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Squale 50 Atmos: The Ocean Conqueror
Introduction: How Squale Stands Strong Today
Although we most probably got to know Squale from their affordable value for money heritage dive watches with classic ethos, for entirely different reasons, we are fans of the brand. There is no denying that the world of watches today is obsessed with all "legacy". Prices for vintage goods have gone up, companies long been revived from the dead (with little or no connection to the past), and countless established brands are digging through their archives to revive discontinued models and designs. Regardless of the effort, things feel somewhat dishonest, with a marketing department clearly playing on its legacy to sell consumer stories that, more often than not, are untrue. Squale is different.
Squale's history goes back to 1948, when in Neuchatel, Switzerland, diving enthusiast Charles Von Buren first began assembling watches. The brand underwent serious growth under his watch, and throughout the 60s and 70s Squale was a respected leader in the diving watch world (in fact, a number of brands, from Doxa to Blancpain, subcontracted Squale to make cases for their watches. ). Later, Von Buren began manufacturing watches with the Squale name and shark logo, producing some of Squale's most iconic watches. In the last decades of the 20th century, the explosion of Quartz hit Squale hard, as it did with many other brands. Although Squale survived, efforts were refocused on producing affordable quartz models. With that, the brand faded from memory, but never really disappeared
In 2010, Squale was back in the spotlight again, this time under the Maggi family, Squale's longtime distributor in Italy. They steered production back to automatic dive watches, tapping into Squale's rich past and paying homage to some of their most important historical models. The watches Squale make today are not a marketing ploy or an enlarged reinterpretation of the old days. What they make are watches that really look and feel as if they were designed (formerly) and made in the 60s and 70s, albeit with modern manufacturing processes. (It's worth noting that some of the current models even use NOS sections.)
2014 has been a very exciting year for Squale. They introduced the Master in Basel, and working with Page and Cooper's Jonathan Bordell, they created a limited-edition Master line using a bunch of NOS bezels from the 1960s. Squale also introduced the Blue Dial and Super Matte, two interesting additions to the popular 50 Atmos line.
Squale 50 ATMOS - 1521
Today's review looks at the black dial variant of the 50 Atmos line (Ref.1521). Priced at around $ 829, the 50 Atmos is an impressive Swiss-made watch that, in terms of style and construction, outperforms most of the competition. The watch reviewed is from the Gnomon collection, so feel free to enjoy the details in the photos. Having said that, let's take a closer look.
The 50 Atmos case is, in proportion and nature, a master class. Coming in at approximately 41.5mm wide, with a 48.5mm lug-to-lug height and a 13mm case thickness, 50 Atmos is definitely smaller than most contemporary dive watches. The size is further enhanced by the protruding bezel, restrained lug length, and a crown tucked into the case.
Despite its smaller size, 50 Atmos shows an impressive presence. While the overall look of the case is quite checkered and angular, the 50 Atmos feels very smooth: the lugs feature elegant beveling, the bezels offer finely crafted coin edges (allowing for a comfortable grip), and the entire case is finished in an attractive mirror polish. When viewed from above, the case looks almost symmetrical. Viewed from the side, however, you notice the subtle asymmetry of the design. The side with the crown beveled in such a way that it envelops the crown even more, while the opposite side is smooth and curved.
Both the back case and the left side of the case are signed with the Squale logo, while the crown is marked with Von Buren. The back of the case also provides an overview of specifications and serial numbers. The engraving on the sides of the case is a bit exaggerated, although it doesn't detract from the overall appearance of the piece (plus, I proudly wear the name Squale on my wrist). Older models won't have these engravings, so if it's a deal breaker, I recommend looking for one of these older variants on the secondary market.
In terms of functionality, Squale is a lot of fun to wear. The back case and angled lugs fit comfortably over the wrist, almost even hugging it. Apart from being nearly level with the shell, the knob was positioned at 4 o'clock, making it almost invisible when worn. It's not an understatement to say that 50 Atmos is one of my most comfortable watches. The 60-click unidirectional bezel offers sure, supple durability at every turn, and all markers line up perfectly without turning. And with 500m of water resistance (hence the name), 50 Atmos is perfect for work and play.
