Earlier this year, I reviewed the Scurfa Bell Diver One, a 500-meter water resistant helium release valve and sapphire crystal equipped, automatic diver’s watch with a design injected with brand owner Paul Scurfield’s years of experience in commercial saturation diving. After a dozen working dives as a commercial diver as well as ample time on the surface wearing the Bell Diver 1, I came away impressed by what Paul was able to accomplish at a remarkable $400 retail price.
But what about the watch that made Scurfa Watches, the budget-friendly, quartz Diver One, which currently sells for an even more staggering $230? How can an analog watch that isn’t a G-Shock from such an undeniably entry-level position hope to survive some of the harshest subaquatic conditions to which a watch can be subjected? I bravely and selflessly set out to answer exactly this question in our latest Wrist Time Review.
SCURFA WATCHES, DIVER’S WATCHES DESIGNED BY A COMMERCIAL DIVER
Scurfa Watches was founded in 2012 to fill the void on many diving industry professionals’ wrists that followed the meteoric rise in popularity and value which saw many divers sell their Rolex Submariners, Mil-Subs, and Sea-Dwellers, which they had, until then, roughly treated as the essential tools they were originally designed to be. Paul Scurfield (street name: “Scurfa”) initially designed the Diver One as a durable, barebones quartz diver to keep time both subsea and on deck in the rough and tumble North Sea commercial diving industry. With each successive iteration of the Diver One, of which there have already been several, Scurfa Watches have managed to upgrade the watch’s features while maintaining the entry-level price point.
Scurfa’s most recent Diver One is a 500-meter (up from 300 meters) water-resistant, 40mm diver’s watch with a sapphire crystal, newly included helium release valve, custom natural rubber strap, and full SuperLuminova treatment as standard. I just so happened to be on my way to a muddy river commercial diving job in Georgia when I received the Diver One, and decided to wear the watch throughout every second of the job, on land, on the boat, on the bottom, the shower, the bar, and everywhere in between.
Despite the Diver One’s apparently sturdy build, the inland commercial diving industry represents a uniquely dangerous environment for any watch or other piece of equipment. Stumbling around on the bottom in zero visibility as we often do in inland diving, it’s too easy to slam the watch into underwater structures, rocks, cables, etc… For the extremely few inland guys who dive with a watch, it happens all the time. I assumed the Diver One would be irreparably scarred by the process if it survived at all. But before we dramatically delve into the Diver One’s eventual success or failure, let’s discuss the watch itself.
SCURFA DIVER ONE ORIGINAL CASE
The biggest difference in wearing the Diver One compared to the Bell Diver One and many other dive watches of our time is the size. At first, the Diver One can even feel a bit small in the best way. Paul, a passionate Rolex fan, designed the Diver One with a very Submariner-like 40mm diameter, 47.7mm lug-to-lug, 20mm strap width, and a 14.4mm thickness owed largely to a domed sapphire crystal. In a stormy sea of oversized diving watches, I really appreciate the Diver One’s more diminutive stature. It is with good reason that the Rolex Submariner was similarly sized for decades. Forty or so millimeters is a case diameter that works well for diving without being so large as to become a hindrance in daily life.
On the wrist, perhaps especially my spindly 6.25” wrist, the Diver One is just right, with enough heft to avoid the possibility of any dainty-ness. The relatively short lug-to-lug, in particular, ensures the Diver One will work on a variety of wrists without hanging over. Also, heartfelt thanks to Paul for utilizing drilled lugs, perhaps as a nod to early Submariners and other tool watches, and perhaps simply for the ease they provide, as well as the ability to utilize highly-secure shoulderless spring-bars. Every tool watch should have drilled lugs, full stop.
Another value proposition in the Scurfa Diver One package is the excellent slightly-domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, which instantly adds perceived value and actual durability, a trait I tested very vigorously. A 120-click bezel with a simple printed aluminum bezel insert rotates with just enough resistance, has a nice positive “click”, and no play whatsoever. The bezel also proved easy to operate with the rubber-coated work gloves most divers wear. For the Rolex homies out there, a luminescent pearl sits at the zero/sixty-minute mark, giving the otherwise modern Diver One just a bit of a vintage feeling.
In order to ensure the water-resistance of the now five hundred meter Diver One, Scurfa has beefed up the watch with a 1mm caseback gasket, as well as an overbuilt screw-down crown with no less than four gaskets. The newest Diver One also features an automatic helium release valve, a feature almost no one other than Paul Scurfield himself requires. Despite the upgrades, the case feels about the same as the previous 300-meter version.
DIVER ONE ORIGINAL DIAL AND HANDS
While virtually unchanged from the most recent versions, the Diver One dial is well executed and features large, rectangular hour markers all oriented toward the dial’s center. A larger twelve-o’clock indicator makes orientation and time-telling easier and faster, especially at night or underwater. Simple white hash marks serve as a minute scale, and dial text is pleasantly minimal, with the Scurfa Watches logo at twelve and “Diver One” in modern script at six o’clock.
Sword hands, a personal favorite of mine, also aid in the Diver One’s excellent visibility, with enough of a difference in length between the hour and minute hands to make confusion all but impossible. On this particular model, the Diver One Original, the hands are yellow, a nod to the high-viz, bright yellow stock color of Kirby Morgan Superlite diving helmets, a commercial diving industry staple and by a vast margin the most ubiquitous helmet in commercial diving. Even though Paul has more than earned the right to claim the badassery of deepwater saturation diving, the watches he makes are pleasantly void of ridiculous diving helmet imagery, an overused cliche present in some other microbrand watches and marketing material.
