The Graham watch brand as we know it really planted its feet with the Swordfish collection of timepieces. This fished-eye family actually began with a single eye design in the Swordfish Grillo. Double magnifier eyes were later added to the 46mm wide collection. While the Swordfish family really began around 2001, it was not until 2005 or so that it started becoming really popular as Graham matured the design and started to add more colorful pieces. For a long time the Swordfish collection mirrored the market of the era, and as a rather wild and unorthodox piece, was Graham’s top seller.
More recently Graham released the Swordfish Booster. This model upped the case size to 48mm wide and flipped the crown and chronograph pushers to the left side of the case. The Swordfish Booster retained the essential double magnifier concept which was Graham’s attempt to embolden the idea of the cyclops magnifier that brands such as Rolex made famous as a means of making the date window easier to read. Graham’s idea was to use a metal ring framed magnifier over the sapphire crystal to magnify the chronograph subdials by about 15%.
Inside each Swordfish watch is a Swiss La Joux-Perret automatic chronograph movement – which is a base ETA that in this instance has been modified to have a full 12 hour chronograph with a subsidiary seconds hand built into the 12 hour counter. While not terribly easy to see, there is a running seconds hand. Graham calls this movement their caliber G1710, and it has a power reserve of about 48 hours. The rear of the watch has a tinted sapphire crystal that allows for a view of the darkened movement – in the right light. Despite the dark shades of the movement, there is an appreciable amount of decor on the movement surfaces.
In steel, the 48mm wide case is marked by steeply curved lugs and a slightly larger-than-life presence. It is water resistant to 100 meters and is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist. While the crown and pushers might seem a bit excessive, they are actually very comfortable to use – especially the crown. I enjoy the grated texture on the slightly concave chronograph pushers as well. Because the movement is flipped for a left-side orientation, you’ll use the bottom pusher to start and stop the chronograph, while the top pusher is used to reset it.
This specific Swordfish Booster model has the little term “Iris” as part of its title – and that signifies something rather unique. In this instance “Iris” is another word for rainbow, and refers to the special iridescent coating on the steel case. Using a PVD application process, the case is coated several times and heat treated to get this special iridescent black case color. As I understand it, the case has several layers of this coated film – each being a slightly different thickness. This property offers a unique type of light reflectivity.
Depending on the finishing of the surface, the case colors play in the light, with many colors being shades of green and purple. Graham’s own marketing images intensify this effect a bit, but the real-life experience is satisfying. I only wished that some of the more colorful finishes would have also been used on the bezel – as the best parts of the case for experiencing the color shifts are on the side and rear portions of the case. To compliment the qualities of the case, the Swordfish Booster Iris watch uses a black (Tahitian) mother-of-pearl dial. The dial further uses hands and hour markers with black colored SuperLumiNova. I personally am a fan of mother-of-pearl, and enjoy when it can be successfully implemented into a man’s timepiece. You’ll notice that the chronograph subdials are black with a snailed texture.
While not always suitable for a watch, Graham’s choice to match the Swordfish Booster Iris with a deep green alligator strap was a good idea. It is matched with a polished black ceramic buckle. Regrettably the Swordfish collection suffers when it comes to legibility. The Booster’s hands are probably necessarily skeletonized, and in this instance don’t contrast enough with the dial. For that phantom look it works, but the dial isn’t easy to read. Of course, the largest legibility issue is related to the fact that the hands – while properly sized – must pass under the magnifier eyes, making them difficult to spot. Wearing this agreeably unique (and in my opinion quite fashionable) watch requires a legibility sacrifice. Having said that, I should add that the chronograph counters are easy to see!
As an example of the Swordfish Booster collection, there are few models more unique than the Iris. It carries a bit of a premium price over its siblings due to the case. My understanding is that producing the iridescent case is less than a perfect science. That means many cases come out of the process with uneven colors and a blotchy look. The unpredictable and less than industrial technique adds time to the production of these watches and rarity to their availability. No doubt enough watch lovers will find that valuable. Price is $17,500 for this reference 2SWBB.B39L Graham Swordfish Booster Iris watch.