An interesting feature, and one that I've had a bit of a love / hate relationship with is the protected lume-pip. While it certainly modernizes the part and adds an eye-catching visual component to an old-school looking insert, the shield seems a bit ridiculous considering the actual pip barely illuminates, even when charged. I hope Squale tackles this problem in the future by increasing the illumination without sacrificing armor.
Another problem has to do with the crown. I like general integration and crown placement, it’s effortless to operate. With a case that covers most of its grippable surface, I find it relatively easy getting a firm grip, and I found no difficulty in threading the knob back down. This particular crown system provides a bit of resistance which lets you know when you are using the thread, and I think that would be a definite functional benefit here. Otherwise, the crown will feel solid without any visible wobble (something others have complained about on older variants).
Dial, Hands, and Crystal
The dial is solid black with a marker that is thickly painted, with each marker covered in full moss. The name Squale appeared several times on the dial. Just above the hand, we have the Squale logo (the same typeface engraved on the side of the case) with the Von Buren sign on it and slightly to the left. Right under the hand is the Squale shark logo, as well as the WR / model name (50 Atmos) designation and the word "PROFESSIONAL".
As is the case, the branding on the dial might feel a little over the top, but I believe that the Squale logo, especially the curved shark, adds to the diver's vintage aesthetic. The date window appears at the 3 o'clock position, and is outlined in white. While I usually prefer a date wheel that matches the color of the dial, the contrasting date wheel works really well and once again contributes to the retro aesthetic to the piece.
The hands are thick and boxy, with pointed tips. The hour hand is marked with an orange line, and the minute hand that is slightly thinner is marked with a white line. The second hand is a long hand with a square near the end. The older variant has inverted hour and minute hands colors, which I definitely prefer. Apart from that, the dial is very legible and easy to read at a glance. Both the minute and hour hands are mossed in the center, with the seconds hand in the box.
One of my favorite things about the watch face is actually the chrome ring. It tilts slightly towards the dial, which makes for some cool reflections with the dial and creates the appearance of a smooth transition between the dial and bezel.
50 Atmos with black dial is equipped with a flat sapphire with AR coating on both sides of the crystal. I know it has its detractors, but the AR is absolutely flawless and adds even more clarity to the readable dial. For those concerned about scratching the AR, I've subjected my watch crystal to the same sloppy punch on doors and handrails, and so far so good. Another variant of 50 Atmos comes with a slightly domed sapphire crystal with an AR coating on the bottom of the crystal only.
Not much can be said about this movement. Squale uses the ETA-2824, which we all know to be a solid, reliable workhorse. I have heard from several sources, including Jonathan at Page and Cooper, that Squale now has access to high-end clockworks, which they are starting to use on their watches.
At the current price point, this would make 50 Atmos an incredible value, although it appears that the older version uses a gold-plated elaboré movement. The accuracy of my work is, sadly, not an important thing to write at home, but it's possible that my watch took a few hits sent my way. Others have reported excellent punctuality with their pawns, and Squale claims they fine-tuned their moves before sending them out the door.
50 Atmos comes with a rubber strap made in Italy which is supposed to be resistant to salt water and Ultraviolet rays. The straps are very comfortable, and don't tear my wrist hair like some rubber straps do. The straps are specially created by Squale.
The great thing about 50 Atmos is its versatility. You can dress up with nice leather straps, or you can dress up with NATO; whatever your inclination, it will look good. I've been wearing it with vintage-style leather straps for some time now, and furthermore with kordovan two-piece straps.
You also have the option of getting 50 Atmos with a gorgeous Milan bracelet. I haven't been able to try this combination yet, but from what I see posted on the forums, it's a winning union.
Squale 50 Atmos (Ref.1521) is a fantastic nod to the dive watches of the past, capturing the look and feel of everything that made Squale a once beloved brand. Sure, there are a few annoyances, but the entire package should make it a worthy contender for your hard-earned money. There are very few other Swiss-made dive watches that I would consider in this price range, and if Squale does anything about the lume issue of the bezels I would even say that this is the best sub-1K dive watch in the market. With a number of different versions for sale, from dials in different colors to different case covers ("Matte" and this hidden PVD version, for example), Squale has something for everyone.