For many collectors and enthusiasts, Vulcain is synonymous with the Cricket alarm watch. Famously worn by United States President Harry Truman, and with a long-running history of being gifted to other U.S. Presidents to commemorate their respective inaugurations, the Vulcain Cricket is somewhat of a legend within the world of vintage watches. That said, the Cricket represents just one single facet of Vulcain’s rich history, and following the 2022 revival of its famous mechanical alarm wristwatch, Vulcain has dipped back into its archives to revive the Diver Nautique. Inspired by a popular dive watch that first made an appearance in 1960, the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm faithfully recreates the core aesthetic of the vintage original but reimagines it with slightly revised proportions, modern materials, and contemporary manufacturing methods.
In terms of its overall appearance, the new Vulcain Nautique 38mm offers a classic skindiver profile, and it features a 316L stainless steel case that measures 38mm in diameter by 12.2mm thick, which includes its domed sapphire crystal that sticks up above the rim of its bezel. The case itself features a vertical brushed finish on the tops of its lugs, and linear brushing on its sides, with high-polished bevels running down the length of the lugs and separating the two brushed surfaces. Surrounding the crystal is a unidirectional rotating bezel fitted with a fully-demarcated ceramic insert, while the reverse side of the case gets protected by a solid stainless steel screw-down caseback.
At the 3 o’clock location is a signed winding crown that offers access to the movement, and it screws down to the case to help create 200 meters of water resistance. Just like you would expect from a watch with a traditional skin-diver profile, the crown on the Vulcain Nautique 38mm is slightly oversized and it lacks any type of crown guards whatsoever for a simple and straightforward overall appearance.
At the time of launch, the Vulcain Diver Nautique 38mm is available in two different colorways. The first offers a traditional all-black appearance with a black ceramic bezel paired with a matte black dial that features white printing and khaki-colored Super-LumiNova hour markers (ref. VUL-DI-001). The other Diver Nautique 38mm model features the same black ceramic bezel as its sibling, although it gets paired with a vertical brushed blue dial that also has white printing and khaki-colored Super-LumiNova markers (ref. VUL-DI-002).
Other than the color, the overall design of the two dials is identical, with a straightforward time-only display, geometric shapes for the hour markers, and a trio of centrally-mounted hands. The hour and minute hands appear as simple baton shapes with high-polished surfaces and matching khaki-colored Super-LumiNova inlays, while the seconds hand is a simple thin needle without any type of luminous sections whatsoever. The dial on the Nautique 38mm is about as traditional as it gets for divers from a design standpoint, although it is nicely proportioned, with the minute hand extending all the way to reach the markers of the minute track.
Powering the Vulcain Diver Nautique 38mm is the tried-and-true ETA 2824 automatic movement, which is very much a known quantity and probably the single most commonly used Swiss-made mechanical caliber within the entire watch industry. Realistically speaking, the ETA 2824 offers rather middle-of-the-road specs, and it runs at a familiar frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) while offering users a power reserve of approximately 38 hours. That said, the ETA 2824 is also the definition of a proven design, and it offers rock-solid reliability and unparalleled serviceability, as replacement parts are in ample supply and can be sourced from virtually any corner of the world.
While in-house movements are very much on-trend these days and can offer both tighter timekeeping tolerances and longer durations of autonomy, they are also almost always accompanied by higher service costs, along with fewer options when it comes to the approved parties who can actually carry out the service itself. Although they may not be the most interesting from a purely horological perspective, reliable third-party calibers like the ETA 2824 are ultimately the most practical options when it comes to powering reasonably priced mechanical sports watches.
Despite having different colored dials, both versions of the Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm are fitted with the exact same strap. Featuring a standard two-piece design and made from black leather with a carbon fiber pattern on its external surface, the strap for the Nautique 38mm is completed by a stainless steel pin buckle that is signed with Vulcain’s V-shaped logo.
Since there is no mention of this strap being waterproof, you will likely want to swap it out for something made from either rubber or nylon should you plan on wearing the Vulcain Nautique 38mm in any type of aquatic setting. However, since the strap itself features integrated quick-release springbars, strap changes can be carried out within just a few seconds and won’t require the use of any tools. Even still, given that the Nautique 38mm is a dive watch with a 200-meter depth rating, it would have been nice to see an additional water-friendly strap option included with it, even if it was just a simple NATO or a two-piece rubber alternative.
From a design standpoint, a vintage-inspired skindiver is one of the more common styles of watches being produced these days, and it could almost be seen as somewhat of a safe play for a brand. However, it’s important to remember that Vulcain’s signature model is more-or-less the polar opposite of a no-frills skindiver, and now having the Nautique 38mm alongside the Cricket alarm watch and its rather dressy retro chronographs ultimately goes a long way towards rounding out Vulcain’s current lineup.
With an official retail price of CHF 1,490, which translates to approximately $1,600 USD at the time of launch (the actual CHF price automatically gets converted to your specific currency at the current exchange rate), the new Vulcain Skindiver Nautique 38mm is now the most accessibly priced model within the brand’s modern catalog. While a retro skindiver is hardly revolutionary from a design perspective, it’s undeniable that a simple utilitarian sports watch was somewhat of a hole in Vulcain’s modern catalog, and the new Nautique 38mm fills that space perfectly, while also continuing the trend of Vulcain dipping into its archives to revive past fan-favorite designs. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.