I love stuff like this. Why? Because products like the upcoming H20 ORCA watch are designed specifically for the most discriminating watch nerds who don't have zillions to spend on their passion. The ORCA is a cool concept, offers meaningful customization options, and is a durable watch to boot. Let's check it out.
H20 is a German watch maker whose collection debuted with the Kalmar collection I believe. They are what we like to call a "forum brand" because they spend a lot of time communicating with watch forum members (such as on WatchUSeek.com), and producing products to appeal to that audience. Those guys mostly like dive watches it seems. Nothing wrong with that, I mostly like dive watches as well. The ORCA is the second major project from the young brand.
The ORCA watch will take many different forms. Here is how it starts: H20 developed a module which holds the dial, sapphire crystal, and movement. This module can be swapped into five different case designs. There is no reason why more cases can't be offered in the future. You buy the watch with one case, but theoretically can buy other cases in the future and swap out the module. The five cases right now are the Dive, Classic, Dress, Vintage, and Mono. One of each is pictured in this article, but H20's website is littered with more pictures.
Each of the cases is 44mm wide in an optional specially hardened steel. I don't know why all of them don't come standard with the hardened steel. Each is further water resistant to an impressive 2000 meters. You can opt for a flat or domed sapphire crystal, and there are a range of dial options. In fact, there are four dials to choose from and three hand sets. You also have an impressive eight bezel options. Some of the bezels come with sapphire crystal inlays - which I happen to like a lot.
I credit H20 for offering a lot of options that actually look unique. Nothing here looks like a swapping of standard parts, and they took the time to ensure that each combination of parts should look good. At the same time I think there might be a bit too many options. I mean options aren't bad, but it can lead to "choice paralysis." I have warned brands before on offering customizable watches with too many options in the past. H20 is very much leaning in that direction - which can cause issues for even the serious enthusiast. Consider you are about to customize a new H20 ORCA and the price of a few hundred dollars here or there doesn't matter. You are first asked if you want the hardened steel? OK that is an easy one, why would you not want the most durable case. But doesn't it beg the question of why a less durable case is available? Does it have a nicer finish? Who knows. Then you get to the question of what sapphire crystal style you want. Domed or flat? Well I know that flat ones produce less glare, but domed ones can look a bit more "high-end." Do most people know that? I am not sure. Even with what I know I am not sure which one to choose as I would really need to see both of them side by side in order determine how they play with the light.
It gets a bit easier when choosing case and dial styles. It is a matter of taste, but still, with eight bezel options it is easy to get stressed over which to choose. That can lead to a potential customer going to Google and searching out buyer pictures. If there are none, then the brand may have lost a sale. The bottom line is that the consumer should feel that no matter what choice they make, it is a good choice. Brands with customizable watches also need to make sure that they carefully explain the merits of each choice when those choices are more than just color options. H20 offers a watch customizer tool of sorts. Basically it is a PSD (Adobe Photoshop) file with a bunch of layers that you can turn on and off. As a budget customization tool it works - but requires that you have the right software and a download. I have a feeling they are working on making an online tool. This is what you get with boutique brands that don't charge Richemont Group prices for new watches. A sort of do it yourself experience, but it can be fun and interesting, and you know your money is going into the watches themselves - not marketing budgets.
Each of the dial and hand options for the ORCA makes sense. I like that the hands are pretty much all long enough. It would have been easy for them to make that mistake, but they did not. Kudos to German stuff! The watches comes with hand-made leather straps but the bracelet option shouldn't be passed up. It is chunky and uses all hex screws. It looks serious, and might help you beat up your opponent in a fight. You'll be a real killer whale wearing one of these.
Inside each of the H20 ORCA watches is a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. Nothing super fancy, but not bad either. A good workhorse for a dive watch. I like the placement of the date windows and the use of black discs. That allows the dial to have the date, but not take away from legibility. Pre-order prices for the H20 ORCA watches are about $1000, and prices will go up after that a bit. I think that for the money you are getting a lot of watch, and I like the fact that even after you buy your customized ORCA, you can theoretically still customize it rather easily. Check out more at H20's website here.
H2O ORCA TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS:
CASE MATERIAL: 316L surgical Stainless Steel / optional 7CARBON© hardened to 1500 Vickers
CASE BACK: Sapphire Display Case Back standard
CASE DIAMETER: 44mm
CASE HEIGHT: 13.50mm flat sapphire front glass
15.50mm double domed sapphire front glass
CASE LENGTH: 54.00mm
WATER RESISTANCE: 2000M / officially certified by German test laboratory
CROWN: 8mm screw down type
DIAL: 4 different dials
HANDS: 3 different handsets
MOVEMENT: SWISS ETA 2824-2, Automatic, 28.800 bph, Power Reserve 42h, Hacking Second
STANDARD ACCESSORIES: - Handmade 5mm thick black calf leather strap with black stitching and H2O CNC buckle
- Italian rubber strap
- 2x Hex screw driver
- H2O custom watch box
- Warranty card
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES: - 5mm thick, ultra strong 2-sided reversible H2O SS bracelet with hex screws and decorated micro adjustable ratcheting dive clasp
- Additional outer watch cases incl. bezel
- Additional inner cases