Signum Cuda

Kyle Schut has enjoyed a string of successes with the Straton Watch Company, a brand dedicated to 1970s-inspired driver's watches. I have followed his work from the very start and have come to eagerly anticipate each new release. What can I say? The man clearly knows his stuff. Now, Kyle has tried his hand at a diver's watch and (rather wisely, I think) launched an entirely new brand to do so. The new brand is the Signum Watch Company, the new watch is the Cuda, and I got to sample two prototypes for this review. 

Signum Cuda heated meteorite 40mm

At first blush, it is hard to see a familial resemblance between the Signums and the Stratons. Kyle has taken a somewhat different tack with his divers, and this is by no means a bad thing. Diving watches have their own rather potent aesthetic, and if you are going to launch a new brand, you will do well not to rehash your existing body of work. That said, I see Kyle's hand in the new designs. Like many of the Stratons, the Signum Cudas also look to the disco era for inspiration and display Kyle's unapologetic use of bold colors. So far, so good.

Signum Cuda heated meteorite 40mm abalone 44mm

The Cuda is available in two sizes with a choice of six dials and a date option for each. Date models use a Seiko NH35 movement, while the other gets the date-wheel-free NH38. Both are 24-jewel, 21.6k bph automatics with Diashock protection, and are fine choices for a proper tool watch. All these variants must be a nightmare for inventory, but they present the buyer with a wealth of choice. Kyle sent me a mid-sized heated meteorite dial with no date and a large abalone with a date. 

Of course, the Cuda has all the dive watch necessities: 200m water resistance rating, 120-click unidirectional timing bezel, screw-down crown and case back, sapphire crystal, and SuperLuminova. Kyle told me the bezel and crown operation on my prototypes would be improved in the finals, so I can't really comment except to say they functioned fine, if not quite to the standard I have come to expect from his other watches. I have no reason to think the production watches won't be every bit as smooth and tight as my Stratons.

Signum Cuda abalone 44mm wrist shot

The big one measures 44mm wide, 48mm long, and 13.6mm thick. It fills my 6.75" wrist rather completely, but it isn't the largest watch I own. I wouldn't think twice about strapping it on for the weekend. The case is handsome and quite traditional. The smaller model is 40mm wide, 44mm long, and 13.2mm thick. This is the better watch for me, although I should note that because the thickness is nearly identical to that of the bigger watch, it feels taller, although this is not out of keeping for a diver.

Signum Cuda heated meteorite 40mm wrist shot

The other difference between the two cases is the ease of gripping the crown. On both versions, the crown is nestled almost flush between the guards. I was able to grab the 44mm without issue but found I needed more of a fingertip pinch on the 40mm. I didn't pay it much mind, but my compadre, Mike "Sausage Fingers" Razak*, found it awkward, so I could easily see how it could be a sticking point for some.

Signum Cuda heated meteorite 40mm

Both watches are otherwise similar. All Cudas have a brushed finish, flat sides, a 4 o'clock crown, clipped and drilled lugs, and stout crown guards. An etched cartoon Barracuda greets you on the flip side. The Cuda's most striking feature, aside from its dial (which I will get to next), is its bezel. Polished and coin-edged, it sports a glossy ceramic bezel, in which every engraved marker is filled with bright SuperLuminova. This is a look I always savor, but Signum goes the extra mile by luming the entire first quadrant in a bright white that is striking in the daytime and doubly so at night. Of course, the hands and markers are fully treated as well. What's that you say? You want even more lume? Have a look at the crown then. More still? In that case, I'd recommend the full lume dial option. I did not sample that one, but I can assure you it has maximum lumage. 

Signum Cuda lume

Now, the dial. I did promise to get around to that, didn't I? If you were shopping for plain black or navy, I've got bad news. The Cuda is for those with a taste for the exotic. You may choose black or white pearl, gray or blue meteorite, abalone, or the aforementioned full-lume, each framed by a silver chapter index. 

Abalone shell is a glorious, trippy swirl of blues and greens. It looks fabulous, but it is an inherently busy background, so the large applied markers and fat sword hands are key. They provide the instant readability you need when submerged, and frankly, anything too slim or finely rendered would have been swallowed by that psychedelic surface. The one item that seems to get lost is the brushed second hand, whose orange paddle tip seems a touch on the small side compared to its surroundings. It might have held its own a bit better if it were all white, but this is an admittedly minor complaint. It is a lovely dial. I even like the properly framed 4 o'clock date window.

Signum Cuda abalone

While the abalone is pretty, the heated meteorite is an absolute show-stopper. I've owned a few watches with plain old room-temperature gray meteorite and really enjoyed gazing at the crazy striations and random shots of sliver. Apparently, if you heat up the space rock, it loses its mind and turns a bright blue or purple. The sample was a Royal Blue and ... look at it! I mean, just look at it! Magnificent.

Signum Cuda heated meteorite

All Cudas are supplied with a steel bracelet; 22mm for the big one, 20mm for the mid-size. Like the case, the brushed links are neatly finished. A signed, flip-lock, push-button clasp secures it, and its five micro-adjustments will help you get the perfect fit. I really must award extra points to Signum for not following the irritating dive watch trend of fitting the biggest ratcheting expansion clasp they can find. An outsized steel box with sharp corners? No thanks. Give me a smooth, low profile flip-lock like the Cuda's any day. 

Signum Cuda bracelet

If you are tempted by the Cuda collection's unique style, sound specs, and range of options, the price will definitely make your "add to cart" finger itch. They start at just $249 for the mother-of-pearl, $299 for full-lume or abalone, and top out at $349 for the meteorite. That is a heck of a deal for a well-equipped diver with an exotic dial. After November 15, the prices will increase by $50, so if you plan to bite, I'd suggest doing so now. 

2020 has been a rough year all around. We all deserve something a little special as a reward. I think the Signum Cuda would be a fine choice. For more, visit SignumWatches.com.⬩

* I kid, of course. Mike's digits are perfectly elegant, like those of a hand model, which he totally should be.  

Signum Cuda case back


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