Upon hearing that I had a Marathon GSAR coming in the mail, a friend of mine replied, “Any self-respecting dive watch fan should, at least at one point in his life, own a Marathon SAR. I think it’s just sort of a rite of passage.” I couldn’t agree more, and some years ago I owned a TSAR, the quartz version of Marathon’s widely known and well-loved tool dive watch. Marathon is a Canadian company, and their watches have been used by everyone from the Canadian Coast Guard to varied groups within the U.S Government. A real-deal, tool-dive watch, Marathon’s watches are often identified online via their government contract production date and they are meant to be used in harsh conditions and hard-wearing lifestyles.

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With a simple function-forward design, the Marathon Diver’s Automatic, aka “GSAR” (which stands for Government Search and Rescue) is a 41mm steel dive watch with a grippy bezel, legible display, and tritium illumination on the markers and hands. Despite the extra depth required for the tritium tubes and the tall bezel design, the Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR is just 14mm thick. With a lug-to-lug size of 48mm and a total weight (including the rubber strap) of 112g, this is a dive watch that can suit a wide range of wrists.

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The case is solid and utilitarian, with drilled 20mm lugs, a large knurled crown, and an entirely brushed finish. The sharp and effective jimping on the bezel edge hangs ever so slightly off the sides of the case, offering plenty of purchase, especially when wearing gloves. The action is smooth and clicky with little wiggle, and the scale is legible and straightforward in its design.

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The dial is a matte black, with a simple but effective black-on-white date display at 4:30 and tritium tube hour markers flanked by both 12-hour and 24-hour markings. Buyers can option either a “sterile” dial, which shows the branding as well as the radioactive symbol and the H3 text (the manufacturer of the tritium tubes), or you can have the “US Government” dial which adds, predictably, the U.S Government text to the dial.

Finally, the handset is an ideal option for a multirole tool watch, with crisp white hands featuring tritium illumination – even on the seconds hand. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of owning a watch with H3 tritium tubes, these tiny glass tubes use a safely contained radioactive element to provide “always-on” illumination. While not bright enough to be visible in daylight, all of the markers and hands offer a soft and highly functional glow in low- to no-light scenarios. You can read all about H3 Tritium systems in our manufacture visit to MB-Microtec near Bern, Switzerland, that manufactures them.

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This no-fluff design language prioritizes flexibility, legibility, and general functionality. The basic premise is minimal watch, maximum toughness. For the Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR, Marathon opted for the ubiquitous but reliable ETA 2824-A2 automatic movement. I figure we all know this movement and its too-common-to-list usage with automatic watches over the past 20 years. Given the price point, especially as the Diver’s Automatic is built in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, the 2824 is good value and it’s only $280 more than the Diver’s Quartz (aka the TSAR), which seems quite reasonable.

On the wrist, the Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR (or, really, any Marathon) feels like a piece of military equipment. Not in that “it says Navy Seals on the dial” sort of way, but rather in its intent-driven design. The Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR is like the quietly tough blue-collar sibling to a watch like the Tudor Pelagos. To put it easily, if you like the look of the Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR, you should seriously consider picking one up. The Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR, as it’s seen here on a rubber strap, can be had directly from Marathon for $1,150 USD – a solid value for a tough, Swiss-made, adventure-ready tool watch. But before you go and grab your wallet, there’s one more thing. For May 2016, we’re giving this one away.

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The giveaway is part of a fundraising partnership between Marathon Watches, Crown & Buckle, and aBlogtoWatch in support of a charity bike ride in June. Our very own Matt Smith-Johnson is leading a team in the 2016 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a charity event that raises money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. This is the 9th year of the RTCC, and in the past eight years they’ve managed to raise some $119M dollars for cancer research. This 200km bike ride through southern Ontario, Canada, is a worthy cause, and we can’t think of a better way to partner with some great brands and reach out to our audience for their support. We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way, and with even a small donation you can be part of something working for a solution that will save lives. If you’re reading this and you don’t like being asked for money, know that we’re not asking for you to do anything more than to consider supporting a great cause.

Matt will be sporting a beefy Marathon CSAR watch on a custom Crown & Buckle NATO strap when he embarks on a 200km ride using a single-speed bike. The fundraising goal for team “Time For A Cure” is $15,000, and you can find more information or donate at their official team page here. You don’t have to be Canadian or live in Canada to donate, and I’d like to extend a warm aBlogtoWatch thanks to Marathon, Crown & Buckle, and any of you who offer support for this worthwhile endeavor.

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While the official post for the Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR giveaway is live (until May 31, 2016), you can also support the team by picking up one of Crown & Buckle’s custom “Time for a Cure” NATO straps for $12. Crown & Buckle is generously donating all of the proceeds from the strap sales to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre – and don’t forget to post a wrist shot on Instagram with the #timeforacure hashtag. Donate, grab a strap, and be sure to throw your your hat in the ring for a free Marathon Diver’s Automatic GSAR watch (donation not required to enter the giveaway). It’s not often that you can simultaneously support both your watch addiction and a great cause – so please get involved at any level.

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