Do you like incredibly tough watches? How about really very heavy ones? Some quirky details and an old name sprinkled on top sound alright, too? Then brace yourself, ’cause boy do we have the watch for you. This is a review of the Delma Blue Shark III 4,000-meter dive watch.
The Delma Blue Shark III likes a challenge — and so do I. It can go 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) under the surface of water, which is about 3,996 meters more than I’d ever dare. But hey, reviewing a 47mm-wide, 18.5mm-thick, 295-gram watch is the sort of challenge that I like, apparently.
If you have ever been just a couple meters deep under water, you’ll remember that unforgettable feeling of a body of water weighing down on you. Now, try to multiply that sensation by about a thousand. That’s the kind of situation in which the Blue Shark III will happily keep on ticking — even though you will have been squashed into jelly. Is this relevant? If you like this sort of stuff, then of course it is! If not, then you will want to know that Delma makes a host of much, much more sensibly sized, and still quite capable, dive watches. The Blue Shark III is for those smitten by insanely over-engineered dive watches.
On a personal note, I remember, about 10 years ago, as a total novice watch-lover, I was in awe of watches that were engineered to go really deep in the ocean. In the same way there is something magical in the patterns of a guilloché dial of a Breguet watch, or in the design of a new-generation Rolex movement, the same breath of “unbelievable engineering” lingers around these go-anywhere timepieces just as well. For a price between €1,990 and €2,090 for the Delma Blue Shark III, the brand says you can get a watch that was made to play with the best and toughest in its league of ridiculous-depth dive watches — but at a fraction of the price.
DELMA & BLUE SHARK HISTORY
Established in 1924 in Switzerland as A. & A. Gilomen S.A, the company got renamed to Delma in 1966, named after one of its four successful product lines. Today, Delma operates literally a stone’s throw away from such industry giants as Breitling, ETA, and other notable companies like Eterna, Fortis, Epos… and a few other ETA facilities, to be sure. Its hometown, Lengnau, and its (again, quite literally) next-door neighbor, Grenchen, is home to some proper Swiss watchmaking powerhouses. Delma has diligently worked on making a name for itself as a brand strongly dedicated to the world of the open waters — even its “racing” collection, you can tell, is aimed at boat racing and less for stuff on wheels.
The first Blue Shark, or the Delma Blue Shark I, debuted in 2011 as a “progressive performance diver’s watch with water resistance to 3000 m/9900 ft that encompassed the latest advancements in functionality and strength.” Not just a halo product, the Blue Shark was a watch to be worn by those fascinated by offerings from the outer edge of the dive watch segment. Five years later, the Blue Shark II saw the addition of an updated bezel for easier operation with gloved hands, and 2020 brings us the Delma Blue Shark III, with yet another 1,000 meters’ worth of dependability and ruggedness somehow engineered into the package… in my mind, purely for bragging rights.
CASE CONSTRUCTION & GARGANTUAN DIMENSIONS
What I first want to highlight is the overall quality feel of this watch — otherwise, this important, overarching sensation might get lost among all the crazy specs. Sure, the astounding weight has something to do with it.
“Heavy is good. Heavy is reliable. If it doesn’t work, you can always hit him with it.” — Boris the Blade
But one thing that has always irked me with most all of those robust, but cheaper (€500-€1,000) microbrand dive watches that have launched themselves into the market in recent years, was that everywhere I touched, there was a sharp edge or a poorly finished surface. The Blue Shark III costs more than those, but, in contrast with my expectations, that isn’t just because of its over-the-top water resistance rating. It’s also because it is that much better made across all components. The bracelet feels smooth, the bezel looks sharp and feels robust, and the case has surfaces much, much more nicely defined than what is seen at a lower price point. You do, of course, expect these things to be noticeably nicer at this price point — but the fact that they actually are is worth mentioning.
At 47mm-wide and 18.5 mm-thick, all that water resistance is packed into a bulky, dense watch. When I say “dense,” I mean the feel of the thing both on and off the wrist. With every link in the stainless steel bracelet installed, this watch with a stainless steel case and black DLC-coated steel bezel weighs a whopping 295 grams (or about 10.4 ounces). More on resulting wearability in a bit.
The case comprises a massive crown on one side and a flush helium escape valve on the other. Because when you’re decompressing on your dive, trying to return from the jelly state to that of a human being, helium gets trapped inside the watch case and, unless given another way out, will push the sapphire crystal out of the case, rendering even the most rugged dive watches broken. The helium escape valve (or HEV) is a safe one-way street for helium to escape the case, but not for water to replace it.
The bezel, although DLC-coated steel, looks and feels a lot more like brushed ceramic, so Delma has done top work on that. The case profile right underneath it looks to be an industry standard “okay” in its height — and that’s because another quarter of the thickness of the Delma Blue Shark III comes from the domed caseback underneath.
The caseback is sharply laser-engraved with the image of an angry shark, the individual limited number out of 500 pieces (for each of the six color combinations, and the 4,000-meter water resistance rating is mentioned twice, plus a third time on the dial, just to be sure. Behind this thick block of steel lives an ETA 2824-2 with a Delma custom rotor, only ever to be seen by watchmakers at watch service centers capable of testing watches to 4,000m water resistance… Not many such places are out there.
Beyond the 4,000m rating, which obviously is very cool, indeed, there are additional features of the Delma Blue Shark III worth mentioning. Lug distance is 22mm, which means that once you’ve found a robust enough leather strap or rubber strap, you can rock the Blue Shark on those, as well.
