Raven Watches have quickly made a name for themselves in the online forum space by offering nicely made Rolex Submariner homages at a very competitive price. The Raven 42mm Vintage was a fast hit among buyers looking for a watch that could echo a vintage Sub without costing quite so dearly. Whether you call them Sub clones, homages or something else, it doesn't change the goal, Raven, along with many other brands, seek to emulate one of the greatest and most notable dive watches ever made, the Rolex Submariner. There have been many different iterations of the Submariner in its 60 year run, from MilSubs, reds, and maxi dials, to dates and no dates. Speaking personally, as much as I like the look of the Submariner, I've never really cared for the idea of owning a direct homage to an iconic watch, especially one that is still in production.
I know that there are many varying degrees to which brands will pay homage to a famous watch, but it always sits in my mind that if I were to buy a "Sub-a-like", I'd only be doing so because of just how much I like the look of the actual Submariner. Raven currently produces three watches, two Vintage 40mm models (date and no date), which pay homage to early Rolex Submariner designs, and the somewhat harder-to-define Raven 44mm Deep. The Raven 44mm Deep is a blend of the modern size of the Rolex Deepsea mixed with the dial design from early Rolex MilSubs like the Military ref 5517. The sword hands, painted luminous markers and a sterile chapter ring have a definite MilSub vibe. The case is 44mm wide but features no crown guards (another nod to early Rolex designs) and the bezel has a modern sapphire insert allowing for a fully luminous scale. This "greatest hits" mix of different elements was enough to pique my interest and Raven, a sister brand to the frankly excellent Benarus watches, was kind enough to send a Raven 44mm Deep for review.
In person, the Raven 44mm Deep is obviously Rolex-inspired but has been done so to make the best watch possible and not solely to piggyback on the legendary Submariner design. It is large, and on the included bracelet, quite heavy, weighing 249g before removing any of the links. The 44mm case has a very noticeable visual presence being 54mm from lug to lug and 17.6mm thick (including the domed crystal). The case offers 22mm lugs and the bracelet tapers down to 20mm at the clasp which is of a fold-over variety with a 20mm wetsuit extension and four micro adjustments. The nicely finished steel bracelet features solid end links and screwed link construction making for a very solid and reassuring feel. The Raven 44mm Deep comes in a roll case with a spare black leather strap, providing a nice change of pace from the bracelet. Regardless of strap or bracelet, the Raven 44mm Deep has been designed for those that prefer a large and heavy watch with a very solid and masculine presence.
Timekeeping is managed by the Miyota 9015, a reliable and effective competitor to the ETA 2824 which has the added benefit of being able to be sourced for a reasonable price in budget minded products like the Raven 44mm Deep. Offering hacking and handwinding along with a 42 hour power reserve, we expect to see the 9015 used with increasing frequency in micro brand watches as ETA tightens supply of their movements and forces cost increases in the remaining movements already on the market. The example used for this review kept very good time, often running just a few seconds fast in the span of a day.
Given the price point, the Raven 44mm Deep is remarkably well finished. The case is nicely brushed, with crisp under edges and polished running edges on the lugs. The lugs are drilled for simplified strap changes and the left side of the case features an automatic helium escape valve. The HEV may be complete overkill for this watch, but should you want to use some of the Raven 44mm Deep's 4000ft water resistance in a saturation dive setting, it will be able to keep up. The domed sapphire crystal adds some visual flare but could benefit from an anti-reflective treatment as it does display a lot of ambient reflections. Offering a look that is nicely matched with the crystal, the unidirectional bezel carries a sapphire insert that sits above a fully lumed scale offering excellent low-light visibility of any countdown timing you may have to do. Bezel grip is excellent with a very positive and sturdy feel that is easy to use and accurate to set thanks to both a consistently smooth travel and an easily distinguished red zero marker. I really like the look of the lumed sapphire bezel and the insert is set low enough in the bezel frame to be properly protected by the steel edge of the bezel.
The Raven 44mm Deep's lume is great in both initial brightness and longevity, though this is not surprising given the many ultra-bright lume applications that they've employed in various Benarus models. The hands, markers, and bezel scale all charge quickly and glow well with the hands lasting the longest and offering excellent low light visibility. Lume is a hallmark of a good dive watch and the Raven 44mm Deep does not disappoint.
The dial is glossy without being too shiny and does a very effective job of emulating the famous MilSub but changes it up with a date display at three o'clock. Dial text is minimal and the overall look is balanced with good proportions between the dial, hands and bezel sizing. The signed crown at three o'clock is quite large, easy to grip and has a very solid feel both in actuating the hands or date feature and when being screwed back into place. Between the bracelet, case finishing, bezel and crown, the quality of the Raven 44mm Deep is as good as anything I've seen at this price point. I would have no problem recommending the Raven 44mm Deep to anyone who prefers a large watch and likes the idea of an indirect homage. The case thickness and weight is too much for my personal preferences, but the build quality is undeniable. It is important to note that while I tend to prefer watches a bit smaller and lighter than the Raven 44mm Deep, it is by no means the largest watch in this segment and I did not find it to be cumbersome or difficult to wear, just don't expect it to fit under most sleeves.
After wearing the Raven 44mm Deep for a couple of weeks, I can report that I rather like it, it is not a clone nor would it pass as a specific Rolex if you changed the name on the dial. The Raven 44mm Deep really is a modern and full sized spin on the MilSub and it offers something that Rolex does not and for a price that is more than competitive. While my stance on Sub clones and homages is at best apathetic, the Raven 44mm Deep does make an intriguing case for a watch that emulates some elements, such as the dial design, while still trying to offer something different in the product as a whole. If, like me, you have trouble wearing a large and rather heavy diver as a day-to-day piece, sit tight as Raven is planning a 42mm iteration of the Deep series seen here.
The Raven 44mm Deep is sold directly through Raven's website for $700. At that price, it is in for some tough competition but I think that if you dig the look and prefer a larger watch, the Raven 44mm Deep offers excellent value and a surprisingly composed wrist presence for well under $1000. An even remotely similar Rolex would cost you at least $7500 so watches like the Raven 44mm Deep are offering a similar wrist presence at under 1/10th of the cost. Raven has been very successful with their previous models and the Raven 44mm Deep simply offers the same quality, value and aesthetic but it has been tuned for someone who prefers a larger watch on their wrist. ravenwatches.com
>Model: 44mm Deep
>Price: $700 USD
>Size: 44 x 17.6mm (54mm lug to lug)
>Weight: 249g before sizing the bracelet
>Would reviewer personally wear it: No, too large for my wrist.
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Anyone who prefers a big and heavy watch with a Rolex-y vibe.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great build quality for the asking price