I’ve been wearing the Spinnaker Bradner SP-5057-02 for a good 6 months now, and this is what I have to say ..
Maybe they’re finally taking heed to what the style experts and the more conservative watch aficionados among us have been saying all along: Balance is key. And that to me can only be a good thing.
Every so often, a value-priced product comes along and completely shatters the concept of what one would ordinarily perceive to be achievable at a given price point. One such product is the brand new Bradner, a vintage-inspired diving watch by Spinnaker, a lesser-known, but no less worthy of your attention watchmaker. A brand inspired by the traditionally “manly” concepts of bravery, adventure, skill and ingenuity, Spinnaker designs and produces watches with a combination of features and pragmatic craftsmanship exceedingly rare at their price points.
Upon a brief skim-through of its product range, it shouldn’t take long for one to discover that most of Spinnaker’s designs have a sort of “aquatic” vibe to them, which makes sense really, considering the brand’s inspiration in the world of yachting. Whilst I can’t claim to be anywhere near knowledgeable about what I’m certain is an extremely challenging and equally exhilarating sport, it just so happens that this sort of aquatic-centric design is right up my alley. For reasons difficult to elucidate, there has always been something mysteriously fascinating about the depths of the oceans, and really, what makes the Bradner so special is that it unassumingly reflects many of those reasons so well.
Whilst words seem ever so inadequate to describe the functional beauty of this watch, should one choose to do so, one may designate the Bradner in no more than a handful of words. Yes, it’s a vintage-styled diving watch – that’s just four words isn’t it? Now, I can perfectly imagine the unaffected looks and sighs of boredom when people hear the words “vintage diver” – “oh no, here we go again, another Submariner clone/homage/lookalike”, and there’ll be some of you smart alecs who might go “ah, if not a Sub, it’s got to be a 50 Fathoms clone/homage/lookalike then.” If your train of thought was any permutation or combination of those words, then let me assure you, you have been completely and utterly mistaken. And really, fortunately so, because you’re definitely in for a ride with the Bradner.
As the venerable Mr. Mayer would say, “look closer” . And if you do, you’ll find that the Bradner is really not your run-of-the-mill vintage-style diver.
At the risk of coming across as trying too hard to build anticipation, shall we “dive” right into it then?
Okay, I’ll stop now.
The Spinnaker Bradner, though not based directly upon any one diving watch in particular, draws most of its design inspiration from the under-appreciated compressor diving watches of the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Instantly distinguishing features of such watches are the dual crowns and internal rotating bezel, which is in stark contrast to the “classic” diver design, namely that of a single crown and unidirectional external bezel.
The Bradner is also powered by a pretty standard workhorse Seiko NH35 24 Jewel Automatic movement featuring hacking capabilities and 41 hours of power reserve.
As a concession to modernity, the case is expectedly larger in diameter than the original watches upon which it is based. Whilst, at 42 millimetres, the Bradner sits right at home on the guys (and girls) with about-average 7-inch wrists, it still manages to not feel out of place on those of us with smaller wrists. I can only attribute this to the well-proportioned lugs which slope down rather dramatically. This gives the illusion of a watch smaller than its size would suggest, and also helps create a better fit too.
In stark contrast to the situation several years ago, it does appear that there has been a trend within the watch industry toward more modest and less jarring proportions, particularly among lesser-known microbrands. Maybe they’re finally taking heed to what the style experts and the more conservative watch aficionados among us have been saying all along: Balance is key. And that to me can only be a good thing.
In short, the Bradner wears well. Take it from the Asian man with 6.3-inch wrists and an aversion to anything above 40 millimetres.
The lugs and case are brushed throughout, no doubt reflecting the Bradner’s utilitarian origins whilst adding to its understated charm. There was also no sensation of excessive sharpness at the outer edges of the case lugs, which is another great feature I noticed about the Bradner, and something which many watches at a variety of price points are too often guilty of.
Though I am in no position to verify Spinnaker’s claim of fashioning the Bradner’s case out of “marine-grade” stainless steel, it does feel as solid as steel watches go, and I wouldn’t have any qualms or concerns regarding its long-term durability.
The dual crowns at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions may seem an unfamiliar feature to many, yet it’s one that is vintage-correct and pays tribute to the original inspiration behind the Bradner’s design. I thought it to be a well-considered feature which allows the Bradner to stand out just a little bit from the sea of watches with crowns at the 3 o’clock position. Save for the lack of characteristic cross-hatching marks, the Bradner’s crowns are very much faithful to the original design in terms of their execution, design and proportions. A signed Spinnaker “yacht sail” logo adds a nice flair to the otherwise plain surface of the 4 o’clock crown.
Let me start by saying right off the bat that the Bradner’s dial is easily its most impressive aspect. Yet, because it in itself comprises so many elements which are impressive in their own right, I say this with a degree of reservation. On the other hand, I cannot help but think that this is only the case because all those elements work together to complement and balance each other out so well.
Viewed against the right lighting, the keen observer will notice a subtle sunburst effect which permeates the dial finish, another feature which gives away the fact that the Bradner is not a vintage piece. Though not strictly vintage-correct, the sunburst effect adds an interesting dimension to the otherwise plain black dial. I can imagine the dial developing a very charming ‘ghost’ colouration as it fades out due to repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays as the years go by.
