August 4, 2022
by Ariel Adams
Isotopeis a hip, small independent watchmaker based in England from designer Jose Miranda. What I like about Isotope is that from its inception, the brand’s products have attempted to be original and spirited in their design. While some of the shapes and forms of various Isotope watches can appear strange at first, it is impossible not to appreciate the intense and challenging drive by designers with high integrity, to be as original as possible in their creations. That said, it is perhaps somewhat ironic that this particular Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” watch is decidedly meant as an homage to a different product — the iconic “Come Back After XX:XX Time” signs that businesses sometimes use when they need to temporarily close during the middle of the business day.
It is true that the vast majority of these “Please Call Again,” or “Please Come Again” signs follow a familiar blue, white and red color theme along with a simple but legible font. They are also equipped with a small clock dial and two adjustable hands that allow the signs to indicate the precise hour and minute that the business owner will return. This motif has now been transformed into a watch dial for the Isotope Hydrium diver’s style watch collection. I think the brilliance for me is how well this watch is both a diver’s watch and, at the same time, also a faithful homage to the “Will Return” sign in visual appearance.
Around the time of writing this article, the limited edition of 100 pieces Isotope Hydrium X Will Return watch is sold out. The good news is that this overall dial design (in other colors) will be maintained for at least a few other limited-edition models produced by the Isotope brand. Also as of writing, the next limited-edition Hydrium X Blink is being released, and it features an interesting blue and pink color combination along with the totally illuminated dial concept.
That’s right, the entire dial is, for the most part, painted in Super-LumiNova material, which gives the Hydrium X a really nice look in the dark, especially when combined with the basic but highly effective dial display which combines ultra legible (and high-contrast) Arabic numeral hour markers along with bold, stubby hands. Look in the center of the hands, and you’ll see what is the seconds hand. It is more or less in the shape of the Isotope brand logo, but it is indeed a small little seconds hand if you watch it closely. In the diving watch world, this is actually a thing. Rather than having full seconds hands (which some divers find distracting), the seconds hand gets smaller and is used as a “running indicator” to simply demonstrate that the watch is in operation (no one wants to dive underwater with a watch they later realize isn’t working).
Looking back to the Hydrium case and overall watch, Isotope offers a very competent and neo-classic diver’s watch with a high-design twist. The case is water resistant to 300 meters in sandblasted steel. It is 40mm-wide, 14.9mm-thick (including the domed AR-coated sapphire crystal), and has a 48mm long lug-to-lug distance. The uni-directional rotating bezel has a real sapphire crystal insert – which is an excellent material to have and surprising at this otherwise budget-friendly price. The bezel color itself under the sapphire crystal is in the blue tone which matches the “Will Return” sign and in red to match the hands, is a small non-lumed mark at 12 o’clock which is the Isotope logo.
The case is designed cleverly with the lugs sitting low which allows the strap to lie very close to your wrist. I found that this helped ensure a more comfortable fit on the supplied vintage-style 22mm wide perforated FKM rubber strap in a black color with a matching sandblasted steel buckle. Through the caseback, you can see a view of the movement – which for the price is nicely decorated. The movement, known as the “Swiss Landeron” automatic, which operates at 4Hz with 40 hours of power reserve, is not very well-known. I believe these are movements that are technically Swiss Made (the movements, not the entire watch here) but probably use a lot of parts from the Far East. The value proposition of the movement is nice looks with a low price but without something like Chronometer accuracy. I think for the money, the movement is fine, and the looks of decorated movement through an exhibition caseback on an indie diver watch like this is an uncommon detail.
With its charming looks, fun Will Return sign story, and decent build and kit for the money, the Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” is a surprisingly effective “art watch” in both looks and utility. Even if this debut limited-edition model is all sold out at retail, subsequent Hydrium X models will offer similar looks and value. I also think that Isotope is a brand worth watching since it is clear that it is here to stay, and fun things are coming from the mind of Mr. Miranda. Price for the Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” watch is $700 USD. Learn more at the Isotope watches website here.