While visually much the same since its initial issue in the mid-90s, the most recent version of the CWC SBS Issue watch benefits from a few subtle improvements. For one, the once 60-click bezel has been upgraded to a near-perfect, positive feeling 120-click model that features the exact right amount of resistance to all but ensures it won’t be knocked out of position. The SBS bezel is also easy to operate with thick and even wet neoprene gloves.
Second, the newest SBS is also finally equipped with a sapphire crystal (flat and 31mm in diameter), replacing the now old-school mineral model on its predecessor. As far as I can tell, there is no anti-reflective coating of any kind. Sapphire, of course, does a lot to aid in durability, while also helping the CWC live up to its somewhat surprising almost $900 price tag.
Fixed Lugs and Nato Straps
Fixed lugs are something of a rarity in the modern watch world, though they make perfect sense on the SBS. Other British issue watches like the aforementioned Mil-Sub already utilized fixed lugs and a nato strap in accordance with MOD standards, so CWC likely had no choice but to set up its diver’s watches the same way.
On the wrist, NATO straps are extremely adjustable, comfortable, cheap, and durable. If you actually get in the water day in and day out, this strap is probably your best option. While fixed lugs do limit strap choices, there are certainly enough nylon, leather, and rubber pull-through options to satisfy even the most fickle of enthusiasts while also providing a lot of security for the watch on the wrist.
Unlike many forum-based desk-diving commandos, I don’t worry too much about my spring bars failing me, but it is nice to know my SBS is safe and sound and will make it back to surface right where I left it, thanks to its fixed lug and NATO setup. CWC supplied the SBS to me on a high-quality black NATO with PVD black hardware which, while nice, I immediately switched to a gray CWC NATO with polished hardware, the exact configuration CWC supplies to the MOD upon government order.
A grey strap on a black watch does help to break up the hardcore tactical look the SBS can have when worn on the black strap while still looking the business. While the quality, and especially the thickness, of CWC’s NATO straps has varied in recent years, the most recent are perfectly thick and well-executed with newly heavier, now CWC-signed hardware to complement the chunky SBS build.
ETA Quartz Caliber
While a quartz movement is less than likely to blow many collectors’ hair back, it makes perfect sense on a diver’s watch like the CWC SBS. Frankly, quartz movements are more durable, accurate, cheaper, and easier to live with. CWC supplies the SBS with the quality ETA 955.122, a seven-jewel time and day/date caliber oriented around durability with a battery life of more than six years. While automatic watches and other more complicated mechanical movements will always be sexier, you can’t argue with the grab and go qualities of quartz movements in watches with on-call operators and divers in mind.
The CWC SBS Issue Diver’s watch is at once a more-than-capable tactical underwater tool, as well as an attractive timepiece informed by some of the watch world’s most important and effective designs. Underwater, the SBS does exactly what it was designed to do, subtly providing the time at a glance in all but the murkiest conditions. Topside, CWC’s tactical diver provides a durable and beautiful watch design that has, for decades, proven itself on the wrists of warriors, both above and below the water’s surface, who are much harder on watches than you or even me.
But, some will say, there are similarly equipped watches that cost a lot less than the CWC SBS’s not insignificant approximately $850 retail price (20% VAT can be refunded for international buyers). While that’s theoretically true, value is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, and CWC will argue that their decades-long connection with the MOD has more than proven the capability of its watches and the value behind the brand. I can’t think of a watch that better combines the tacti-cool ideal with actual diving chops than the CWC SBS Issue. For the military watch nerd who likes a diver, the CWC SBS, available for $850 USD, is hard to beat, no matter how hard you try. Visit cwcwatch.com for more information.
>Model: CWC SBS Diver Issue
>Price: $850, or so, depending on GBP exchange rates.
>Size: 45mm diameter including crown (41mm excluding crown), 47mm lug-to-lug, 20mm lug-width.
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, I wear the hell out of it.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The military watch fan with aquatic tendencies.
>Best characteristic of watch: This dial is one of the most legible diving designs I have used.
>Worst characteristic of watch: While it was supposedly asked for by the unit for which it was designed, I can’t help but think the SBS would be a bit cleaner without the day/date function.