Esoteric watches was insistent: “You should check out our watch. I think we really nailed this.” I’m sympathetic to confidence like this. When a smaller watchmaker feels that its latest product is a real crowd-pleaser, I tend to be interested in giving it the test. Did Esoteric (Eso) Watches nail it with its Bathyal Collection?
The Esoteric brand might be new, but it is a sister company to Ocean Crawler watches and is based in the United States. It is actually somewhat amusing that a diver’s watch company would set up a sister company… to also sell diver’s style watches. What makes these products distinct is the design, and I agree that the Bathyal family is different enough not to neatly fit anywhere within the Ocean Crawler brand.
Ironically, branding considerations are my primary area of “complaint” for an otherwise strong product that looks and wears pretty nicely. The brand is called “Esoteric” watches, but the pieces themselves say “Eso” on them. Clearly, that is an abbreviation, but if you just had the product on hand then you’d never know the full brand name, and I don’t think most people would automatically assume that “Eso” is an abbreviation for “Esoteric.” I just envision a lot of potential confusion when people talk about “Esoteric” watches and they don’t immediately assume you are talking about “Eso” watches, which is the name written on the watch dials and cases.
Also on the watch dial is a script font that mentions the name of the watch. I generally like this feature, and Eso got it down to the collection and model name. This watch is in the larger Bathyal Collection, but the specific model is the Bathyal Oscuro given that it is the all-board model. Right on the dial it says “Bathyal Oscuro,” which is nice, in theory. In practice, however, I don’t think anyone can read the text on account of its small size and the esoteric words themselves. “Bathyal” is a scientific term in oceanography for a region of the ocean around many coastlines where the ocean floor plunges into the eventual abyssal zone. “Oscuro” means “dark” in Spanish. With some magnification and good light you can probably make out the text on the dial, but it is anything but straightforward. These issues don’t make the watches better or worse, but they are an important branding and marketing consideration, as watchmakers probably want to avoid confusion when it comes to “what watch am I looking at exactly?”
The goal of the Eso Bathyal Oscuro watches is to present the timepiece-lover community with a package they are familiar with, in a form they haven’t seen before, and at an acceptable price. That familiar package is the dive watch platform, and the unique attributes are the overall design itself. I have to award rather high marks for the design of the case and especially dial, overall. The 44mm-wide case is 14mm-thick and has a 48mm lug-to-lug distance. It wears boldly and has a sort of vintage diver vibe without being an actual old design. The dial also has the legibility and accessibility of many vintage sports watches but is entirely unique in its interpretation and style. The unique hour markers, hands, and rotating bezel markers all make for a great tool watch experience in a form that the timepiece community hasn’t experienced yet.
The combination of attractive shapes, proportions, colors, and legibility really helps the Eso Bathyal watches make a case for themselves among a sea of “me-too divers” available on the market. The Bathyal Oscuro especially mixes matte black with rich yellow cream color for the luminant, and hints of white and red. I really think this is a strong dial design, and I appreciate the brand for taking the time to build something special around it.
The dial has a sandwich construction that adds visual depth where the hour markers are cut out and the luminant placed below. I also like how the metal hands are given a non-polished finishing which helps increase legibility. Eso even wanted to get small details right, such as choosing to produce custom date wheels so that the numerals there match the color of the hour markers. Attention to details like that goes a long way.
Over the dial is a slightly elevated box-style sapphire crystal. This is certainly one of the vintage-inspired elements rare to find today since it leaves the crystal relatively open and not guarded by a bezel. It does, however, help keep the thickness of the watch down. The cushion-shaped case actually wears small given its 14mm thickness, which is also impressive given the case’s 600 meters (2,000 feet) of water resistance (probably enough to wade in the bathyal zone itself).
Of the four debut Bathyal watches, the Bathyal Oscuro is the only coated model, and, interestingly enough, the brand doesn’t charge any extra for that. The base steel case is given a matte-black DLC coating that looks pretty nice. Even though it is a DLC coating (meant to be very strong), I do wonder how the black coating will hold up over time. That said, I think the black-coated Bathyal is currently the handsomest of the bunch.
Inside the watch is a Japanese Miyota caliber 9015 automatic movement. This is a good-performing mechanism that operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. I’ve generally been very happy with 9015 movements. One issue I have had with them is the audible sound of the rotor moving around, but in dive watches with thick cases (that mute out sound), that is really less of an issue than in some thinner-cased timepieces.
Eso watches includes both a matching steel metal bracelet with the Bathyal watches and a leather strap. The metal bracelet uses quick-release spring bars, which is nice, but the straps use traditional spring bars that require tools. That is actually OK with me since straps are easier to put on and take off with tools, and it is bracelets for which such convenience is most appreciated. I think the Bathyal watches look very nice on the supplied bracelets, but the casual nature of the collection and the style of the case lend themselves well to straps of various types. In addition to the supplied leather strap (good quality, I can say), I think the Bathyal would look good on a rubber diver’s strap or a NATO-style strap.
Selling points for the Eso Bathyal watch include the brand’s American location (I believe it is out of North Carolina), the attractive and unique design, as well as the decent sub-$1000 value proposition. One can certainly get a lower-priced diver’s watch, but typically with much less of an original or distinctive design. There isn’t any “parts-bin-rummaging” here, so you can feel confident that most parts of the Bathyal watch were produced for this collection. In that sense, this is a product mostly aimed at enthusiasts who want something cool and obscure, and perhaps a little bit esoteric. Price for the Esoteric (Eso) Bathyal Oscuro watch is $899 USD. Learn more at the Esoteric watches website here.
>Brand: Esoteric (Eso)
>Model: Bathyal Oscuro
>Price: $899 USD
>Size: 44mm-wide, 14mm-thick, and 48mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Handsome daily diver with a dark personality and classic flair.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Indy dive-watch lover seeking to support a fresh design from an American brand.
>Best characteristic of watch: Attractive design, good use of colors and finishes, comfortable on the wrist. Functional as a tool watch.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Matte black finishing might need to be babied, and will need to be cleaned. Brand should just decide between “Eso” and “Esoteric,” as brand name since right now it might be confusing.