Writing a review, or criticising the hard work of friends is never going to be pleasant. I had my reservations at first when asked to write a review for the Nodus Avalon and the recently released AvaMatick collaboration between Nodus and The Matick Blog, but these feelings were put aside after living with the watch.
It is from months of wrist time on land and underwater that it became evident to me that the Avalon is a great template for other watchmakers and brands who are in the business of making dive watches. If they are interested in making a dive watch that a frequent diver would actually want, and more importantly use, these are the characteristics that make a good and serviceable mechanical dive watch.
“The Nodus Avalon is dangerously punching above its weight class in terms of quality, attention to detail, and that indescribable special feeling when one picks up a fine watch. This is made abundantly clear with the AvaMatick which even feels more special due to its meticulously crafted glossy dial, well-tuned application of gilt, and the subtle peach pigment used for the Matick text and seconds hand tip.”
The Case Size & Depth Rating
Overly thick dive watches that are not quartz miss the mark on most occasions. Their excessive size in the name of toughness, whether that be for depth rating or impact resistance is useless. Not only are depths past 100 metres rarely ever reached for technical divers on closed-circuit-rebreather systems (CCR), but any real shock resistance is negated using a mechanical movement. We will revisit shock resistance in the next section so hold onto that thought for the time being. The 300-metre depth rating is fine for the most part, but anything with a screwed-down crown and a rating of 100 metres is more than enough.
A thinner case also allows the watch to be more accommodating and to not catch onto a buoyancy compensation device or other pieces of gear as divers are getting ready for their dive. The Avalon has a thickness of 12.9mm. A thin case profile also results in a watch that is not as eye-catching. This surprisingly comes in handy since most attractive dive destinations are in remote or unsafe locations. The last thing divers would want to do is compromise their safety due to needlessly making themselves a target. The AvaMatick does look and feel substantially more special because of its guilt hands and slightly glossier dial, however.
The only temporary issue which arose did so on the caseback AvaMatick. On the Limited Edition’s deeper engravings a little bit of rust first appeared after a few dives. This rust was easily removed with a little toothpaste and it after a month it has not returned.
It is a fact that due to their extra moving parts, mechanical movements are not as shockproof as their quartz counterparts. The Miyota 9039 automatic movement offers a few benefits for those who must dive with a mechanical watch for some reason.
It is thin, allowing a thinner case. It is very accurate for a movement in this price range. Both of my Avalons each are just a couple of seconds slow a day. My Phantom Black Avalon has seen more wrist time than my Monarch Orange and AvaMatick examples, and they still perform on an equal level. Like all other watches by Nodus, this is due to each movement being carefully regulated and put through scrutiny by the founders of Nodus themselves before shipping the watches to their customers.
The most important and often-overlooked factors by other venues who write about such topics are the servicing and replacement costs for such movements. Having a movement such as this Miyota, or that of a commonly used Seiko allows for a certain peace of mind. This comes from knowing that if a damaging impact were to occur to such a watch, or damage through excessive wear and tear, one would not have pay a lot of money to get the watch serviced. In some cases it is simply easier and economical to just replace such movements during the service.
Furthermore, the Miyota in my Monarch Orange Avalon performed admirably when put through some stress tests. The Avalon only lost a couple of seconds during these small tests. These were after a couple of 5 kilometre sprint interval sessions, and after a cold weather test of being left in a pile of snow in minus ten degrees Celsius. Cold-weather reliability matters to some divers since water temperatures can easily be a few degrees above the freezing point at depth. Other commonly used movements (from ETA for example) have shown a much greater variance in performance and accuracy when I subjected them to similar conditions.
The Bracelet and the Importance of Standard Lugs
While the bracelet provided is of excellent quality and supremely comfortable, the standard 20mm lugs are key. They allow for custom straps to be fitted to the Avalon, thus allowing it to be worn with varying exposure suits with ease. The clasp is one area that I would personally like to see improvement on though. It is perfectly serviceable and beautiful as it is, but, the lack of an extension clasp is a disappointment, and one that I would gladly pay more for. This is mainly due to the fact that the Avalon absolutely sings and is at home on its gorgeous bracelet. Having to take it off and put on a rubber dive strap was almost a painful experience. We will touch on this and more in the last section of this review.
