December 10, 2019
by Ariel Adams
I quickly warmed to the Favre-Leuba Raider Sea King watch the moment I put it on when Swiss Favre-Leuba first introduced it to me a year-and-a-half ago at Baselworld 2018. I didn’t even take pictures of the prototype models, instead simply insisting, “I’m going to want to review one of these.” My interest in this “gentleman’s diver,” was initially based on the fact that it is the first modern Favre-Leuba watch that, to me, could serve as a daily wear. A lot of the brand’s more novel products, such as the Favre-Leuba Raider Harpoon, Raider Bathy 120 MemoDepth, and Raider Bivouac 9000 are technically interesting and functional sport watches — but hardly what most people would consider a daily wear (unless your days including regular climbing or underwater submersion). Those are excellent “collector’s watches,” for sure, but a lot of people who even enjoy timepieces in the extreme want something a bit more simple and versatile for daily wear. Is the Raider Sea King that?
The last Sea King watch I wrote about was actually a Bulova, which I think is one brand to have used the term historically. I really enjoy looking back on the history of dive watch names, as most of them use the same formula (strong authoritative title + marine term). Favre-Leuba tacks on “Sea King” as a model designator along with “Raider,” which represents the case collection. You’ll notice that the above-mentioned Favre-Leuba products use the same shape of case — albeit larger for those other models. For example, the Fabre-Leuba Raider Harpoon watch case is 46mm-wide (and over 18mm-thick), and the Raider Sea-King is a far more wearable 41mm-wide — wearing large, given the broad case shape. The case is about 14mm-thick and has a lug-to-lug distance of about 48mm. Note that Favre-Leuba produces an even smaller version of the Raider for women known as the “Raider Sea Bird,” which comes in a 34mm-wide case and contains a Swiss quartz movement.
These dimensions do not translate into a small watch, but it’s also not a massive one. I would describe the Raider Sea King as a large-medium watch with a bold wrist presence. It has a dress-watch personality, but it is also a real diver with 300 meters of water resistance. No, it doesn’t have a rotating bezel with a lume pip, so you can’t technically call it a professional dive watch, but it will serve you fine in the water and during your adventures. Over the dial is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal that has not given me any glare issues (a very good thing).
Favre-Leuba designed the Raider case inspired by the brand’s historic sport watches from the 1970s. As I mentioned above, the stainless steel case is a sort of wide tonneau-shape with an interesting line across each side, which helps reduce visual mass. You also get a combination of brushed and polished surfaces, which is particularly nice on the top of the case around the bezel assembly. This also happens to be my favorite part of the watch because, even though it is mostly cosmetic, it suggests the look and personality of a tool watch, not a merely decorative item. The bezel is really two visual parts that work together nicely. First is the immediate bezel around the crystal, which looks notched ready for a wrench to twist it off. Next is the outer bezel, which looks like a modified version of Rolex’s fluted bezels. Both of these design elements are suggestive of components that can be screwed-down — a hallmark of most all water-resistant dive watches. In my opinion, this is a very clever and attractive design for an interesting-looking, as well as masculine, timepiece.
More Favre-Leuba brand personality is apparent on the dial, which is comparatively simple next to other Raider family timepieces. The hands especially tell you that this isn’t just any random generic timepiece, and the polished and applied squarish hour markers are easy to see and reminiscent of 1970s sport watch design. The hands and hour markers are given Super-LumiNova paint for viewing the time and date. A window at 3 o’clock displays the date but in a way so as not to remove the entire 3 o’clock hour marker. Around the periphery of the dial is a raised and angled flange ring with a minute track. This is both an attractive element and helps add a welcome sense of depth to the dial. It also helps the drop from the bezel to the dial feel a bit less dramatic or sudden.
My only issue with the dial is that the majority of it looks a bit flat. The three colorways of the dial currently available (black, blue, and gray) are all nice and fashionable, but the texture is a bit basic, in my opinion, on this gray. This doesn’t make me like the watch any less, and I still think the gray dial is cool, but perhaps the blue dial with its sunray finishing looks a bit more “complete.” I feel that with a small amount of texture or a pattern the gray dial would be perfect (as opposed to really good). Nothing can be ideal, right? This is my only major complaint with the watch, which is otherwise excellent.