No shortage of SuperLuminova is used throughout the Diver One, including a reasonable helping on the stick-and-ball seconds hand, which makes for a highly nighttime-visible package. While the lume on the Diver One is really good and lasts all night, it’s still not quite as impressive as on Scurfa’s Bell Diver One, which offered a real light show, owed in large part to the fully-lumed sapphire bezel insert. While the slightly-less incredible lume is no real surprise, given the difference in price point between the two diver’s watches, it’s worth mentioning. Amongst watches of similar price, the Diver One’s lume is still as good as anything other than perhaps the brightest Seiko divers, which are in turn better than almost anything at any cost.
BUT IT’S QUARTZ
Frankly, the idea of a quartz-powered watch does not always incite arousal among the often petulant world of watch enthusiasts, but quartz as a time-telling medium simply makes sense in this case. Hear me out. For starters, quartz is inherently more resistant to magnetic fields, a real threat in the heavy equipment laden world of commercial diving. Second, the “set it and forget it” nature of quartz watches means less crown unscrewing, and therefore less wear and tear on crown gaskets, which, along with accidentally leaving the thing unscrewed, are the number one cause of water intrusion in watches used subsea. Finally, quartz movements are more durable, shock-resistant, affordable, and accurate than even the finest mechanical movements. In a professional diving oriented watch, quartz very directly makes more sense than an automatic caliber.
With the Diver One, Scurfa has utilized a custom metal movement holder to secure the excellent Ronda 715SM gold-plated, 5 -jewel, Swiss-made movement, which has a battery life of around five years, as well as an end-of-life indicator. My Diver One is within two seconds of spot-on accuracy after a few months of purposefully aggressively rough wear, even though I haven’t given it a second thought since the first time I set it.
CUSTOM NATURAL RUBBER STRAP
The standard 20mm rubber strap which comes on the Diver One is absolutely excellent, especially for the price. Natural rubber is durable, flexible, comfortable, and lint-free, and is therefore utilized in some of the most expensive sport watches out there, as well as one of the least expensive, the Diver One. The fact that Scurfa has managed to supply a natural rubber strap made specifically for their least expensive watch shows their dedication to quality for the price, as well as the actual on wrist customer experience.
While the buckle on the Diver One strap is simple and unsigned, it’s a great strap to wear and has ample, closely-spaced holes almost to its end to fit purt-near any wrist, and even over a variety of diving suits. I wore the Diver One over a 7mm wetsuit on typical dives, and over a 7mil and coveralls (a flight suit in this case) on some of the more unsavory dives, and never had any strap related issues or failures. The aforementioned shoulderless spring-bars did add to my sense of security, and I wore the watch in all diving conditions without fretting over losing it.
AT WORK UNDERWATER
As I mentioned, I approached the first few working dives wearing the Diver One with some trepidation. While I fundamentally believed the watch would survive just like it’s sibling, the Bell Diver 1, I assumed I would beat the shit out of it. To set the stage, I was diving in a muddy, fast-moving river and directing a crane as it lowered two-ton bags of gravel over my head to backfill an underwater ditch to cover a newly installed pipeline. Think fast-moving river, actual falling rocks of myriad sizes, sharp metal edges, alligators (I wish I was kidding), sand and concrete all around me, with no visibility – a hard situation for a brand new watch.
But why do this to such a nice looking watch, you may ask? I felt strongly about testing the Diver One for its intended purpose. I decided to take no extra care to protect it as I worked, a challenge for a watch nerd like myself. The nature of my work was also challenging, with the river constantly wanting to pick me up like a sack of wet kittens to toss me downriver without a second thought, so I wasn’t really able to worry about the watch even had I wanted to.
Somehow, despite untold unseen collisions with subsea stuff which I was sure had marred the watch, day after day and dive after dive, the watch remained intact. In fact, other than a somewhat marred buckle on the rubber strap, my Diver One looks about the same as when I received it. As far as time-telling underwater, I was always able to tell the time even in poor visibility conditions, though that at times meant placing the watch right up against the glass of my helmet. Frankly, I was surprised by the Diver One’s resilience, especially the ability of the sapphire glass to remain scratch-free despite my best efforts and multiple direct attacks by all kinds of underwater debris. The Scurfa Diver One is the real deal for a quartz diving watch supplied at a price which embodies the “tools not jewels” mentality we need more of in the watch industry.
Scurfa’s Diver One Original is a real tool watch, informed by Paul Scurfield’s own underwater adventures and overbuilt to handle even the most extreme subaquatic work and wear. It is a simple, straightforward diver’s watch where every feature has been carefully selected and implemented for operational effectiveness. For the price of $230, it’s likely the best and most capable analog diving watch available for actual diving, as well as a ridiculously capable time-teller for the rest of the watch buying public. scurfawatches.com.
>Brand: Scurfa Watches
>Model: Diver One D1-500 Original
>Price: $230 or so depending on GBP exchange rates.
>Size: 40 mm by 47.7 by 14.4mm with 20mm lugs
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The diver or fan of diving watches in need an overbuilt beater.
>Best characteristic of watch: The case size and proportions are near perfect.
>Worst characteristic of watch: For some reason, I wish the dial didn’t say “Watches” on it as part of the logo.