smooth action but hated the fact that the waves peaked to the left. Had they peaked right, the steep edge would have provided better grip. As it is, I found it awkward to turn. Weng had no such problem and preferred the apparent clockwise rotation of the waves for aesthetic reasons. Rachel observed that the waves are oriented in the opposite direction of the dial's pattern, perhaps so that they would not look like an extension of those lines. All three of us liked the way the brushed bezel kept your attention on the dial, making the watch appear smaller.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange

Mrs. Time Bum dissented. She believed the polished edge and brushed bezel were distracting and difficult to read - the very opposite of what you want in tool watch. I chalked it up to the Sea Nymph being more of a dress diver, but she was unmoved. She actually ended up as more of a tool watch purist in this regard, wishing it had no brightwork and better contrast. I suspect the black dial, sapphire bezel model might have been a better match for her.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange

In the same vein, Rachel took issue with something the rest of us were perfectly willing to overlook: the 12-hour index. One can argue that the vast majority of dive watches will never go diving, so a bezel that serves as a poor man's GMT may be more useful, but she raised an excellent question. Why go through the trouble of making a watch that can dive to depths beyond that of a blue whale and not provide even the option of a proper 60-minute elapsed time bezel? After all, if you are exploring the Great Barrier Reef, it is more important to know how long you have been submerged than whether it is lunchtime in New York.

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange rubber

Phoibos supplies the Sea Nymph with two 18mm quick-release straps: a drilled leather rally and a fitted rubber strap bearing the Phoibos logo. Both are color keyed to the dial and taper to an angular buckle. It isn't often that you see a rally on a diver and it works well here. The rubber strap is the more conservative option and also meets my requirement that any serious dive watch should be shipped with one waterproof strap. 

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange wrist shot man

I own several dress and vintage watches in the 34-36mm range so I expected the Phoibos would be fine on me. And it was, sort of. Perhaps I have just become accustomed to big honking divers, but this one felt a tad undersized on my 6.75" wrist (above); although, to be honest, the more I look at that photo, the more natural it appears. On the other hand, it was just fine one Mrs. Time Bum's 6" wrist (below) and on Weng's 5.75" wrist. The only issue was that Weng had to wear it cinched to the very last adjustment hole, and even then it was on the loose side. 

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange wrist shot woman

In the end, we all liked the little Phoibos for size, proportion, and appearance. The Sea Nymph even came close to winning over the normally tool watch adverse Mrs. Time Bum. If you can accept the fact that it is quartz, you will be rewarded with an attractive and capable dress-diver for very little money - just $180 for the steel bezel and $200 for the sapphire bezel. There may have been elements we might have changed, but Phoibos gots the overall package just right, which is nice to see in this  underserved market segment. 

For more information or to order a Sea Nymph visit phoiboswatch.com. ⬩

Phoibos Sea Nymph orange full kit

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