German brands have a reputation for embracing a form-follows-function design philosophy. It’s an ethos that I admire, since it tends to result in watches that are robust, legible, easily wearable, and best of all, affordable. The LIMES Endurance II is a prime example of a function-first tool watch that showcases exactly why German watches have gained such a loyal following. LIMES is a brand that tends to be overshadowed by some of its better-known German compatriots (e.g., NOMOS, Sinn, Mühle Glashütte, etc.) — however, LIMES’s parent company, Ickler, has been manufacturing watches and creating cases and components for brands all over the world for nearly a century. One of Ickler’s quintet of house brands, LIMES was launched to showcase Ickler’s manufacturing capabilities and produce exceptional watches at an affordable price point. The cases of all LIMES watches are designed, prototyped, produced, and hand-polished or brushed on-site in Pforzheim at the same location where final hand assembly, inspection, and servicing occurs.
This is an Ickler watch, so my expectations were high when it came to case design and execution. Luckily, I was not disappointed. This is a beautiful case — if, that is, you find beauty in exceptionally well-crafted tools and precision German engineering. If you’re looking for elegant facets, sweeping curves, and sharp transitions between brushed and polished surfaces, then you’ll want to look elsewhere in the LIMES catalog. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the angular lines, strong transitions, and robust lugs and crown guards all evoke an air of toughness. Just looking at the case, it’s clear that my body’s going to fail well before the case lets me down. Now, this description may give the impression that I’m talking about a beast of a watch. However, the 41.5mm case diameter and 12.5mm case height are perfectly reasonable. The lug-to-lug measurement is a bit on the long side at 50mm, but that length is tempered by the steep curvature of the lugs. It fits my 6.75” wrist nicely and doesn’t feel oversized in the way that an (on paper) similarly sized watch like the Tudor Pelagos feels on my wrist (more on the similarities with the Pelagos lower down).
Something that adds to the overall comfort and wearability of the Endurance II is the exceptionally well-executed bracelet. Seriously, it’s impressive. The bracelet utilizes a five-link design; each of the links curves softly on the surface and articulates nicely, allowing the watch to drape and conform to the wrist. Earlier iterations of this watch did not utilize fitted endlinks, but I’m happy to report that the endlinks are now flush and integrate with the straight, angular case. The bracelet attaches to the case by use of screw bars in lieu of spring bars. As expected, the fit of the screws is superb and I personally appreciate both the convenience and added security of screw bars. Because they’re so well-machined, there was never an issue of stripping a screw or slipping the screwdriver and scratching the case. The links on the bracelet are also held in by precisely machined screws. The only shortfall on the bracelet is the simple stamped clasp. It works fine and does the job, but it doesn’t fit with the over-engineered case and bracelet. Since LIMES seems to listen to their customers and is constantly improving on their models, this is an upgrade I’m hoping we see at some point in the future.
The Endurance II is capable of withstanding depths of 300m, though you won’t find that indicated on the dial; rather, it is inconspicuously engraved on the caseback. It’s the type of detail that makes me think that the Endurance II is capable of going even deeper, but LIMES doesn’t feel the need to boast. The sapphire crystal atop the watch is flat with an anti-reflective coating — a practical consideration that ensures high legibility. As for the moving parts on the case, the bezel is 120-click and unidirectional with a solid, satisfying action. The bezel is easy to grip and the slightly rounded edges don’t abuse your fingers. The aluminum bezel insert is clean and legible with a single lume pip. The aluminum bezel is practical and keeps costs down, but ceramic would be welcome, even for an upcharge. Finally, the crown. Oh man, the crown! I know it’s a silly thing to be excited about, but the action on the screw-down crown is buttery smooth and it’s one of those small details that reveals to the wearer exactly why Ickler has gained such a stellar reputation for its case manufacturing.
