It’s very difficult to anticipate an upcoming watch review without developing some preconceptions about the piece racing towards your door. Sometimes a giddy excitement overtakes me, as I fantasize over finally having the chance to wear test a watch I’ve admired from afar. On other occasions, I am positively professional in my approach, open to being convinced by a brand I know little about, and cautiously optimistic that something will impress me. As I awaited the arrival of the Delma Blue Shark III, I found myself poring over the brand’s website, trying to get a handle on what was going to greet me when I opened the box.
While a big fan of dive watches, I’ve never owned one with an orange dial (shocker). I was keen to see what this popular shade looked like on my wrist, but keener still to see exactly how big the 47mm-wide case wore.
It’s massive. It is truly one of the biggest, heaviest watches I have ever worn. The 47mm diameter is one thing, but the 18.5mm height mixed with the 295g weight is what I, as a small wristed (17cm) man struggled with the most. If you’ve read my thoughts on wrist circumference versus watch diameter in the past, you will know that I absolutely abhor the arbitrary notion carried around by some watch wearers that they “can’t” or flatly refuse to wear anything above or below a certain diameter, irrespective of how other dimensions or stylistic decisions may affect the watch’s presence on the wrist.
The smallest watch in my collection is 33mm-wide; the largest is 56mm. Both look fine on my wrist (it’s the same wrist every time), because of the way each individual watch is styled. The Delma Blue Shark III was way too top heavy for me, and while it looked just fine, it was surprisingly difficult for me to get used to. This is the first time I would really suggest this is only a watch for people with large wrists. I’m sure there are some guys out there who love risking a rotator cuff injury every time they reach for the salt; I’m not one of them.
The water resistance is an improvement on the Delma Blue Shark II, which only clocked in at 3,000 meters. It is impressive that Delma, which has been producing dive watches for 50 years, is able to make timepieces capable of surviving these depths, but it is little more than a talking point to the vast majority of the watch-buying public.
The case machining is very good. One advantage of this large, derivative case shape, is that the CNC machines aren’t required to do anything too clever. For a tool watch, this is preferable. The unidirectional bezel is really excellent, and the sound it makes when you turn it counterclockwise is as satisfying as the minimal play between spring and teeth.
One thing that seriously grated on me, however, is how easily this diver picked up scratches. I wear dive watches on most days. I beat the hell out of them. I’ve got DLC coatings, hardened and tegimented steel watches that still look as new today as the day I bought them, but my other untreated 316L stainless steel dive watches have barely a mark on them in comparison to the Blue Shark III after a week or so of wear. It didn’t take me long to work out that the reason for these surface scuffs is simply down to how big the thing is. It is constantly sticking its head above the parapet, asking to be dinged. I must say that this is exacerbated by my small wrist (as the plane of motion throughout which the watch is most vulnerable is increased due to is covering the entire surface of my wrist). For a watch of these proportions, I would say that case hardening is a must.
Reference 41701.700.6.154 is the one I borrowed for a few weeks. It is not a watch I would have chosen for myself (preferring the blue dial with black bezel from the pictures alone), but I was really taken by how bright the orange on the dial is. I’m still not convinced that the lighter orange numbers on the bezel match the Arabic numerals employed at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock, but they grew on me. I think, however, I would have preferred a black bezel with plain steel engraved numbers or even the same green as used on the hour markers.
The handset is a good length, and although the shape of the hands does nothing for me, they are very nicely lumed and glow well in the dark. The triangular tip of the seconds hand (which functions on this watch as a running indicator) is a little on the small side, but it’s nice to see a change from the ubiquitous lollipop hand.
The date is positioned at 3 o’clock and has a black typeface on a white field. This actually looks fine against the orange on this model and against the blue of the steel-bezeled ref. 41701.700.6.044, but it’s a shame the colors weren’t inverted on the other models.
If we ignore for a moment how untreated 316L stainless steel bracelets and buckles scuff easily, then we can really enjoy this aspect of the Delma Blue Shark III. The bracelet is great. Solidly machined and familiarly styled, the links are held together by specially designed screw heads that basically “plug” the links in place from either side, so the previous link in the chain pivots on two unthreaded posts that just about meet in the middle.
A special tool comes with the Delma Blue Shark III so you can adjust this yourself, but should you lose or break it, you can change the links easily enough with a gray screwdriver. (I would advise using beryllium blades so you don’t burr the very attractive head.)
By far, the absolute best thing about this whole package is the buckle. It is seriously cool. Now, I have a bit of a thing for well-machined deployant clasps, and I have some pretty high standards, so believe me when I say that the shape, machining, and functionality of this buckle is superb. The underpiece is really nicely decorated, and the surface engraving of the Delma wordmark and crown is just deep enough to satisfy me. Obviously, the buckle’s finish, just as with the case, benefits from being enormous. It is a shame it is not hardened, but it is still one of the finest safety deployants I’ve ever worn.
Not surprisingly, the Delma Blue Shark III is powered by the ETA 2824-2, which has been upgraded to feature a gold-plated rotor with the Delma logo engraved on it. Of course, all of that is hidden behind the closed caseback, allowing the industry’s most widespread tractor caliber to go about its business in complete peace. The 2824-2 has a power reserve of 38 hours and an operating frequency of 28,800vph.
I came away from this one with mixed feelings. I was surprised by the build quality and how much I enjoyed the orange dial, but the boring caseback design, immense weight, and vulnerability to scratches grated on me. This is a very solid watch, but its CHF 1,990 price tag puts it up against some incredibly stiff competition. Although the orange dial is not something seen on some of the more mainstream brands, I could never choose this over a Doxa, or even a Seiko Monster when all is said and done. That said, it is an excellent diving tool and, for those requiring water resistance of 4,000 meters, it is an exceptional value for the money. To explore the rest of this collection and everything else Delma has to offer, check out Delma.ch.
>Model: Blue Shark III
>Price: CHF 1,990 (this model), CHF 2,090 for those with DLC bezels
>Size: 47mm × 18.5mm
>When reviewer would personally wear it: No. Although I have no hard and fast rules regarding acceptable diameters for my smallish wrist, this one just didn’t sit right. Too top-heavy for me.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone with a massive wrist and forearms to match.
>Best characteristic of watch: The deployant clasp is a thing of beauty.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Given that this is a tool watch of significant size, the lack of a surface hardening treatment is a big drawback for me.