I will admit up front that I ended up enjoying the Nite Aqua watch a lot more than I thought I would. It wasn't that anything struck me as suspect about the timepiece before I received it, but rather that brands of this caliber are just as likely to please as they are to disappoint. Nite is a UK-based watch brand that focuses on using Swiss quartz movements and tritium gas tubes produced by MB Microtec H3 (also in Switzerland). There are a number of such brands, and not all of them are created equal.
Why are there so many brands that follow this formula? Well, it really has to do with popularity of the military/diver-style beater watch. Brands like Traser and Luminox made the "several hundred dollar tritium-lit military watch" a timepiece of choice for many men who want something durable and functional for daily wear. The military-esque angle makes for a good macho appeal, while the rest is about having a reliable timepiece that doesn't bore you to death each time you look at it. Let's just say that people like watches like this for a lot of the same reasons they wear boots more often than they actually need to.
Nite's design philosophy is clearly of the CAD generation. These are designs that look great in fancy programs on your screen, but I wasn't sure that in real life execution the pretty pictures would look good. There is a certain modern feel to them that when mixed with some traditional design elements helps set the brand apart just enough from its competitors. Trust me, that is a very difficult line to walk. The result is too many watches that look the same, and too many watches that really just missed being nicely conceived.
So, the watch I got is part of Nite's dive watch collection (called the Aqua). This model is the Aqua AQ1. All that means is that it comes on a metal bracelet. The AQ2 comes on a white polymer strap, while the AQ2-G comes on a black polymer strap. All of the Aqua models (at this time) come with the PVD gunmetal case and white dial. And for me that is where the mystique began, how often do you see a dive watch with a white dial and gunmetal case? Plus, those of you who follow me regularly know that I have a thing for well-designed white dialed sport watches. So I pretty much had to check the Nite Aqua out.
I actually think that Nite was clever to match the white dial with a gunmetal color versus black case. The transition between the two colors is better, and it allows for a high contrast look that isn't "too bold." The case is steel, and water resistant to 300 meters. At 42mm wide, it sits nice and comfy on the wrist, but is quite tall at 14.8mm thick. Honestly, I appreciate the thickness of the case as it is part of the piece's personality. Much of this is due to the relatively thick bezel. Looking into the dial, you'll see a very long flange ring that goes down to the face, which is set deep into the case. This may seem odd at first but is more than likely a necessity due to the tritium gas tubes.
Tritium gas tubes contain small amounts of self-glowing radioactive material that glows for about 20 years or more. The tubes take up a fair amount of space when stacked on one another compared to "normal" hands. Plus, as a dive watch I have a feeling Nite equipped the Aqua with a rather thick sapphire crystal (that they claim is triple AR coated). The deep dial is pretty cool actually, but at times it does seem as though the face is rather low into the case. Nevertheless I find it to be impressively legible from most angles.