The lume performance on the Avalon is perfectly serviceable. Most dives on a single tank will not exceed 45 minutes. For this duration of time the Avalon’s lume burns well enough to be easily legible in all conditions. It will not burn as bright as certain Seiko MarineMasters, nor will it burn bright throughout the night as you sleep. If a brand has to allocate their resources towards certain aspects of their design, I would prefer a viable and functional performance for the lume rather than making sacrifices elsewhere. The valued cool factor of having what enthusiasts call a “retina-burning lume” is understandable, but not ultimately relevant. The C3 Super-Luminova used also has a green hue to it. During the day it makes the watch seem to be standing at attention and gives this timepiece a unique character that brings a smile to the wearers face. There is an inconsistency of the lume when comparing the hands to the indices. The hands are slightly dimmer than the indices due to the hands being rather thin. This is mainly due to certain sacrifices having to be made overall to achieve the thin profile of the watch. This is not a deal breaker, but it is noticeable.
The bezel on a dive watch (contrary to popular belief) should not be overly stiff. Once divers’ equipment is on, they will not bump into anything outside of an emergency situation once under water. In some cases such as the Seiko SKX, an overly soft or loose bezel has in the past resulted in its bezel moving during the dive. This was primarily due to the type of exposure suits I was wearing and the expansions and contractions experienced on multilevel dives. In these scenarios the bezel actually rubbed against the suit and adjusted. There is definitely a fine balance between loose and stiff bezels, and Nodus achieved it here with the Avalon. The bezel is fine as long as the bezel can be operated when wet with wet hands without having to resort to applying lots of pressure. Both the ceramic and steel bezels will attract marks as time goes on, but this just adds to the character of the watch. The ceramic bezel will gain gorgeous stripes and lines which over time resemble the stripes of a tiger. Lastly, past certain depths the dive bezel may become harder to operate due to the increased pressure. Having an already stiff bezel may just make it uncomfortable to use past 60 feet underwater.
A final point about the bezel comes from a dear friend who also owns an Avalon. He observed that when his hands were excessively sweaty, that he would have appreciated a more aggressive knurling on the bezel’s edge for a better grip. No one asked why his hands were so sweaty and so frequently for we feared that it would alter the dynamic of our friendships. (Marsh: lol)
Though I have only taken the Phantom Black Avalon and AvaMatick diving, there are some principles that made this the case. A highly contrasted dial, markers and hands make for a viable tool underwater. While diving with either, the astounding legibility allows for easy legibility out of the periphery of one’s vision. This is important for there are many other factors I would rather be focused on than trying to decipher the time. I have taken dive watches with various coloured dials underwater and I have found watches with black dials, white markers, white hands, and polished outlining to the hands and markers the best. The polished outlining of the hands and markers allow for the light to catch these features further aiding in legibility.
The non-reflective dials of the Avalons are also highly appreciated. If too reflective, on bright days one can be temporarily blinded by a reflective or highly polished watch. The AvaMatick’s slightly glossy dial when compared to the Phantom Black’s did reflect a bit more light directly back at me while at depth when I was close to the surface on a sunny day. Though this was noticeable, it was not something that bothered me too much when compared to other watches with much glossier dials in the past. It puzzles me to see dive watches with reflective dials on the market because of this.
The main reason why people would dive with a mechanical dive watch is because of their love for mechanical watches. The quality of the Avalon and its CNC-machined 316L surgical-grade stainless steel case make falling in love with the watch all too easy. The overwhelming sense of quality that one receives from a Rolex is something that nearly had me seeking a Sea Dweller last year. Surprisingly I felt the same sense when first wearing the Avalon. However, this gives rise to an unexpected issue that we will cover in the last section of this article. For the price point, the Nodus Avalon’s sense of reassurance by its quality throughout will ignite your inner horology enthusiast. It wears on your wrist with a feeling of security, confidence and unequivocal aptitude. This will result in the confidence required to use such a tool.
