It brings me great pleasure to review the OWC MilSub MS-5517 watch – especially after I’ve been following the trials and tribulations of brand creator Dan Fock for several years. Hailing from Australia, Mr. Fock’s regular newsletters would describe in intense detail everything that was going on in the development of his watches, as well as the setbacks in his personal life. The entertaining series includes frustrating accounts of dealing with Asian parts suppliers, as well as sickness in the family, natural disasters, and financial turmoil. One such tale involved a dispute with a larger company about the name “Orange Watch Comapny” that resulted in Fock having to permanently change the name of the brand to just “OWC.” While this MilSub MS-5517 isn’t the first OWC watch, nor it is the first OWC watch we’ve discussed on aBlogtoWatch, it is the first one I personally have been able to experience – and I have to say that, for the money, it ain’t half bad.
I was pretty sure that Dan Fock was a detail dilettante, but it wasn’t until I received the OWC MilSub MS-5517 that I was quite assured of it. Let’s be clear that the OWC MilSub MS-5517 isn’t a perfect watch, but it has some amazing details that only could have come from Dan’s perseverance and sheer struggle with his suppliers, who no doubt needed a lot of pushing to get certain things right. It is also important to mention that most OWC watches are done in the style of “homage timepieces,” meaning that they are directly inspired by other watches. Often, those watches are vintage sport or diver watches. In this case, the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is directly inspired by the Rolex 5517 Military Submariner (“MilSub”), but you more-or-less only see that in the dial.
The Rolex Submariner 5517 is perhaps exclusively remarkable for its use of “sword” style hands versus other hands more typical to Rolex Submariner watches. Those hands have been faithfully reproduced for the OWC MilSub MS-5517 watch, and Dan has even gone so far as to replicate the look of the aged lume. While the dial of the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is on the flatter side, so was the original Rolex. Nevertheless, the proportions are pretty good, and legibility is great. Part of the OWC character is to use a modern style font, which you’ll see on the dial text, as well as on the rear of the watch. I further like the fact that there is no date, which adds a lot to the elegance of the dial.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about the OWC MilSub MS-5517 watch is that the color of the markers on the bezel simply doesn’t match the color of the lume on the dial. Actually, there is a lot of difference between the dial and the bezel. I think the watch would be a no-brainer buy for many people if the colors between the dial and bezel were more harmonious – and in the future, they very well might be, as small brands have the luxury of being flexible. The dial, for instance, is matte black with cream colored hour markers while the bezel is in black ceramic with painted on green SuperLumiNova.
In the luminant shot, you can see that the lume on the dial isn’t even as good as the bezel lume (probably because of its non-standard color). Having said that, the lume for the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is still pretty good, and having a fully lumed bezel is great. While the bezel is ceramic, the luminant is painted on it. It feels very good to the touch, but it isn’t clear how well the luminant will put up with both age and abuse. Turning the bezel offers 60 very solid clicks – and is the clear product of a lot of meticulous effort.
I rather love the thick AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial. It is flat and results in very little glare making legibility very good. I do hate crystal glare, and can say that a highlight of the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is how well the anti-reflective coating has been done. The resulting look is an “invisible crystal,” which is exactly what I personally look for in sport watches. So while the dial is both attractive and legible, I would have personally asked for a bit more “color and finishing harmony” between dial and bezel.
On the wrist, the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is remarkably comfortable despite its heft. The solid 316L steel case and bracelet aren’t at all light. Even though the case is just 40mm wide, it wears a bit large given the case thickness and the size of the bracelet. With 300 meters of water resistance (OWC says that each watch is individually tested), the steel case very solid. It even has a unique construction with a caseback that is secured by six torx screws, versus a more traditional screw-down caseback that you find on most diving watches. The caseback is rather flat which helps with comfort a lot.
I mentioned the torx screws, which you’ll also find in the bracelet and lugs. These are uncommon in timepieces and give the MilSub a more modern and “tool watch” look, even though you’ll need a non-standard screwdriver to remove them. Use of the screws is nice, but I hope it isn’t because of them that the bracelet is so thick. I want to be clear on the fact that the OWC MilSub MS-5517 is a very comfortable watch, but having said that, from an aesthetic standpoint, I think the bracelet is a bit too large for the case. First of all, even though the case is thick, the bracelet is also very thick. It also doesn’t taper (a look I personally prefer). Non-tapering bracelets aren’t inherently a bad thing, but in many instances, when used with a 40mm wide sport watch case (or smaller), you can get into a situation where the width of the bracelet competes with the width of the case for visual attention.