Inside the case is a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement that operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with 42 hours of power reserve. You can’t see the movement through the rear of the case, but with a workhorse like this, you don’t really need to. This is one of the most common movements in mechanical dive watches (with Swiss movements), and I like that since they are easy to fix and not very expensive to maintain.
Favre-Leuba offers the Raider Sea King on either a padded leather strap or this matching steel bracelet. Given that I am a “bracelet guy” I much prefer the latter. Not only do I generally feel that watches often look better on bracelets, but in this case, I feel as though the bracelet really helps complete the theme. What theme is that? Hard to say for sure what Favre-Leuba was imagining when they designed it (perhaps it is for some ruler of the oceans?) but it is clear that this product is meant to be a more casual/dressy companion to the brand’s other more seriously adventure products. For me the appeal is a simple, comfortable, and attractive daily wear that does not look generic or like other watches. One way to sum up the search for watches is that collectors look for things that are both attractive and distinctive. Sometimes getting the latter part is more challenging than the first part because it implies one product can’t look like other products. Managing this while retaining a sense of “familiarity” in a design is an absolute challenge that only masterful watch designers are typically able to get right.
If I had to make another suggestion about the watch in order for Favre-Leuba to improve it, then I would ask for a more sophisticated bracelet deployant. Perhaps I’m getting spoiled with the wonderful world of bracelets with micro-adjustments, but a simple butterfly-style deployant simply doesn’t impress me anymore. The Raider Sea King bracelet link sizes mean that for my wrists (it will vary based on your particular wrist anatomy), it is either too loose or on the verge of being too tight. I prefer watches snug, so I sized it at the point at which it would constrict my wrist if any smaller. To test its comfort when my wrist expanded, I took the Raider Sea King with me while traveling to Hong Kong. I was specifically interested to see how it would feel after being out in the hot, humid climate for a few hours. Surprisingly, the watch did not choke my wrist and I didn’t find it uncomfortable. The point is that if the bracelet did have a micro-adjust, then assuming the watch felt temporarily tight, I could expand it a bit. Of course the wisest thing to do if you take a timepiece like this into such a climate would be to remove the bracelet and use a rubber strap (humid weather and leather straps don’t tend to mix very beautifully).
My own opinion is usually enough for me to come to a conclusion about a watch’s appeal, but I do like to ask others how they feel about what I am wearing. The Raider Sea King earned some pretty impressive comments, with people really liking how Favre-Leuba has such a compelling and distinctive design that isn’t “weird.” To many people, Favre-Leuba is an unknown brand (even though it is a truly historic one), and I was interested to see how viewing the Raider Sea King resulted in people immediately starting to search for the brand in order to learn more. Again, attractive, distinctive designs are what you should be looking for when you don’t want a watch that looks like your standard Rolex/Patek Philippe/Omega/TAG Heuer, etc… There are other options out there than just the Raider Sea King, but at this price and quality, I think it is worth a very close look.
Again, I wanted to mention that Favre-Leuba produces an even smaller version of this core look in the Raider Sea Bird watches for women. The Raider Sea King is currently available with three dial colors, exclusively in a steel case (for now) and with either a strap or bracelet. Price for the reference 00.10107.08.41.20 Raider Sea King on the bracelet is 1,950 Swiss Francs (1,750 Swiss Francs on the leather strap). For more information, visit shop.favre-leuba.com.
>Model: Raider Sea King (reference 00.10107.08.41.20 as tested)
>Price: 1,950 Swiss Francs (as tested)
>Size: 41mm-wide, about 14mm-thick, and about 48mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer personally wear it: As a comfortable daily wear or dressier sport-style watch with a distinctive personality.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone seeking to get one of their first “serious” Swiss watches who wants to get something out of the norm but that will be fashionable for years to come.
>Best characteristic of watch: Delivers on its promise as a “good value” with a well-made case and dial, appropriate movement, and high-level of design refinement as expected at a watch priced $2,000 and up. I also really like how the case and dial work together visually.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Matte gray dial can feel a tad bit empty at times. Bracelet is well-made but simple. Raider Sea King collection would benefit by having a bit more personality in the form of better story-telling or marketing to help explain the product’s values to a larger audience.