March 3, 2023
by Ariel Adams
The latest new Marathon watch is a welcome white-dialed “Arctic” version of its largest watch size, the Jumbo Day/Date 46mm. While we await a totally new Marathon watch (one is coming), over the last few years, the Canadian brand that produces Swiss Made military-issue watches has been releasing Arctic versions of some of its most popular dials, including the 36mm Arctic MSAR and the40mm-wide Arctic GSAR. If you were hoping for something larger than that today, you are in luck because the white dial treatment happens to look great as well for the 46mm Jumbo Day/Date (JDD), which, until now, was only available with Marathon’s black-colored dial.
Given that Marathon continues to be an official supplier of military watches, the company cannot really come out with any timepieces or timepiece colors that are purely for fashion purposes. There must be a legitimate use for the different dial colors, etc… White has some legibility benefits over black in certain lighting conditions and environments — at least enough so that Marathon was able to get away with doing its popular dials in white versus merely black. In a lot of ways, the Arctic dial is just a color reverse of the black dial, with the hands and hour markers in black. Of course, the dial is still fitted with tritium gas tubes for excellent darkness illumination. Traditional “MaraGlo” luminant is used for the 60-minute mark on the rotating diver’s-style bezel.
Aside from the beefier stance, there isn’t much the 46mm JDD can do that the 40mm GSAR cannot do. One differentiation point is the movement, which is a time and date Swiss Made Sellita SW200 in the GSAR, and a time and day/date Sellita SW220 in the JDD. Marathon likes to point out that it equips the movements with shock absorbers for the regulation system since these are meant to be serious active-duty tool watches. The SW220 automatic movement operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. One complaint you could make is that the movement is too small for the case. Traditional logic suggests that movements should dictate case sizes, and I do respect the elegance of that. That said, the movement doesn’t prevent the dial from having appropriately sized hands, and the more inner-dial placement of the day/date window allows the dial to retain a full hour marker at the 3 o’clock position.
In addition to the sense of dial depth created by the applied tritium gas tubes, Marathon also developed a military time scale (from 13-24 hours) on a sloped flange ring around the periphery of the dial. Placing this scale here allows for less clutter on the main dial, and it also helps reduce the visual shock of how deep the dial actually is in the case, given how tall the bezel structure is. When Marathon first developed this case style, it was for a smaller case and designed to make it possible to turn the bezel very easily, even with gloves. This thick-bezel look has become a signature for Marathon and is an important part of the overall JDD theme. It does, however, mean that Marathon needed to spend more time on the dial design so that it would not look awkwardly deep within the relatively massive brushed steel case.
The Jumbo Day/Date case is 46mm-wide and 18mm-thick with a lug-to-lug distance of about 55mm. The case is water-resistant to 300 meters with a knurled screw-down crown. The construction is so solid it really does feel like a 500m or even 1000m dive watch. In fact, having a higher depth rating for the JDD might give Marathon a more compelling technical difference for the JDD versus the GSAR. The sapphire crystal is slightly domed, which is different than the flatter sapphire crystal of the GSAR. This makes looking at the dial a bit different given the lens distortion effect you get when viewing it from angles. I likened wearing the JDD to a Panerai watch when I first reviewed it back in 2019, and that assessment continues today (in a positive way).
The luminant and design of the uni-directional rotating bezel are very good, but the turning action feels a bit too loose, in my opinion. I would have liked for Marathon to marginally increase the spring tension inside the rotating bezel mechanism system. This is especially true given how the size of the bezel makes it easy to snag onto things and rotate inadvertently. The rear of the well-made brushed steel case has military designation text. For once in a high-end watch, this isn’t about style but rather the actual way Marathon is required to put information on its military-issued wristwatches.
Speaking of military issue, you can order JDD on a bracelet with a list of potential military agency marks stamped into the bracelet clasp. (You can also order a basic Marathon M-stamped bracelet, and they all cost the same.) Those marks include (but are not limited to) the Canadian maple leaf, Israeli Duvdevan, U.S. Government, and U.S. Marine Corps. The matching brushed steel metal bracelet is a $400 option over the price of the Arctic JDD on Marathon’s excellent custom Swiss Made rubber strap system (that is attached to the watch I am wearing in the photos).
The main benefit of the 46mm Arctic JDD is also going to be its biggest detractor, and that is the size. For this reason, Marathon produces a similar dial in a 36mm- and 40mm-wide case. It is really about catering to different tastes and wrist sizes. I have a soft spot for large-sized military tool watches, so I will gladly put up with a heavy steel watch that needs to be securely strapped to my wrist, else be prone to flailing about. People know this about me, and it isn’t weird for me to wear these kinds of watches on a regular basis. Others (with similarly sized small wrists) have no appetite for mega-sized watches, and I totally understand a watch like this not being for them. On the other end of the human anatomical size spectrum are people with bigger wrists on which even a 40mm-wide timepiece looks as though it were meant for a child. Plenty of people out there can easily wear a 46mm-wide watch and have it look perfectly proportional with their guise.
At its best, the Marathon Arctic JDD is a beautiful time-telling instrument. It has an engaging no-nonsense approach to its task, and Marathon has thought about far more details than most other similar watches at this price point. Marathon also benefits from being an authentic supplier to NATO nations and their friends, which creates vast credibility for these products. The watch is not perfect, but few are, and yet it also has a lot of welcome personality. Wear it on your favorite strap or make it your mega-sized weekend beater watch and go develop some active memories while wearing a timepiece like this. On the 22mm-wide black rubber strap, the Marathon Arctic JDD 46mm is the reference WW190421SS-0530, and it has a retail price of $2,100 USD. Learn more at the Marathon watches website.