June 23, 2022
by Ariel Adams
Italian Squale returns with a classic wristwatch reissue made for Italy’s Marina Militare Navy in the 1980s. In 2022, watch lovers get a limited edition of 300 pieces to celebrate the military diving watch with the new Squale Master Marina Militare. Italian diver’s watches are a unique beast, different from Swiss, German, and Japanese ones. They perform similarly but their visual designs are very different — more raw and instrumental, versus clean and visually more compact. Italian dive watches also rarely look as though they are trying to fit in anywhere but the water or in marine environments. While Swiss dive watches (and others) attempt to be more fashionably versatile and universal in their “sports watch appeal,” many Italian diver’s watches often hyper-focus on their theme, which many collectors warm up to.
Italian diver’s watches also tend to have different dimensions than others on the market, often making them wear larger or appear visually large. This is again a fact that many collectors like. The Squale Master Marina Militare is no different, wearing tall on the wrist but actually quite wearable with a sensible lug-to-lug distance of 49mm (and 42mm-wide). The case, which is more or less a remake of the 1980s original, is 17mm-thick but also water-resistant to an impressive 1,200 meters. The case is produced from steel, and it has a high level of polishing compared to brushing, which I like. A lot of modern sports watches use polishing as a case accent and prefer industrial-looking brushed finishes that seem a bit more contemporary. That said, there is something very nice about wearing a mostly polished sports watch, something that people who wore Breitling watches 10 or 20 years ago know full well.
More so, the overall simple lines of the Squale Master watch case and dial are different from the more nuanced lines and small details we often see on high-end Swiss diver’s watches. This helps the Squale feel more like an unpretentious instrument, as well as a bit more toy-like. Nevertheless, what sells the Squale Master is its durability and handsome looks thanks to a clean dial and interesting, vintage-style case. Even though the original watch is from the 1980s, the case design really comes from the 1960s, which is why this watch has such a favorable vintage character to it.
As a tool watch for military divers, the Master Marina Militare has a few special features in addition to its high degree of water resistance as well as a very clean and easy-to-read dial. Note the “bund bezel” which has just one point of luminant at the “0” marker. These types of clean, uni-directional rotating bezels look very cool, but some people don’t understand their functionality. Squale suggests that this design was preferred by the Italian Navy because the bezel is often used not to measure intervals of minutes, but rather intervals of elapsed hours. In any event, the bezel has a black-colored metal insert and the clean look is both hip and handsome for those people who like a more minimalist look to their sports watches.
A bit of orange decorates the dial in the form of the orange minute hand (for easy reading) and the text on the dial. Otherwise, this is a very sensible diver’s watch design from a conservative perspective. The dial has some glare, but not too much given the very thick and AR-coated sapphire crystal. The crystal needs to be that thick as part of the timepiece’s high water-resistance rating. The rear of the watch has engraved with a motif of the coat of arms of the Italian Navy, and the graphic is again printed on the box in which the Squale Master Marina Militare comes in.
Other dive watch features include an automatic helium release valve in the side of the case, and it is paired with a distinctive vented rubber strap (which very much has a vintage vibe to it). Squale also includes a NATO-style strap in black nylon that also works well with this timepiece design. I like the buckle on the NATO strap a lot more than the buckle that comes on the rubber strap, mainly because the former is polished and better fits the look of the watch case.
Inside the Master Marina Militare watch is a Swiss Made Sellita SW200-1 Elabore automatic movement that operates at 4Hz with about 40 hours of power reserve. It features the time and date on the dial, which also happens to use a sandwich-style construction. This places the luminant on a separate layer and then uses a stencil-cut upper part with holes for the hour markers. This results in pretty good luminant performance, in my opinion.
While, for the most part, the Master Marina Militare watch is straightforward and ergonomic, one issue I had was with the crown. As you can see, the crown is located at the 4 o’clock position on the case, in order to not jut into your hand. That concept is fine, in general. But the crown is quite difficult to pull out and operate once you unscrew it. It requires fingernail dexterity to pull out the crown to the time adjustment position (versus the date setting position) and, overall, I was not super-happy each time I needed to adjust the time. It isn’t a deal killer, but it is an area I think Squale might want to refine in later wristwatches that use this case.
What Squale brings to the table with a limited-edition product like this is a pleasing combination of vintage-aesthetic, military tool watch history, impressive durability, decent value, and retro-handsome design, along with a relatively familiar package that feels understandable to most all wristwatch enthusiasts. Squale continues to be among those brands able to offer niche-appeal Italian tool-piece designs for a good price. The watch isn’t without its flaws, but it makes up for most of its shortcomings with a lot of character. Squale will produce the Master Marina Militare as a limited edition of 300 pieces as the reference MASTERMM. Price is 1,350 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Squale watches website here.
>Model: Master Marina Militare reference MASTERMM
>Price: 1,350 Swiss Francs
>Size: 42mm-wide, 17mm-thick, 49mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Easy to enjoy as an actual swimming, diving, or water sports watch. Certainly capable on the beat or a boat where something serious but lighthearted is due.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of vintage Italian military watches wanting something modern with a versatile appeal and fun character.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent legibility and feels very much like a classic diver’s watch. Bezel design is attractive as well as the polish of the case. Handsome yet purposeful looks.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Crown is difficult to operate. Strap feels a bit “too vintage” for some tastes.