Atop the dial, applied triangular hour markers are perched, the rounded points softening what could be an overly aggressive element. The indices are highly polished and filled with ample, long-lasting lume, likely BGW9, as it glows a soft blue. The hands are a unique interpretation of sword hands, the hour skeletonized at the base, while the minute hand has a stacked-sword effect. Like the hour markers, the hands are highly polished and rounded at the corners, again providing a slightly softer touch. While CFB could have gone with a white-on-black date window at 3 o’clock, I actually think the white works well here, providing balance and symmetry with the 9 o’clock marker. Like the rest of the watch, the dial and hands will, I’m sure, be rather polarizing. But aesthetic preferences aside, the execution and legibility are excellent.
The caseback! This is one of my favorite parts of the collaboration between CFB and the Manta Trust. Each manta ray has a unique pattern of spots on its belly, allowing researchers to identify each individual and track it throughout life. With that information in hand, CFB individually engraves each caseback with the exact spotting pattern of a specific individual and its identification number — in this case, manta ray MV-MA-4234. The best part is that CFB and the Manta Trust take this a step further. When you purchase the watch, you’re given access to a website where you register your timepiece and have the opportunity to name the manta ray on the caseback. (I’ll go with “Tim” — excuse the awful Monty Python reference.) Once you’ve registered, you’re also provided with all the available photos and information the Manta Trust has on that individual.
For those curious, Tim is a handsome, sexually mature adult male first sighted in Baa Atoll of the Maldives in 2016. He has a 2.8m wingspan, a medium-long tail with a slight bend, and has lived a life of relative safety with no visible scars or wounds. Nice going, Tim. Now, to be clear, this personalized engraving was no small feat, and even deciding which animals to feature was a challenge. As Dr. Stevens told me, “It was a lot of work for me and my colleagues because we had to go backward and forward, selecting the right animals because not all of them were suitable, we didn’t have good pictures for some, we had to find animals that didn’t have names already, etc. But it was key to the success of the product, having a personal touch and that connection that everyone who buys that timepiece has the ability to follow an individual.”
On to the strap. The Manta Trust Limited Edition comes mounted on a rubber strap with a diver’s clasp and extension. The rubber molded nicely to my wrist, adding significant comfort to a relatively hefty watch. The clasp is machined with precision (no stamped metal here) and features a tool-less micro-adjust that I used frequently. The one negative about the band is the prominent ScubaTec branding. Carl F. Bucherer is certainly not alone in taking this approach (e.g., Panerai and Breitling both do it), but it doesn’t mean I care for it. Having the model line, rather than the brand name, on prominent display creates confusing messaging and I would have preferred either no text or the simple, but stylish, CFB logo.
Regarding the movement, the Manta Trust houses the CFB 1950.1 caliber, which is a 25-jewel movement with a 38-hour power reserve and COSC chronometer certification. My understanding is that this is a modified Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. But what modifications? I don’t write this to pick on Carl F. Bucherer, specifically, but as a general statement about modified ETA (or other) base movements that are given a brand-caliber designation. For Carl F. Bucherer, in particular, we know they’ve got their horological chops, so I’d be quite keen to learn what they’ve done to modify and improve the movement. Personally, I’m not complaining — a COSC certified, reliable, well-tested, easily (and cheaply) serviceable movement ticks a lot of boxes for me.
If you’re looking to buy a sport watch in the $5-10,000 range, options are plentiful. This is an extremely competitive price point and, to be fair, much of the competition (Rolex, Omega, etc.) is using in-house movements, so the ETA movement will be a consideration for some buyers. In fact, I’d argue that the ETA-based IWC Aquatimer isn’t a bad comparison. It’s aesthetically quite different, but both offer highly capable dive watches with ETA-based movements at similar price points. Ultimately, for buyers that are looking for a big, bold watch they won’t see on any other wrists, Carl F. Bucherer has provided an interesting option. And knowing that the purchase is directly benefiting manta ray and ocean conservation makes this offering all the more intriguing.
As for my personal take, what I most enjoy is that, from the case angles to the dial to the bezel, every element finds a way to play with the light, bringing the entire piece to life and creating a dynamic viewing experience. And it does so without sacrificing legibility; the bold markers and large hands make it easily readable at any angle and in any light. My personal preferences tend toward a more spartan, function-focused German aesthetic, but this watch made me reconsider my biases. It was simply fun to wear this watch. I have a 6.75” wrist and tend to find that 38-42mm watches fit me best; however, in part due to the steeply sloping, highly contoured lugs, the 44.6mm diameter wasn’t an issue. Yes, it’s a large watch with abundant wrist-presence, but it was surprisingly comfortable and easy to wear. That said, I’d welcome a 40-42mm version.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this watch and, for the right customer, this will hold a special spot in the collection. The personalized caseback serves as an important reminder that your purchase is actively supporting research, education, and conservation of manta rays, including Tim, the handsome devil uniquely engraved on this particular watch. The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec Manta Trust Limited Edition is priced at $6,200. You can learn more about the watch at carl-f-bucherer.com and information about the Manta Trust is at mantatrust.org
>Brand: Carl F. Bucherer
>Model: Patravi ScubaTec Manta Trust Limited Edition
>Price: $6,200 USD
>Size: 44.6 mm-wide, approx. 13.45 mm-thick, and ~51mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Anytime I’m looking to wear a watch with an extra bit of personality or when heading to the ocean (even if that only means dreaming about doing so).
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone looking for a large, modern diver with ample personality who isn’t interested in the usual suspects and has a soft spot for manta rays or ocean conservation.
>Best characteristic of watch: The way each element of the watch, especially the manta rays on the dial, are designed to play with variations in light, creating an ever-changing, dynamic experience. And, of course, the connection to the Manta Trust.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Size. If this watch were around 40-42mm and had a slightly smaller crown, it would be a better fit for many wrists, including my own.