The Rolex Submariner is not only one of the most versatile watches designs in history, it is also one of the most commonly "homaged." Not everyone can afford or find their perfect Submariner, and sometimes others want to creatively build upon, or alter what Rolex made famous. It is hard not to look at any Sub-homage watch and think about whether the brand making it is attempting to ride on Rolex's popularity, or merely respect it through duplication.
Ril Watch is a newer brand with a single product as of the writing of this review. Their watch is the Ril Watch Scuba - or "Ril Scuba." I will just call it "the Ril" for now. Ril has designed and offers a "sterile" Submariner homage timepieces. Very Rolex in nature, the watch is stripped of branding and text on almost all surfaces. Only on the back of the watch does it say anything about the origin of the watch. The concept is fine - it is a concept I like, but it must be executed well. How well is this concept executed? It is a worthy attempt. The design is good. the comfort is there, but Ril's asking price is excess of what the market could bear in terms of the quality you can get in other watches (even other Rolex homage watches) at this price point.
This saddens me because I do like this watch. I don't mean that it has horrible quality, but people with some experiences with watches will see how it is rough around the edges. This is the term I used in the video review as well "rough around the edges." In many senses it is literally just that. There are sharp edges and some areas that could have held a better polish.
I must temper my statements with the knowledge that Ril is doing this for the first time, and no doubt will improve their product. Based in England, Ril more than likely uses Asian suppliers to make the Ril watch. Not that this is uncommon, but it is a pain. Dealing with a load of Chinese suppliers who each make individual parts, and trying to not only put the thing together, but ensure that quality is good is tough. So tough that the process has made very tough, very wealthy men cry. When a new brand releases a final product that is actually coherent, I am impressed. So having gone that far, I think that Ril can certainly apply some deserving polish to this promising product.
Like many Subs of yore, the Ril watch is 38mm wide in steel. The large guard-less crown help the watch feel vintage inspired while the case is relatively solid in construction. The polish on the sides of the case is fine, but the brushed polish on the lugs could be done better (and with the grain in the right direction). The watch does have a sapphire crystal, but is sadly only water resistant to an advertised 30 meters. Ril is sort of touting this as a fashion piece, but it is disappointing to see a "dive" watch less than 100 meters of water resistance. I mean all they needed to do was more or less copy the Rolex Submariner shape to more or less get that right?
The face is attractive, and the use of a glossy dial is interesting. Hour markers are polished and applied. From a distance the dial is good looking set in deep into the case. While I would personally make the hour and minute hands longer, they are suitable at their current length, though the seconds hand needs to be longer and feels like its tip is chopped off. The more serious issue with the dial is the lume. It is grain, not applied evenly, and not always in the center of the hour marker. Again, chalk it up to the suppliers. I am sure Ril is seeking better dial makers.
Like most dive style watches, the Ril has a uni-directional rotating bezel. It is older Rolex Submariner in style with an aluminum insert. The design of the bezel is fine, but the execution needs improvement. It has a bit too much wobble, and needs to feel more secure. It does have a raised lume nib which is nice.
Inside the watch is a Japanese Miyota automatic movement with hand-winding. I have no problem with the movement, but I think that with a watch of this price people might expect a Swiss movement.
Ril is kind enough to include two straps to complete your retro fantasy. There is a "racing stripe" NATO G10 strap and a metal bracelet. The NATO strap is pretty straight forward, nothing more to say on that. The watch looks nice as paired to it. The metal bracelet isn't bad actually I like that it tapers and uses screwed-in links. It also has a diver's extension (which is totally silly because given the low water resistance you shouldn't dive with this watch), with a double safety clasp like that a Submariner from a few generations ago. The weakness there is in the deployment clasp. It uses a folded, rather than milled steel, which has it feeling a bit tinny and thin. It also has a few too many sharp angles on it. Though when you are wearing the watch - these aren't a bother.
If it sounds like I am being hard on this watch, it is because I want it to be better. There are just too many "cut corners" to validate the price of 599 British Pounds. That is currently over $900. Nearing the $1,000 mark you have a lot of options out there. For example there is a Marcello C. Nettuno 3 (that I reviewed here), that is currently priced just over $1,000 (but used to be about $800). Oh, and another good example is MkII watches. Not that I am saying you should get a Nettuno 3 rather than a Ril - but you should know that for that price, almost all the complaints I have with the Ril don't exist in another Rolex Submariner homage (and Marcello C. is not a large company). If the Ril Scuba watch was priced at $200 - $300, I would suggest it was a decent buy. The good news is that it has a solid design, and if the quality improved, I don't see why Ril couldn't ask for $1,000 or more for it. Right now this is a good watch that is due for getting a bit better.