Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Swiss Watch Co. Diver

Review and photos by Mike Razak

The Swiss Watch Company pulls no punches. It’s right there in the name, perhaps more clearly than any other watch brand, that they A) are Swiss, B) make watches, and C) are a company. If the name confuses you, you may be beyond help. Having moved to the US after a career with The Swatch Group in actual Switzerland, founder Stephen Roemer started SWC in 1996. Along with his son, Josh—who manages the business end of things—the company has flourished. And this is not merely a brand, it is a true company: they started out making watches for armed forces and first responders, segued into managing the manufacturing for other brands, and only in 2018 did they realize the Elder Roemer’s dream of producing his own watch. That watch is the perhaps-too-simply-named SWC Diver. And much like the company, it pulls no punches.

SWC Diver

The SWC Diver clocks in a seemingly daunting 44mm wide and 13.2mm thick. These are dimensions that would ordinarily give me pause, if not immediately turn me away from a watch. But this watch is proof that it’s best to see a piece in the metal before judging. Especially when on a strap, it wears more like 42mm, which on my 7in wrist was a welcome surprise. Part of this is due to the short lugs (discussed more below), which make for a 48mm lug-to-lug—rather stubby for 44mm diameter. With the bracelet on, the watch wears closer to its 44mm, as the bracelet acts as a visual extension of the watch itself. The lugs feature brushed tops, ends and sides, with a ribbon-like polished chamfer that expands from the bezel to the tip for an elegant accent on an otherwise rugged watch.

SWC Diver detail

The scalloped bezel is brushed with polished cutaways and a ceramic insert color-matched to the dial. It has radial ridges that are interrupted by the 10-minute numerals. I love the texture around the bezel insert, but feel I’d love it even more if it continued under the numerals. Further, the bezel itself functions to adequacy but not beyond, as I felt it should be a bit tighter in turning. The sides of the case are brushed, with thick guards enveloping the signed crown in a cocoon of safety. While reassuring, the guards are big enough to make screwing the crown down slightly inconvenient, but once it’s in, it’s in, and you’ve got 300M water resistance for those ultradeep desk dives (let’s face it, standing desks are much higher off the ground). 

SWC Diver wrist

Through a sapphire crystal, the near square dimensions of the whole watch (remember, 44mmx48mm) are mirrored on the dial: The signature of the SWC Diver is the square in the dial, with horizontal striping that creates a wainscoting effect.. The dials are the same color as both the minute-marked chapter ring and the ceramic bezel. The color is rich and I would imagine this is true with all the dial options (currently available are green, blue, and white) I opted for green for the review because I’ve been on a green dial kick lately, and I’m a bit over blue dials. But that’s just me. The real star of the show here, and the star of the watch, is the lume. Yes, it’s Super-LumiNova C3, that classic green. You may look and say “Oh! Applied indices!” Nope. Wrong. That’s 20 layers of lume. Yeah. Twenty. 2-0. SWC laid it on thick and the results are stunning. The initial lume is as bright as you’d expect, but then goes on to nearly outlast both my Omega Seamaster and my Nodus Avalon (the comparison shots below, with the SWC in the middle, were taken after a 10-second flash with a UV light, and then 20+ minutes later). That’s some serious lume, and it’s no surprise that Mr. Roemer cited it as one of his favorite features.

SWC Diver lume

Sword-style sector hands feature the same amazing lume and are perfectly proportioned to the rest of the watch. A date at 3 o’clock is…just there. It’s not offensive, but it’s not amazingly done. I’ve seen early prototypes of the watch on Instagram: one featured a cyclops and the other featured a thick border around the window, both of which were better (you can look at the early prototypes on their Instagram account). The dial as a whole is well balanced, with lots going on but no clutter. And with that lume, you’ve always got a spare flashlight around in case the power goes out.

SWC Diver clasp

The bracelet features facets and finishes that bring it to life; the raised middle sections of each link  feature a polished bevel and add great definition and depth. The fold-over clasp adds no thickness to the bracelet, maintain the lines all the way around the wrist and culminating in a short, branded clasp link. It features push a button release and no diver’s extension, neither of which are true to the dive watch style, but also weren't dealbreakers for me as I don't live that underwater adventure life. Another nice feature is the integrated endlinks, which remain attached to the bracelet even when you remove the springbars. A huge negative for this watch (for the first day or two you own it, at least), though, is the Capsa pins. While probably the most secure pin option, they are a monumental pain in the ass to remove. I would have strongly preferred single-end screws, though Mr. Roemer said that getting the same secure link with screws was explored and would've pushed the watches to a price point they weren't comfortable with. 

SWC Diver wrist

I also must address the shortness of the lugs. As I mentioned above, they allow the watch to sit much smaller than its 44mm when on a strap, but getting the strap on there is a real bear. SWC provided me with curved springbars (in an implicit acknowledgement of the issue), and while that’s a good move on their part, the better move may have been to move the lug holes out or extend the lugs themselves. The fact of the matter is that in the microbrand world, strap swapping is to be assumed: the people who are buying an SWC Diver will likely want to swap the bracelet out for rubber, leather, or whatever other crazy thing they’re making straps from these days. The short lugs make this incredibly difficult, and curved springbars aren’t a satisfactory solution, as they just aren’t as secure as straight ones. All that said, once I got my brown rough-out leather strap on there, it looked fantastic.

SWC Diver case back

For power, SWC has gone with the Sellita SW200 automatic movement. Nestled under a striking wave-emblazoned screw-down caseback, the brand initially wanted to go for the ETA 2824, but sourcing those movements was next to impossible, and the Sellita is edging up on being as good as the ETA. So they made the smart choice. If Swiss-made movements are important to you, you get one. If they’re not, you still get one. Big win.

SWC Diver case

You’re reading this review and wondering how much this thing costs. Or you’ve scrolled down here and skipped the words (it’s ok, I’m not offended). It’s $450. Yeah. You get a Swiss-movement, real chops diver for only $450. You thought the lume was awesome? Only rivaled by the value. I tossed this thing around a bit, mostly playing with my rambunctious 2-year old, and was happy with it on my wrist the entire time (my son seemed to like it, too). The SWC Diver also comes with a zip-up case that can handle three watches and three straps, so that's nice. The only things to be wary of, are the short lugs—if you’re a strap swapper like me, just be sure you know that you may well not be swapping much with this one. If that’s not enough to turn you off, you can go grab one at the website (and if you love the look, but are looking for a chrono, they’ve got those too, with ETA 7733s). ⬩

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