Many divers and dive-watch enthusiasts share a strong love of the sea and a desire to protect the world’s oceans and the denizens of the deep. To this end, Carl F. Bucherer offers an intriguing diver that combines a thoroughly modern and capable dive watch with a direct line of support to manta ray conservation: the Patravi ScubaTec Manta Trust Limited Edition. Your purchase of one of the 188 limited-edition pieces aids — you guessed it — the Manta Trust, an international trust based out of the UK that supports manta ray conservation through research, education, and collaboration. If this cause resonates with you, you’re in luck, as these sorts of watch-and-philanthropy partnerships, if done right, can be a win for the brand, the consumer, and the charitable organization.
Subtle this watch is not: with two manta rays gliding across the dial and a third on the caseback, you’d better have a soft spot for these gentle giants. Rather than another throwback vintage-style diver, you’re looking at an unabashedly modern diver, with its message and cause on proud display. If you’re looking for something under-the-radar, this watch ain’t for you. The same holds true if you’re looking for an instantly recognizable icon in the genre. Let’s face it, the $5,000-$10,000 sport/dive watch market is packed with classic offerings from household names. Ask for suggestions in this price bracket, and chances are you’ll hear Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster, or some of the other usual suspects: Panerai, Breitling, JLC, etc. Unless you’re having this conversation in Europe or Asia, one brand that likely won’t be immediately mentioned is Carl F. Bucherer. And that’s a shame.
Lucerne-based Bucherer has been around as a family-owned business since 1888 and certainly has plenty of history, not to mention horological cred — from developing a peripheral rotor in their in-house A1000 movement to upping the ante by combining a peripheral rotor with a peripherally mounted tourbillon in their novel T3000 movement. While the Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec Manta Trust Limited Edition may not house those horological innovations, what it does provide is an interesting alternative to the usual suspects and one with an abundance of personality and an excellent story to tell.
Originally released in 2013, the ScubaTec dive watches sit within CFB’s Patravi line that includes chronograph, dive, and sport watches. While Carl F. Bucherer may be best known for their high-end offerings, whose prices often gravitate toward the astronomical end of the spectrum, the steel versions within the ScubaTec line are more, if not affordable, at least attainable without the sale of vital organs. Nestled within the line of ScubaTec watches is the Manta Trust Limited Edition. Instantly recognizable by its deep gray hues and two manta rays gliding across the dial, this limited edition was created specifically as a way for Carl F. Bucherer to help support manta ray and ocean conservation through collaboration with the Manta Trust. Given that the connection to the Manta Trust is central to the design and, for many potential buyers, the motivation to purchase this watch, let’s learn a bit more about the organization.
UK-based Manta Trust is a registered charity aimed at conserving manta rays and other mobulid rays through their three pillars: research, education, and collaboration. With a broad global distribution, protecting rays across such a vast geographic area requires exceptional coordination among researchers, NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders in order to gather critical research and information and to enact conservation measures. And this is exactly what the Manta Trust does. I spoke with Dr. Guy Stevens, CEO of the Manta Trust, and here’s how he described why the organization is focusing on manta rays, specifically: “I see manta rays as a flagship species. [Mantas] are extremely captivating, they’re beautiful to look at. They’re something people really seem to connect to and care about. Because they’re big and they move about the coral reef environment, they need a lot of space. By proxy, protecting mantas equals protection of the coral reef ecosystem in which they live.”
If you’re wondering why a company like Carl F. Bucherer would decide to get involved with ocean conservation, Dr. Stevens explained, “I genuinely feel that, right up to their CEO, they are doing this because they want to help us, and that’s important to me. Yes, we get the funding and they can help us spread our message, but I wouldn’t want to partner with an organization that was only doing it for purely profit reasons. I don’t get that sense from them at all. It’s been a good relationship and I’m hoping it will carry on for many years to come.” Of course, we consumers have become understandably skeptical when it comes to product tie-ins with philanthropic organizations. We want to know that the money is actually funneling back to the charity. Rest assured that this money is directly benefiting the Manta Trust.
I asked Dr. Stevens specifically how this partnership has benefited his organization. He said, “The first thing [Carl F. Bucherer] did is fund a couple of satellite tags that we deployed on oceanic manta rays in Mexico. Over the years, we’ve picked various small initiatives. The money tied into this watch [the CFB Manta Trust] was for ongoing research activity in the Maldives that’s part of a Ph.D. program to look at the feeding behavior of these animals. They funded several staff members to go out to the Maldives, plus accommodation while they were there, research equipment, and analysis of various samples. That was a significant chunk of money and work that we wouldn’t have been able to finance without their support. We’re trying to ensure that the money we get goes a long way toward achieving our goal.”
After learning about the Manta Trust and speaking with Dr. Stevens, Carl F. Bucherer and the Manta Trust seem like a perfect fit. Now, that’s all well and good, but let’s get to the watch itself and see if it’s a worthy tribute to this partnership.
The case of the CFB Manta Trust is big and bold at 44.6mm and sports a 22mm lug width. Luckily, some of the girth is offset by a manageable 13.45mm height and, while the lugs are proportionately long at ~51mm, they slope steeply and hug the wrist. The case features beefy lugs, strong angles, and details that all shout at being overbuilt and capable, including screwed lugs, bolt-on crown guards, an oversized screw-down crown, a prominent helium escape valve, and 500m of water resistance. The Manta Trust is a modern diver, through and through. No fauxtina or box crystals here. Speaking of which, the crystal is a flat sapphire with well-applied AR coating on both sides. One small detail I love is that both the crown guards and the helium escape valve are a darker, gunmetal hue — presumably a PVD coating. It’s a small touch, but one that adds another complementary element to the piece, unifying the deep gray on the dial and bezel with the case, itself.
CFB went with a deeply grooved sandwich crown accented with a black spacer. It’s easy to grip and has the smooth winding action you’d expect, but it accomplishes this feat with an added bit of pizazz. Unfortunately, the oversize crown was the one part of the watch that caused some discomfort, occasionally digging in. This wasn’t a huge issue, and I wasn’t left with any indentations on my skin, but it’s something to note. The composition of the bezel is interesting, with two tones of ceramic filling in the spaces surrounding the prominent steel markers and numerals that seem to provide the scaffolding of the bezel. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the typical feeling of numerals and markers floating in a sea of ceramic. The 120-click, unidirectional bezel is easy to grip, and the action is smooth, but a bit light for my taste. Luckily, I never had a problem with the bezel being inadvertently knocked out of place.
Before we move onto the dial and caseback, consider this scenario: Twenty meters under azure waters off a Maldives atoll you spot them: two unthinkably large manta rays, wings undulating in the water. As you watch, a cloud passes in front of the sun, casting the water into a deep gloom, the mantas barely visible in the half-light until the sun re-emerges, throwing the creatures into stark relief. This experience is almost tangible as you gaze at the dial, watching the manta rays appear and disappear in the changing light. The undersea sensation is enhanced by the horizontal texturing that grabs light, creating depth and texture, evoking sunrays filtering through the water, bringing the manta rays to the fore in direct light and casting them back to the depths as the lighting and angles change. It’s a mesmerizing effect that really needs to be experienced in person. Frankly, when I saw the press photos of this watch, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the overt co-branding, with the manta rays playing such a prominent role on the dial. Worst case, I worried that it might suffer from the “Pimp My Ride” effect — too much of a good thing that diminishes the whole. I’m happy to report that this is, in no way, the case and, in fact, the manta rays and the textured dial turned out to be one of my favorite elements — a fun, quirky addition that adds loads of character and, much like the rest of the watch, plays with the light in surprising and unexpected ways.