Furthermore, the level of quality and attention to detail with this watch makes me want to wear it. I bought the Phantom Black Avalon for the sole purpose to take it diving after owning the Monarch Orange Avalon for a couple of weeks. The dial’s details of the markers cutting into the chapter ring are just one example of what makes this watch one that I actually want to wear.
Closing Thoughts & Suggestions for Improvements
Your sense of romanticism, adventure, and appreciation for craftsmanship brings you to such wonderful communities, sites and magazines such as The Matick Blog. These notions that we value and love to explore, however, can be taken advantage of by watch brands. Through expensive marketing campaigns and misinformation spread by consumers trying to justify their purchases, you may be led astray into buying something that you may not ever need. Furthermore, you may end up regretting the purchase. Purchasing and owning something because it is overly engineered is something that I too have done in the past. It is important to make an informed purchasing decision especially if you ever intend to use these watches for their advertised purpose. The visual of diving with a meticulously crafted companion on one’s wrist is something that we have been sold quite effectively over the years. Even if you never plan on diving with your watch, knowing all of the above-stated facts may dissuade you from spending a lot of money for a false power-fantasy not grounded in any truth. Thus if you are looking for a mechanical dive watch that would in reality be used with comfort as a tool, look no further than the Nodus Avalon.
I would advise other watch brands to make dive watches similar to the wonderful Avalon if they genuinely care about their timepieces being used in their intended and advertised environments. It is because of the two years of hard work in developing the Avalon that has resulted in what I believe to be the best all-around mechanical dive watch on the market. This is why I find myself having a difficult time reaching for another non-quartz powered watch for my dives. Thank you Nodus for making this watch. It is my hope that other brands will learn from this watch and make watches that are actually desirable for those of us who love to explore our underwater world.
I would like to close this review with some thoughts on the Avalon, and an issue with such a high quality watch at this price point. The Nodus Avalon is dangerously punching above its weight class in terms of quality, attention to detail, and that indescribable special feeling when one picks up a fine watch. This is made abundantly clear with the AvaMatick which even feels more special due to its meticulously crafted glossy dial, well-tuned application of gilt, and the subtle peach pigment used for the Matick text and seconds hand tip. On wrist, the Avalon surpasses Seiko Marinemasters and heads directly for models such as the Tudor Pelagos and Omega Seamaster in terms of substance and feel. This raises an issue. With some more effort, and a higher price point, I would gladly pay for a more premium Avalon. Only a couple of details need refining for such a model. First, the lume consistency in colour and strength on the hands and indices should be uniform. A stronger and longer-lasting lume would also be appreciated at a higher price point. I would further suggest that the seconds hand more be in line with the original Nodus Trieste. Having the seconds hand essentially replicate older Seiko’s and modern MarineMasters simply feels unnecessary, for the Avalon has such a strong and unique character all on its own. Personally, I am not a fan of homage design elements in watches, especially if the watch itself is strong enough to not have to recall designs from staples within the industry. Lastly, this beautiful bracelet needs a high quality adjustable multi-levelled dive extension clasp. Rolex and Omega’s “glide-lock” systems come to mind here. The quality of the bracelet and how it effortlessly flows into the painstakingly crafted case deserves a clasp that ensures it staying on a divers’ wrist at all times.
Cullen Chen and Wes Kwok have accomplished such an admirable job with the Avalon and the AvaMatick, that it raises the question of what they could accomplish at a higher price point. The Avalon is very close to perfection as it stands right now. Here’s to hoping that the fine gentlemen at Nodus will at some point in the future offer watches with this level of execution, but unburdened by a sub-one thousand dollar price point.
At the time of this review, we note that Nodus had just retired the Avalon for now and we have been notified that it will be making a return late 2020 / early 2021.
For more details regarding Nodus Watches, click here.
To all of the new proud owners of the new AvaMatick, wear your watches in great health. And thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. We hope you stick around!
For Team Matick,