Collins Sonar

Review and photos by Mike Razak

We ran a preview of the Collins Sonar in the Fall of 2019, but we’ve got the real deal, hands-on-with-actual-photos for you below!

If you aren’t familiar with Collins Watch Company, you should be. The brainchild of Jimmy Collinsa director, designer, and exceptionally affable human beingthe brand was founded in 2016 and also makes sunglasses (and I believe at one point may have made luggage, but don’t quote me on that). But the brand is definitely best known for its watches (and given the name, that makes sense). Collins released its first production model, The Bronson, in 2017. The watch was a simple 3-hander with date option, some fun dials, and a no-complaints ultra-clean aesthetic. Truth be told, I almost bought one at the District Time Show a few years ago, but it was the last carbon fiber dial and Jimmy was keeping it for himself—I don’t blame him. That said, even with a follow-up chronograph that used the same case with pushers, I think the Sonar is where the brand has hit its stride. It’s Collins’ first dive watch, and it’s smashing—especially the yellow model I had in for review.

Collins Sonar yellow

The proportions on the Sonar are just right: 39.5mm across, 12mm tall, with a 47.5mm lug-to-lug. It wears exceptionally well on my 7-inch wrist, aided by a slight curvature in the lugs. Aside from a polished bezel and crown, the case is entirely brushed, with crisp angles that evidence high-quality finishing. The 20mm lugs detour away from the case but then taper themselves a bit. At 3 o’clock, a ridged screw-down crown provides 300 meters of water resistance. It's signed with a ‘C’, though I would've preferred the Collins arrow here (as seen in the 12 o'clock dial marker). I'd also make the crown just a tad larger, maybe .5 or 1 mm each way—this is purely visual though, as the size creates no problems: it operates easily, with discrete positions (albeit with a dead date position).

Collins Sonar yellow

The 120-click unidirectional bezel matches the polished finish of the crown and operates smoothly, with absolutely no back play and a satisfying click when turned. The aluminum insert features a well-lumed index triangle and etched markers that add some very subtle depth.

Collins Sonar yellow

The yellow dial is on full display through a très moderne flat sapphire crystal. The watch is also available in black, white, green, blue, and orange, though I’ve seen them all in person and the yellow has quickly become my favorite (be advised that the black and white feature lumed black bezel inserts, and the entirety of the white dial is lumed). The dial is unfussy and maintains the delicate balancing act of the case. A minute track goes around the periphery and is broken up by polished markers with Super-LumiNova BGW9 lume. The 12 o’clock marker is the classic Collins arrow, while the cardinal hours are what I’ll call “peg style.” The remaining indices are all in classic baton shape. A reticle intersects the center of the dial, with the Collins name up north and the model and depth rating down south, all in black.

Collins Sonar yellow

Polished sword-style hands feature the same lume as the markers, and the second hand features a diamond pip towards its end. The length of the hands is on point: the hour hand just touches the base of the arrow and the east-west ends of the reticle, while the minute and seconds extend perfectly to the inner edge of the minute track. And if that weren’t enough attention to detail (by Collins for doing it, or me for noticing it), the seconds pip is situated so as to meet the interior edge of the cardinal hour markers. You may not think this matters, but it all contributes to the success of the Sonar’s design.

Collins Sonar yellow

I should mention that while the lume is certainly adequate, it’s by no means perfect. The hands and cardinal markers light up quickly and brightly without fail, but the bezel marker and the other hours take a bit more UV juice to get going. They light up, but the markers’ size makes them harder to shine as brightly, and they simply don’t seem to absorb as much light. Perhaps oddly, I found the contrast pleasing, as the arrow and peg markers are one of my favorite features of the watch.

Collins Sonar yellow

On the reverse, the solid screw-down caseback supports the crown in water resistance achievement. It’s engraved with a design that will only be featured on the first 20 of each variant. You know in movies when there’s a spy agency and the logo is invariably a map of the world on a circular grid? That’s basically what the design is--or a sonar grid, if you want to be boring about it. Surrounding the spy grid engraving are standard specs plus the specific number of the watch in hand (00020 for my review piece). And I don’t know what design is in store for the watches after the first 20, but I definitely hope it’s an etching of Jimmy Collins’ face.

Collins Sonar yellow

Under the caseback ticks a reliable Swiss SW200 from Sellita. As I mentioned above, it is a date movement, so you will need to deal with a dead crown position. Sellita has shed its old reputation for iffy reliability and now supplies more movements than ETA. The SW200 has 26 jewels, a power reserve of 38 hours, and ticks at 4hz for a smooth sweeping second hand. The watch is not only assembled in the US, but Collins also tests the movements and regulates them in six different positions.

Collins Sonar yellow

The Sonar comes stock on a brushed, oyster style bracelet that meets the case at 20mm and tapers to 18mm at the branded flip-lock clasp. Thanks to screw pins, it’s easy to size, and three micro adjustments in the clasp allow for fine-tuning. The end links are custom fitted to the watch and integrated with the rest of the bracelet, meaning no worrying about them running off with that stray sock. Once adjusted, the bracelet makes an already comfortable watch that much more so.

Collins Sonar yellow

I’ve been noticing lately that some brands have end links wherein the access to the springbars is hardly wide enough to fit in a spring bar tool, which creates an issue when changing straps. Well, that’s not a problem with the Sonar, and I was able—as you can see—to slake my near-insatiable thirst for strap swapping. They all worked, and they all looked fantastic. One of the things that most surprised me was just how versatile this dial and watch were when it came to straps. Another win for the Sonar.

Collins Sonar yellow

Have I properly gushed? Too much? Not enough? No matter. Maybe you look at the Sonar and go “I don’t get it. Why’s Mike lost his mind?” That’s kind of the point. Its design done so well that you don’t notice it. The Sonar isn’t hitting you over the head with a massive case, or too much shininess, or a cluttered dial. It’s just doing its thing, perfectly. Even the dial colors are perfectly executed to avoid overwhelming (as orange and yellow are wont to do). This watch is an all-arounder. You could—you, not me—have just one watch with the Sonar. That’s obviously an absurd postulate, but I’m making it nonetheless.


So, you have my blessing to go get this watch. The Sonar is available for just $595, direct from Collins. Each color will have an initial run of 20, so act fast (case in point: the white dial is already gone). That’s a fantastic price for a watch like this, so don’t be shocked if you see more of this from me, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to let it go.


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