The watch is rated to a depth of 500 feet, which once again differentiates it from the original compressor watches, which most commonly had a maximum rated depth of 600 feet. The notion of the Bradner being able to withstand less the equivalent of 100 feet of water pressure, compared with the original 600-feet rated compressors is one that is insignificant to me, considering that most of us who would purchase the Bradner would rarely ever step foot within 500 feet of a body of water that deep anyway.
The hour indices are appropriately sized squares and rectangles, another feature which makes the Bradner stand out from your common or garden diving watch. The brushed metal trim surrounding the indices pairs well with the brushed stainless-steel case and complements the understated flair of the Bradner.
Unsurprisingly, the inclusion of a date window is bound to bring controversy in any vintage-inspired design such as this. For fear of beating the “to have or not to have a date window” dead horse, it would be remiss of me not to mention that many of the original compressor diving watches on which the Bradner is based had in fact date windows as well. To my relief, it is executed subtly on the Bradner and does not detract from its overall design, and therefore doesn’t bother me much.
The Bradner’s dial is rounded out with classic-looking baton hands, raised silver Spinnaker logo and perhaps most outstanding of all, an inner bezel which turns both clockwise and anticlockwise. The argument here is that because the bezel is located beneath the watch crystal itself and is turned via a crown rather than by hand, there is a much lower possibility of accidentally knocking it out of position, thus eliminating the necessity of making the bezel unidirectional, i.e. turning one way only.
The bezel turning action is smooth overall with some mild resistance, which makes sense really – making the turning action too easy would have rendered less effective the original purpose of a bezel on a diving watch, that is to indicate the length of time a diver had spent underwater.
As really should be the case with any diving watch, legibility on the Bradner is no less than outstanding. There is zero possibility of confusion between the hour and minute hands, and together with the indices, they visually pop against a dark background in the form of the black dial.
Viewed as a unified whole, and to describe it simply, the impression I am getting from the Bradner’s face is a strong sense of dimensionality and multi-layered-ness (I know that’s not a word, but you catch my drift). In addition to giving appeal to an otherwise relatively conservative design, the Bradner’s indices, hands, logo, minute marker ring and moulded inner bezel all add up to a watch captivating to gaze upon and admire.
If you, like me, thought the strap which comes with the Bradner was your typical, poor-quality el cheapo leather band, you’d be forgiven for doing so, because quite frankly it does look the part when viewed at a glance. See it in person and feel it on your wrist however, and you’ll see what I mean when I say that this is a fantastic strap. Sure, it’s not as buttery soft as some leather straps go, but it’s made with a sturdiness belied by its appearance – it’s quite a bit thicker than what you’d normally expect for this style of strap, but still manages to be flexible enough to wrap around one’s wrist without issue.
The deep olive-green colour used on this particular colourway of the Bradner is a personal favourite of mine. It matches fantastically well with a variety of casual outfits, and being a customary colour of many military forces from all around the world, it does add a little bit of a ‘tough-guy’ swagger to the wearer as well.
Spinnaker claims that the strap is water-proof treated. I certainly couldn’t tell if this was the case just by looking at it or feeling it, but what I will say is that the strap has shown a remarkable resistance to absorbing grime and stains so far, despite me having worn the watch nearly every day for a number of weeks since I received it. Could this be the water-proof treatment coming into play? I can’t say for sure, but I absolutely wouldn’t be opposed to the idea if it helps keep the strap looking nice and smelling fresh.
Finally, the signed buckle adds a nice touch to the otherwise plain-looking strap. It also appears to be fabricated from the same metal used on the case, hands and indices, and is similarly brushed as well. To me, Spinnaker’s choice of keeping the finish consistent throughout is a sensible design choice which gives coherence to the entire look of the watch.
This article simply cannot be called a review of a diving watch without at least some mention of lume, can it?
I was very much impressed by the way the Bradner’s dial looked with the lume all charged up. The numerous geometric shapes and symmetrical lines of photoluminescent material kept things visually stimulating. For lack of a better description, it looked as if the watch had somehow awakened from its slumber and “come alive”.
Whilst, after a full charge, the Bradner’s lume makes telling the time in the dark a perfectly possible task, I did feel it had some ways to go in terms of what I feel should be the ideal brightness for maximum legibility of a watch dial under low lighting. And it certainly wasn’t due to an economic decision on Spinnaker’s part either, as the lume used on the Bradner is none other than the world-famous Super-LumiNova brand, used on watches costing many (I repeat, many) more times than the Bradner. Maybe it’s just that I’m so used to the lume on Seiko’s divers, which are renowned for their glaring shine and for being the brightest in the market.
I’ve truly fallen head over heels for this watch. Sure, there’s still a part of me which wishes that it was just a couple of millimetres smaller, yet I am certain it will likely be the Goldilocks “just right” for most.
Part of the reason for the substantial time taken for me to complete this review was because I wanted to commit to the Bradner completely over a period of time, and in doing so, become truly accustomed to the idea of wearing it as a primary piece, which is the kind of target consumer I’d imagine Spinnaker had in mind when designing the watch.
My verdict? Yes, the Bradner is truly an outstanding watch for everyday wear. For a little less than $300, you can own a watch that is a truly legitimate timepiece and attention-grabbing head-turner (in a good way, of course), with a lot of design heritage to boot. And that’s not even factoring in the storewide discounts often advertised on Spinnaker’s website. For those of you who’ve always wanted a sip of the ‘Super Compressor’ Kool-Aid without all the worries which necessarily come with the acquisition of a vintage watch, the Bradner is a hard-to-beat proposition at its price point.
Check out their full range here.
For Team Matick,