Davosa surprised me with the Apnea Diver because they actually managed to do something few brands are able to do these days. What’s that? Make a diver’s watch that looks nice, but doesn’t look like everyone else’s product. The reality is that most of the time when a watch brand wants to produce anything but a “me too” design, the result feels lacking (or simply ugly). I can’t definitively say that Davosa‘s Apnea is the first of its kind when it comes to this design, but it is certainly true that this excellent timepiece doesn’t look like everyone else’s underwater watch… and the fair price makes it a must-look-at model for anyone seeking value. It also doubles as a small desk clock. How many dive watches can claim that?
The term “apnea” is usually associated with a sleeping disorder where one stops breathing during sleep. Apnea diving on the other hand is apparently a term of free-diving, where divers swim without air supplies, seeing how deep and how long they can stay underwater. The “Apnea Professional” term on the dial might be a bit misleading as I am not aware of a professional that requires regular free-diving (it seems to be a hobby or sport as opposed to something professionals need). What about the watch makes it good for apnea divers? That is where the blue, white, and red dial rings come in. Not only does this colorful ring add welcome character to Davosa’s new diving watch, but it’s also used for breathing exercises to help condition apnea divers prior to a dive. The idea is that using the seconds hand on the dial, one takes in a five second breath (the blue area), holds it in for 15 seconds (the white area), and then slowly releases their breath for 10 seconds (the red area).
For all of you who aren’t going to practice free-diving breathing techniques with your timepiece, there are the pretty colors to look at, which of course look like a range of flag colors (from the USA to France and many more). Davosa otherwise chose to make the dial clean and symmetrical. There is no date and legibility is excellent thanks to appropriate proportions on the face as well as good use of materials and contrast. The dial itself is perhaps a bit less original than the overall composition of the Apnea Diver, but it works very nicely. Use of brushed hands was the right call, and I like the thick volume of Super-LumiNova paint used on the hour markers. The outer “apnea ring” is also applied, so it helps give the dial a nice sense of depth to it.
Inside the 200m water-resistant case is a Swiss ETA 2824 (or Sellita SW200) automatic movement. The case itself is interesting because it is designed to detach from the strap. This adds an additional layer of interest to the watch. Davosa makes the Apnea Diver available with a black PVD-coated steel case (as reviewed) or a natural steel case for less money. You can even opt for a black or steel colored outer bezel, which means that at this time there are three versions of the limited edition Apnea watch available.
Davosa did a nice job ensuring a quality look and feel for the rotating diver’s bezel. It moves securely without any wiggle, and the inner part of the bezel is black ceramic. The only weakness I see here is that the small lume pip at 12 o’clock is merely painted on, and that means with wear and tear it could rub off. The minimalist design of the rotating bezel is attractive, and rather vintage in style. This is where Davosa still wasn’t able to move away from their fascination of Rolex dive watches. Over the dial is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal.
On the back of the watch case is a relief-engraved signature of Nik Linder, who is a well-known freediver that Davosa developed the Apnea Diver watch with. He is among the few people wearing this watch that will make full use of its features. However, that doesn’t totally explain the reason why Davosa includes the feature where the inner case can be removed from the strap. This also happens to be why the watch is 46mm wide (12.5mm thick), but it actually wears about as well as you might hope for. I also like how the orientation of the watch on the wrist has the case propped up just a little bit, which makes it easier to read at a glance.
The crown for operating the watch itself is located at 12 o’clock on the case, whereas the crown at 3 o’clock is actually a screw used to secure the inner case to the outer case. Unscrewing the 3 o’clock crown allows you to easily remove the watch – even while wearing the strap. Once the inner case is removed, a ring-shaped leg can be hinged out from the case allowing you to put the watch on a table as a small clock.
For those people who routinely take off their watch at a desk and still want to read the time, I suppose the clock option for the case is interesting, though I don’t know how often people will use this feature. Then again, it helps make the watch unique, fun, and ultimately more of a talking piece. And if there is anything us watch collector’s are drawn to, it is talking pieces… UPDATE: According to Davosa the stated purpose of the removable inner watch case with the stand is that it can be set on a table and used during breathing exercises which free divers can perform in order to train themselves to hold their breath longer. So if you use the Apnea Diver and are an apnea diver, then this specific utility may apply to you.
Davosa packages the Apnea Diver nicely with two rubber straps (here, black and red, but some models also come with blue), and a strap changing tool all inside of a decent-looking Pelican style case.
Davosa says the Apnea Diver is a limited edition on their website, but on the watch itself it is a “special edition.” More so, there are no particular limited series numbers communicated. That means this is a limited product, but I don’t think there is a certain number that Davosa promised they will produce. Update: Davosa has clarified that the Apnea Diver is not a limited edition product. What really makes this watch easy to recommend for anyone compelled by the design and features is the price. The all-steel Davosa Apnea Diver reference 16156855 has a price of $999 USD; the steel case with black-colored bezel reference 16156955 is priced at $1,049 USD; and the all-black case and bezel Davosa Apnea Diver reference 16157055 (as tested) has a retail price of $1,099 USD. davosa-usa.com
>Model: Apnea Diver (reference 16157055 as tested)
>Price: $1,099 USD
>Size: 46mm wide, 12.5mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Dive watch lover seeking good value and a pretty watch… who also can foresee needing a small portable desk clock once in a while.
>Best characteristic of watch: Attractive, clean dial. Overall concept is distinctive and interesting, especially at this price. Case system might not be particularly useful, but it helps to make the watch distinctive.
>Worst characteristic of watch: No particularly good explanation of why a watch like this needs a removable inner case – as without it the size could have been a bit smaller. Likewise this won’t work on certain wrist sizes, but otherwise it’s a nice timepiece.