August 17, 2018
by Ariel Adams
For 2018 Swiss watch brand Armand Nicolet releases a new series of dive watches in the JS9 collection. Pretty much every watch brand is always trying to make a better dive watch in terms of value and style proposition. Why? Sporty/functional/expressive tool watches with character are currently the most demanded by luxury timepiece consumers. So let’s see how the JS9 fares. For review today is the Armand Nicolet JS9 reference A480ASN-NS-MA4480AA (a mouthful), which is the JS9 with a matching steel bracelet, and black and rose gold color accents. This is a new collection for 2018 and out of the dozen available variants, I happened to like this model for its looks and legibility the most.
The JS9 is not a small watch at 44mm wide and 13mm thick in a steel case that is water-resistant to 300m. With that said the case feels thinner because of its broad dimensions and because the outer edges of the case aren’t as tall as the the middle. The bezel angles up a bit with a plateau on the top of the case thanks to the mostly flat (but ever so gently curved) AR-coated sapphire crystal. If there is anything the JS9 ranks highly in, it is legibility.
Watch lovers will notice that the lug design is evocative of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or the Hublot Big Bang. This design sees the ends of the bracelet and lugs visually blend together in one, strong-looking structure. Now, rubber straps aren’t as “fancy looking” as a nice matching metal bracelet, but they make a lot more sense for actual sport purposes. Armand Nicolet requires you to choose between the bracelet or a rubber strap without providing them both. I would have liked for the version of the JS9 watch on the bracelet to also include a rubber strap. I am pretty sure consumers would be willing to pay a modest price premium for this.
The fact that I wanted a rubber strap in addition to the metal bracelet is actually a good thing. Armand Nicolet manages to make a new dive watch that doesn’t immediately feel like those from other brands, while it also manages to feel modern and masculine. No, the design isn’t for everyone, but I am beyond happy anytime I see someone trying something new. Armand Nicolet is certainly inspired by the type of watch design style typified by the Hublot Big Bang (bold, industrial, manly style that mixes a lot of colors and materials). At the same time you get the sense that this watch can be used as a tool watch. One of my favorite features on this black and rose gold-toned version of the JS9 is the matte finishing on the hour, minute, and seconds hands. This prevents glare and makes the watch very easy to see in the dark (as any good dive watch should be).
Not everyone will like the looks of the JS9 dial design, but in terms of originality, quality, and utility it is the best part of the JS9. With that said, I think that Armand Nicolet was trying to maneuver a delicate design trajectory with the JS9. On the one hand the brand is mature enough to know that consumers more immediately gravitate toward familiar designs. On the other side of the argument, having a “too familiar looking” design will rob you of valued “brand distinctiveness.” So here we see one small watch brand trying to produce a popular style of watch (a dive watch) with a look that is both distinctive and familiar. How do you feel they did in this task?
Around the dial is the sloped rotating diver’s bezel I mentioned above. Polished black ceramic is used for the bezel insert material, and the machine-cut numerals on the bezel are painted in with different colors depending on the version of the JS9. In addition to this rose gold colored-paint, a white/silver color is used on other versions. Dial colors for the JS9 are currently white, black, and blue. Armand Nicolet seems to really like the rose-gold look as more than half of the available JS9 models for 2018 feature this color. Some of the most interesting ones are similar to the reviewed version but with a white dial. Probably the “classic” JS9 dive watch models are those with the silver/white text/markers and either the blue or black dial.