The dial, bezel, and handset on the Endurance II epitomize Teutonic functionality. Legibility is fantastic — if the test is how quickly and easily you can read the time (which I would argue it should be in a tool diver), then the Endurance II receives top marks. The hour markers are bold, lume-filled trapezoids that are enlarged at 3, 6, and 9 and doubled-up at 12. It’s reminiscent, but not derivative, of the Tudor Pelagos, in that regard — and actually, this similarity carries over to the colorways. The Endurance II is available in a monochrome black and white colorway, but also a vibrant blue. The Endurance II is also available with a sterile dial that features no branding or other text. One other small note about the dial is that that tucked behind the hour markers are small Arabic numerals delineating every five-minute increment. The date window at 6 o’clock is color-matched (white on black) and well-positioned to be unobtrusive. If you’re going to add a date window, this is how to do it.
The handset on the Endurance II adds a small touch of elegance by including polished hands. It softens the look of the watch just a touch and increases its versatility. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a watch that will be mistaken for a dress diver, but that little touch does make the watch feel more well-rounded and less severe than something like the Sinn U1. The hands themselves (something of a mix between a baton and plongeur handset) are well-proportioned, easily distinguishable, and filled with plenty of Super-LumiNova, providing a strong blue glow through the night.
Let’s get back to branding for a second. I can’t help but think that one of the things that’s held LIMES back from attracting a larger audience is simply the brand name. The name (pronounced lee-mez) evokes thoughts of tasty citrus fruits in English…why this is an issue, I’m not sure. I mean, no limes, no guacamole right? I suppose not everyone wants to associate their watches with tasty Mexican side dishes and tropical drinks, but I don’t find it to be an issue. Sinn seems to get a free pass, so hopefully, more people can look past the name or rewire their brains to the German pronunciation and see the incredible value proposition offered by the brand.
The Endurance II is powered by a Swiss made Sellita SW 200-1 automatic movement. I’m always happy to see this movement in watches around the $1,000 USD mark, and it’s a solid choice here. The SW 200-1 is an automatic-winding movement that beats at 28.8kbph, features 26 jewels, hacking, quickset date, and a power reserve of 38 hours. It’s a robust, time-tested movement that’s a fitting complement to the rest of the watch.
If we look at competitors, let’s go with the Tudor Pelagos since it’s one I brought up earlier. No question, the Pelagos is a superb watch (I’ve owned two) and at over four times the price of the Endurance II, the Pelagos outshines the Endurance II in a few regards: in-house movement (though, if you’re looking at servicing costs, that’s actually a win for the Endurance II), ceramic bezel, quick-adjust clasp, and helium escape valve. Joking about that last one, I find helium escape valves pointless. But, in my view, the Endurance II has one major advantage: comfort. The 20mm lug width, reasonable case height, and sloping lugs all contribute to a more pleasurable wearing experience for a smaller wrist like mine. Again, it’s a bit of an unfair comparison given the price difference, but the fact that this is the first comparison that comes to mind speaks for itself.
All in all, this is a watch that I’m not looking forward to sending back to Germany. I’ve found myself reaching for this watch over and over again, trying it out on different straps, and generally finding it a great choice for just about everything I do. As with all watches produced by Ickler, the LIMES Endurance II has a fantastic case with its own unique design language and excellent construction and execution. This is an unabashed tool watch and legibility is fantastic, but not at the expense of style. I’m a fan of clean, simple design that emphasizes legibility and functionality and the LIMES Endurance II scores high marks on all those counts. Simply put, the LIMES Endurance II is an excellent watch, and considering the €974.79 price point, it really is a fantastic value proposition. I’ve always been impressed with how much watch you get for your money from German watches and in the case of the LIMES Endurance II, you get an in-house case from Germany’s renowned case manufacturers. For more information on the LIMES Endurance II be sure to visit the brand’s website at www.LIMES-watches.com.
>Model: Endurance II
>Size: 41.5mm-wide, 12.5mm-tall, 50mm lug-to-lug
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Easy grab-and-go watch that works in almost all casual situations.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone looking for a high-quality dive watch that offers excellent value.
>Best characteristic of watch: Ickler case, superb crown action, and dial legibility.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Stamped clasp doesn’t fit with the high quality of the rest of the case and bracelet.