Retras Dive Watch

Today, I’ve got a rather dandy retro-style watch for review, and I do mean “retro.” Retras Watches let me try their debut model, a midsize diver assembled in the Netherlands with a Swiss automatic movement and bags of charm. 

Retras Dive Watch

But first, a story. A few years ago, I bought a lovely vintage dive watch. The brand was unknown to me, but its proportions were ideal, and it had all the design cues I love. It is still a cherished part of my collection, and I often think, “If I were to make my own watch, I’d want it to be just like that.” Axel Schjins of Retras had a similar watch and the same thought, except unlike me, he actually did something about it. The watch was his father’s Dugena, and Axel has produced an uncannily accurate yet thoroughly modern recreation.

Vintage Dugena Dive Watch
The Dugena, not the Retras

The Retras is 38.5mm wide, 48mm long, and 12.2mm high with 20mm lugs. This is so not quite as small as many of the 36-37mm divers of old, but close enough to provide the right feel on wrists more accustomed to 40-42mm watches. 

Retras Dive Watch wrist shot

The push-pull crown is appropriately sized and unsigned, another nod to the original. The stainless steel case wears a combination of finishes, brushed on top, and polished along its flat flanks. There are no bevels or chamfers, but given its slim profile, none are needed. Indeed, the case doesn’t impart the impression of height as much as the Plexiglas box crystal does, which I’d estimate accounts for at least 2mm of the overall thickness. 

Retras Dive Watch side

Ah, domed acrylic ... one of my favorite watch design elements. I love the warm look, the shatterproof qualities. I even love the fact that it scratches because it takes no effort to polish them out, and over time, those imperfections become part of the patina. Besides, real vintage watches had acrylic. Case closed.

Retras Dive Watch

You may be more surprised to discover the watch’s bidirectional friction bezel. That’s right, two directions, no clicks. Also, the insert is flat aluminum. In an age where every other microbrand seems to have 120-clicks and some kind of unique material insert, the Retras may seem out of step. But remember that Dugena? This is the same setup and precisely what you would expect from a watch if that vintage.

Moreover, the Retras’s bezel functions just fine. Its polished coin edge offers more than adequate grip, it moves with just the right degree of resistance, has no rattle, and never once slipped when I was wearing it. In that regard, it is better than some of the modern bezels I’ve sampled. 

If the case sets the stage for the Retras’s authenticity, then the dial sees it through. No detail was overlooked. The distinct gray-brown (and depending on the light, a little green) sunray is exactly as it was on the Dugena. Same with the baton hands and the brushed tops and beveled edges on the blocky polished markers. The matching frame around the date window is a particularly lovely touch. Printed in white, the Retras name and Automatic designation do not detract from the rest. Creamy lume completes the picture. At a glance, there is no reason to think you are not looking at a NOS vintage piece. 

Retras Dive Watch

But of course, it isn’t a preserved relic. The Retras is a brand new, modern watch. Inside, is a Swiss STP 1-11, 26 jewel, 28.8k bph automatic, ready for years of use. The watch is sealed for 100m, which is more than ample for most water activities up to recreational diving, and likely 99.9m more water-resistant than a 50-year-old Dugena. While the lume may look elderly, it is fresh SuperLuminova. You can wear the Retras every day, even on your aquatic adventures, without the slightest hesitation. 

Retras Dive Watch lume

The watch arrives with a thoughtful collection of accessories. It is packed in a signed, soft leather watch roll with three pouches and a buckle fastener. You will get two straps, a tapered dark brown ostrich print, and a slick olive seatbelt NATO. Both complement the Retras’s beguiling dial. I wore it far more on the leather as I preferred both the more formal style and the sharper color contrast. Indeed, had I not been in COVID-required telework status, I would have happily worn it with a suit to the office. Still, as I have often said, a dive watch needs a dive-worthy strap, so I did appreciate the waterproof option. A leather key fob completes the package. 

Retras will make only 50 Dive Watches, and they are available for pre-order directly from the brand for €1199 ($1420). That may be the one thing I don’t like about this watch. Exceedingly low volume and assembly in the Netherlands (not China) comes at a price, but one that may make the average Time Bum reader balk. 

That said, if you do take the plunge, you will be rewarded with a watch that is damn near perfect in my eyes. It is attractive, versatile, and steeped in vintage goodness without any vintage fragility. For more information or to order one for yourself, visit RetrasWatches.com. ⬩




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