Within watch enthusiast circles, timepieces that cost several thousand dollars can frequently be labeled as value propositions. However, for most of the general population, an “expensive watch” is any timepiece that costs more than what you might pay for the current generation of Apple Watch. Across the board, Los Angeles-based Vaer consistently delivers strong value for the money, although I’m often surprised by just how accessible the brand can make its entry-level models. A perfect example of this is the Vaer DS4 Meridian, which is a solar-powered dive watch with a sapphire crystal that comes with two different straps and retails for less than the price of a MoonSwatch.

While Vaer’s catalog starts at less than a couple hundred dollars, the DS4 Meridian is the brand’s least expensive dive watch. That said, despite lacking some of the premium features that can be found on its more expensive siblings, the Vaer DS4 Meridian doesn’t sacrifice anything from a functionality standpoint, and it still offers the same 200 meters of water resistance that can be found throughout the rest of the collection. At the time of writing, the DS4 Meridian is available in the form of either a 38mm time-only model (featured here) or a 42mm variant that has a date window at 3 o’clock, and colorways include either classic black or navy blue with gilt accents. Additionally, unlike Vaer’s slightly more expensive D4 Meridian series, which looks quite similar but features a domed sapphire crystal and is assembled within the United States, the Vaer DS4 Meridian has a flat sapphire crystal (with anti-reflective treatment), and it is assembled overseas to further enable a more accessible price point.

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Crafted from 316L stainless steel, the Vaer DS4 Meridian offers the same twisted lug profile that unites the rest of the brand’s current-production dive watches, and it is finished with brushed surfaces set against large high-polished bevels that run down either side of its case and flow into the top surfaces of its lugs. In regards to its dimensions, the smaller time-only version of the Vaer DS4 Meridian measures 38mm in diameter by 11.6mm thick, with 20mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug profile of 45mm. However, Vaer lists the height of the watch as 10.6mm (which is the measurement of the case without the added thickness of the caseback), while the lug-to-lug distance appears as 46mm on the brand’s official website, and I imagine that this minor discrepancy is because the strap adds about half a millimeter of presence past the tips of the lugs on either side of the case.

Surrounding the flat sapphire crystal on the Vaer DS4 Meridian is a 120-click unidirectional rotating timing bezel, and rather than having an insert crafted from ceramic or sapphire like some of the brand’s more expensive watches, the bezel insert on the DS4 Meridian is made from anodized aluminum and set with a small luminous dot to denote the zero marker. The motion of the bezel doesn’t feel quite as refined as what you get from Vaer’s more expensive D5 Pacific series, although it is still more than acceptable (especially for the price), and its serrated outer rim offers a solid grip during operation with both wet and dry hands. At the 3 o’clock location is a signed screw-down crown that sits slightly recessed into the side of the case, while the reverse side of the DS4 Meridian receives a solid screw-down caseback that features a wave texture pattern and is engraved with Vaer’s logo.

Just like other solar-powered watches, the black dial fitted to the Vaer DS4 Meridian needs to be semi-translucent to allow light to pass through its surface and reach the solar panels that are mounted below it. However, its surface has been adorned with a subtle sunburst finish that makes it near-impossible to tell that the dial is actually transparent unless you happen to be in extremely bright lighting. Dial text is kept to a minimum and limited to just the Vaer name and depth rating, while the applied hour markers appear as geometric shapes and receive 15 layers of Super-LumiNova BGW9. Meanwhile, the centrally-mounted handset features a brushed finish with a sword-shaped hour hand, and all three of the hands receive an application of Super-LumiNova BGW9 to match the indexes. Vaer describes the lume performance as “modest glowing” for the DS4 Meridian, and while it isn’t as bright or long-lasting as the lume on the brand’s G5 Meridian GMT watches (which have 20 layers of lume), it still offers a reasonably bright blue-colored glow in the dark.

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Powering the Vaer DS4 Meridian watches are Seiko Epson solar quartz movements, with the 38mm models receiving the Cal. VS22, while the larger 42mm versions are fitted with the Cal. VS42 (hence why you will see the movement listed as “VS-22/42” on the brand’s website). Capable of charging itself with either natural or artificial light, six hours of sunlight exposure will allow the Seiko Epson VS22 to run for approximately 6 months in total darkness, and the movement offers an accuracy rating of -10/+20 seconds per month. Since the Cal. VS22 is naturally a date-displaying movement and the 38mm version of the DS4 Meridian is a time-only watch, you do get a vestigial “ghost position” when you pull out the crown to set the time. However, given that this is a solar-powered watch with a time-only display, rarely will you need to unscrew the crown to access the movement, which makes this normally irksome detail relatively easy to overlook in this particular instance.

Just like all of Vaer’s watches, two different strap/bracelet options are included with the DS4 Meridian. Water resistance is incredibly important to Vaer as a brand, and it is even covered by the company’s two-year warranty. Consequently, every Vaer watch features a minimum depth rating of 100 meters, and some type of rubber strap is always included to ensure that owners will have a practical way of wearing their watch in the water. The first of the two included options is a black tropic-style rubber strap that tapers from 20mm at the lugs down to 18mm at its signed pin buckle. Additionally, while the standard configuration for the Vaer DS4 Meridian comes with a two-piece khaki nylon strap, buyers can swap out the fabric strap for a solid-link stainless steel bracelet by paying a relatively modest additional charge. Regardless of configuration, all of the strap and bracelet options include integrated quick-release springbars to facilitate tool-free changes, and this allows users to take full advantage of the two included options.

Compromises always need to be made when creating budget-friendly watches, and while the DS4 Meridian isn’t quite as refined as Vaer’s more expensive flagship offerings, the brand also didn’t cut any of the important corners when creating its entry-level diver. As Vaer’s most affordable dive watch, the DS4 Meridian is priced at $259 USD for either the 38mm or 42mm version of the model, and should you opt for the premium stainless steel bracelet, you can plan on spending an additional $70 USD. All things considered, this pricing seems objectively very fair given that this is less expensive than a MoonSwatch and only ten bucks more than the absolute least expensive Apple Watch. While the Vaer DS4 Meridian is hardly the most elevated model within the brand’s current lineup, it undeniably offers quite a lot for its firmly humble price point, and you will be hard-pressed to find a watch from any of the big-name brands that can offer comparable specs for less money. For more information on the Vaer DS4 Meridian solar dive watch, please visit the brand’s website.

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