The matte-black dial has a series of scales and encircling it is the unidirectional rotating diver’s style bezel which can be used to measure 60-minute increments. The bezel itself has a matte black insert and a traditionally lumed triangle at the 60-minute mark that is painted with MaraGlo (proprietary to Marathon) luminant. Going back to the dial, I appreciate the use of Arabic hour numerals next to the baton-style hour markers, as well as the smaller scale of 24-hour markers for “military time.” The dial does have a window for the date, which is located between 4 and 5 o’clock so as to not remove one of the hour markers. My only request for this timepiece would be for Marathon to swap out the white-with-black-print date disc, for one in black with white print. It’s a very minor thing and I don’t think it should repel anyone from getting the Marathon GSAR watch.
Over the dial is a flat sapphire crystal, and again let me comment on not only how legible the dial is, but how legible the dial is from various viewing angles. As mentioned above, this particular GSAR watch is a special edition version made by Marathon known as the Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic Grey Maple. The reason for this name is obvious, given that it uses a grey-colored Canadian flag-style maple leaf motif under the 12 o’clock hour indicator. Note that some select other Marathon watches have a red-colored maple leaf in this same position. I personally prefer the monochromatic look of the Grey Maple, not just for this applique, but also for the rest of the dial.
Inside the watch is a traditional Swiss automatic mechanical movement relied upon for many tool-style diver’s watches. It is the workhorse ETA 2824-2 automatic, which operates at 4Hz with 42 hours of power reserve. Attached to the watch here is a high-quality black rubber strap that is 20mm wide. Marathon also offers other straps including good-quality woven nylon NATO-style straps as well as a matching steel bracelet. The bracelet is a nice addition if you want to make the watch a bit more versatile as a daily wear with slightly formal or business attire. Though as a more true tool watch I find the comfort and snug fit of the rubber strap to be ideal. It also happens to be one of those pleasant vanilla scented rubber straps.
Marathon Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic: Story
There are tool-style watches out there which are less expensive (and often less exciting or well-made), as well as those which are more decorative, design-focused, and well-known coming from popular high-end brands. In a real sense, the Rolex Submariner would fit into a similar category as the Marathon GSAR even though the ethos of the product and the brands are worlds apart. The appeal of Marathon, as well as the GSAR in general, is its absolute solid dedication to being a tool, as well as its total rejection of pretentiousness. Fans of this watch will appreciate it for exactly those reasons. I personally love a good functional watch that isn’t boring or cheap. Marathon does a lot to help the Grey Maple and other Search & Rescue Diver’s watches feel as though they are engineered to be excellent, not just engineered to be acceptable. Excellence is about reaching for the top, while acceptability is merely satisfying the function for which it is designed. Watches of the latter style do almost nothing for me, while watches in the former category end up on my wrist often while I leave more expensive watches at home.
Timepiece enthusiasts on a budget often like watches such as this because even seasoned snobs can’t look down upon something like a Marathon GSAR. You can’t complain about the design, you can’t complain about the functionality, and you can’t complain about the watch. So even in a room of people wearing collectible, status-watches, the GSAR will make a case for itself and be something that almost anyone can see having in their collection. At worst, this is a very well-made “beater watch” for those people whose idea of “active duty” is cleaning the house and tending to the yard.
Marathon itself as a brand makes a series of military watches but not only that. The company sells everything from measurement tools to a universe of clocks and timing equipment. What makes Marathon quirky and almost cool is that you can have an atomic Marathon wall clock in your kitchen, a multi-function digital Marathon desk clock in your office, a marathon stopwatch for sports purposes, and of course a marathon wrist watch (automatic or mechanical) for wearing duty. There are really very few other watch brands today that can claim that. It also means that the majority of Marathon’s products are extremely accessible being mostly priced under $100. So in that regard, their mechanical wrist watches are top-tier products for their brand.
Marathon Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic: Practicality
The above discussion about how the Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic watch is a purpose-built tool suited for military duty should sufficiently make the point that this is a very practical watch. Those with an adventurous spirit can easily pull this watch off as a daily wear, and barring very formal dress, the GSAR is fashionably versatile. The only people I’d recommend aren’t the best wearers for this watch are those who never “dress down.” If you are a modern dandy looking to impress with your high-street suits and loafers, you probably need something a bit more status-screaming on your wrist. If you love the idea of wearing what’s among the best-built tool watches around, that will not only please your eyes but also give you the time at a glance, I can’t see you being disappointed with this product.
The world of military-style dive watches is anything but sparsely populated. Consumers have an enormous amount of options to choose from, many of which are intentionally designed with more personality than the Marathon Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic GSAR. The personality in this watch doesn’t stem from any particular distinctive design cues, but rather for what it is built to do, based upon the technical requirements it needs to meet in order to be a true “mil-spec” (military specification) watch. If you have a soft spot in your heart for products like that, then investing in a Grey Maple or other Marathon GSAR will be a very practical move.
Price-wise this is a Swiss Made tool watch for a bit over a thousand bucks on the rubber strap, while the steel bracelet is a bit more. A quick look at the Marathon website will reveal that a few dial versions of the GSAR are available. In addition to your strap/bracelet choice, the dial version you get is really a matter of taste. Want one that says “US Government” on the dial? You can do that. Want the same watch without “US Government” on the dial? That’s available too. Prices start at $1,200 USD for the Marathon reference WW194006NGM (without “US Government” on the dial) and WW194006 (with “US Government” on the dial) and go up to $1,340 USD on the matching steel bracelet. This particular “Grey Maple” reference WW194006-CA-MPL Marathon Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic GSAR watch is just a bit more at $1,280 USD. Learn more or order at Marathon watches here.
>Model: Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic (GSAR) Grey Maple reference WW194006-CA-MPL
>Price: $1,280 USD (as tested)
>Size: 41mm wide, 14mm thick, and 48mm lug-to-lug.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a handsome tool watch for any occasion that works and won’t let me down.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Fans of mechanical military-spec tool watches who are particularly interested in watches today being worn by actual people in the military (and that are actually issued by the military).
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent timepiece overall built based on probably 50 years of refinement in the design, construction, and requirements of such watches. Legibility and comfort are very high, as well as the overall value for money.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Some might argue that the watch is a bit thick, but I didn’t feel that way. Use of black-colored date disc would be a minor refinement improvement.