Among the diverse roster of brands that make up Swatch Group’s current portfolio, Certina is one of the often-overlooked standouts that operates on the more affordable end of the greater price spectrum. Founded in 1888, Certina has a dedicated following in many parts of the world, but a lack of U.S. distribution channels has ultimately prevented the company from being a mainstream presence in America. Even still, Certina has a strong reputation among enthusiasts for its high-performing sports watches, and in 1969, four aquanauts were supplied with examples of the original DS-2 Super PH500M dive watch and successfully wore them during a two-month research stay aboard the Tektite I underwater laboratory. To celebrate that original historic model, Certina launched the DS Super PH500M in 2020 as a vintage-inspired re-edition, originally with an orange dial as the VDST model, and then followed it up the next year with a significantly more paired back variation with a black dial and bezel that much more closely resembles the original watch from 1960s. For 2022, a third variation joins the lineup, which splits the difference in terms of the amount of color and celebrates Certina’s partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a Florida-based non-profit organization created to ensure the survival and well-being of the sea turtle, which was founded in 1959 — the same year that Certina developed its DS Concept protection system, which is represented by the brand’s famous turtle shell insignia.
Other than its colorway and caseback engraving, the new Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition (reference C037.407.18.040.10) is essentially the same watch as its two siblings, although since the dial, handset, bezel insert, and strap all appear in different colors on the 2022 Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition, the overall effect is a watch that feels quite a bit different and helps fill the gap between the monochromatic all-black model and the VDST version that has a bright orange dial. With a largely blue profile with small bright orange and white accents, the Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition is a fairly colorful watch, yet compared to its orange dial sibling, it offers quite a bit more versatile of an overall appearance. Additionally, despite being created to celebrate Certina’s partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, no mention of this appears anywhere on the dial side of the watch, meaning that with the exception of its caseback engraving, this 2022 model is essentially just a blue and orange version of the brand’s popular DS Super PH500M dive watch.
The case of the Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition offers the same chunky vintage-inspired profile as its siblings, measuring 43mm in diameter by 14.95mm thick, with an overall lug-to-lug profile of approximately 48.5mm. A flat sapphire crystal sits above the dial and features anti-reflective treatment on the underside surface, while surrounding it is the same rotating timing bezel with an anodized aluminum insert, which features the brand’s signature locking mechanism that requires the bezel be pushed down before it can be rotated, with motion further restricted to exclusively the counter-clockwise direction. The bezel moves with a tactile 60-click motion, and while there is a little bit of play, the fact that it features both a 60-click design and locks into place makes this small detail quite a bit less significant. At 3 o’clock sits a signed screw-down winding crown that is partially recessed into the side of the case, and this works with the solid stainless steel screw-down caseback that is adorned with an engraving of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s logo to help provide users with an ample 500 meters of water resistance. Like its two siblings, the new model is compliant with ISO 6425 standards for dive watches, and if you enjoyed the previous two versions, you will likely also be a fan of this 2022 edition, provided that you don’t specifically have something against sea turtles or its blue and orange color profile.
Similarly, the dial of the Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition follows the same overall layout and construction as its two siblings, with a date window at 3 o’clock and a largely printed design that offers a single raised element in the form of the small polished Certina logo that sits below the 12 o’clock marker. Set against a semi-matte sunburst blue background are white rectangular hour markers, and the three indexes at the poles receive thin bright orange outlines to match the “DS” signature on the lower half of the dial. To help with at-a-glance legibility, the dial features a thin pair of lines forming a crosshair pattern running through its center, while the periphery receives a prominent white printed minute track. At the center of a dial resides a trio of hands with a broad sword-shaped hour hand and a minute hand that is finished bright orange to help set it apart from the other two white-colored hands. Given that the watch meets ISO 6425 standards, each one of the hour markers, plus all three of the hands and the luminous pearl on the bezel insert are finished with blue-glowing Super-LumiNova to offer added visibility in dark conditions.
Powering the Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition is the same Powermatic 80 automatic movement that can be found inside a number of other watches produced by fellow Swatch Group brands. Based upon the core design of the popular ETA 2824, the Powermatic 80 series features a reduced frequency of 21,600vph (3 Hz) that works with a more efficient mainspring barrel setup to give it an extended power reserve of approximately 80 hours. Additionally, the Powermatic 80 also features a balance spring made of Nivachron, which has been developed to increase resistance to magnetic fields, and due to being a titanium-based alloy, it is also more resistant to temperature variations and offers greater shock-resistance compared to traditional hairspring alloys. Realistically speaking, the Swatch Group’s Powermatic 80 movement is the definition of evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and while some collectors and enthusiasts object to its lower operating frequency, the trade off here is that you get a power reserve that is nearly twice the length of its unmodified ETA counterparts.
While the orange dial version that debuted in 2020 is fitted with a black rubber strap, the 2022 Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition follows in the footsteps of its all-black counterpart and features a fabric NATO-style strap made from recycled #tide ocean material. That said, the version of the strap fitted to this new model appears in blue and black to better compliment its dial and bezel, although it is still fitted with the same style of chunky box-shaped hardware and a thick Certina signed stainless steel pin buckle. Given that the watch itself is already somewhat thick, the use of a NATO strap does make the DS Super PH500M sit rather tall on the wrist. Additionally, while I don’t have particularly large wrists, I did find that the strap is on the shorter side, and I didn’t have any excess material that needed to be tucked back into the keepers. Therefore, those who have larger wrists (or those who plan to wear it over the sleeve of a wetsuit) may find that the included strap is a bit shorter than they would ideally want. With that in mind, given that the watch features standard 20mm lugs, the list of compatible straps is virtually endless, and I imagine that most buyers would likely play around with various strap options anyway, even if the included NATO was absolutely perfect.
In my personal opinion, aside from some microbrands that are essentially labors of love on the part of their owners, it is often the various Swatch Group brands on the more affordable end of the price spectrum that are currently offering some of the best value for the money within the mechanical watch industry. Swatch Group is a manufacturing powerhouse that specializes almost exclusively in watches and timekeeping equipment, rather than also balancing portfolios that contain everything from alcohol to makeup brands. With a retail price of $899 USD (officially CHF 860), the Certina DS Super PH500M Sea Turtle Conservancy Edition ultimately offers quite a lot of value for the money, especially considering that you are getting a Swiss-made, 500-meter dive watch that offers the added benefits of Swatch Group’s exclusive movement technology. Even if a microbrand were to produce this same watch, the final retail price would likely be more than $1k, and when you also consider that longstanding collector staples such as Seiko’s Prospex divers are now also encroaching (or surpassing) that same thousand-dollar threshold, some of the longstanding Swiss offerings, such as those from brands like Certina are starting to seem like highly compelling alternatives. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.