What I really enjoyed using were the special screws that Delma relies on to secure straps and bracelet links. Simply called “security screws,” Delma supplies two screwdrivers for the larger screws that fix the bracelet/strap to the lugs, and a smaller one for the screws between the links of the bracelet. I was skeptical at first, as I had not seen the point of using a proprietary screw in place of regular ones.
That was only until I gave these a try: This screwhead is the best I have ever used when it comes to preventing the slipping of the screwdriver and doing expensive and ghastly damage to the lugs or links. The heads are rock-solid and turn changing straps and sizing bracelets from a nightmare into a safe and, in fact, fun experience for even the lousiest wannabe watchmakers out there, such as myself.
Legibility is great, thanks to the massive hands, reliably driven by the sturdy ETA 2824 — this is when the workhorse reputation of this caliber comes to play. The hands are long and wide, making them considerably heavier than those found on smaller, more filigree watches, hence adding extra strain on the movement. Legibility is hindered by the thick and reflective crystal. This is enhanced by the black dial; the brighter-colored dial references of the Blue Shark III will see this as less of an issue.
The safety clasp of the bracelet is so ridiculously sized, the folding part could envelope a smaller Reverso with ease. Although wide and thick, the clasp nevertheless is proportionate to the watch itself, which is an absolute must, considering how heavy the watch head is. The three-link bracelet feels smooth and very refined to the touch — nothing of the roughness and unpleasant sharpness that you systematically get from dive watches priced below the Blue Shark III. Again, for 2,000 Euros, you do expect a nicely made bracelet — but the fact that you do actually get it is, again, worth mentioning.
Rotating the bezel and unscrewing the crown are your main ways of interacting with a watch head rated to 4,000 meters of water resistance — and so even, these everyday features become that much more special. The ratchet in the uni-directional bezel is moderately loud and has a springy feel that make it pleasant to use. It’s funny to see how the bezel swells over the watch head itself, as though it was protecting the connection between bezel and case in preparation for the immense pressure at those crazy depths.
Last, but definitely not least, is the presentation Delma adds to the Blue Shark III. It has got to be the most beautifully and lavishly presented watch that I have ever seen in this price point. A massive wooden box, a bespoke extra rubber strap, and a set of nicely machined tools that are a joy to use all add up to presentation on par with watches priced many times over this one. Truly, very well done.
WEARABILITY & OTHER QUIRKS TO BE MINDFUL OF
If you like a heavy, and I do mean, heavy watch, then you’ll enjoy wearing the Delma Blue Shark III. I personally prefer lighter watches and, after wearing my Exospace B55 with a titanium case and titanium bracelet, the 316L, quality steel case and bracelet of the Blue Shark III was simply too much of a strain for me. It would take a very uncomfortably tight fit of the bracelet to stop the watch head wobbling and pressing down on the top of my hand when my arm is swinging beside me when walking. Wearing it on the rubber strap has made a noticeable difference for the better.
If I had a much thicker wrist, then I’d expect the weight of the watch head was distributed over a larger area and a better, more secure fit I’m sure could be achieved. However, for me and my 17.5cm (about 6.8 inch) wrist, I’d need to look for something more compact and lighter from Delma, like the Periscope, which is a whopping third lighter than the Blue Shark III and still offers 500 meters of water resistance. Oh, and it is just about half the price, with the same movement.
I wish Delma would start using titanium for some of its capable dive watches, because with its attention to detail and unique, but not too quirky, designs and packaging, it could make a tempting case for a more comfortable diver in this segment. But I digress.
One shortcoming of the Delma Blue Shark III is the quality of its lume. A crazy dive watch should, I think, by all means have outstanding lume at the least — and a flippin’ light show on its dial, preferably! When charging the lume with my extremely powerful Profoto flash at its maximum setting, I could make this lume glow, but it faded and showed its blotchy texture very quickly. The hands are okay-ish in the way they glow, but the indices on the dial display the muted, blotchy kind of luminescence that just isn’t on par with the quality of literally every other component on this watch, including the dial itself, which has beautiful silver-framed and raised indices, numerals and date window. So the overall quality of the dial is great — but the same cannot be said of the lume.
One positive in this regard is that even the bezel itself is lumed, nudging the Blue Shark III closer to that aforementioned light show I was referring to. It takes a lot of exposure to a lot of powerful light to charge the orange markers of the bezel — but enter a dark room, staircase or alley from a sunny day outside and it sure adds a lot to the fun experience that is wearing this watch.
The Delma Blue Shark III is a huge and hugely capable watch. If you are in the market for high-end G-Shocks, Vostok Europes and other rugged and, ahem, generously proportioned watches, then you will probably want to consider the Blue Shark III. It offers additional levels of refinement in just about every element both inside and out. It feels good to use, and its quality of execution is very much in line with its price point — including its beautiful presentation.
If you can take the immense heft and the generous proportions, the Delma Blue Shark III offers plenty to make a solid case for itself in this price segment. If it is a bit too much for you to handle, as it is for me, given its focus on quality of execution and presentation, another model from this small, dedicated company will likely be a better option.
The Delma Blue Shark III is priced at €1,990 and €2,090, depending on the version, and you can learn more at delma.ch.
>Model: Blue Shark III 54701.700.6.034
>Price: €2,090 as tested
>Size: 47mm-wide, 18.5mm-thick, 295 grams on the full bracelet.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: A smaller version? Over the weekends and on the beach.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Die-hard diver and lover of big and heavy watches.
>Best characteristic of watch: Cool details and exceptionally well-made for the price, topped with outstanding presentation.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Wearable only for those with very bulky wrists — and a love of heavy watches.